The H-60 “Jayhawk” is an incredible airframe, to say the least. Today, it’s one of the most-produced helicopters in the world and it’s in service with a vast number of countries. The United States Army alone has almost 3,000 either in service or on order. But there’s one user of the H-60 that doesn’t get much attention: The United States Coast Guard.
Currently, according to a Coast Guard representative, the USCG has 45 MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters in service. Originally, the Coast Guard got 42 HH-60Js from Sikorsky, but in the years since, three Jayhawks were operational losses and six were re-manufactured from former U.S. Navy SH-60F helicopters.
Just as the Navy replaced their SH-3 Sea Kings with SH-60/MH-60s, the Coast Guard is turning to the HH-60J to replace HH-3 Pelican search-and-rescue helicopters. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the first 42 HH-60Js were delivered between 1990 and 1996, making this one of the youngest versions of the H-60 in service.
U.S. Coast Guardsmen with Coast Guard Station San Diego participate in a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter near Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island, Calif.
(DoD photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo, U.S. Marine Corps)
The original HH-60J was an unarmed helicopter, optimized for the search-and-rescue mission. It was equipped with a radar for locating ships and could also accept a forward-looking infrared camera. In 2007, the fleet was rebuilt to the MH-60T standard. This new and improved helicopter has a top speed of 204 miles per hour, a maximum range of 808 miles, and a crew of four.
The crew of an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter work together to carry an injured woman to emergency medical personnel at the Kodiak Municipal Airport in Kodiak, Alaska
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens)
This new Jayhawk packs heat two ways: it has a M240 7.62mm machine gun and a Barrett M82A1 .50-caliber sniper rifle. This is known as the Airborne Use of Force package, and it was first installed on MH-68 Stingray helicopters used by the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiciton Tactical Squadron, or HITRON.
A Coast Guard Air Station MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew deployed in Cold Bay diverted from a training flight near Dutch Harbor to medevac a 26-year-old male who reportedly suffered head injuries aboard the 58-foot fishing vessel Cape Reliant.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley)
The Coast Guard is planning to keep the Jayhawk in service until 2035. By then, this helicopter will have enjoyed a 45-year-long service career.
Learn more about this long-lasting bird in the video below!
Through intense, specialized training, special operations units become the elite arm of any military. To make the most of their training, these units often get special tools.
According to reports, a new tool, the DAGOR ultra-light combat vehicle, has been delivered to Canadian special ops units. WATM got a good look at these vehicles at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo, where the DAGOR was on display with three litters and an M2 heavy machine gun.
So, why would a spec-ops unit not opt for something like the High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)? Both of these vehicles can carry some heavy firepower, like the BGM-71 TOW missile or the M2 heavy machine gun.
The answer is, simply, that these vehicles are too big. While you can fit them into a C-130, you still need a good place to land to roll them out or air-drop them. Even then, when it’s time to leave, if you can’t arrange proper pickup, you now have the options of leaving it behind for the enemy to take (not a good idea) or blowing it up, and these vehicles are expensive. Yes, it is possible to have too much vehicle for a mission.
The DAGOR is the type of vehicle that addresses these problems. Two of these can fit on a CH-47 Chinook (the Canadians have them on inventory as the CH-147F). They hold nine troops and can pack some serious firepower, including an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun. They can go 500 miles on a tank of diesel fuel and can carry up to 3,000 pounds.
Learn more about the Canadian purchase in the video below.
The only bad news is, while the Canadian military can buy these, Polaris still asks people who request quotes to certify that they are an “authorized government purchaser, government supplier, educational institution, non-profit organization, or representing a government agency” and “not inquiring about Polaris Defense products for personal use.” So much for that joyride…
The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.
US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”
That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.
The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.
But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)
Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.
Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.
“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”
Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.
“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)
The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.
But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.
A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.
In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.
Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)
The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.
Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.
“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We’ve all seen the memes. The A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog, has become the internet’s favorite warplane thanks in large part to its signature ‘BRRRT’ sound that it makes when it fires its massive 30mm gun. It’s highly doubtful that the engineers at Fairchild Republic that designed the A-10 could have anticipated the legendary status that the aircraft they designed would achieve, let alone that it would still be flying, 50 years in the future. After all, while the A-10 was designed to take a beating, it was also designed to be cheap and easy to maintain.
