If words like foil, epee, and sabre don’t excite you very much, now you can imagine the word “lightsaber” joining them on equal footing – at least that’s what the French Fencing Federation says. The primary governing body of a sport that appeared in every modern Olympic Game since 1904 recognizes the appeal of the glowing futuristic weapon. And so should you.
This means – in France at least – lightsaber dueling is now officially a sport, complete with rules, a governing body, and a growing number of combatants who will compete for its top prize, whatever that turns out to be. The lightsabers used in the tournaments are not (of course) real lightsabers. If this technology existed, it would be more than a news footnote, for sure. The fighters use polycarbonate weapons with different colors, shapes, and even sound effects.
Like its older cousin, the lightsaber duel’s fighters wear safety pads, follow a rigid time limit, and feature a scorekeeper. Points are awarded depending on where the fighters hit one another: five points for the head, three for the legs, and the first to 15 points wins the match.
There is a method to the madness. As one might have guessed by now, the recognition of the sport is partially a publicity stunt, but it’s a stunt for a good reason. The French Fencing Association wants to get kids away from video games and e-sports to compete in something more tangible. The real enemy is the life of a young video gamer, seldom moving from the couch. Instead, the body hopes kids will make it to the darkened room that really shows off the “blades” of the weapon while allowing the fighters to showcase their skills.
One former fencing fighter spent hundreds on his gear and has spent two years practicing the art of lightsaber swordplay. His lightsaber color is green because it’s the Jedi colors and “Yoda is my master.” But those interested in training in the lightsaber arts don’t need to wait for Master Yoda to give the okay – there’s plenty of time to train on your own before lightsaber dueling makes the Olympic Games.
The United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds are scheduled to conduct a flyover during the national anthem performance at Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019, over Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.
“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for the team and the U.S. Air Force,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Thunderbirds commander and leader. “We look forward to showcasing the pride, precision and professionalism of our nation’s 660,000 Total Force airmen to football fans around the world.”
The Thunderbirds’ flyover, its first public event in 2019, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, soaring over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment the final notes of The Star Spangled Banner are sung. They will take off for the Super Bowl LIII flyover from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia.
The Thunderbirds last flew over the Super Bowl in 2017 at the NRG Stadium, Houston.
The Thunderbirds’ team is composed of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted airmen and three civilians serving in 28 Air Force job specialties. In 2019, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform at 65 air shows in 33 different locations all over the world.
Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 300 million people in all 50 states and 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.
The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.
By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history. Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.
The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.
Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)
The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.
This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.
While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.
To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.
As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.
It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.
US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.
Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.
Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.
The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.
While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.
A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.
As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.
Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.
“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.
At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.
“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.
Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.
“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.
However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.
In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.
The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.
Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.
While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.
The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.
Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.
Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.
However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Navy has operated helicopters from ships for a long time — and as early as the 1960s, they briefly operated a drone helicopter. Now, new robot helicopters may soon join the fleet. The MQ-8C Fire Scout completed its first round of initial operational tests and evaluations in June 2018 and could soon see service.
Currently, the Navy operates the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which has been in operational service since 2009. This unmanned helicopter can remain airborne for roughly five and a half hours and has a top speed of 85 knots. In 2010, this system made a drug bust while conducting testing aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8).
The new system, the MQ-8C, is larger, based on the Bell 407 helicopter. This boosts its deliverable payload by two-thirds (up to 1,000 pounds from 600). It also features a substantial boost in range and endurance, according to the U.S. Navy. Its top speed of 135 knots leaves the MQ-8B in the figurative dust.
Tale of the tape between MQ-8B and MQ-8C.
The primary purpose of the MQ-8 series helicopters is to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The Fire Scout is equipped with electro-optical and infrared sensors and a laser designator. Some also have received radars capable of tracking targets as far as 50 miles away. This advanced equipment allows the Fire Scout to locate, track, and designate targets, providing accurate targeting data to ships and aircraft, and perform post-strike assessments on targets without risking human lives.
A MQ-8B lands on USS McInerney during its evaluation, during which it made a drug bust.
Although it’s looking to be the best iteration yet, the MQ-8C isn’t the first drone helicopter to be used for these types of missions. During the Vietnam War, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) was used to handle gunfire spotting. It served a total of six years and lasted eight years more in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The MQ-8 series, though, is proving to be an extremely versatile, effective piece of technology that’ll likely be around for a long time.
NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.
It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.
Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.
“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.
The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.
An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.
The place where solar and interstellar winds interact
On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.
It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.
This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.
Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.
But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.
Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.
The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.
“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.
An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.
Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.
The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.
“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.
