Here's the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

American special operators are known to have exacting standards for their weapons, vehicles, and other gear. When it comes to tactical motorcycles, elite troops across the Pentagon have settled on one very specific type.

In July, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing approved a plan to buy more than 50 Christini Technologies all-wheel drive 450cc motorcycles for special tactics personnel. These air commandos work with other special operators to coordinate air drops and parachute jumps, help secure drop zones and call in air strikes.

“The Christini Technologies, Inc. AWD Motorcycle is the only AWD tactical motorcycle on the market,” the flying branch’s contracting officers explained in a so-called “justification for other than full and open competition” document. “There are no other tactical motorcycles on the market that provide the AWD function needed by Air Force Special Tactics.”

tactical motorcycle in camo

Government agencies need to submit one of these reviews any time they want to give a contract to a specific company and avoid a lengthy bidding process. To back up their argument, the Air Force  pointed out that Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces troops, and the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command were all using the Christini bikes.

To the casual observer, the AWD 450 probably looks like any other high-end dirt bike. At a glance, the vehicle appears is something you might expect to see at the X Games or a Motocross rally.

Despite being derived from a Honda CRF 250, the motorcycle is far more rugged than its commercial competitors. The Christini model has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on roads and a range of approximately 90 miles without needing to stop for gas.

The bikes feature rugged suspension and a modified seat for long missions rather than laps around a track. An enlarged, bullet resistant radiator helps keep the cycles working in extreme weather conditions. On top of that, they have run-flat tires and a headlight that can be switched to shine infrared light.

Most importantly, the engine powers both wheels. Since 1995, Christini has been cooking up and building patented all-wheel drive setups for both mountain bikes and motorcycles. The feature provides extra power in rough terrain and makes it easier for the rider to handle a tactical motorcycle.

“We’ve … done testing that that shows our AWD bike is 30 percent less fatiguing than a standard bike,” Steve Christini, the company’s founder, told We Are The Mighty in an email. “You just don’t get stuck … in anything.”

Coupled with an anti-stall clutch, the AWD 450s can come to a sudden, complete stop and then get going again without the rider having to restart the motor. Even if the transmission system breaks, the motorcycle’s rear wheel won’t stop running. It’s these elements that have made Christini’s product the go-to choice for American special operations forces.

Troops around the world have used tactical motorcycles as long as the vehicles have been in existence. In World War I, American soldiers started running messages between command posts on early Harley-Davidsons instead of horses.

Over the next century, soldiers, Marines, and airmen continually experimented with new roles for bikes. Relatively stock commercial types were the standard.

During the first Gulf War, American and British special operators hunted for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in the Iraqi desert in light trucks and on motorcycles. Some versions of the Desert Mobility Vehicle – a special Humvee Army Special Forces came up with – were set up to carry Desert Operations Motorcycles on the back. The “DOM” was a single-wheel drive Kawasaki KL type.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Kawasaki KL 250. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

With the lighter, more discreet vehicles, commandos could scout ahead to survey targets or possible areas to establish a temporary camp, according to one 1999 Army manual. The bikes could carry troops or small amounts of gear to and from forward bases and listening posts and ambush positions.

Weighing more than 350 pounds and able to make 60 miles per hour on roads, the Kawasakis served their purpose well enough. Unfortunately, as time went on, it became clear that these cycles were simply not tough enough the missions at hand.

When American special operations forces went to Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, they brought their Kawasaki KLXs with them. Less than two years later, commandos took the vehicles to Iraq as an international coalition toppled Hussein regime. We don’t know for sure, but elite troops have likely used the motorcycles during other counter-terrorism missions, too.

“The Kawasaki KLX 250cc tactical motorcycle proved to be marginally fit for the high-altitude, rugged terrain of Afghanistan,” the Air Force pointed out in their justification. After nearly a decade of continuous combat operations, Army Special Forces were ready for a change.

In January 2010, the Army’s Special Operations Research Support Element looked into the Christini design. The evaluators were thrilled with the bike.

“The AWD motorcycle is far superior to a conventional single wheel drive motorcycle,” the office wrote in an unclassified review of the tests. “Increase in traction stabilizes the bike, reducing the fatigue on the operator while negotiating rough terrain and enables the bike to go places a standard motorcycle would not be able to go (eg: deep sand and steep inclines).”

“This vehicle enables the … operator, both motorcycle savvy and non-motorcyclist alike, to navigate off-road over difficult terrain,” the Special Forces soldiers added.

