What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The first time you select afterburner in a fighter is an experience you’ll never forget. Over a decade later, I can still remember every second of it.

I had made it through the attrition of pilot training and was now in the 9-month B-Course learning to fly the F-16. After several months of academics—going over every system on the jet and how to troubleshoot malfunctions, it was time to finally get in the air. 

The way the jet is configured makes a big difference in terms of its performance. Usually, there are several weapons, pods, and fuel tanks hanging off the jet, which makes it much more capable in combat. However, they add a significant amount of weight and drag to the airframe. 

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
It is not uncommon for F-16s to fly carrying two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

The squadron leadership had decided to completely clean off the jets for our initial phase of flying—nothing external would be added, making it the stripped-down hot-rod that John Boyd famously envisioned back in the ’70s. It’s a rare configuration that I’ve only seen a handful of times during my career.

On the day of the flight, after I strapped in, I started the engine and could feel the F-16 coming to life: the slow groan of the engine transforming into a shrieking roar. 

After the ground-ops checks, my instructor and I taxied to the end of the runway—as a wingman, my job was to follow him throughout the sortie. Once we received clearance to take off, he taxied onto the runway and pushed the throttle into afterburner. 

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)

I could see the nozzle of his engine clamp down as the engine spun-up into full military power—the highest non-afterburning setting. The nozzle then rapidly opened as the afterburner kicked in and a 10-foot bluish-red flame shot out of the back of the engine. Looking into the engine, I could only see a few feet of the nozzle before it disappeared into a whitish-yellow fire, similar to the sun. As he rapidly accelerated down the runway, I taxied into position.

After 15 seconds, I pushed the throttle forward until it hit the military power stop. I then rotated the throttle outward, which allowed me to push it further into the afterburner settings. Nothing happened for what seemed like a minute, but in reality, it was only a few seconds. It was enough time for me to look down to make sure nothing was wrong when, suddenly, the thrust hit me in the chest. 

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Before flying the F-16, I had flown a supersonic jet trainer called the T-38, so I was familiar with high-performance aircraft… But this acceleration was on another level. Before I knew it, a second jolt of thrust hit me, further increasing my acceleration—and the engine wasn’t even at full thrust yet.

There are five rings in the back of the engine that make up the afterburner. Each ring has hundreds of holes, through which fuel is sprayed at high pressure and then ignited. In order to not flood the engine, each ring sequentially lights off. So far, only two of the five rings had started spraying fuel.

The interesting thing about the way a jet accelerates is that as it goes faster, it accelerates faster (to a point). This is unlike a car, which starts off quickly and then slows down. As each afterburner ring lit off, my acceleration further increased. Before I knew it, I was at my rotation speed of 150 knots, or 175 mph. As soon as I was airborne, I began retracting my gear, reducing my drag, which further increased my acceleration. Even though it takes just a few seconds to retract the gear, I came dangerously close to overspending the 300-knot limit.

The one thing that stands out about that takeoff is that even though I was operating way behind the jet, I was smiling the whole time–it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘failed’ prototype planes that went on to serve for years

Planes that lose competitions rarely get a second act. Just ask the YF-23 Black Widow II — two jets were produced and tested and now both will live out their days on display in museums. But there are a lucky few who have lost out only to get a second chance.

It’s rare, but, in a few cases, these runners-up made a huge impact with the United States military. The following planes made the most out of a second chance


What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The XF4F-3 Wildcat in flight. This plane got a second chance after earlier prototypes fell short against the Brewster F2A Buffalo, which turned out to be a real lemon in combat.

(US Navy)

Grumman F4F Wildcat

Believe it or not, the extremely successful Wildcat almost never saw the light of day. The original version of this plane lost a developmental competition to the Brewster F2A Buffalo. Thankfully, the Navy gave the Wildcat a second chance, and this plane ended up holding the line against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s force of Mitsubishi A6M Zeros.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Boeing’s Model 299 did very well in the competition — until a fatal crash knocked it out of contention.

(USAF)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

The prototype of the B-17, known as Model 299, initially performed extremely well. It was faster and more powerful than the competition. Unfortunately, the Model 299 crashed during its second evaluation flight, killing both pilots on board. With the Model 299 destroyed and disqualified, Douglas won the competition with the B-18

Fortunately, the Army Air Force, who were extremely impressed with the B-17’s performance, found a legal loophole through and kept the program alive. It went on to be the mainstay of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

A version of the F-86 beat out the XF-88 Voodoo, but the plane survived as the basis for the F-101 Voodoo.

