The AK-47, as we know it, was created by Russian weapons designer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov in 1947. Its name is derived from the word ‘automatic’ (A), the inventor’s last initial (K), and the year of its invention (47). The AK-47 was designed to be easy to operate, able to fire in any clime, durable, and mass produced quickly and cheaply. It was adopted into USSR military service in 1949 and quickly became a symbol of Soviet reach around the world.
It has a muzzle velocity of about 700 meters per second, can fire 600-rounds-per-minute at the cyclic rate, and hold a 30-round magazine of 7.62mm ammunition. The biggest issue with the weapon is accuracy, which is the result of large internal parts and powerful caliber rounds that reduce the max effective range to roughly 400m. Despite this weakness, the AK-47 has successfully infected many countries and facilitated the proliferation of communism and terror around the world.
Let’s learn more about this prominent tool of destruction:
Cycle of operations
The AK-47 is a fighter favorite around the world because its cycle of operations (the way it fires) is simple, made up of (relatively) large pieces that allow it to fire even when covered in sand or mud.
When the operator pulls the trigger, he/she releases the firing hammer, which strikes the firing pin. This action ignites the bullet primer which, in turn, ignites the gunpowder to fire the bullet. The gas that propels the bullet forward also pushes back on the bolt carrier assembly, ejecting the empty casing. This action also resets the hammer into firing position.
The bolt pulls a new round up from the magazine and inserts it into the barrel. The sear keeps the bolt hammer in place until the bolt carrier returns into position.
There are an estimated 75 to 100 million AK-47s worldwide and, in some countries, one can be purchased for under . Generally, the price ranges from between 0 to 0, but higher-end models can run over id=”listicle-2624527860″,000. Russia has large stockpiles of the weapon, but no longer manufactures it. There are, however, 20 countries that still do, including China. According to the AK-47’s Operators Manual, the weapon system’s country of origin can be identified by markings on the weapon itself.
In addition to the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, North Korea, Hungary, and Yugoslavia have manufactured the AK-47. The selector markings on the right side of the receiver provide a ready means of identifying the country of origin
So simple a child could use it — and they do
In the U.S. Armed Forces, troops are trained to disassemble and reassemble their weapon systems to identify any catastrophic failures or jams. This is a good exercise when you find yourself with a little downtime, and it’s been known to strike up a friendly race between troops or platoons.
In Russia, children are trained to disassemble and reassemble weapons in a similar fashion. They may not have enough funding to feed or house their own people, but they will spare no expense at preparing for a Western invasion. Take your training seriously because the Russians definitely are:
An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.
The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.
The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.
Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”
The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.
The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.
At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.
This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.
A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.
Another mission is scheduled later this year.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.
But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.
There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.
But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.
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.
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.
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.
An Air Force combat controller looks through binoculars at an A-10 Thunderbolt II that is preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron ascends towards the runway in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron taxis in Jägala, Estonia.
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.
One of U.S. Special Forces’ most legendary figures died suddenly and tragically on April 29, 2019. Eldon Bargewell, a 72-year-old retired Major General, was killed after his lawnmower rolled over an embankment near his Alabama home. His 40-year military career saw him serve everywhere from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably every hotspot in between.
Bargewell as an enlisted recon troop in Vietnam.
He first joined the military in 1967, going to Vietnam for a year, going home, and then volunteering to return to Vietnam – in the same recon outfit he left a couple of years earlier. He was working areas outside of Vietnam, technically in Laos, monitoring NVA supply routes.
In an action for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, he was hit by an AK-47 round in the side of his face but still managed to carry on the fight. Deep inside enemy territory, his unit was hit with two RPG rounds as a hail of enemy bullets overcame them. In minutes the entire recon team was wounded. Bargewell, carrying a Russian-made RPD machine gun (because he wanted to ensure he killed the enemies he shot), broke up an onslaught of charging NVA soldiers, numbering anywhere from 75-100 men.
“Very few people come through the path Eldon Bargewell did,” said Maj. Gen. William Garrison, commander of the Special Forces effort to capture a Somali warlord in 1993. “Starting out as a private, working his way as a non-commissioned officer, and then getting to the highest levels of leadership. Very few people can do that. He is the type of man, soldier, leader that we all want to be like.”
Major General Eldon Bargewell, U.S. Army.
The NVA sent wave after wave of men toward the Army Special Forces’ perimeter, and each was gunned down in turn by Bargewell and his 7.62 RPD. With the dead and wounded piling up, including Bargewell himself, the Americans needed to get out of the area in a hurry. They anxiously awaited the helicopters that would lift them to safety. When they finally arrived, Bargewell refused to be evacuated.