As of July, Christini had been working with America’s elite forces for more than four years, including sending 25 bikes to the SEALs, according to Christini. His company has also supplied tactical motorcycles to special operators and regular troops in the U.K., Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol are getting their own batches.

The North Carolina bike maker has partnered with Tactical Mobility Training, another private training company also located in the state. Together with the Army’s unique Asymmetric Warfare Group, Tactical Mobility Training helped developed a new concept of operations for motorcycle-mounted commandos specifically based around the AWD 450.

The special operations missions still focus largely on scouting ahead of larger formations and providing extra situational awareness of the battlefield and possible chokepoints. But commandos are now prepared to chase down or cut off fleeing terrorists and militants – nicknamed “squirt control” – during attacks on compounds or other sites, according to the Army’s review.

But regardless of the actual operation, if you happen to spot a special operator on a motorcycle these days, chances are good it’s a Christini.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This self-driving ship might be a game-changer for Marines

Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.

The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.

“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.


Sea Hunter recently traveled from California to Hawaii and back again with hardly anyone operating aboard the vessel.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during a massive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.

“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”

Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.

(US Navy photo)

“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”

The Navy Department is planning big investments for unmanned technology. Its billion shipbuilding budget request for 2020 included funds for two large unmanned surface ships.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This jet was the one of Navy’s deadliest fighters — for its pilots

Let’s face it, sometimes, the military gets stuck with bad planes. We’re talking real dogs here.


One of the worst jets was bought by the U.S. Navy and lasted just over a decade between first flight and being retired.

The plane in question was the Vought F7U Cutlass. To be fair, it was better than Vought’s last two offerings to the Navy. The F5U “Flying Flapjack” was a propeller plane that never got past the prototype stage. The F6U Pirate was underpowered and quickly retired.

But pilots grew to hate the Cutlass.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
A F7U takes off from USS Midway (CVB 41). (US Navy photo)

According to Air and Space Magazine, the Cutlass had such a bad reputation that a pilot quit the Blue Angels when he was told that was the plane they would fly. It was underpowered – and badly so. The Navy had wanted an engine providing 10,000 pounds of thrust – but the Cutlass engines never came close to that figure.

The nose gear also had a habit of collapsing. The hydraulic system had more leaks than you’d find in a nursery with low-cost diapers. Not mention that this plane was a bear to fly.

Over 25 percent of all Cutlasses ever built were lost in accidents, according to the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
A F7U comes in for landing. Note the overly long nose wheel. That got some pilots killed. (NASA photo)

Now, the Cutlass did achieve one significant milestone: It was the first naval fighter to deploy with the Sparrow air-to-air missile. That, combined with four 20mm cannon, made for a relatively well armed plane.

The Cutlass also was modified for ground-attack, but the order was cancelled.

Much to the relief of pilots who had to fly it, the F7U Cutlass was retired in 1959, replaced by the F8U Crusader, later to be known as the F-8 Crusader.

The Sparrow, the new armament for the Cutlass, went on to have a long career with the U.S. military, serving as a beyond-visual range missile until the 1990s, when the AIM-120 AMRAAM replaced it.

Articles

This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.


By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history.  Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.

The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.

This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.

While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
A KC-135 Stratotanker taxis down the flightline during an exercise March 2, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The KC-135 enhances the Air Force’s capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.

As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.

It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Leupold’s Performance Eyewear now available for purchase

If you’ve ever sat in a treestand with the sun in your eyes, or spent a day on the water or at the range fighting the glare, then you know the importance of having adequate eyewear. While Leupold is probably not the first name you think of when you think of eyewear, well, it should be.

Leupold released their new line of performance eyewear this year at SHOT Show, and now it is available for purchase. The new line features five designs to address a myriad of needs: the Katmai, Becnara, Packout, Switchback, and Tracer. While individual models are designed to meet different needs, all models share some pretty awesome features.


“Leupold consumers expect the highest-quality optics in the world, and that’s exactly what we’re delivering with the Performance Eyewear line,” said Zach Bird, Product Line Manager for Leupold & Stevens, Inc. “There’s a style for every need, and they’re all packed with top-of-the-line features. Plus, every model is proudly designed, machined, and assembled right here in the USA.”


Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The Becnara fuses Leupold performance with everyday style.