There’s no question the German Panzer tanks were the most thoroughly engineered and well-built tanks of WWII. However, this attention to detail would be their downfall. Because American and Soviet tanks like the M4 Sherman and T-34 were much simpler and cheaper to produce, the allied forces were able to flood the fields of Europe with armor and overwhelm the numerically inferior German tanks. In addition to this, the allies controlled the skies overhead which made German armor easy pickings for ground attack aircraft like the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The lessons learned through the evolution of warfare would be applied to the P-47s spiritual successor a few decades later in the Cold War.
Following the end of WWII and the creation of the Iron Curtain, the Western allies of NATO embarked on a massive military buildup in order to meet the potential threat of the Warsaw Pact forces. If the Cold War were to heat up, the biggest battleground where these two sides would meet would be the Fulda Gap. Located between the Hesse-Thuringian border and Frankfurt am Main, the Fulda Gap contains two corridors of lowlands that the Soviets would have had to push their armored forces through in order to reach and cross the strategically vital Rhine River. As a result, allied armor was built up heavily in this region. The anticipated battle also influenced weapons doctrine and development at the time.
In order to win a fight on the ground, you had to win the fight in the air. This concept was proven in WWII. While ground forces went toe-to-toe with the enemy, air forces flew behind enemy lines in order to strike logistical targets like supply convoys, factories, roads, and bridges. From this, the doctrine of AirLand Battle was born. It emphasized close coordination between land forces acting as an aggressively maneuvering defense and air forces attacking rear-echelon forces feeding the enemy’s front-line forces. Picture divisions of M60 ‘Patton’ Main Battle Tanks trying to hold off the onslaught of Soviet T-54 and T-54s coming through the Fulda Gap while B-52 Stratofortress bombers flew overhead to destroy the Soviet supply lines feeding their tanks. Without going too in depth, this is AirLand Battle in a nutshell.
Another lesson learned from WWII was that tanks were more effective when they worked in concert with close air support. Combined attacks by Sherman tanks and aircraft like the aforementioned P-47 spelled certain doom for German tanks. In order to carry this concept into the Cold War, the United States developed aircraft to fill the CAS role. While the Army was given the AH-64 Apache to kill tanks from the air, the Air Force was given the A-10 Lightning II.
Built by the same company that built the P-47 Thunderbolt (Republic Aviation was acquired by Fairchild Aircraft in 1965 to create Fairchild Republic), the Lightning II was the Fairchild Republic submission to the Air Force’s 1966 A-X aircraft program to acquire a low-cost attack aircraft. In 1970, the Air Force issued a more detailed request for proposals to the program including the mandate that the aircraft be equipped with a 30mm rotary cannon. On January 18, 1973, after a series of tests and trials, the Air Force announced that Fairchild Republic’s submission was selected and would enter production as the A-10. The new aircraft would be equipped with the GAU-8 30mm cannon which would be built by General Electric who won their own government contract in June of the same year.
The A-10 was designed to engage enemy armor in close proximity to friendly forces from very low altitude. In order to deliver precision fires and avoid hitting friendly forces, the A-10 was designed to be slow but tough. Its most important component, the pilot, is protected underneath by a titanium tub capable of withstanding armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds up to 23mm in caliber. The canopy, while not as strong, is made of ballistic glass and is capable of resisting small-arms as well as shrapnel from AA fire and missiles to a certain degree. The fuel tanks are separated from the fuselage to reduce the likelihood of damage. The fuel system is also self-sealing and lined with a reticulated polyurethane foam both inside and outside. In the event that all four main tanks are depleted, the A-10 is equipped with two self-sealing sump tanks that contain enough fuel for 230 miles of flight.
