Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.
Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.
The McMillan Tac-50.
According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.
So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.
The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.
Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.
One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.
For many years, U.S. troops have hunted our nation’s enemies under the blanket of complete darkness, scoring some impressive kills due, in part, to our outstanding ability to see at night — just ask Osama bin Laden.
Oh, wait. You can’t.
Today, you can head to a tactical store and pick up a relatively inexpensive set of NVGs for a few hundred bucks. Although many models seem to have issues with depth-of-field, cheaper night optics can still get you from A to B on a somewhat clear night.
Although this impressive piece of tech can be used by anybody, not many people look into how this technology works or how it came to be. Let’s fix that.
Despite the fact that we defeated the Germans in WWII, they can still claim credit over many important technological advancements. For example, they manufactured the first nighttime image enhancer. The concept was worked on as early as 1935 but wasn’t put in the hands of German soldiers until 1939.
However, only the most highly trained soldiers were issued this new technology to employ in night attacks. By the end of the war, Hitler’s army had also equipped nearly 50 Panther tanks with this tech. These tanks saw combat on both the Western and Eastern Fronts.
When you look into a set of NVGs, you’ll immediately notice the green display. This isn’t some arbitrary color choice on the part of the manufacturer — your eyes are more sensitive to that particular color.
When we say “sensitive,” we’re not referring to your current emotional status. It means our eyes detect this color naturally, making it easier to pick out shapes in the otherwise dark. In short, it’s easy on the eyes.
How NVGs work
The device detects low levels of light and amplifies them. You want a little more of a breakdown? Okay, let’s get scientific.
When dim light enters the NVGs, it hits an internal layer, called the “photocathode,” which releases electrons. These electrons then hit a second layer called a “micro-channel plate,” where they get multiplied before hitting the third layer, called the phosphor screen.
After passing through that layer, the electrons are converted back into light. The more electrons the device produces, the higher the image quality. Check out the video below for a full breakdown.
You can build your own set at home
Although high-quality NVGs require some real ingenuity and tech to produce, Superhero Armory built a rudimentary set using a pair of LCD sunglasses, a small night-vision camera, and some LED lights.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
Every evening from late spring to early fall, two planes lift off from airports in the western United States and fly through the sunset, each headed for an active wildfire, and then another, and another. From 10,000 feet above ground, the pilots can spot the glow of a fire, and occasionally the smoke enters the cabin, burning the eyes and throat.
The pilots fly a straight line over the flames, then U-turn and fly back in an adjacent but overlapping path, like they’re mowing a lawn. When fire activity is at its peak, it’s not uncommon for the crew to map 30 fires in one night. The resulting aerial view of the country’s most dangerous wildfires helps establish the edges of those fires and identify areas thick with flames, scattered fires and isolated hotspots.
A large global constellation of satellites, operated by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), combined with a small fleet of planes operated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) help detect and map the extent, spread and impact of forest fires. As technology has advanced, so has the value of remote sensing, the science of scanning the Earth from a distance using satellites and high-flying airplanes.
The most immediate, life-or-death decisions in fighting forest fires – sending smokejumpers to a ridge, for example, or calling an evacuation order when flames leap a river – are made by firefighters and chiefs in command centers and on the fire line. Data from satellites and aircraft provide situational awareness with a strategic, big-picture view.
“We use the satellites to inform decisions on where to stage assets across the country,” said Brad Quayle of the Forest Service’s Geospatial Technology and Applications Center, which plays a key role in providing remote-sensing data for active wildfire suppression. “When there’s high competition for firefighters, tankers and aircraft, decisions have to be made on how to distribute those assets.”
It’s not uncommon for an Earth-observing satellite to be the first to detect a wildfire, especially in remote regions like the Alaskan wilderness. And at the height of the fire season, when there are more fires than planes to map them, data from satellites are used to estimate the fire’s evolution, capturing burned areas, the changing perimeter and potential damage, like in the case of Montana’s Howe Ridge Fire, which burned for nearly two months in Glacier National Park last summer.
