How the hunt for alien life is about to get real - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.

From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.

The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.

Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Hubble space telescope in 2002.

(NASA/ESA)

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies, and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding more quickly than scientists imagined.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

In February 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the chaos atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the light of nearby bright stars.

(NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

(NASA/Chris Gunn)

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to peer into the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

The upcoming telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process in Northrop Grumman’s California facilities before its launch date on March 30, 2021.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA engineers unveil the giant golden mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(NASA Goddard)

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.

The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.

(NASA)

Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.

“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

JWST will also search for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) — but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of star light passing through a planet’s atmosphere, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of what it might look like on the surface of TRAPPIST-1f, a rocky planet 39 light-years away from Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have already identified over 4,000 exoplanets.

But as of yet, they haven’t been able to study most of those planets’ atmospheres to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.

That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Dave Sime works on the WFIRST primary mirror.

(Harris Corporation / TJT Photography)

To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.

(NASA)

WFIRST will have a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Each of its photos will be worth 100 Hubble images.

That breadth will help scientists probe questions about what the universe is made of and how it works — starting with dark matter.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The foggy haze is astronomer’s interpretation of where dark matter is located in this cluster of 1,000 galaxies.

(NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s illustration of the WFIRST spacecraft.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WFIRST will get around this issue by measuring the effects of dark matter and its counterpart, an unknown force called dark energy.

The entire universe is comprised of 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy. Everything we can see and observe with scientific instruments accounts for less than 5%.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A pair of interacting galaxies, spotted by Hubble.

(NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Our current model of the universe.

(NASA)

Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

WFIRST will attempt to map the mysterious workings of dark matter and energy by measuring the universe’s expansion over time.

“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s concept of the Euclid spacecraft.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is designing the Euclid telescope for similar purposes.

Euclid will peer into deep space to see ancient light and study how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years. It’s slated to launch in 2022.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the European Space Agency’s Euclid “dark universe” telescope.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?

Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.

“Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” astrophysicist Chris Fassnacht said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at sunset in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

(LSST Project/NSF/AURA)

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will seek to address this conflict from its location in the mountains of Chile. It will spend 10 years scanning the entire sky.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LSST will measure the universe’s expansion. The telescope will also chart the movements of potentially hazardous asteroids that could fly dangerously close to Earth.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s depiction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

(ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium)

On another Chilean mountaintop, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky super-Earths.

At 39 meters (128 feet), it will be the largest optical telescope in the world once it’s completed in 2025.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s rendering of the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at night while observations are in progress.

(ESO/L. Calçada)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A star’s habitable zone is the orbital range in which a planet’s surface might be the right temperature to support liquid water.

(NASA)

But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.

That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.

“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The LUVOIR telescope design.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Theoretically, the proposed LUVOIR and HabEx telescopes could block out stars’ light enough to examine the Earth-sized planets circling them.

The LUVOIR proposal relies on a design similar to that of the JWST. Estimates suggest it could image 50 Earth-sized exoplanets over four years, studying their atmospheres, seasons, and even surfaces.

If chosen for funding and construction, these telescopes could launch in the 2030s.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

On July 18, 2019, F-22 Raptors assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base teamed up for a training flight over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, in anticipation for this week’s celebrations for the 100th anniversary of JBER’s 3rd Wing, which occurred on July 1, 2019.

The flying component of the Wing, the 3rd Operations Group, is a direct descendant of one of the 15 original combat groups created by the U.S. Army Air Service before World War II. The 3rd Wing is also known for giving birth to exercise Cope Thunder, which later evolved in today’s Red Flag-Alaska.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base maneuvers over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd Wing’s lineage originated July 1, 1919, as an Army Surveillance Group out of Kelly Field (Texas) flying British-designed, American-made DeHavilland DH.4 aircraft to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution. After WWI the unit became the 3rd Attack Group, focusing on aerial experimentation and pioneering dive bombing, skip-bombing, and parafrag attacks that were later employed by U.S. Army Air Corps/Forces bomber squadrons during World War II.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Following the infamous attacks on Pearl Harbor, the 3rd Attack Group started combat operations against Japan. In 1942, after changing name to 3rd Bombardment Group, the unit received new bombers and helped developing low-altitude strafing tactics, becoming famous for their combat proficiency.