Features for Everyone

All five frame styles are made from lightweight, ballistic-rated materials and ship with scratch-resistant, polarized lenses that are reminiscent of what we love about Leupold riflescopes- resilience and clarity. Leupold’s Guard-ion hydrophobic coating sheds dirt, water, and fingerprints for a clear, crisp image, while Diamondcoat-hardened lenses prevent surface scratches. A no-slip bridge design provides all day comfort with soft-touch rubber bridge pads. Daylight Max technology provides complete UV protection for optimal performance in any environment. Additionally, three of the five styles – the Packout, Switchback, and Tracer – meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 high-velocity impact standards for eye protection.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The Tracer is a must-have for any diehard shooter.

“Whether you’re talking about riflescopes, reflex sights, mounting systems, or observational equipment, our products have always outperformed the competition under the harshest conditions, without fail,” said Tim Lesser, Vice President of Product Development for Leupold Stevens, Inc. “Now, with the Performance Eyewear line, we’re applying that same expertise to a new line of optics, so you can experience Leupold’s rugged clarity every day.”

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The Katmai is the choice for any adventurer.

More Information

Retailers carrying Leupold Performance Eyewear can be found now at Leupold.com/PerformanceEyewear.

More information on Leupold’s new Performance Eyewear can be found at Leupold.com/PerformanceEyewear.

For more information on Leupold products, please visit us at Leupold.com.

Join the discussion on Facebook at Facebook.com/LeupoldOptics, on Twitter at Twitter.com/LeupoldOptics, or on Instagram at Instagram.com/LeupoldOptics.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The Switchback was designed with hunters and shooters in mind.

About Leupold

Founded in Oregon more than a century ago, Leupold Stevens, Inc. is a fifth-generation, family-owned company that designs, machines and assembles its riflescopes, mounting systems, tactical/Gold Ring spotting scopes, and Performance Eyewear in the USA. The product lines include rifle, handgun and spotting scopes; binoculars; rangefinders; mounting systems; and optical tools, accessories and Pro Gear.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out United’s new ‘Star Wars’-themed Boeing 737 plane

Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.

To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).

The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.

Here’s what the plane is like inside.


Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.

(United)

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why space debris cleanup might be a national security threat

As an international relations scholar who studies space law and policy, I have come to realize what most people do not fully appreciate: Dealing with space debris is as much a national security issue as it is a technical one.

Considering the debris circling the Earth as just an obstacle in the path of human missions is naive. As outer space activities are deeply rooted in the geopolitics down on Earth, the hidden challenge posed by the debris is the militarization of space technologies meant to clean it up.


To be clear, space debris poses considerable risks; however, to understand those risks, I should explain what it is and how it is formed. The term “space debris” refers to defunct human-made objects, relics left over from activities dating back to the early days of the space age. Over time that definition has expanded to include big and small things like discarded boosters, retired satellites, leftover bits and pieces from spacecraft, screwdrivers, tools, nuts and bolts, shards, lost gloves, and even flecks of paint.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95 percent of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris, i.e., not functional satellites. The dots represent the current location of each item. The orbital debris dots are scaled according to the image size of the graphic to optimize their visibility and are not scaled to Earth. The image provides a good visualization of where the greatest orbital debris populations exist.

(NASA photo)

From the 23,000 pieces of debris in Earth orbit that are larger than 5-10 centimeters that we can track and catalog, to the hundreds of millions that we cannot, there is little question that both big and small objects whizzing around at lethal speeds endanger the prospects for civilian, commercial and military missions in outer space. You may pick apart what the movie “Gravity” got wrong, but what it got unforgettably right was the sense of devastation wrought by an orbital debris cloud that destroyed equipment and killed three astronauts on impact. No matter its size, space debris can be lethal to humans and machines alike.

As of early 2018, the European Space Agency (ESA) estimates that there have been about 500 break-ups, collisions, explosions or other fragmentation events to date that yielded space debris. Some of these events are caused by accidents. NASA reported the first-ever known collision between two objects in space in July 1996, when a European booster collided with a French spacecraft. That incident created one new piece of debris, which was itself promptly cataloged. Yet accidents can also have a big impact on increasing the debris cloud. In 2009, for the first time ever, a functioning U.S. communications satellite, Iridium-33, collided with a non-functioning Russian one, Cosmos-2251, as they both passed over extreme northern Siberia. This single crash generated more than 2,300 fragments of debris.