What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.
“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.
The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.
“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”
The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.
NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.
The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.
“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.
Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.
After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.
In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.
“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ever since word got out that the Pentagon spent $436 on a hammer in the 1980s, citizen watchdogs have kept a close eye on how much the Defense Department spends on its maintenance and upkeep. To keep costs low on an aging fleet of airplanes, the USAF turned to 3D printing to cut the acquisition time and cost for spare parts. Its first 3D printed part was a toilet seat cover – instead of paying $10,000 for one.
Now the Air Force may be turning to 3D print for a lot more than spare parts and toilet seats. It may start printing entire weapons systems – directly from the flightline.
3D printing is also known as “additive construction,” as explained in the video above. The traditional method of creating objects is known as “subtractive construction,” where a solid mass of raw material is shaped to form various parts. 3D printing starts with nothing and layers on material to form a solid part. Right now, the Air Force uses 3D printing to create parts for aircraft on a small scale, but according to the thought leaders of these projects, there’s “no reason the technology couldn’t grow to create items weighing 50,000 pounds or more.”
Maintainers across the Air Force are already using 3D printing technology to save time and money by creating objects that would otherwise be costly and could take weeks to arrive – if they come at all. The aforementioned toilet seat cost ,000 because the original manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, doesn’t make the C-5 Galaxy anymore, and they don’t have a bunch of C-5 toilet seats lying around. It was a custom order. At places like RAF Mildenhall, the Air Force uses 3D printers to create individual parts not individually available. Instead of ordering an entirely new system for things like tow swivel legs, they can just replace the parts of individual tow swivel legs that break.
In 70 years, 3-D printing could build assets on the scale of 50,000 pounds, including manned-fighter class capability.
(Illustration by Chris Desrocher)
The video also mentions that universities have 3D printed entire aircraft and flown them successfully. The Air Force is bringing that technology in and moving it forward with its considerable resources.
“Maybe you need a new sensor package, maybe you need a new weapons truck,” says Ed Alyanak, an engineer with the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “What we’re doing is we’re linking the operational analysis assessment and the computational design phase of a new asset, be it a weapons system or a new vehicle, some small scale UAV, maybe even a large-scale manned asset, with the phase of acquiring that asset.”
The process already saves the Air Force millions in developing small-scale design models, but the future of the process is the most exciting part. Within 70 years, the Air Force could go from printing parts and wings for A-10 aircraft (as it does today) to printing entire airframes right there on the flightline.
On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.
With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.
Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.
As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”
He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.
“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”
There is always work that needs to be done.
Break down the problem
One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.
“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.
“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.
Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice
“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.
Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”
“You get involved in their routine,” he added.
Look for new ways to connect with people
In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.
“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.
“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”
He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.
Think about things you will do when its over
“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.
Remember it is not all about you
Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.
He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”
One of the most magical feelings in the military is that moment you finally get back to the tent or barracks and can finally shed your Kevlar helmet and IOTV. That moment, when you can finally breathe and realize just how sweaty you were, is just plain glorious.
As much of a slight pain in the ass (figuratively speaking, of course. Literally, it’s a pain in the lower back and knees) as today’s armor is, it’s come a long way. Take, for instance, the first effective ballistic armor developed by the United States Army for WWI.
I present you to the unsightly behemoth known as the “Brewster Body Shield.”
When America made its entry into the first World War, it was an eye opener. War had changed drastically in only a few short years. Now, cavalry on horseback were useless against a machine gun nest, poison gas was filling the trenches, and fixed-wing, motor-driven airplanes were being used for war just twelve years after the Wright Brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk.
The Italians had started fielding their own updated version of knights’ armor for use by the Arditi, but it had more of a symbolic meaning than any practical use. The Germans began giving their sappers protective armor that could take a few bullets along with protecting its wearer’s vital organs from the shock of explosives. America thought they could outdo them all with their own, suped-up version.
America wanted some sort of protection for its infantrymen if they ever dared to cross the barrage of bullets that flew across No-Man’s Land and they needed it as fast as they could. The U.S. Government turned to a man who created armor intended for boxing training, Dr. Guy Otis Brewster.
Dr. Brewster began creating a suit of armor that was made out of 0.21 inch chrome nickle steel — enough to withstand .303 British bullets at 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s). It was also given a V-shaped design to minimize the direct impact of any oncoming bullets. The whole thing came in two pieces and weighed a total of 110 lbs.
Then came time for the field test. Dr. Brewster invited Army officers and representatives from the steel mills and rubber companies to come witness. Being the insane scientist that he was, he donned the armor himself and stood in the firing line for the test.