Global fire picture from space
In January 1980, two scientists, Michael Matson and Jeff Dozier, who were working at NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service building in Camp Springs, Maryland, detected tiny bright spots on a satellite image of the Persian Gulf. The image had been captured by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument on the NOAA-6 satellite, and the spots, they discovered, were campfire-sized flares caused by the burning of methane in oil wells. It marked the first time that such a small fire had been seen from space. Dozier, who would become the founding dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California at Santa Barbara, was “intrigued by the possibilities,” and he went on to develop, within a year, a mathematical method to distinguish small fires from other sources of heat. This method would become the foundation for nearly all subsequent satellite fire-detection algorithms.
What was learned from AVHRR informed the design of the first instrument with spectral bands explicitly designed to detect fires, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, launched on the Terra satellite in 1999, and a second MODIS instrument on Aqua in 2002. MODIS in turn informed the design of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, VIIRS, which flies on the Joint Polar Satellite System’s NOAA/NASA Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. Each new instrument represented a major step forward in fire detection technology.
“Without MODIS, we wouldn’t have the VIIRS algorithm,” said Ivan Csiszar, active fire product lead for the Joint Polar Satellite System calibration validation team. “We built on that heritage.”
The instruments on polar-orbiting satellites, like Terra, Aqua, Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20, typically observe a wildfire at a given location a few times a day as they orbit the Earth from pole to pole. Meanwhile, NOAA’s GOES-16 and GOES-17 geostationary satellites, which launched in November 2016 and March 2018, respectively, provide continuous updates, though at a coarser resolution and for fixed portions of the planet.
On the left is an imager of a cockpit of the National Infrared Operations Citation Bravo jet N144Z. On the right is a night vision picture of a fire.
“You can’t get a global picture with an aircraft, you can’t do it from a ground station,” said Ralph Kahn, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “To get a global picture, you need satellites.”
The MODIS instrument mapped fires and burn scars with an accuracy that far surpassed AVHRR. And after nearly 20 years in orbit, the optical and thermal bands on MODIS, which detect reflected and radiated energy, continue to provide daytime visible imagery and night-time information on active fires.
From space, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor observed expansive smoke and aerosol plumes over California’s Central Valley on Nov. 8 and coast soon after the Camp Fire began.Credits: NASA Earth Observatory/Aqua/MODIS
VIIRS has improved fire detection capabilities. Unlike MODIS, the VIIRS imager band has higher spatial resolution, at 375 meters per pixel, which allows it to detect smaller, lower temperature fires. VIIRS also provides nighttime fire detection capabilities through its Day-Night Band, which can measure low-intensity visible light emitted by small and fledgling fires.
The first moments after a fire ignites are critical, said Everett Hinkley, National Remote Sensing Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service. In California, for example, when intense winds combine with dry fuel conditions, the response time can mean the difference between a catastrophic fire, like the Camp Fire that consumed nearly the entire town of Paradise, and one that is quickly contained.
“Those firefighters who are first responders don’t always know the precise location of the fire, how fast it’s moving or in what direction,” Hinkley said. “We’re working to try to give them real-time or near-real-time information to help them better understand the fire behavior in those early critical hours.”
Responders increasingly turn to the GOES satellites for early, precise geolocation of fires in remote areas. On July 2, 2018, for example, after smoke was reported in a wooded area near Central Colorado’s Custer County, GOES East detected a hotspot there. Forecasters in Pueblo visually inspected the data and provided the exact coordinates of what would become the Adobe Fire, and crews were sent quickly to the scene. The fire detection and characterization algorithm, the latest version of NOAA’s operational fire detection algorithm, is in the process of being updated and is expected to further improve early fire detection and reduce false positives.
“The holy grail is that firefighters want to be able to get on a fire in the first few hours or even within the first hour so they can take action to put it out,” said Vince Ambrosia, a wildfires remote-sensing scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “So it’s critical to have regular and frequent coverage.”
Of course, where there’s fire, there’s smoke, and knowing how wildfire smoke travels through the atmosphere is important for air quality, visibility and human health. Like other particulate matter in the atmosphere, smoke from wildfires can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause a range of health problems. Satellites can give us important information on the movement and thickness of that smoke.