(USAF)

McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo

In 1946, the Army Air Force was looking for a long-range, jet-powered escort fighter. McDonnell offered up the XF-88 Voodoo to compete for this contract, which lost out to a version of the F-86 Sabre.

Combat in Korea quickly proved that the U.S. still needed an effective penetration fighter. So, McDonnell scaled up the XF-88 to make the prototype of the F-101 Voodoo, which entered service in 1957 and didn’t fully retire until 1983!

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The B-1A was cancelled, but made a comeback in the 1980s as the B-1B Lancer.

(USAF)

Rockwell B-1 Lancer

The B-1 originally fell victim to Jimmy Carter’s budget axe, but the need to replace aging B-52s was patently obvious. After intense political debate, the B-1B Lancer entered production in the 1980s. While this airframe no longer carries nukes, it can still put a real hurt on Russian ambitions in the Baltics or hammer the Chinese in the South China Sea.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Northrop YF-17 Cobra

In the eyes of the Air Force, the YF-17 was inferior to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, but the Navy saw something in this design. After making some modifications, this prototype become the classic F/A-18 Hornet, which still serves today!

Articles

Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.


Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
A USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. When Russia shot one down in 1960 with a SA-2 Guideline, it proved the surface-to-air missile was a factor in warfare. | U.S. Air Force photo

So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.

1. SA-10 Grumble

This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The SA-10 Grumble system. (DOD image)

2. SA-12 Gladiator

The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.

But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The SA-12 Gladiator system at an arms expo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. SA-20 Gargoyle

This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.

The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The SA-20 Gargoyle – an improved version of the SA-10. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4. SA-21 Growler

This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. SA-23 Giant

What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
SA-23 launch vehicles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.

Articles

DARPA wants to implant chips in soldiers’ brains

DARPA has a plan to implant a device in soldiers’ brains to let them communicate with computers and digital sensors.


What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The brain-computer interface would allow soldier to communicate with sensors to more effectively track enemies or sense the surrounding terrain. Photo: US Army PEO

The program is called Neural Engineering System Design. The device would be about the size of two nickels stacked together. If successful, the small device would represent a huge breakthrough in neural communications.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

NESD would gather signals from the brain at a much higher resolution than is currently possible. Right now, devices which read brain waves are aimed at areas of the brain. Each of 100 sensors picks up the activity of tens of thousands of neurons, giving a vague picture of what the brain is saying.

The chip and sensors from the NESD program would aim to communicate individually with millions of neurons. This would allow prosthetics wearers to give detailed commands to their prosthesis, soldiers to receive information from battlefield sensors instantly, and for researchers to map the human brain in exquisite detail.

While controlling mechanical arms and giving foot soldiers radar are sexy, it’s the research applications that DARPA is primarily targeting right now. NESD would support other DARPA initiatives that aim to map, protect, and communicate with the human brain.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
One of the goals of DARPA’s brain initiatives is to help prosthetic wearers communicate with their devices. Photo: US Department of Veterans Affairs

The road forward for DARPA and its research partners is a hard one. According to a DARPA release, it will require “breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”

DARPA is looking for business and research partners for the initiative. Interested parties can find information at their website.

Articles

6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Earlier this month, A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support planes went on a 16-day deployment to Estonia — a country that along with Latvia and Lithuania, achieved independence in 1991 as the Cold War ended.


The Baltic countries joined NATO on March 29, 2004.

The A-10s, all from the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard, were not the only troops on the scene. Air Force Combat Controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron also took part – a natural team, since there have been many times where special ops teams have been bailed out by the Hogs. So, enjoy these six photos by Air Force photographer Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Air Force combat controllers wave to the first A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

An Air Force combat controller takes wind speed measurements before an A-10 Thunderbolt II lands in Jägala, Estonia. The combat controller is assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

An Air Force combat controller looks through binoculars at an A-10 Thunderbolt II that is preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron ascends towards the runway in Jägala, Estonia.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron taxis in Jägala, Estonia.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Two Air Force combat controllers observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017. The combat controllers are assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.