In 1950 the group, after assuming the Wing designation, was tasked to provide the Korean War’s first bombing mission. Notably, a B-26 gunner from the 3rd Wing scored the first aerial victory of the war, shooting down a North Korean YAK-3.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from Eielson Air Force Base execute a formation break over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

After being re-designated as the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing in 1964, the unit moved to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, and started training in preparation for the Vietnam War. The 3rd Wing flew its B-57 Canberras and F-100 Super Sabres from different air bases all over South-East Asia, totaling more than 200’000 combat sorties.

During the war, the Air Force selected the 3rd TFW to evaluate the new F-5 Tiger in real operations, flying over 2,600 combat missions from October 1966 to March 1967 and resulting in several modifications that helped to improve the aircraft capabilities.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

At the end of the Vietnam War, the 3rd TWF, equipped with F-4E Phantoms, relocated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where it received also F-5E Tigers as aggressor aircrafts and started hosting exercise Cope Thunder since 1976. The exercise was initiated by Brigadier General Richard G. Head and was intended to give aircrews from across Asia their first taste of combat in a realistic simulated combat environment, improving U.S. and international forces joint combat readiness. Analysis at the time indicated most combat losses occurred during an aircrew’s first 8 to 10 missions, hence the goal of Cope Thunder was to provide each aircrew with these first missions, increasing their chances of survival in real combat environments. The exercise quickly grew into PACAF’s (PACific Air Forces) “premier simulated combat airpower employment exercise.”

Cope Thunder was moved to Eielson AFB, Alaska, in 1992, after a volcanic eruption heavily damaged Clark AFB. Eielson Air Force Base was considered the most logical choice because of the presence of three major military flight training ranges in nearby. The move helped the exercise’s evolution until, in 2006 Cope Thunder changed name to become Red Flag-Alaska, one of the most important exercises hosted by the U.S. Air Force and held four times a year.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base flies over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd TFW, now designated 3rd Wing, instead relocated to the nearby Elmendorf AFB and acquired two squadrons of F-15 Eagles, one squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles, one squadron of C-130s and a squadron of E-3 AWACS.

In 2007 the Wing replaced its F-15s with F-22s, becoming the second USAF air base, and the first of PACAF command, to host operational F-22 Raptor squadrons. F-22s regularly launch from Quick Reaction Alert cells at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept Russian bombers flying close to Alaskan airspace.

Since the move to Alaska, the wing has successfully participated in all major U.S. operations from Desert Storm to the most recent Inherent Resolve.

Interestingly, one of the Aggressor F-16 was painted in a livery unveiled in 2017 and dubbed “BDU Splinter”, mimicking colors seen in both the Cold War era “European One” and the Vietnam era Southeast Asia camouflage schemes. The full album is available on the Flickr page of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The tactics that make North Korea’s artillery so annoying

In the opening hours of the next Korean War, the North could kill upwards of 250,000 people using just conventional artillery, to say nothing of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, a January 2019 Rand Corporation report found. Those numbers are just from the South Korean capital alone.

And there is little the United States could do about it.


The North’s big gun is essentially a self-propelled coastal defense gun, the Koksan 170 mm, mounted on a tank and firing rocket-propelled shells up to 40 miles in any direction. Since the crews work outside of the weapon and North Korea’s air force could do little to protect them, the North had to devise a means of reloading the guns after firing, when they’re exposed and vulnerable.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An aging Koksan 170mm artillery piece.

Some 10 million people live within firing range of the Korean demilitarized zone, living and working every day with hundreds of guns pointed at their heads. This includes the population of Seoul as well as the tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean military personnel stationed on the peninsula. Most of them live within the 25-mile range of Communist artillery pointed at the South, but North Korea has some pieces that can fire as far as 125 miles, affecting a further 22 million people. It’s not a good situation for defending South Korea or protecting our forces.