Terra carries the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument, a sensor that uses nine fixed cameras, each viewing Earth at a different angle. MISR measures the motion and height of a fire’s smoke plume, as well as the amount of smoke particles coming from that fire, and gives some clues about the plume’s composition. For example, during the Camp Fire, MISR measurements showed a plume made of large, non-spherical particles over Paradise, California, an indication that buildings were burning. Researchers have established that building smoke leads to larger and more irregularly shaped particles than wildfires. Smoke particles from the burning of the surrounding forest, on the other hand, were smaller and mostly spherical. MISR’s measurements also showed the fire had lofted smoke nearly 2 miles into the atmosphere and carried it about 180 miles downwind, toward the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists also closely monitor whether the height of the smoke has exceeded the “near surface boundary layer,” where pollution tends to concentrate. Wildfires with the most energy, such as boreal forest fires, are the most likely to produce smoke that goes above the boundary layer. At that height, “smoke can typically travel farther, stay in the atmosphere longer, and have an impact further downwind,” Kahn said.
The satellites have limitations. Among them, the heat signatures the instruments detect are averaged over pixels, which makes it difficult to precisely pinpoint fire location and size. Interpreting data from satellites has additional challenges. Although thermal signals give an indication of fire intensity, smoke above the fire can diminish that signal, and smoldering fires might not radiate as much energy as flaming fires at the observed spectral bands.
Up close with airborne ‘heat’ sensors
That’s where the instruments on the Forest Service aircraft come in. Data from these flights contribute to the National Infrared Operations Program (NIROPS), which uses tools developed with NASA to visualize wildfire information in web mapping services, including Google Earth. NASA works closely with the Forest Service to develop new technologies for the kind of thermal sensing systems these planes carry.
Each NIROPS plane is equipped with an infrared sensor that sees a six-mile swath of land below and can map 300,000 acres of terrain per hour. From an altitude of 10,000 feet, the sensor can detect a hotspot just 6 inches across, and place it within 12.5 feet on a map. The data from each pass are recorded, compressed and immediately downlinked to an FTP site, where analysts create maps that firefighters can access directly on a phone or tablet in the field. They fly at night when there’s no sun glint to compromise their measurements, the background is cooler, and the fires are less aggressive.
“Every time we’re scanning, we’re ‘truthing’ that fire,” says Charles “Kaz” Kazimir, an infrared technician with NIROPS, who has flown fires with the program for 10 years. “On the ground, they may have ideas of how that fire is behaving, but when they get the image, that’s the truth. It either validates or invalidates their assumption since the last time they had intel.”
The infrared aircraft instruments fill some of the gaps in the satellite data. Field campaigns, such as the NASA-NOAA FIREX-AQ, now underway, are designed to address these issues too. But scientists are also looking to new technology. In 2003, representatives from NASA and the Forest Service formed a tactical fire remote sensing committee, which meets twice annually to discuss ways to harness new and existing remote sensing technology as it relates to wildfires. For example, a new infrared sensor is being developed that scans a swath three times wider than the existing system. That would mean fewer flight lines and less time spent over an individual fire, Hinkley said.
“The takeaway really is that we are actively investigating and developing capabilities that will aid decision-makers on the ground, especially in the early phases of dynamic fires,” Hinkley said. “We’re not just resting on our laurels here. We understand that we need to better leverage new technologies to help keep people safe.”
As the fight continues with radical Islamic terrorist groups, like ISIS, enemies have begun to use drones against the coalition. These drones aren’t like the MQ-1 Predator (now retired) or the MQ-9 Reaper as used by the U.S. military. Instead, they’re commercially available quadcopter drones, like the ones you’d find on Amazon.
The IXI DroneKiller comes in at seven and a half pounds and blocks five frequency bands.
(IXI Tech photo)
In the hands of the enemy, these small consumer-market devices are proving lethal, either directly or indirectly. So, coalition forces want to shoot them down. Unfortunately, there’s a problem — even a basic quadcopter drone can fly reasonably high (high enough to collide with aircraft). Plus, these things are small — which makes them both elusive and cheap.
A next-generation version of the DroneKiller, shown here at SeaAirSpace 2018, can fit under a M4 carbine.
So, instead of shooting at a blip in the sky, the armed forces have made a push for a way to take out the ISIS drones without putting civilians at risk. One company, IXI Tech, came up with something they call, aptly, the DroneKiller. This system looks a lot like a Star Wars Stormtrooper’s blaster, but in a more tactically appropriate color. This system can block five frequency bands and disable a hostile drone (sending it crashing to the earth). The system was tested last month at ANTX 2018.
The DroneKiller weighs about seven and a half pounds, a little less than a SKS rifle. It has an effective range of 800 meters (roughly a half-mile) and can operate for four hours in active mode. It can be easily updated thanks to a USB port.