“He wouldn’t go up,” said Billy Waugh, Bargewell’s then-Sergeant Major. “He had the weapons that was saving the day… he was the last out and that’s what saved that team.” And it really was. Bargewell went through half of his 1000 rounds protecting the perimeter and defending his fellow soldiers as they boarded the helicopter. That’s when 60 more NVA bum-rushed him.
Bargewell went up with the next helicopter.
“His selfless sacrifice touched so many,” said Lt. Gen. Lawson MacGruder III, one of the Army Rangers’ first commanders and a Ranger Hall of Famer. “In just about every conflict since Vietnam.”
After returning from Vietnam, he went to infantry officer candidate school, earning his commission. From there he commanded special operations teams in Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, the Middle East, El Salvador, Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. In his last deployment, he was the director of special operations at Headquarters Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad. He retired in 2006, the most decorated active duty soldier at the time.
My guest today is Richard Browning, the British inventor dubbed the “real life Iron Man.” He’s the founder of Gravity, launched in 2017 with a dream to reimagine an entirely new form of human flight. Using 6 small jet engines, he’s built a suit that has set multiple world records. In just 2 years he’s given 5 TED talk and executed 96 public demonstrations of his technology across 30 countries.
You can see Richard Browning in action in this video!
In our conversation we talk about the hurdles he had to overcome to build a jet suit, how to maintain resilience in the face of adversity, and how his next step is to build retractable wings into the suit.
Sign up for my newsletter for a few useful and insightful things that have helped me over the last month. You can sign up here.
The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.
The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.
Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.
Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.
While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.
The USS Nautilus
According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.
Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.
“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”
“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.
Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.
Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.
As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.
But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.
The challenges of the battlefield can forge the most ingenious solutions from available resources. One notable example is the German-repurposing of the deadly 88mm Flak anti-aircraft gun as an anti-tank gun with devastating effectiveness during WWII. In a 21st century twist, Indonesia plans to arm a boat with a tank gun.
Indonesia faces a unique threat envelope due to its location and geography. The island nation sits in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Pacific and Indian oceans amidst heavily-transited commercial shipping lanes. As a result, Indonesia has 17,508 islands and 61,567 miles of coastline to patrol and defend from potential pirates and terrorists looking to make use of the waterways. To address this threat, Indonesia looks to employ the Antasena Tank Boat.
Aptly named, the Tank Boat is designed to bring heavy firepower to brown water coastal and riverine operations. It utilizes a catamaran design that gives it large internal volume, stability at sea, and a draft of just three feet. Capable of carrying 20 to 60 troops pending final specifications, the Tank Boat can sail right up to the beach to deliver them for amphibious landings. This capability is essential in the defense of Indonesia’s many islands.
Of course, the Tank Boat’s most eye-catching feature is its gun. The Cockerill 105mm High Pressure (NATO Standard) gun planned for the Tank Boat is currently used on the jointly developed Turko-Indonesian Kaplan/Hiramau tank. Capable of firing high explosive, canister, smoke, and anti-tank rounds, the gun is a deadly weapon for the coastal fighting that the Tank Boat is designed for. With an elevation of 42 degrees, it can be used in both direct and non-line-of-sight fire support. The gun is also capable of shooting the Falarick gun-launched missile which can engage targets out to three miles. A version with a 30mm autocannon is also planned and is currently in the evaluation phase. Both versions feature a remote-controlled .50 caliber or 7.62mm machine gun on the turret as well. 20,000 will be delivered.
All of this firepower is packed onto a boat measuring just 59 feet long and 21 feet wide. Additionally, the Tank Boat’s two 1,200 horsepower MAN engines and two waterjets give it a top speed of 40 knots. For comparison, the Coast Guard’s Island-class patrol boats like the USCGC Adak are 110 feet long with a top speed of 29.5 knots.
As a specialized maritime asset, the Tank Boat looks to check all the boxes for the Indonesian military’s specific needs. So far, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense has purchased one Tank Boat from contractor PT Lundin with plans to buy more following favorable testing. The MoD claims that the Tank Boat could be operational as early as 2022.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was looking for transports. They needed these transports to support their numerous airborne divisions. By the Cold War’s end, the Soviets had six airborne divisions but historically, they had as many as 15 active airborne divisions, which makes for a lot to move.
They also had the same need for tactical airlift to supply personnel. While the United States met that need with the C-130 Hercules, the Soviets turned to the Antonov design bureau to address their needs. The plane that emerged was the An-12, nicknamed the “Cub” by NATO.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-12 can reach a speed of 480 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 3,540 miles. It can carry up to 60 paratroopers or two BMD airborne armored fighting vehicles. It was in production for sixteen years and 1,248 airframes were produced.