“Conservative predictions of a likely attack scenario anticipate an initial artillery barrage focused on military targets, which would result in significant casualties,” said U.S. Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, head of U.S. Forces Korea. “A larger attack targeting civilians would yield several thousand casualties with the potential to affect millions… within the first 24 hours.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces that could fire tens of thousands of rounds during a 10-minute barrage. The big Koksan 170 carries 12 rounds of its own before it has to go re-arm itself. Since any ammunition depots would be as vulnerable to enemy aircraft as the artillery themselves, North Korea has constructed thousands of reinforced underground bunkers near the DMZ to hold ammo and house the guns.

As a result, in an opening salvo, North Korean artillery are likely to use what military planners call a “shoot n’ scoot” tactic. The guns will come out of the bunkers to fire off their rounds and then go right back into hiding to reload and prepare for another volley in rapid succession. This will make it difficult for allied airpower to track and kill the weapons.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The best scenario for Seoul is that the Koksan 170 requires a specialized round to hit Seoul, one the North may have in limited quantities. Even if they do fire at a high rate, it’s likely the barrels of the weapons will heat up to a degree that the ideal rate of fire U.S. military planners plan against won’t be the actual rate used in combat. Another potential advantage for the UN forces is the area covered by the guns. If North Korea wants to destroy Seoul in the first few minutes of a war, all of its weapons would need to be trained on Seoul, work perfectly, and have the maximum rate of fire for a skilled crew – while UN planes and artillery are shooting back.

Unlikely.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s precision ‘sniper rifle’ howitzer

Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.

With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.

The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.


But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)

Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.

(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.

(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)

The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.

Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSgjzhNRtY4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.

In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.

Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”

His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.

This ain’t no ordinary student film:


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.

Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.

Also read: We have to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

“I knew I had to make this movie last year when I learned two of my military friends had decided to take their own life,” said Martinez.

For more and more veterans, losing friends to suicide is becoming a reality. For the rest, it’s a deep fear, and one we must respond to.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

U.S. Army veteran Christopher Loverro in ‘The Gatekeeper.’

“This is the war they are fighting — and this is the war they are losing,” said Loverro, who has been open about sharing his own struggles after returning from combat.

Martinez’s film reflects a growing trend among veterans in the film industry to tell their own stories, both as a form of catharsis and also to ensure authenticity in the work.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This set was not cheap.

The Gatekeeper is currently in production. If anyone wants to help bring the film to life, there are a few ways to do it.

Southern California locals can become part of the cast and crew in a Mojave Desert shoot the weekend of May 11-12.

Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.

popular

8 things you never knew about the Purple Heart Medal

August 7 is Purple Heart Day. A day when we are encouraged to pause and reflect on those wounded in battle and those who have given their lives in service to our country. The Purple Heart has had a long and interesting history, filled with starts, stops and infinite assessments.


Through it all, the Purple Heart has remained a steadfast symbol of courage and bravery. As members of the military family, there’s no doubt we’ve all heard of the Purple Heart, we’ve listened to the stories behind them and a few have maybe even seen one up close. But how much do you really know about the Purple Heart? Here are 8 interesting facts to get you up to speed.

The oldest military award in history

The Purple Heart was created by George Washington on August 7, 1782, by the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington. At its inception, it was known as the Badge of Military Merit, and at the close of the Revolutionary war, the medal was only given to three Revolutionary soldiers. No medals were given again until 1932.

Why is it purple?

The Purple Heart as we know it today was redesigned by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, in honor of the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday. The medal is emblazoned with a bust of George Washington and displays his coat of arms and the words “for military merit” are inscribed on the back. It is believed that the color purple was chosen because it represents courage and bravery.

Qualifications have changed over the years (and continue to evolve)

When the Purple Heart was re-established in 1932, the award was limited to those serving in the Army or the Army Air Corps. In 1942, President Roosevelt formally designated the award for those who were wounded or killed in battle. He also expanded the eligibility to all branches of the military and allowed the Purple Heart to be awarded posthumously. In 1996, eligibility was further amended to allow Prisoners of War to receive the award.