But what’s really interesting is a version of the DroneKiller that can be mounted on a M16 rifle, just like the M203 and M320 grenade launchers. Soon, every fire team could have a drone killer to go with a grenadier and SAW gunner!
If you walk around any military base today, you will see the color “Coyote Brown.” The dull yellow-brown shade can be seen on the uniforms of sailors, airmen, soldiers and Marines. Certain uniform items like beanies, boots and fleece jackets are entirely Coyote Brown. With its popularity throughout the military, the question must be asked: where did this color come from? For that answer, we have to go back to the turn of the millennium.
In February 2000, the entire U.S. military was wearing BDUs and Marine Sgt. Ken Henley had just been transferred from Scout Sniper Platoon 2/2 at Camp Lejeune to be a TBS combat instructor at Quantico. Aside from being an experienced sniper, Henley was also a decorated Marine, having earned a Purple Heart during an embassy reinforcement in Monrovia, Liberia, in May 1996.
Marines test early prototypes of MARPAT and the MCCUU which had removable sleeves (USMC)
Henley’s sniper expertise was called upon when two captains from MarCorSysCom solicited TBS for him to deliver a lecture on camouflage to students at the University of Virginia who were working on design theories for camouflage and colors in textiles. The captains were so impressed with Henley that they continued to solicit his expertise, borrowing him from TBS to help design a camo helmet cover and a new lightweight helmet among other projects.
Henley’s biggest challenge came when the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Logan Jones, Jr., issued a directive for MarCorSysCom to develop a new and improved Marine Corps uniform. Naturally, Henley was tapped for the project and went up to the Navy Clothing Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts. Initially, Henley believed that the project would be a simple one. “I’ll just check out some current patterns, maybe tweak some color schemes and be done,” he first thought. “Boy was I wrong.”
The newest fleece jacket is entirely Coyote Brown (U.S. Army)
Working with the civilian textile engineers at NCTRF, Henley went through over 150 current camouflage patterns until he narrowed them down to just three: the Vietnam-era tiger stripe, a modern commercial tiger stripe, and a Rhodesian version of the British DPM. After some tweaking and modifications, they settled on a version of the Rhodesian DPM.
However, after the trip, Henley had a realization. “Marines would be taking this uniform into the 21st century…my fellow Marines would be wearing it on foreign ground, depending on this uniform to do its job,” he recalled. “This uniform not only needed to actually work, it needed to be unique.” In order to accomplish this, Henley enlisted the help of another sniper.
Being at Quantico, Henley was able to make a visit to the SNCOIC of the Scout Sniper School, a Marine that Henley had served with in Somalia in 1993. Gunny H, as he will be referred to, was enthusiastic about the new project and MarCorSysCom approved his involvement at Henley’s request.
Coyote Brown gear is universal and can be used with Desert MARPAT… (USMC)
Together, Henley and Gunny H facilitated a brainstorming session involving the NCTRF engineers, sniper school staff and even a current sniper school class. With input from both designers and end users, Henley made a second trip up to Natick with Gunny H to continue tweaking the designs he had worked on previously. It was on that trip that Gunny H made a fateful visit to a local Home Depot and discovered a color swatch from the Ralph Lauren Santa Fe paint collection called Coyote.
Though the color is now discontinued, it can still be custom mixed. If any of you motivators want to paint your house the original Coyote, just ask for RL color code SF11B (no, that’s not an Army MOS joke). Gunny H took the swatch back to NCTRF and a tech scanned the color into the pattern that Henley had last developed. Though Coyote worked with the other colors, the existing pattern was still lacking.
As fate would have it, the engineers at Natick had recently received a few samples of the new Canadian CADPAT. “It looked good in theory but the color scheme was way off for our use,” Henley recalled. “The Canadians had used way too much bright lime-green in the pattern. Using CADPAT as a starting point, Henley and Gunny H further developed their pattern by having one of the engineers produce a “snow” screen, simulating static on a TV without reception. Sections of the pattern were then separated with the new color palette applied. “It took a good bit of refining and pattern modification, but by the second day it came out good,” Henley said of their work on what would become MARPAT. “We tweaked the colors just a bit more, printed out a sample, and were done.”
The new pattern went through extensive testing at Quantico before its patent was filed on June 19, 2001. MARPAT made its official debut on the new Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform at Camp Lejeune on January 17, 2002.