Natural fragmentation versus deliberate destruction

Space debris may also be affected by the breakup of older spacecraft. In February 2015, a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP-F13) spacecraft, called USA 109, which had gone up 20 years earlier, blew up due to a battery malfunction. It may have contributed 100 debris pieces that were tracked by military radars on Earth, and possibly also 50,000 shards larger than 1 millimeter that defied tracking because they are too tiny. Because of the satellite’s original high altitude, all those fragments will remain in orbit for decades, posing risks for other spacecraft. In November 2015, again due to a possible battery failure, another decommissioned U.S weather satellite, NOAA-16, crumbled adding 136 new objects to the debris cloud.

Notably, debris itself can also fragment. In February 2018, a discarded tank from the upper stages of a Ukrainian-Russian Zenit-3F rocket fragmented.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Fuel tank of an Iridium satellite launched in 1997-1998 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed in a California orchard where it was discovered in late October 2018.

(Kings County Sheriff’s Office)

Debris can also fall back down on Earth, whether from natural orbital decay or controlled re-entry. Fortunately most such falling debris lands in the Earth’s oceans. But sometimes it does not, and these rare events may become a bigger hazard in the years ahead as the size of the debris cloud grows, and as the projected fleet of commercial small satellites becomes a reality. Recently, parts of Zenit rocket debris are reported to have ended up crash-landing in Peru. One of the most recent such events just took place in October 2018. The U.S. military identified a fuel tank from a decade-or-so-old Iridium satellite that crashed in a walnut orchard in Hanford, California.

Then there are the highly publicized deliberate events that add to the debris cloud. In 2007, China used a ground-based direct-ascent missile to take out its own aging weather satellite, the Fengyun-1C. This event created an estimated 3,400 pieces of debris that will be around for several decades before decaying.

China’s actions were widely seen as an anti-satellite test (ASAT), a signal of the country’s expanding military space capabilities. Having the ability to shoot down a satellite to gain a military advantage back on Earth exposes the basic nature of the threat: Those who are most dependent on space assets – namely, the United States, with an estimated 46 percent of the total 1,886 currently operational satellites – are also the most vulnerable to the space debris created deliberately. There is no doubt that the aggressor will also lose in such a scenario – but that collateral damage may be worthwhile if your more heavily space-dependent rival is dealt a more crippling blow.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Saudi officials inspect a crashed PAM-D module in January 2001.

Stealth ‘counterspace race’

The set of government or commercial solutions to counter orbital debris – whether lasers, nets, magnets, tethers, robotic arms or co-orbiting service satellites – have only fueled the prospects for a stealthy race for dominance in outer space.

The same technology that captures or zaps or drags away the debris can do the same to a functioning spacecraft. Since nobody can be sure about the intent behind such proposed “commercial” space debris cleanup technologies, governments will race to get ahead of their market competitors. It matters how and with what intent you counter space debris with dual-use technologies, and more so at a time of flux in the world order. Both the old and new space powers can easily cloak their military intentions in legitimate concerns about, and possibly commercial solutions to, debris hazards. And there are now a number of open assessments about space junk removal technologies that can double up as military programs, such as lasers or hunters.

This fusion of the market and the military is not a conspiracy but a reality. If you are a great power like the United States that is heavily dependent on space assets in both the economic and military realms, then you are vulnerable to both orbital debris and the technologies proposed for its cleanup. And both your allies and your rivals know it.

This is how we have ended up in a counterspace race, which is nothing like your grandfather’s space race. In a fundamental way, this new race reflects the volatile geopolitics of peer or near-peer competitors today, and there is no getting away from it in any domain. Just as on Earth, in the cosmos the world’s top space powers – the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India – have moved from merely space situational awareness to all-out battlespace awareness. If things stay the course, accidental or deliberate events involving orbital debris are poised to ravage peaceful prospects in outer space.

How then do we move forward so that outer space remains safe, sustainable and secure for all powers, whether big or small? This is not a task any one single nation — no matter how great — can carry out successfully on its own. The solutions must not only be technological or military, either. For peaceful solutions to last, deterrence and diplomacy, as well as public awareness, will have to be proactively forged by the world’s space powers, leaders and thinkers.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Articles

Orlando Police credit Kevlar helmet with saving officer’s life

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
(Photo: Orlando Police Department)


The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.

“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.

The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.

The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.

“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.

Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.

“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”

Articles

This amazing use of nuclear technology will blow your mind

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Image: Lockheed Martin


Imagine a plane that could stay aloft with unlimited range and endurance without refueling. That’s exactly what Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division claims it could develop within ten years.