First service member in modern history to receive the Purple Heart

While Revolutionary War soldiers William Brown, Elijah Churchill, and Daniel Bissell, Jr. were the first to receive the Badge of Military Merit, General Douglas MacArthur was the first modern-day recipient of the Purple Heart for his service during WWII.

1.8M Purple Hearts have been awarded

While there have been gaps and inconsistencies in record keeping since the Purple Heart was re-established in 1932, it is estimated that approximately 1.8M Purple Hearts have been awarded.

First woman to receive the Purple Heart

Army Lt. Annie G. Fox was the first woman to ever receive a Purple Heart for her heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Serving as the chief nurse at Hickam Field, Hawaii, Fox’s calm demeanor and exemplary leadership guided her staff through the events of that day, no doubt saving countless lives.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart 

Purple Heart recipients can join The Military Order of the Purple Heart. Formed in 1932, the MOPH is the only veteran’s service organization composed of only combat veterans and, of course, Purple Heart recipients.

First (and only) president to receive The Purple Heart

While more than half of our nation’s presidents have served in the military, only one was ever awarded a Purple Heart. President John F. Kennedy served in the Navy during WWII, and in 1943, he sustained a back injury when a Japanese destroyer collided with his torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands. Although he was injured, the former President swam three miles to shore with an injured crew member in tow. On July 12, 1944, John F. Kennedy received both a Purple Heart and a Navy and Marine Corps Medal (the Navy’s highest honor) for his actions that day. When he was asked about his heroism, JFK famously and humbly replied, “It was involuntary. They sunk my boat.”

Articles

These are some of the most fascinating discoveries of lost ships and planes

There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.


Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
The ill-fated crew of the B-24D Lady Be Good. (USAF photo)

Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?

The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
The wreck of the SS American Star, formerly USS West Point (AP 23), among other names. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.

Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.

So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s F11F was so fast it could shoot itself down – and did

By the 1950s, the Cold War was in full swing, and the Soviets appeared to have an edge in fighter plane technology. The USSR debuted a new plane, the MiG-15. This new fighter had a design that no one had yet seen flying. Its swept-back wingspan allowed it to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound. It was also incredibly effective against all the fighters of that age. The Navy needed to figure out how to beat it to protect its carrier.

They turned to defense contractor Grumman, who soon turned its designs inside-out and trying to take the new MiG down.


And they started with the F9F Cougar.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Looks cool on a carrier, looks worse getting shot down by MiGs.

(U.S. Navy)

What came of the project was the F11F Tiger, which incorporated the latest and greatest in naval aviation technology and tactics into the basic designs of the carrier-based F9F Cougar. The Cougar has a windswept wing design of its own, as the MiG-15 had completely outclassed straight-wing fighters in the skies over Korea. The Navy wanted some fighters who could protect its ships in aerial combat. Grumman began its effort with the F9F Cougar but went back to the drawing board and came out with the Tiger, a supersonic fighter that could be launched from a carrier and bring the fight to the MiGs.

Unfortunately, its high top speed is how the F11F Tiger became the first fighter to shoot itself down.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The F11F

(U.S. Navy)

On Sept. 21, 1956, test pilot Tom Attridge began a shallow dive in his F11F. As he did, he fired two short bursts from the aircraft’s four 20mm cannons, and thought nothing of it – until he got to the end of his dive, and the bursts began to shoot up his aircraft. He started at 20,000 feet and then went into a Mach 1 dive as he fired. He accelerated with afterburner and at 13,000 feet, fired to empty. He continued his dive. but at 7,000 feet, something struck his canopy glass and one of his engine intake lips. The aircraft began to lose power, and Attridge headed back to base to land it.