Woodland MARPAT (USMC)
Since the introduction of MARPAT and the universal Coyote Brown gear that goes with it, other services have taken notice. Today, Coyote Brown is an integral part of the Operational Camouflage Pattern used on the latest version of the Army Combat Uniform worn by soldiers and airmen alike. That’s right, OCP is the pattern and ACU is the uniform. It bears mentioning that OCP was developed as a joint venture between the Army’s Natick Labs and Crye Precision, the original producers of MultiCam.
So, the next time someone makes fun of your uniform, you can claim sartorial superiority. After all, you’re wearing a Ralph Lauren color.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is more apt to describe their new climbing technology to be more like geckos than Spider-Man. Despite being less awesome, DARPA’s comparison is much more accurate – but only because Spider-Man isn’t real and geckos are. Still, the tech would allow troops to scale surfaces like glass walls in full kit with no extra noise.
Sound too good to be true? It’s called the Z-Man project, and it has already been tested.
American troops never know where they could end up until they’re prepping to go. Even then they don’t really know what kinds of obstacles they’ll encounter during the missions – or more importantly, how they’ll overcome those obstacles. The how is part of DARPA’s job. Its mission is to develop technology that creates transformational change across industries in order to give American troops an edge on the battlefields of tomorrow. For the last couple of years, it’s been notoriously adept at making our superhero dreams become a reality. Now they’ve gone and done it again: this time it’s Spider-Man.
Which is a really good choice, not only because of the urban environments U.S. troops frequently encounter but because all branches encounter unending problems when working in a foreign environment and could rely on the flexibility provided by the kinds of powers Spider-Man has. The first test was the development of polymer microstructures that would allow wearers to scale any surface.
Intermolecular forces between its toes and a surface means the gecko easily attaches to and from any surface.
Geckos have hundreds of stalk-like setae that are around 100 microns in length and 2 microns in radius all over their feet. From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae, approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest, branch out and contact the climbing surface. A Gecko can hold itself up with one toe, making it the animal world’s expert on climbing. Until now.
DARPA demonstrated the power of the new climbing system on a glass wall. A 218-pound man ascended a 25-foot tall wall with an additional carrying load of 25 pounds. He had no other climbing equipment than the gecko-inspired climbing gear. The climber used paddles with the gecko tech to ascend the structure.
A DARPA engineer scales a wall using the new Z-Man technology.
“Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defense pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it,” said Dr. Matt Goodman, the DARPA program manager for Z-Man. “The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”
Lambos aren’t exactly known for the rugged durability required by American military vehicles. So, the reason they specially made the Lamborghini Cheetah for the U.S. military would have to be pretty far out there.
Well, not that far, actually: the company was struggling economically from a global recession and an ongoing oil crisis. They were bleeding money, so they decided to start taking design contracts. One of those contracts was actually a subcontract for the American military.
The Cheetah was born.
It debuted in 1977 and was a failure from the start. The large rear-mounted engine ruined the weight distribution (and thus, the vehicle’s handling). After making three expensive prototypes the U.S. Army just wasn’t interested in, the damage was done. Lamborghini even went out of business for a while.
Besides the handling, there were a number of reasons the Lamborghini and the Army just weren’t going to match. A major reason was that Lamborghini’s design was actually a ripoff they received from an Army subcontractor – but Lamborghini didn’t know that.
When the Cheetah bombed during testing for the military, the contract for the new vehicle went to the Humvee.
Even though the Cheetah’s massive failure caused other contractors to pull their money from Lamborghini, sending the company into a death spiral, it gave them time to lick their wounds and reconvene later. The concept of a Lambo SUV never fully died, either.
Lamborghini engineers revisited the idea later, conceiving a civilian version of the vehicle, the Lamborghini Militaria No.1, or LM001, and its more popular, later iteration, the LMA002.
The latest Lamborghini SUV features a V12 engine (the Cheetah only had a V8), souped-up and superior to its 70s-era ancestor in every possible way.
For 25 years, the F/A-18 Hornet/Super Hornet family has been the backbone of carrier aviation for the United States Navy. These planes have also seen some success in the export market, making the F/A-18 a classic that’ll be around for decades to come. However, if Congress had its way in the 1970s, this plane likely wouldn’t have existed.
