It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.
But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.
Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)
Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.
Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.
“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”
The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.
The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.
But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.
“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.
Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.
Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.
For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.
But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.
The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.
All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.
It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.
China claims it’s winning the race to bring long-range superguns to its growing fleet, but experts say that even if these weapons work, they won’t make a difference in high-end conflict.
China announced it will “soon” be arming its warships with railguns, a technology which uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther than conventional guns and at seven or eight times the speed of sound. The US Navy has spent more than a decade pursuing this technology, but naval affairs experts contend that even the best railguns have huge problems that make them a poor substitute for existing capabilities.
“You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former US Navy officer, told Business Insider.
The Chinese navy made headlines when images of a Chinese ship equipped with a suspected railgun first surfaced in January 2018. Photos showed the vessel, initially nicknamed the “Yangtze River Monster,” docked on the Yangtze River at a shipyard in Wuhan. That same ship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — reappeared in late December 2018, having possibly set sail for sea trials.
“This is one of a number of interesting developments that indicates that the [People’s Liberation Army] is quite enthusiastic about emerging capabilities,” Elsa Kania, an expert on the Chinese armed forces at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider.
The Chinese PLA is actively looking at the military applications of cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. China actually launched the first quantum communication satellite, which is said to be unhackable. For the Chinese navy, this means research into electromagnetic railguns, among other capabilities.
China says it has made major ‘breakthroughs’ with railguns
“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made … in multiple sectors,” China’s Global Times reported recently, citing state broadcaster CCTV. The notoriously nationalist tabloid proudly asserted that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
China is expected to begin fielding warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles as early as 2025, CNBC reported in summer 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on China’s railgun development.
Chinese military experts expect the new Type 055 stealth destroyers to eventually be armed with electromagnetic railguns.
‘It’s not useful military technology’
While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic force to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at incredible speeds.
China is not the first country to take an interest in railgun technology. The US Navy took a serious look at the possibility of arming warships with the gun, which promised the ability to strike targets as far as 200 miles away with relatively inexpensive rounds traveling at hypersonic speeds.
During the development process, the US military discovered problems that make the gun more of a hassle than an asset.
“The engineering challenges that the US is seeing with railguns are fundamental to the technology,” Clark, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told BI. “Any railgun is going to have these problems.”
While still cheaper than a missile, the rounds are more expensive than previously expected, as they require more advanced guidance systems to ensure that a simple GPS jammer doesn’t render them inoperable.
The rounds are more powerful than standard 5″ gun projectiles, but still lack the destructive power of missiles, making them less effective in strike missions. Missiles are also able to can chase down targets.
Even if each railgun shot packs a punch, its limited rate of fire — maybe eight rounds per minute — means it has little use for air and missile defense against fast-moving targets.
Maintenance and electricity generation are also huge problems. The gun requires an enormous amount of power to fire and the shear force of firing hypervelocity projectiles tends to wear out the barrel quickly. The barrel would likely need to be replaced after every few dozen shots, a problem that likely limits the gun to one short battle.
“They’re not a good replacement for a missile,” Clark said. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”
“It’s not useful military technology,” he added.
Facing a handful of difficult-to-overcome challenges inextricably linked to railgun technology, the US Navy has slow-rolled its railgun development.
The US Navy has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade researching railgun technology, and research continues despite development setbacks.
“They are thinking that down the road they will eventually get some technological breakthroughs that would enable it to be more militarily useful,” Clark explained. “That is why they are continuing to invest in it rather than dropping it entirely.”
During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Navy successfully test-fired hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers. The Army is looking at using the same high-speed rounds for its 155 mm howitzers.
So far, it appears the most beneficial thing to come out of US railgun research is the round.
For China, it’s a PR victory
China, which will likely encounter issues similar to those the US Navy has run into, is potentially continuing its railgun development for another purpose entirely.
“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Clark told BI. “It is always in the details that they sometimes fall a little bit short.”
“It’s a useful prestige thing for them, which is similar to other military systems they’ve fielded recently where it looks cool but it maybe isn’t all that militarily useful,” he further remarked, comparing China’s railgun pursuits to the J-20 stealth fighter, which lacks some of the features required to make it a true fifth-generation aircraft.
“The US has found that a working railgun, even if it met all the promise of a railgun system, is going to have very limited utility in strike or air defense,” Clark concluded, explaining that this technology is a tool which advances the narrative that China is a formidable force.
The Chinese military wants to demonstrate that it is on the forefront of next-level technology.