But in order to make it back without shattering the canopy, he had to slow down his Tiger to a crawl, and the engine would only produce 78 percent of its normal power. He wouldn’t make it back to base at that rate. Two miles away from the runway, the engine went out completely.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

(U.S. Navy)

Attridge didn’t bail out – test pilots are crazy – in the slowed aircraft, he settled into some trees. Despite some injuries, he exited the plane once on the ground and was picked up by a rescue helicopter. The plane, as it turned out, was hit in the windshield, the right intake, and the nose cone by its own rounds. The low pitch of the plane and its trajectory, combined with the trajectory of the bullets and the speed of the Tiger’s descent at half the speed of sound right into the guns’ target area, meant that the plane would easily catch up with its own burst of 20mm fire.

The pilot shot himself down in about 11 seconds.

Articles

This special ops sniper challenge is the most ridiculous video you’ll see all day

Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield, taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re even in the crosshairs.


So who in their right mind would challenge a highly-trained sniper to a duel without having a weapon?

Answer: This freaking guy.

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Comedian and BuzzFeed Blue host Mike Carrier. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Related: WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

You may have seen Mike on the popular show “Outsmarted” currently on the BuzzFeed Blue channel on YouTube as he attempts to outsmart some of the toughest minds and computer software out there.

In the episode “I Tried Escaping A Special Operation Sniper,” Mike challenges a retired Marine Corps sniper, claiming that he can evade the devil dog’s crosshairs in a wide open space for 10 minutes.

If Mike wins, he’ll eat his favorite candy — Reese’s peanut cup. But if he loses the duel, he’ll be forced to eat wet cat food.

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Yum. (Source: Buzz Feed Blue/ Screenshot)

Let the games begin!

Step 1: Mike stands out in the open and strips down a layer of his clothing. Underneath, he is wearing a Zentai suit which he finishes putting on.

What a nice beach bod? (Images via Giphy)

Step 2: A car pulls up next to Mike, and four other men with matching body types also wearing Zentai suits pop out. A decoy perhaps?

Yeah, it’s a decoy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 3: Mike and his team ignite colored smoke grenades which confused the sh*t out of our trained sniper.

The confusion draws out the sniper. (Images via Giphy)

Step 4: The decoys dance in a circle, bringing the sniper in for a closer look.

Ring around the rosy. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: After showing off their incredible dance skills, the decoys pair off and hide under blankets.

Team work. (Images via Giphy)

Step 5: Time is up! The sniper shoots one of the decoys in the a**.

Shot directly on the right cheek. (Images via Giphy)

Step 6: The winner is! Mike.

It’s time to celebrate. (Images via Giphy)

Step 7: Claim your prize.

Looks delicious. (Images via Giphy)Check out Buzz Feed Blue’s video to watch this intelligent dude attempt to outsmart a retired Marine sniper.
(YouTube, BuzzFeedBlue)
Articles

This is what the F-22 Raptor’s replacement will be like

The F-22 Raptor is already the most lethal fighter jet ever built, severely outclassing virtually every other aircraft of a similar class fielded by the rest of the world’s air forces.


But with the advent of newer anti-aircraft defense systems, stealth-defeating tracking technologies and the entrance of countries such as China and Russia into the stealth fighter foray, the F-22 will eventually need to be replaced with something even more powerful.

With the looming retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle, its secondary air superiority fighter, in the next decade, the Air Force has begun taking strides towards designing the F-22’s follow-on in order to maintain its combat edge over every other air force in the world.

Throughout the USAF’s history, each of its fighter jets have built upon the aircraft they replaced, incorporating lessons learned and proven concepts, while expanding on their capabilities with new technology and methods of prosecuting aerial combat. The F-22’s replacement, currently known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” will take shape in much the same way.

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A 6th generation fighter concept developed by Boeing for the US Navy (Photo Boeing)

It will likely be highly stealthy, carrying its weapons internally in order to minimize radar detection. It will also probably be supersonic, and able to actively defeat enemy sensors in a similar manner to the F-22 and F-35.

Among the most noticeable differences between the F-22 and its replacement will be the lack of tails. Every American fighter jet ever built has featured one or two vertical stabilizers which, as their names suggest, provide stability and yaw control in flight.