What distinguishes the Soviet-designed plane from the C-130 is that some variations of the An-12 sport a twin 23mm turret. The other big difference is the accident rate. Aviation-Safety.net reports that of the 1,248 Cubs produced, 232 have been lost in accidents. By comparison, that same site notes that 353 C-130-type transports (including the civilian-model L-100) have been lost in accidents out of the more than 2,500 airframes.
China also has a version of the Cub known as the Y-8, a pirated design that was reverse-engineered after the Sino-Soviet split in the last 1960s. According to FlightGlobal.com, China has over 100 Y-8s in service, including airborne early-warning, maritime reconnaissance, and electronic-warfare variants. China also has the Y-9, a stretched version, with seven airframes in service.
You can see a video about this Russian ripoff of the Hercules below. That said, if you need a tactical transport, an An-12 “Cub” is not the way to go. Just buy a real C-130.
The Russian Navy’s decline since the fall of the Soviet Union has been very dramatic, especially when it comes to major surface combatants and nuclear submarines. The Russians have, however, been making advances in other areas.
One of those has been in what the ships they do have are capable of shooting. This includes the VA-111 Shkval, or “Squall,” a weapon that has been operated by Russia’s submarine force since 2003, according to deagel.com. The Shkval has a range of roughly five and a half nautical miles and a top speed of 200 nautical miles per hour, according to militaryperiscope.com.
MilitaryPeriscope.com reports that initial versions were armed with a nuclear warhead, but later versions have a 460-pound warhead. While the torpedo is very fast – able to cover its maximum range in a minute and a half – it is also effectively a straight-run weapon, with effectiveness in limited situations and locations.
One such location is the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran reportedly tested its own version of the Shkval earlier this year. Iran’s Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and home-built Ghadir-class mini-submarines are both capable of firing this torpedo from their 21-inch torpedo tubes.
While the 460-pound warhead might not do much to the United States Navy’s supercarriers like the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered vessels or the newest ship, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), it could very easily cripple or sink the valuable escorts like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Amphibious vessels could also be vulnerable to this weapon. In all cases, the submarine would need to get very close to the target vessel.
The F-15 Eagle is a legendary air superiority platform with an unparalleled modern air-to-air record of 104 kills with zero loses, but when we think of aircraft that can really take a beating, our minds tend to conjure images of planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt II — landing on forward airstrips with more holes punched in them than a brick of Swiss cheese.
Of course, there’s good reason for the A-10’s toughness. The aircraft was purpose built around the positively massive GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling-style auto cannon for close air support. The A-10 was built to fight Soviet tanks from low altitude, with titanium armor and bullet-resistant glass wrapped around the pilot to keep the plane in the fight.
The F-15 was a product of the Cold War, not unlike the A-10, but was designed with a very different purpose in mind. With a top speed of Mach 2.5 and enough hard points to carry 11 air-to-air missiles into a fight, the F-15 might be thought of as a Ferrari compared to the gun truck that is the A-10, but that doesn’t mean these blistering fast fighter-killers aren’t pretty tough on their own.
Despite being an American aircraft, the F-15 has done a great deal of fighting under the banners of a number of allied nations. In fact, a good portion of the F-15’s air-to-air record was earned by Israeli pilots — but the most incredible thing an Israeli pilot may have ever pulled off with the venerable F-15 came in 1983, when pilot Ziv Nedivi and instructor Yehoar Gal managed to land the top-tier fighter after losing its entire right wing in a mid-air collision.
Back in the early 1980s, the F-15 was still a flashy new ride, having just entered service in the United States in 1976. As a part of training, two Israeli F-15Ds (the two-seater variant of the jet) were squaring off in a mock dog fight against four older Douglas A-4N Skyhawks over the Negev desert.
Now, here in the United States, pilots training against one another are required to maintain what’s known as a safety bubble. A five hundred foot or more “bubble” is maintained around each aircraft to ensure collisions don’t occur during the high speed maneuvering inherent to dog fighting, or as pilots tend to call it, executing Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM).
As the two Israeli F-15s swung into action against their A-4 aggressor opponents, the reason for this training bubble became pretty apparent. One of the two F-15s, the one with Nedivi at the stick, collided with one of the A-4s, almost instantly destroying the older fighter. Nedivi’s aircraft immediately entered a downward spin and his instructor, Gal, issued the order to eject.