In the wake of the Vietnam War, the United States was looking to develop fighters that would make quick work of Soviet designs. Although U.S. planes were scoring kills more often than they were being shot down, the ratio wasn’t favorable enough. So, the Lightweight Fighter program was born.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, told the Navy and Air Force that both would buy the winner of this developmental competition. The Air Force liked the eventual winner, which became the classic F-16, but the Navy favored the runner-up: the YF-17 Cobra. Luckily, the Navy didn’t fold to the whims of Congress.
The two contenders in the Lightweight Fighter fly-off, the YF-16 Falcon (which became the classic F-16) and the YF-17 Cobra.
The YF-17 Cobra had two engines, as opposed to the one of the YF-16. For carrier pilots, who have a lot of ocean to fly over, this was extremely appealing. With two engines, you have a backup in case one goes bad. In a single engine-plane, failure means it’s time to pull the loud handle and eject.
The Cobra also had awesome performance: A top speed of Mach 2, four pylons on the wings for air-to-air or air-to-ground weaponry, a centerline pylon for bombs or an external fuel tank, a 20mm M61 cannon, and the ability to carry two AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtips. Not only was this a faster plane than the Hornet, it also had a longer maximum unrefueled range of 2,800 miles.
The YF-17, though, served as the basis for the classic F/A-18 Hornet.
(USMC photo by LCPL John McGarity)
The lower cost of operation, greater range, and high performance struck a chord with the Navy. They teamed up with Northrop and McDonnell-Douglas, the makers of the YF-17, to refine the design and turn it into the multirole fighter they really wanted. This fighter was the F/A-18 Hornet.
Learn more about the forerunner to one of the Navy’s very best fighters the video below!
Nicknamed the “Dragon Lady” and developed by Lockheed Martin, the U-2 spy plane was made famous in the 1960s when one was shot down conducting a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union.
Today, the surveillance jet continues its duty as it searches for threats in Afghanistan. Once the pilot detects a potential hazard to coalition forces, it locks onto the attacker’s location and sends the signal 7,000 miles away to Beale Air Force Base in California. Once the base receives the incoming traffic, the surveillance analysts decode the information and track the enemy movement.
As the analysts locate the threat, the surveillance team quickly intervenes and relays the vital information down to ground troops. With the highly sophisticated onboard radio system, the U-2 spy plane can then assist in choreographing with nearby fighter jets to initiate a strike tactic on enemy forces below before they manage to assault allied forces.
With its incredible versatility, the spy plane can conduct its mission from an altitude of 70,000 feet.
The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.
“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)
Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.
Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.
SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.
Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)
That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.
Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.
The M113 armored personnel carrier is one of the most versatile — and long-lasting — armored vehicles in the American inventory. The Army has just now, after 50 years of service, begun the process of replacing the M113 with the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Even then, the M113 will stick around in some capacity — over 80,000 have been produced.
One particularly notable variant of this APC is the M163. This is an M113 refitted with a turret-mounted M61 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun. In one sense, this was a simple approach – the Army took the M61 Vulcan that has been a mainstay on fighters like the F-105 Thunderchief, F-104 Starfighter, and the F-4 Phantom and simply attached it to the M113. This gun proved to be quite a MiG-killer in air-to-air combat, and the assumption was it would be effective from the ground, too.
The M163 saw some combat trials during the Vietnam War, but the radar systems weren’t quite ready to take on targets in the sky. Like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” however, the M163 proved that ground targets were no problem for this anti-aircraft vehicle, especially when it carried over 2,000 rounds of ammo for the gun. The M163 soon found itself exported to South Korea, Thailand, Israel, and a number of other countries.
The M163 eventually received upgrades, giving it a better radar and making things simpler for the gunner. It also got more powerful rounds for the M61 gun. Yet, in American service, the M163 would be more known for its use as a ground-support asset. However, the Israelis did score three kills with the vehicle, one of them a MiG-21, during the 1982 Lebanon War.
After Desert Storm, the Army retired the M163, replacing it and the M72 Chaparral with the 1-2 combination of the M1097 Avenger and the M6 Bradley Linebacker air-defense vehicle.
Learn more about this adapted M113 in the video below.
A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.
Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.
The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.
“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.
Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.
The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.
The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.
“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”
The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.
Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.
Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.
“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.
The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.
“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”
The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.
Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together
“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”
In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”
Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.
The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.