The Chinese military, like the US, may also derive new capabilities from its railgun research
One other program the Chinese are very interested in are building modern aircraft carriers. The Chinese navy has one carrier in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third mystery carrier in development.
While the first and second rely on ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, their is speculation that the third aircraft carrier could employ the much more effective electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system.
“The same program that’s working on railguns at the naval engineering university has also been involved in their development of electromagnetic catapult system for their next-generation aircraft carrier,” Kania told Business Insider.
“The Chinese military has often intended to explore advanced technologies, including those that the US has deemed less relevant operationally because there is enthusiasm about next-generation capabilities and it wants to understand the art of the possible,” she added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.
To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.
Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant
While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.
While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.
Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.
While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.
As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.
Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump
(White House Photo)
Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war
As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.
Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.
Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.
[State Department photo/ Public Domain]
There seems to be no clear line of succession
While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.
While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.
(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)
A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button
If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.
A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.
Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.
A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.
North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea
A refugee crises in the making
Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.
In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.
Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.
The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.
If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
The devil you know
There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.
In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.
The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.
For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.
For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.
The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.
The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.
Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.
The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.
The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.
Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.
Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.
Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.
Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.
Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier
Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.
9. He was described as “Squared Away”
During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off. When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”
7. There were some red flags
In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.
Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.
Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.
In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”
4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog
During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.
The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.
By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.
On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.
This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.
After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.
As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)
The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.
All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.
As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.
(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)
The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.
Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.
All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.
The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.
In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,
“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”
“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
The last place anyone would expect to watch the Blue fight the Gray in Civil War combat is the fields of Western Europe. After all, they have centuries full of historical battles of their own to re-enact for the delight of families, students, and amateur historians alike. Yet, Civil War re-enactors bring those historical battles to life again and again.
Hundreds of re-enactors come from Poland, Italy, France, and Canada to take part in the spectacle. Like any good re-enactor in the United States, the actors are sure to keep all of their clothing, gear, and weapons in good shape – and to make sure they’re historically authentic (as authentic as they can be, fighting the American Civil War in Europe). After all, no one wants to be known as a “Farb” around these dedicated troopers.
After all, re-enactors are a dedicated group. The more historically accurate they are in movement, fighting, and dress, the more enjoyment everyone gets from the actor recreating the event. Onlookers learn more about history as well.
Union troops advance on a Confederate position.
The Europeans who are enthusiastic about the battles are no less dedicated than any American re-enactor. They’ve been to the U.S., they’ve visited the battle sites, they’ve seen the uniforms up close. Many of these soldiers have every detail accurate, right down to the last button.
In the recreation in the video above, the 1864 Battle of Bethesda Church, the Europeans are recreating a real European battalion, recruited from immigrants to the United States. But the battle they’re recreating isn’t the only one they do year after year. Every year they come to recreate a different battle, often from a different year of the war. The battles last for days, and the field commanders often determine the outcomes.
Unlike in the actual Civil War, however, these days end with beer and sausages shared between the two groups.
The opening few minutes of the movie Top Gun make for, arguably, one of the coolest aerial scenes ever caught on film. There’s a reason it’s the enduring air power movie of the 1980s. Too bad for the Air Force that Top Gun featured the Navy.
Except Air Force pilots do that sh*t in real life.
In 2013, two Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantoms moved to intercept an MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace near the Iranian border. The two IRIAF fighters were quickly shooed away by two F-22 Raptors who were flying in escort.
Except, they didn’t just get a warning message, they were Maverick-ed. That’s what I’m calling it now.
How an F-22 Raptor intercepts a Russian-built bomber.
The two F-22 Raptors were escorting the drone because of an incident the previous year in which two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 close air support craft attempted to shoot down a different Air Force MQ-1. In the Nov. 1, 2012, incident, the drone was 16 miles from Iran, but still in international airspace. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s to intercept the drone, which they did, using their onboard guns.
The fighters missed the drone, which captured the whole incident with its cameras. The drone returned to base, completely unharmed. Not surprising, considering the Su-25 isn’t designed for air-to-air combat.
Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters.
The following year, another drone was being intercepted by Iranian aircraft. This time, however, it had serious firepower backing it up. The Iranians came at the drone with actual fighters, capable of downing an aircraft in mid-flight. The F-4 Phantom could bring what was considered serious firepower when it was first introduced – in the year 1960. These days, it’s a museum piece for the United States and most of its Western allies. Not so for the Iranians, who still have more than 40 of them in service. When the F-4s came up against the MQ-1, they probably expected an easy target. That didn’t happen.