Nedivi, the student in that setting, was senior in rank to his instructor, and opted not to punch out as he regained some degree of control over the aircraft. As the plane leveled off, he and Gal looked over their right shoulders to see fuel vapor pouring out of the wing area, but because of the cloud of fuel being lost, neither could see the extent of the damage beyond it. As Nedivi reduced their airspeed, the aircraft once again began to roll. Nedivi, aware that there was an airstrip just over ten miles out, made a decision.
He hit the F-15’s two powerful afterburners, capable of increasing the engine output of the fighter from 14,590 pounds of force to a whopping 23,770 pounds. With fuel pouring from the wing of the aircraft and the twin Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 engines dumping the rest into the burn, it was a gutsy call, but it managed to level the aircraft out and get them pointed in the right direction.
What Nedivi and Gal didn’t know was that their mid-air collision with the Skyhawk had actually sheared the entire right wing of their F-15 straight off the fuselage just about two feet from its root. With ten miles to cover and little more than vapor left in the fuel lines, the two men were doing the impossible: They were flying in a fighter jet with just one wing.
In order to keep the aircraft stable, Nedivi had to maintain a high air speed, which made touching down a difficult proposition. Nedivi knew that the recommended airspeed for landing an F-15 was right around 130 knots, just shy of 150 miles per hour. As he lowered his tail hook and brought the F-15 down to the tarmac, they were actually flying at 260 knots (right around 300 miles per hour). The tail hook Nedivi hoped would slow their landing was ripped off of the aircraft almost instantly, and for a split second, it seemed their miraculous flight was for naught, as the barricades at the end of the airstrip were fast approaching.
With only about 10 meters left before collision, the F-15 finally came to a stop. As Nedivi tells it, it was only then that he turned to shake hands with his instructor Gal, only to finally see the real extent of the damage. The right wing of the aircraft hadn’t been present for the last ten miles of their flight.
It’s safe to say that McDonnell Douglas was well aware that their F-15 Eagle was an incredibly capable platform, but even they were reluctant to believe that the Israeli aviators had managed to fly one without a wing. Some have even quoted the firm as saying such a feat was impossible… that is, until they received a photograph of the plane flying just as the Israeli’s described: Riding on little more than a single wing and a whole lot of courage.
Further analysis determined that the F-15 was able to stay aloft thanks to its powerful engines and the lift created by its fuselage.
That particular two-seater F-15 wasn’t just a training aircraft. In fact, that very jet had already racked up four kills against enemy planes in the 1982 Lebanon War, known within the Israeli military at the time as Operation Peace for Galilee. In a testament to just how incredibly tough these aircraft really are, the damaged F-15 was transported to a maintenance facility in Tel Nof, where it was given a new wing and returned to service.
Two years later, that same jet would score yet another kill, this time against a Syrian Mig-23.
The Indian Air Force has been one of the more underrated air forces in the world for a while now. But what’s most impressive is that India has been able to build some of the planes it relies on for defense domestically. The Jaguar and MiG-27 “Flogger” are two such planes currently serving, while India also developed an upgrade kit for their force of MiG-21 “Fishbeds.”
Now, the Indian Air Force could see a new multi-role fighter in service, one that is not a licensed copy, but rather indigenously designed and built. India did this before, with the Ajeet and Marut. However, both of these planes were very simple and were rapidly replaced by designs from the United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union.
India turned to licensed production, the development of upgrades, and imports to meet its needs for combat aircraft. Being a neutral party in the Cold War, they were able to leverage relatively cheap Soviet aircraft technology on the one hand, and advanced Western tech on the other. With India’s force of MiG-21s getting older — despite the “Bison” upgrade program that gave it the ability to fire advanced AA-11 “Archer” and AA-12 “Adder” air-to-air missiles — the country began to pursue a home-built project.
The Tejas, also known as the LCA, is a multi-role fighter that was intended for use by not only the Indian Air Force (which sought to replace its force of MiG-21s), but also the Indian Navy (seeking to supplement its force of MiG-29s).
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Tejas has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,056 miles, has a twin 23mm GSh-23 cannon, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, and rockets.
The Indian Air Force has already ordered 123 of these planes, and the Indian Navy had planned to order 57 before backing off due to weight issues. You can learn more about this plane in the video below:
Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.
But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.
To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.
The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.
The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.
During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.
When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.
The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.
A B-52 bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)
Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.
That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.
The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details
The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)
W80 nuclear warhead.
The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.
The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.
If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.
But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.
Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.
3-D printing is the future
“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.
The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.
“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”
The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.
‘Fix it forward’
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”
Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.
Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.
‘My most important commodity is time’
“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”
VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.
The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.
The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.