Instead, the PCA will likely remove the vertical stabilizers altogether to enhance stealth by decreasing the aircraft’s overall radar signature. The end result will look more like a sleeker and faster B-2 Spirit or a X-47B drone, instead of something similar to the twin-tailed F-35 Lightning II, or the single-tailed F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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An F-22 banking away after refueling in midair with a KC-135 Stratotanker (Photo US Air Force)

Additionally, the new fighter be built for long-range missions — especially escorting larger bomber aircraft like the B-2, or the upcoming B-21 Raider, deep behind the front lines to strike at the heart of the enemy’s war machine. This is a much-needed capability the USAF has sorely lacked for decades.

The PCA will be designed to work alongside the F-35 Lightning II, with both aircraft drawing upon each other’s strengths while mitigating weaknesses in capability. Given that the Air Force plans on retaining its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet long for years and years to come, the PCA will likely also be capable of working with older “legacy” aircraft.

One of the key focal points of the PCA program will be developing an engine that gives the new fighter unprecedented range, while maximizing operational fuel efficiency.

The PCA program seeks nearly $300 million in funding from Congress over the next few years in order to complete its research and analysis goals while developing and investigating new technologies that will make the F-22’s replacement arguably the deadliest and most powerful fighter aircraft ever conceived.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Countering Russian disinformation the Baltic nations’ way

As the new Congress begins, it will soon discuss the comprehensive reports to the U.S. Senate on the disinformation campaign of half-truths, outright fabrications and misleading posts made by agents of the Russian government on social media in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

After years of anemic responses to Russian influence efforts, official U.S. government policy now includes taking action to combat disinformation campaigns sponsored by Russia or other countries. In May 2018, the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the concept of treating attacks on the nation’s election infrastructure as hostile acts to which the U.S. “will respond accordingly.” In June 2018, the Pentagon unleashed U.S. Cyber Command to respond to cyberattacks more aggressively, and the National Cyber Strategy published in September 2018 clarified that “all instruments of national power are available to prevent, respond to, and deter malicious cyber activity against the United States.”


There are already indications that Cyber Command conducted operations against Russian disinformation on social media, including warning specific Russians not to interfere with the 2018 elections. However, low-level cyberwarfare is not necessarily the best way. European countries, especially the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have confronted Russian disinformation campaigns for decades. Their experience may offer useful lessons as the U.S. joins the battle.

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The Baltic Sea region of northern Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are in light green in the center, west of Russia in blue.

(Photo by Stefan Ertmann, CC BY-SA)

The Baltic experience

Beginning in 1940 and continuing until they declared independence in the early 1990s, the Baltic countries were subjected to systematic Russian gaslighting designed to make people doubt their national history, culture and economic development.

The Soviets rewrote history books to falsely emphasize Russian protection of the Baltic people from invading hordes in the Middle Ages, and to convey the impression that the cultural evolution of the three countries was enabled by their allegiance and close ties to Russia. Even their national anthems were rewritten to pay homage to Soviet influence.

Soviet leaders devalued Baltic currencies and manipulated economic data to falsely suggest that Soviet occupation was boosting the Baltic economies. Further, Soviet authorities settled ethnic Russians in the Baltic countries, and made Russian the primary language used in schools.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Baltic countries, the Russian Federation has continued to deliver disinformation to the region, making extensive use of Russian-language social media. Some themes characterize the Baltic people as ungrateful for Soviet investment and aid after World War II. Another common message criticizes Baltic historians for “falsification of history” when really they are describing the real nature of the Soviet occupation.

A massive Russian attack

After independence, and as the internet grew, Estonia led the way in applying technology to accelerate economic development. The country created systems for a wide range of government and commercial services, including voting, banking and filing tax returns electronically. Today, Estonia’s innovative e-residency system is being adopted in many other countries.

These advances made the Baltics a prime target for cyberattacks. In the spring of 2007, the Russians struck. When Estonia moved a monument memorializing Soviet soldiers from downtown Tallinn, the country’s capital, to a military cemetery a couple of miles away, it provoked the ire of ethnic Russians living in Estonia as well as the Russian government.