 

 

Articles

The GBU-43 MOAB makes its combat debut

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.


According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (USAF photo)

FoxNews.com reported that the air strike came after a Green Beret was killed fighting the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon on display outside the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”

The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.

The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Here is a video talking about the GBU-43.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFTQZ48J3kU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

SciFi loves nuclear hand grenades, but you’ll never get one

Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.


Fallout 76 Nuka Grenade

www.youtube.com

The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.

Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.

Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.

(U.S. Army)

And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.

But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.

But even worse for the operator, these small amounts of nuclear material would have a devastating effect at much larger ranges than an operator could possible throw it. Take the W54 warhead placed on America’s lowest-yield nuclear missiles, the Davy Crockett bomb fired from a recoilless rifle and the AIM-26 air-to-air nuclear missile.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

A W54 warhead explodes after a Davy Crockett test shot. It’s the smallest warhead ever deployed and nearly the smallest warhead possible, and it still kills everything within a few hundred yards.

(YouTube/Jaglavaksoldier)

The W54 had approximately 50 pounds of uranium, about as small as you could get while still achieving critical mass. Even that small amount of material created an explosion with the same yield as 250 tons of TNT. Think you can throw a 33-pound grenade far enough to be safe from the 250-ton blast? Hint: You would need to throw it at least 350 yards just to avoid third-degree burns from radiation.

So, while the Fallout series lets you play with Nuka grenades and Star Wars features thermal detonators, real nuclear hand grenades will always be out of reach.

Sorry, everyone. But, the good news is that laser rifles have a real chance. Sweet.

Articles

3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army tested its first damage sensors on these helicopters

For the first time ever, a team of researchers successfully developed and tested networked acoustic emission sensors that can detect airframe damage on conceptual composite UH-60 Black Hawk rotorcraft.


Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center said their discovery opens up possibilities for new on-board features that could immediately alert the flight crew to the state of structural damage, like matrix cracking and delamination, as they occur, giving the crew greater opportunity to take corrective actions before catastrophic failure.

ARL has been studying several possible alternatives to rotorcraft airframe health monitoring. This effort, which began almost two years ago, makes a strong case for integrated real-time damage sensing methodologies on future airframe structures. The sensing method can be used to reliably detect and locate the initiation and growth of damage that may occur during service.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The approximate cut-out location of the test article and location of group sensors. Sensor groups 1 and 2 are shown. Groups 3 and 4 are on the opposite side. (Image from U.S. Army)

“Future Army airframe structures are required to be lighter, safer, and ultra-reliable,” said Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer. “To achieve these, the Army must adopt a combined strategy of implementing advanced structural design methods, improved structural materials, and integrated damage-sensing and risk-prediction capabilities.”

He said the team turned to acoustic emission tests because other methods, such as ultrasonic and radiography, require an external energy source in the form of a directed wave.

“The external energy has the undesirable effect of interfering with other systems of the aircraft. In addition, other methods are not as good as AE in detecting early damage,” he said.

Acoustic emission sensing is a passive, non-destructive technique for detection of damage in the very early stage, and long before the structure experiences catastrophic failure. Unlike other methods, acoustic emission detects damage in real-time (or at the instant the damage is happening). The fact that AE is passive means that it does not require an external energy to detect damage. It relies on the energy that is initiated within the structure, Haile explained.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Acoustic emission sensors used in the distributed network are lightweight broadband piezoelectric crystals. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“The novelty of the current work is that we introduced several new concepts on wave acquisition control and signal processing to recover damage-related information in networked acoustic emission sensors,” Haile said. “The Eureka moment was when the sensing network consistently identified and located the initiation and progression of damage during a prolonged fatigue test that lasted over 200,000 cycles — a feat that has never been achieved before.”

The ARL sensing network is composed of several lightweight transducers encapsulated in 3D-printed, non-intrusive sensor mounts. Sensors of the network are optimally distributed in multiple zones to maximize coverage as well as probability of damage detection. The data acquisition process is embedded with a software-controllable timing parameter to reject reflections of a direct wave, as well as waves coming from non-damage related events. Meanwhile, the signal processing algorithm is augmented with a layer of adaptive digital filters to minimize effects of signal distortion during location analysis.

Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the Vehicle Technology Directorate, along with Haile, Nathaniel Bordick, and other ARL partners, collaborated to elucidate detailed mechanisms for full-scale damage detection in complex rotorcraft structures using the distributed sensor architecture. Key to the technique is the development of signal distortion control parameters, acquisition timing control, and 3D-printed sensor capsules.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Dr. Jaret C. Riddick (left), an aerospace engineer in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate, interacts with an attendee at the Maryland 3D Printing event. (Photo from U.S. Army Research Laboratory)

“The downtime due to routine inspection and maintenance represents the major fraction of the life cycle cost of Army platforms, because we are not using the platform and we have to pay for inspection, which, in most cases, reveals no damage. So, the idea is to integrate a reliable damage sensing network and perform maintenance only when necessary,” Riddick said.

Currently, the Army sustains its fleet using phase maintenance paradigm, which is a periodic calendar-based practice that requires inspection and maintenance at fixed time intervals. The process is highly inefficient, costly and entails extended downtime. The newly developed sensing network will enable condition-based maintenance or maintenance on demand. It has the potential to drastically cut the life cycle cost of Army vehicles. The work also supports the Army’s long term vision of maintenance-free aircrafts.

Related: The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

“Large-scale AE monitoring is a data-intensive process with several million hits being received by each transducer per flight,” Halle said. “This puts a higher load on the internal bus and circuitry of any data acquisition hardware. In general, most hits are not related to damage. Rather, they are noises from moving parts, such as the clicking or rubbing noises of fasteners, panel connections, and vibrations from other non-damage related sources. Unwanted AE hits also arise due to reflections of an already received and processed AE wave. The challenge is to develop a system which is sensitive only to damage related hits and insensitive to all other hits.”

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The damage sensing network is integrated into a conceptual composite UH-60M Black Hawk rotorcraft. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“Most of the available AE-based structural health monitoring is for simple plate-like structures, despite most airframe structures not being simple plates,” Bordick said. “Not much has been done on integrated full-scale airframe health monitoring using AE. The problem is quite complex. I’m glad that we were able to successfully develop and demonstrate the sensing network.”

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development, and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Congressman wants to shutdown Pentagon’s beerbot funding

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake doesn’t want the Pentagon spending any more money on robots that serve beer.

An amendment Flake and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain submitted to the 2019 Defense Department Appropriations Act would “prohibit the use of funds for the development of beerbots or other robot bartenders.”


Robots have appeared in bars and restaurants in recent years, being used to shake, stir, and garnish drinks — the Makr Shakr robot developed by engineers at MIT was said to be able to mimic a bartender’s movements while mixing drinks to precision.

In late 2014, Royal Caribbean agreed to incorporate the Makr Shakr into a “bionic bar” on one of its cruise ships, where they feature a tablet for customers to order drinks and a robotic arm to make them.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

MIT’s beerbot, a cooperative beer-delivery robot.

(YouTube)

“There are beerbots in the private sector already, so why would we devote resources for this?” Flake told Bloomberg Law.

“There’s just a lot of willy-nilly spending these days,” Flake said. “Why in the world would you spend Department of Defense funding for beerbots?”

Flake’s amendment comes two years after the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation provided million in grants to a project at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Those grants were only a part of the total budget.

The project used a double-armed robot to pick up and move beers around, handing them to two other “turtle bots,” equipped with coolers, that acted as waiters. The waiters, which could not communicate with one another unless they were in close proximity, traveled between rooms in an MIT lab, taking orders from people and getting beers from the bartender bot.

The project’s goal was “to control a group of robots interacting with an environment in order to cooperatively solve a problem.”

While Flake’s amendment would prevent money from going to such studies in the future, it was not clear if future studies could swap alcohol out for something else and still qualify for federal money. Nor is it certain the amendment will be included in the final defense appropriation bill.

www.youtube.com

You can see the MIT beerbot and turtle bots in action below:

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Good news for knees: Army will test out lighter body armor plates

U.S. Army equipment experts plan to test lighter-weight, individual body armor plates by summer 2019, according to a recently released Defense Department test and evaluation report.

The Army’s multi-component Soldier Protection System body armor features hard-armor plates designed to stop rifle rounds. They’re known as the Vital Torso Protection component of the system.