One of the F-22 Raptor pilots flying escort for the drone flew up underneath the Iranian Phantoms. According to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, the Raptor pilot checked out the armaments the Iranian planes were carrying, then pulled up on their left wing and radioed them.
It wasn’t like this, but it could have been.
“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’,” Welsh said.
First, you’ll need to cut a U-shape out of the two-liter bottle — this will be the mask’s face. Once you’ve cut out the shape, seal the edges with duct tape. The tape will also act as a buffer against cutting your face on the jagged plastic edges.
Next, hold the taped plastic in front of your face to make sure it’s a good size.
Carefully pop a few holes in the bottom of the aluminum can before cutting it in half. After that, place a single layer of cotton rounds inside the cut can. Then, pour in a layer of activated charcoal to cover the bottom. To make sure the activated charcoal remains secure, place another cotton round on top.
You’ve just built yourself a makeshift air filter.
Before duct taping the filter onto the bottle’s open spout, secure one last cotton round to the top of the can — acting as a lid. Pop a hole in that cotton and then stick the open spout of the two-liter bottle into the slot.
Next, tape the aluminum can to the modified bottle. You can use the rubber bands to help keep the mask on your face as you battle hordes of zombies.
Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to get a breakdown of how to put together this clever lifesaver.
After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.
The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.
When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.
As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.
“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”
Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”
But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.
Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.
Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.
What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.
Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.
Yup. Robot fighter planes are in flight, and they’re about to come to market.
First, a quick look at the weapon’s missions. It’s supposed to fly in combat, perform early warning missions, and conduct reconnaissance. So, basically, it’s a jack of all trades. According to a Boeing press release, the plane will:
— Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles — Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare — Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.
Boeing hasn’t announced the plane’s exact capabilities which, since they want to eventually sell it around the world, is probably a good idea. No one who buys the plane is going to want all their adversaries to already know its limits, even if there is no pilot to kill.
But expect aviation media to keep a firm eye on the plane. One of the biggest selling points of autonomous fighters is that the planes won’t be limited to speeds, turning rates, and altitudes where humans can survive. See, the human meat sack in the middle of the plane is often the most fragile and valuable part of it. So everyone wants to know what the plane can do without a pilot.
“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”
In the ALPHA AI program, developed with a team from University of Cincinnati an artificial intelligence running on a cheap computer defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.
And the Air Force already began packing the computers into older jets to test the concept, leading to a 2017 test where an empty F-16 flew in support of human pilots. The program, Have Raider II, was ran in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and their Skunk Works program, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if Lockheed unveiled its own proposal soon.
There are legal limits on autonomous fighting systems, but the key component is that they ascribe to at least “man-in-the-loop” protocol where a human makes the final decision for any lethal engagement. But Have Raider II and the BATS envision robot fighters flying next to human-crewed planes and under the direction of the human pilots, so both will likely be accepted on the international stage. And, Boeing hasn’t said that BATS will necessarily have lethal weapons.
Weapons like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 are sold across national boundaries to American allies. Boeing has developed an unmanned fighter that it hopes to sell across the world as well.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
BATS was developed in Australia and, as mentioned above, Boeing hopes the final iterations will have a place in the air forces of U.S. partners around the world. But there is some downside to the new robot paradigm for the U.S. and its allies.
China’s military is improving at a great rate, growing larger and more technologically advanced by the week. One factor that’s holding them back is a shortage of pilots and good candidates for the training. So if China is able to develop a similar breakthrough, they can pump new planes into the air as fast as the factories can crank them out. And they’ve already made Dark Sword, an autonomous stealth drone with some fighter characteristics.
World War II finally ended on Sep. 2, 1945 when the U.S. accepted the unconditional surrender of Japan. The debates around the use of the Atom bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a means to end the war quickly continue at institutions of higher learning to this day, but most military scholars allow that an invasion of Japan would have cost both sides hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives.
Japan still had nearly 7 million men under arms at the time of surrender and had a number of secret weapons at their disposal. While the Allies had learned of a few, like the Kaiten suicide torpedo, weapons like the I-400 submersible aircraft carriers weren’t discovered until after the war was over.
Here are 7 weapons that would have greeted Allied troops on the beaches:
Another suicide weapon, the Ohka was basically a missile piloted by a human. Again, while bombers had trouble getting them into positions offensively, they would likely have proven more successful against an invasion fleet approaching the main islands.
They launched three kamikaze bombers each, but their main strength was in approaching stealthily and attacking while the enemy were off guard. A U.S. fleet approaching the Japanese home islands would have been on high alert.
The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.
The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.
There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.
The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.
Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.
The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.
And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*
*Must bring your own jet and bombs.
The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.