The makers of some of the most famous military aircraft—the SR-71 Blackbird, U-2 spy plane, and F-117 Nighthawk—are developing a reactor to harness nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.

Related: These re the 9 fastest piloted planes in the world

Nuclear technology for power is not a new concept; we’ve been doing it for decades through fission. Fission occurs when an atom is split into smaller fragments, creating small explosions resulting in the release of heat energy. Fusion, on the other hand, is the process by which gas is heated up and separated into its ions and electrons. When the ions get hot enough, they can overcome their mutual repulsion and collide, fusing together, hence its name — fusion. When this happens, the energy released is three to four times more than that of a fission reaction, according to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin aims to mimic the fusion process within a small magnetic container designed to release its hundreds of millions of degrees of heat in a controlled fashion. These devices will be small enough to be used on planes and other vehicles.

Its compact size is the reason for which the engineers and scientists at Lockheed Martin believe they can achieve this technology so quickly. A small device size allows them to test and fail quickly under budget.

In this video Tom McGuire, a research engineer and scientist at Lockheed Martin explains how they plan to bottle the power of the sun within a decade:

LockheedMartinVideos, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 helmets that America copied from other countries

The history of the modern military helmet is relatively short in the grand scheme of military history. Prior to WWI, soldiers generally wore soft uniform headwear in combat. In some instances, leather caps or helmets were worn to offer some protection against sword strikes. However, it was the French who first fielded a steel skull-cap to be wore under their traditional headwear. This idea evolved into the all-steel Adrian helmet. Britain followed suit with the Brodie helmet, as did the Germans with the Stahlhelm. Interestingly, American soldiers have worn some form of all three helmets and one more German helmet that may come as a surprise. Here are a few helmets that America copied over the years.

1. PASGT/Stahlhelm

Officially known as the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, PASGT refers to the helmet and vest combination first worn by U.S. troops in 1983. Designed to offer more protection, the PASGT helmet comes down over the wearer’s ears more so than the WWII-era M1 helmet that it replaced. Its design is so reminiscent of the German Stahlhelm that troops came to nickname it the Fritz helmet. The PASGT helmet has largely been replaced by smaller and lighter helmets like the Modular Integrated Communications Helmet and the Future Assault Shell Technology Helmet. However, it still sees limited use with the Army Reserves (especially ROTC) and the Navy.

2. M1917/Mk I Brodie Helmet

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
WWI Marines in France. Without seeing them up close, it’s difficult to discern between an M1917 and a Brodie Helmet (U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

This soup dish-style helmet is synonymous with WWI doughboys and WWI in general. When America entered the war, the other nations were already equipping their troops with steel helmets to protect them from bullets and shrapnel. The wool or felt campaign hats that U.S. troops wore were more suited for the American frontier than the trenches of western Europe. As a result, America began production of the M1917 helmet modeled after the British Brodie helmet. However, troops who had already arrived in Europe acquired genuine Brodie helmets from British supply points until American production and logistics caught up. While the M1917 and Brodie helmets appear very similar, a few characteristics like the chinstrap ball, construction material and paint were slightly different. America ended up purchasing roughly 400,000 Brodie helmets from the British and produced over 2,700,000 M1917 helmets by the war’s end. At the outbreak of WWII, the U.S. military switched over from the M1917 to the now iconic M1 helmet. When U.S. soldiers captured in the Philippines at the start of the war were finally liberated, they thought they were being rescued by Germans because they hadn’t seen the new M1 helmets which looked more like the Stahlhelm than the M1917 they were used to.

3. Adrian Helmet

This is more of a stop-gap than a copy. As previously mentioned, America did not have a steel helmet for its troops upon entering the war. American volunteer ambulance drivers that arrived in France before America’s official entry were equipped with the French Adrian helmet. The next Americans to wear the Adrian helmet were American units like the 369th Harlem Hellfighters that were assigned to the French Army. These troops would either maintain the interchangeable French insignia that the helmet came with or remove it entirely. Over the course of American involvement in the war, American insignias were cast in bronze for U.S. troops to more easily identify themselves in the trenches. Moreover, many American officers preferred the Adrian helmet to the Brodie helmet and were photographed wearing them on the frontlines.