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The relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn sparked a Russian cyberattack on Estonia in 2007.

(Photo by Keith Ruffles)

For three weeks, Estonian government, financial and media computer systems were bombarded with enormous amounts of internet traffic in a “distributed denial of service” attack. In these situations, an attacker sends overwhelming amounts of data to the targeted internet servers, clogging them up with traffic and either slowing them down or knocking them offline entirely. Despite concerns about the first “cyber war,” however, these attacks resulted in little damage. Although Estonia was cut off from the global internet temporarily, the country’s economy suffered no lasting harm.

These attacks could have severely damaged the country’s financial system or power grid. But Estonia was prepared. The country’s history with Russian disinformation had led Estonia to expect Russian attacks on computer and information systems. In anticipation, the government spearheaded partnerships with banks, internet service providers and other organizations to coordinate responses to cyberattacks. In 2006, Estonia was one of the first countries to create a Computer Emergency Response Team to manage security incidents.

The Baltic response

After the 2007 attack, the Baltic countries upped their game even more. For example, Estonia created the Cyber Defense League, an army of volunteer specialists in information technology. These experts focus onsharing threat information, preparing society for responding to cyber incidents and participating in international cyber defense activities.

Internationally, Estonia gained approval in 2008 to establish NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn. Its comprehensive research into global cyber activities helps identify best practices in cyber defense and training for NATO members.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A place to watch: the Russian embassy in Estonia.

CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2014, Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia, became home to another NATO organization combating Russian influence, the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence. It publishes reports on Russian disinformation activities, such as the May 2018 study of the “Virtual Russian World in the Baltics.” That report analyzes Russian social media activities targeting Baltic nations with a “toxic mix of disinformation and propaganda.” It also provides insight into identifying and detecting Russian disinformation campaigns.

Baltic elves” – volunteers who monitor the internet for Russian disinformation – became active in 2015 after the Maidan Square events in the Ukraine. And the Baltic nations have fined or suspended media channels that display bias.

The Baltic countries also rely on a European Union agency formed in 2015 to combat Russian disinformation campaigns directed against the EU. The agency identifies disinformation efforts and publicizes accurate information that the Russians are seeking to undermine. A new effort will issue rapid alerts to the public when potential disinformation is directed against the 2019 European Parliament elections.

Will the ‘Baltic model’ work in the US?

Because of their political acknowledgment of threats and actions taken by their governments to fight disinformation, a 2018 study rated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the three European Union members best at responding to Russian disinformation.

Inside Russia’s propaganda machine

www.youtube.com

Some former U.S. officials have suggested adopting similar practices, including publicizing disinformation efforts and evidence tying them to Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee has called for that too, as has the Atlantic Council, an independent think tank that focuses on international affairs.

The U.S. could also mobilize volunteers to boost citizens’ and businesses’ cyber defenses and teach people to identify and combat disinformation.

Disinformation is a key part of Russia’s overall effort to undermine Western governments. As a result, the battle is ever-changing, with Russians constantly trying new angles of attack and target countries like the Baltic nations identifying and thwarting those efforts. The most effective responses will involve coordination between governments, commercial technology companies and the news industry and social media platforms to identify and address disinformation.

A similar approach may work in the U.S., though it would require far more collaboration than has existed so far. But backed by the new government motivation to strike back when provoked, the methods used in the Baltic states and across Europe could provide a powerful new deterrent against Russian influence in the West.

Featured image by Matt Madd.

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

MIGHTY FIT

How to build arms that never quit

I’ll just burst this bubble right off the bat here. Big arms, although socially desirable, are completely unwieldy in any pursuit except for bodybuilding.

I’m telling you now that you don’t ever have to do another biceps curl in your life if you don’t want to. I’m also telling you that you can do biceps curls as often and as long as you need to as long as they don’t impact your main goals.


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Holding a rifle and maintaining a good site picture is really tiring. You want arms that can hold your rifle without adding unnecessary extra weight.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha A. Barajas)

The actual purpose of arms

The purpose of your arms is to translate power from your larger and stronger muscles that are towards the center of your body.