Commanders can choose from the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, or the X Threat Small Arms Protective Insert, known as XSAPI, in addition to corresponding side armor plates of the same protection level. The XSAPI armor, which weighs slightly more, is for higher threats. All plates fit into the new Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV.

The Army has started fielding the MSV, which weighs about five pounds lighter than the older, Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time

Sgt. Michael Graham, an intelligence advisor with the 4th Infantry Division Military Transition Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wears his Improved Outer Tactical Vest during a combined-battlefield circulation with the Iraqi Army.

(Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans)

The Army intends to test new, lighter-weight armor plates in third quarter of fiscal 2019, according to the Fiscal 2018 Annual Report from the Defense Department’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

The report offers very little detail about the plates the service intends to test, but Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who commands Program Executive Office Soldier, talked about ways the Army is trying to lighten plates in October 2018 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting.

The Army has been working with industry to reduce the weight of body armor plates by as much as 30 percent, Potts said.

One way to do this is by adjusting the standard of allowable back-face deformation, or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

The Army is changing the allowance to 58mm standard instead of the conservative 44mm standard it has used for years, Potts said, who added that there is “no significant” risk to soldiers.

The change allows companies to adjust the manufacturing process, which could lead to a lighter plate, he said.

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

Articles

Watch this test pilot pull 83 G-Forces and live

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
Test pilot Lt. Col. John Stapp rides a rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by U.S. Air Force.


Most people pass out from 5 G-forces. Some of the best fighter pilots can withstand 9. Test pilot Eli Beeding experienced 83 and lived to tell about it.

Before explaining how it’s possible, the following is a loose description of G-forces — or G’s — on the body, according to Go Flight Med.

Everyone walks around at 1 G, the natural gravitational force of earth. But if you go to space, you experience 0 G’s, or weightlessness.

Related: Watch as flight students gut out high G training

For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).

A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.

G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.

via GIPHY 

Beeding was sitting up going backwards, that is, he experienced the force back-to-front when he came to a screetching halt from 35 mph.

“When I hit the water brake, it felt like Ted Williams had hit me on the back, about lumbar five, with a baseball bat,” Beeding said, according to the video description.

via GIPHY 

Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.

He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.

When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.

This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siau78EFLgc
Jeff Quitney, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s who would win a Russian vs. Chinese tank battle

Russia and Communist China have worked together a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union. Back in the 1990s, Russians sold the Chinese a lot of military technology, including the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of multi-role fighters and Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyers.


This wasn’t the first instance of Eurasian collaboration — the Soviet Union and Communist China were close in the 1950s, when Russia shared a number of jet, tank, missile, and ship designs. The two countries had a falling out in the 1960s, which culminated in the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict. As a result, Communist China turned to the West for some military technology, including designs for the 105mm main gun used on the M60 Patton and on early versions of the M1 Abrams.  However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre quickly severed any Western connections, leading, eventually, to this latest round of acquisitions from Russia.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
The T-14 Armata, Russia’s latest tank. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

But what if Russia and China had another falling out? Nearly 50 years ago, the two nations came close to all-out war — it could happen again. Today, while Russia’s military power has faded due, primarily, to the fall of the Soviet Union and ongoing economic struggles, Communist China’s armed forces have risen to a qualitative near-parity.

If the two were to face off, much of the ground fighting would involve tanks like China’s Type 99 and the Russian T-14 Armata. The Type 99 is a version of the Russian T-72. It carries a 125mm main gun that not only fires conventional tank rounds, but also the AT-11 Sniper anti-tank missile. It has a crew of three, a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and can go 280 miles on a single tank of gas. The tank also has a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun.

What it’s like to hit the afterburner in an F-16 for the first time
This is probably China’s biggest advantage: A Russian T-14 Armata will face several Type 99s. (VOA photo)

The T-14 Armata packs a 125mm gun as well, but unlike in Chinese designs, it is in an unmanned turret. The Armata also has a crew of three, a 12.7mm machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun. It can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and has an active protection system to defend against missiles and rockets.

Which country’s tanks would win this fight? It depends. Recently, Russia has been unable to field a force of its latest designs due to budget constraints. Communist China, on the other hand, has been thriving. In a one-on-one fight, the Russian Armata would have a technological edge, but tank warfare is rarely a one-on-one affair.

The Chinese Communists would simply overwhelm an Armata with sheer numbers.