4. Pickelhaube

This helmet actually predates WWI. First adopted by Prussia in 1842, the Pickelhaube is also known as the spike helmet for obvious reasons. Originally made of leather, the helmet’s design was meant to help deflect sword strikes to the wearer’s head. Before the adoption of the Stahlhelm, German forces wore leather and later steel Pickelhaubes. However, before WWI, the Pickelhaube was synonymous with Imperial Germany. An undisputed world superpower at the time, many armies modeled their uniforms after them, including America. While the Pickelhaube was not part of the combat uniform, both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps adopted the spiked helmet in their dress uniforms from 1881 to 1902. It’s probably best that we did away with these. Imagine the barracks fights that would erupt if troops were still issued spiked helmets.

Articles

This is who would win a dogfight between Russia and Israel

Russia recently summoned Israel’s ambassador to deliver a message: The days of launching air strikes in Syria are over.


According to a Reuters report, the Russians were hopping mad over a recent Israeli air strike in Syria they said was targeting an illegal arms shipment to Hezbollah. The Russians say the strike aided the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Russian Su-35 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Israeli strike was also notable in that an Arrow missile shot down a Russian-built SA-5 Gammon surface-to-air missile. But what would happen if the Russians decided to challenge the Israeli Air Force?

At present, Russia has a limited number of aircraft in the region, centered around the Su-24 Fencer strike plane and versions of the Flanker (including the Su-30, Su-34, and Su-35).

The Russians may be small in numbers, but it backs up the Syrian Air Force, which has a substantial number of MiGs – mostly MiG-21 Fishbeds and MiG-23 Floggers, along with about 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums of varying models. Likewise. Russia has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but many of the air defenses on the ground are Syrian, and older model missiles.

In essence, the Russian deployment was corseting the Syrians.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli Air Force is primarily centered on the F-16 Fighting Falcon – FlightGlobal.com reports that Israel has 77 F-16C and 48 F-16D Fighting Falcons on inventory, plus about 100 F-16I Sufa fighters.

Israel also has about 80 F-15A/B/C/D/I fighters as well, according to the Institute for National Security Studies. Many of these planes have been customized with Israeli electronics – and the engineers of Tel Aviv are masters of electronic warfare.

So, what would happen if Russia tried to stop an Israeli raid to take out some new weapons for Hezbollah? Keep in mind that the Russian deployment to Syria included a craptastic carrier and at least two splash landings.

And that’s just the follies they couldn’t keep from the press.

On the other hand, the Israelis, while they have made their mistakes in the past, are probably the best military force in the region. They also have a huge quantitative edge in modern fighters.

In essence, the early rounds would likely go the Israelis’ way. The big question would be how much Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to risk after the initial dogfight.

If Putin goes all-in, the Israelis could be in a world of hurt.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Spanish warship could be the next US Navy frigate

Let’s face it: The littoral combat ship has not exactly lived up to all of the hype. In fact, it has proven to be inadequate in replacing the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates. Now, the United States Navy has started the FFG(X) program to find the next guided-missile frigate, and five shipbuilders are contending. One such shipbuilder is General Dynamics, which intends to iterate on the Spanish Alvaro de Bazan-class guided-missile frigate.


Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The Cristobal Colon, the fifth Alvaro de Bazan-class guided missile frigate.

(Photo by Diego Quevedo Carmona)

This class of frigate has been around for a while — the lead ship was commissioned by the Spanish Navy in 2002. The vessel weighs 5,800 tons and carries a five-inch gun, a 48-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system, two twin 324mm torpedo tubes, a 20m Meroka close-in weapon system, and, for good measure, an H-60 helicopter. The Bazan also has the SPY-1 radar and the Aegis Combat System. In this sense, it’s like a miniature Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

USS Reuben James (FFG 57) during her trials in the 1980s. Note the Mk 13 missile launcher.

(US Navy photo)

As the Bazan-class was entering service, the United States Navy had begun to look at replacing the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates. The Perry-class frigates had been initially equipped with a Mk 13 missile launcher that could carry up to 40 missiles (usually a mix of RIM-66 Standard SM-1MR missiles and RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles), a single 76mm gun, two triple 324mm torpedo tube mounts, and a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

An Alvaro de Bazan-class guided missile frigate in the Pacific. Note the antenna for the SPY-1 radar.

(US Navy photo)

The littoral combat ship has seen a number of problems. The big issue has been breakdowns that leave the ships stuck pierside. Well, one didn’t break down, it got iced in — but the problem persists nonetheless. The other problem is that the littoral combat ships usually enter the fight with just a single 57mm gun, a few .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.


The Navy is planning to buy 20 of these new frigates, with the announcement and order of the first ship to be made in 2020. Whether the Bazan makes the cut remains to be seen.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information