His assistant swung at him with a hammer and a sledgehammer before eventually moving on to being shot by a Springfield rifle. He said that being shot it the suit was “only about one-tenth the shock as being struck by a sledgehammer.”
You can watch the recording below.
Despite its protective capabilities, it was deemed too heavy, too clumsy, and way too large to ever be fielded. Dr. Brewster didn’t take that news lightly and wanted to prove its worth. He tested it again and was reportedly able to withstand a hail of bullets from a Lewis Machine Gun — with him inside the suit, obviously.
In the end, he never managed to get the Body Shield approved by the U.S. government — seeing as it was impossibly immobile and occluded visibility almost entirely. He would, however, later make a steel-scaled waistcoat that resembles more modern flak vests.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.
About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)
The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.
While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.
“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”
Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.
That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.
“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.
Prohibition was a master class in unintended consequences, good or bad.
One of those consequences is NASCAR, which is a pretty good time.
Outlawing alcohol may have seemed like a good idea at a time when saloons dominated the streets, booze corrupted politicians, and alcoholism ran rampant — but the the operative phrase here is definitely, “seemed like.” It was not the best idea. It turns out Americans love a drink and will go to great lengths — and speeds — to get it.
Just as with any other business, moonshiners making illegal “white lightning” in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills needed a way to transport their goods to market, and grandpa’s horse cart just wasn’t gonna cut it. They needed vehicles — but not just any vehicle would do.
So, how do you get hooch from the Appalachians to thirsty partygoers in the big city without attracting undue attention? As fast as possible, of course. But there’s more to it than speed: The cars have to look like your average, off-the-line vehicle. They also have to be able to haul as much product as possible. Shiners figured out the way, creating modified vehicles called “stock” cars.
Even after the official end of Prohibition, illegal distillers still needed to move product while evading authorities. They still needed those fast cars.
Bootleggers’ vehicles were fitted with advanced shock-absorption systems to protect the glass jars housing their precious cargo as they sped down mountain roads. They also had the back seats removed to fit more product. Most importantly, they had souped-up engines that allowed them to beat the feds in any race when necessary.
Prohibition ended in 1933, but the American need for speed and love for automobiles that would come to embody the NASCAR spirit lived on.
“The deeper I looked into the whole thing and the more research I did, the more liquor I found. It was just so foundational,” Daniel Pierce, a history professor at the University of North Carolina told NASCAR. “I knew it played a role, but the thing that surprised me was that it was so much a part of the foundation of the sport.”
Even before the end of Prohibition, rum runners and bootleggers would race their souped-up, stripped-down vehicles on the roads and in the backwoods of the American South.
The sport’s anti-establishment roots were very present in NASCAR’s early days. At one of the earliest stock car races at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, at least five drivers had liquor law violations on their records. There was an uproar over who should be allowed to drive: “hoodlums” or law-abiding citizens?
In 1947, the sport that would soon become the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was codified by France. The first race held by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing was on Jun. 19, 1949. Today, the driving sport’s fans now number in the millions. Their drivers are less outlaw and more law-abiding, driving upwards of 200 miles per hour in some speedways… without attracting attention from the feds.
The first few generations of drivers may have had some liquor law violations on their record, but today’s NASCAR drivers have helped turn a sport of “hoodlums” into a show fit for the whole family.
The man in charge of waging war on ISIS explained during a teleconference with reporters Oct. 26 that Islamic State militants “make extensive use” of unmanned aircraft in their fight to keep territory in Iraq and the key city of Mosul.
Behold the dawn on Trojan Horse drones. (Photo from Friends of YPG YPJ)
The head of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said the terrorists use the drones to video suicide strikes on Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, fly in unmanned planes to help target coalition positions and even use the drones to direct fires from mortars and rockets.
ISIS use of drones is “not episodic or sporadic, it’s relatively constant,” Townsend said. “We’ve seen them using drones to control and adjust indirect fires.”
Townsend added that the bad guys are also getting into the armed drone game, with ISIS dropping “small explosive devices” from the UAVs over coalition bases and other targets.
“Those fortunately haven’t had great effect,” he said.
But what’s really bugging him is a new more dastardly way ISIS is using drones.
“Recently we have seen what we think is a Trojan Horse kind of UAV or drone,” Townsend said.
He went on to explain that Islamic State militants landed a UAV inside coalition lines. Thinking they’d gotten an intelligence boon. When the allied forces went out to recover the drone it was detonated remotely, injuring the troops.
“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” Townsend said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”
“We’re working to try to find better solutions to this pretty thorny problem,” he said.