This being the case, the way we should train arms is in a way which supports the larger muscle groups.

The tapered look is what true athleticism looks like. Take, for instance, strongman competitors, the strongest humans on Earth. Their arms are not exceptionally large in comparison to the rest of their bodies. Their arms get gradually more narrow the further they get from their core.

This is how all functional things are made. Airplanes’ wings taper out, as do the musculature of fish until they get to the fin of course. This reduces drag in the water while still giving a nice push at the end. This is the same reason the best swimmers have long thin limbs and big hands and feet.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This guy sinks just like hammers and sickles do in water and just like communism did in the USSR. (How is this even a picture in 2019?)

(Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash)

The pursuit of huge biceps

There is no pursuit that requires large arms in comparison to the rest of the body, except aesthetic pursuits like bodybuilding.

Even arm wrestling, the quintessential arm strength sport, is all about using the arm as a lever that sends power from your legs and core into your opponent’s hand.

The idea of an “arm” day is laughable to me. Here’s why.

When I was going through a particular portion of my Marine Corps Training, I found myself with a group of Marines who were in a waiting period for their next school to start.

Because Training Command was on the same base as my peers and me, they decided to use us as a “test” unit. They wanted to see what type of training Marines could endure and how it translated to their follow on schools and injury resistance in general.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Treading water is hard in a full kit. It’s even harder when your arms are fighting against you while treading.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hernan Vidana)

Basically, it was let’s “fugg” with these guys in the name of “research.”

So I found myself doing a lot of weird “training” with a bunch of alpha males. Every day was some type of ego trip in one way or another.

A good portion of my peers at this time were quite muscular. Some of them were the type to ensure they finished every gym session with 10 sets of biceps curls.

They had big arms.

We did a lot of pool workouts in this training cycle….I’ll give you one guess which body type had to be revived the most often…

When it comes to swimming, large biceps are the opposite of those arm floaties that kids wear. Imagine how much harder it would be to tread water with rocks strapped to your upper arms.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This is the whole body approach to training arms.

(Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)

How to train arms like a freakin’ genius

The way workouts should be setup is as follows:

  1. Main/Compound lifts- squat, bench, deadlift
  2. Ancillary lifts- rows, Romanian deadlifts, lat pull-down, DB presses
  3. Accessory lifts- biceps, triceps, calves

The compound lifts are giving the majority of our muscular stimulation and truly teaching the body how to move as a unit in an anatomically correct way.

The ancillary lifts give our main muscle groups another look (from a different angle, rep range, etc.). They directly contribute to strength gains in the main lifts and also contribute to making the body a cohesive unit of power development.

The accessory lifts are there to bring up body parts that may be limiting the main movements or that the trainee may want to give some extra stimulation. Other common accessory muscle groups are the forearms, obliques, or neck.

Because isolated arm exercises are primarily accessory lifts, they should receive the lowest amount of priority in the gym. This means if you are strapped for time you skip these. DON’T skip squatting or deadlifting and jump to these because you prefer them.

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You can get those curls in….after you hit the big ticket items.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Donald Holbert)

The biceps are a pulling muscle. You get all the biceps stimulation you need from rows, lat pull-downs, and pull-ups. The triceps are a pushing muscle. You get all the triceps stimulation you need from pressing, benching, and push-ups.

The above being the case, I fully respect the allure of the arm pump and the feel of a tight t-shirt. That’s why I don’t avoid them altogether when writing a training plan. They are for your mind, not for your body.

It is important to work out for both the mind and the body. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing or if you don’t see/feel results, you are significantly less likely to continue training.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how Marine Corps mortar crews get explosive rounds to fall right on top of an enemy over 1,000 meters away

CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.

During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.


The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.

Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.

Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.

When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.

A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.

In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.

The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.

The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.

There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.

There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.

Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.

Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.

There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.

Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.

The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.

Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.

But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.

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A close-up shot of the three main crew members as the round exits the tube.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert Kuehn

A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.

Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.

The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”

During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.

The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.

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

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