The tail of the A-10 bears a striking resemblance to WWII-era level bombers. This unusual design increases stability, like it did for those bombers, making the A-10 a very stable gun platform. This attribute is critical for a CAS aircraft. The tail also helps to mask the heat signature of the top-mounted engines. Though its twin GE TF34 turbofan engines produce just over 41 kN of thrust each (compared to the F-15 Eagle’s original Pratt Whitney F100 engines which produced over 100 kN of thrust each), the aircraft is capable of flight with just one engine. Similarly, the hydraulic flight systems are both double-redundant and are equipped with a manual backup system if both hydraulic systems fail. In all, the A-10 can fly with one engine, one half of the tail, one elevator, and half of a wing missing.
Here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for: the A-10’s massive gun. Yes, the GAU-8/A Avenger is bigger than a VW Beetle. Yes, it fires 3,900 rounds per minute (although it was originally designed to fire at either 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute as dictated by the pilot). Yes, it goes ‘BRRRT’ when it shoots. As mentioned previously, the A-10 was designed around its gun. Although the gun itself is mounted slightly to the port side of the aircraft, the gun actually fires centerline because the barrel firing location is on the starboard side at 9 o’clock. This is critical since the gun is powerful enough to affect the aircraft’s orientation if it mounted off-center. In fact, the Avenger produces 44.5 kN of rearward thrust when it fires. In theory, the A-10 could stall itself by firing its gun. However, because its rate of fire is so high, pilots usually fire in 1-2 second bursts. Its ammunition is also very special. Made of depleted uranium which is nearly twice as dense as lead and nearly three times as dense as iron, the A-10s 30x173mm rounds are designed to punch through enemy armor like a hot knife through butter. Depleted uranium also sharpens as it penetrates armor whereas tungsten, which is slightly denser, tends to dull on impact. As an added benefit, depleted uranium is cheap and readily available as a byproduct of uranium enrichment. The A-10 can carry up to 1,350 30mm rounds, the casings of which are cycled back into the ammunition drum to prevent them from striking the aircraft or getting sucked into the engines.
When it comes to design, it doesn’t get much simpler than the A-10. Designed to operate from forward bases with little to no logistical or maintenance support, many of the A-10s components are interchangeable between its port and starboard side, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The wing design, sturdy landing gear, and low-pressure tires allow for short takeoffs and landings from even the most rudimentary forward landing strips. Similarly, the high engine placement helps to keep foreign object debris from entering them while operating from semi-prepared runways. The skin of the aircraft is not load-bearing and can be replaced easily in the field. Additionally, whereas most military aircraft require external power sources from ground crews in order to start their engines, the A-10 is equipped with an auxiliary power unit. This allows it to start itself and, again, operate from forward airfields with little to no support. In all, the A-10 is extremely cheap to fly, costing just ,944 per hour of operation. For comparison, the F-16 costs ,278 while the F-35 costs a whopping ,455.
The A-10 is a Cold War aircraft designed to cut through lines of Soviet tanks. Instead, it found renewed purpose in the War on Terror. Its effectiveness on the battlefield made it a favorite of both its pilots and the ground troops that it supported. When Congress threatened to put it on the chopping block, A-10 fans quickly took to the internet to voice their support for the ‘Hog’. Today, just about everyone knows about the A-10. At the very least, they know the sound it makes—’BRRRT’.
The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.
Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.
The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.
Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).
So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.
But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.
The Navy received its first fleet CMV-22B Osprey this summer, signaling a new phase for the tiltrotor program.
The Bell-Boeing designed aircraft has expanded range needed for fleet operations, according to a Bell press release, with specifications to enhance Navy readiness. It replaced the Navy’s C-2A Greyhound earlier this year.
“This first fleet delivery marks a new chapter of the V-22 Tiltrotor program providing enhanced capabilities and increased flexibility to the U.S. Navy as they conduct important operational missions around the globe,” Shane Openshaw, Boeing vice president of Tiltrotor Programs and deputy director of the Bell Boeing team, stated in a press release.
The CMV-22B delivery to Naval Air Station North Island, California — a key acquisition milestone — is the third delivery from the program, with the first two aircraft located at Naval Air Station Patuxent River for development test, Marine Col. Matthew Kelly, V-22 Joint Program Manager, said in an email.
” … The fleet will prepare for and execute operational test, slated to begin later this year followed by initial operational capability (IOC), expected in 2021,” Kelly said in an email.
It officially took over the Carrier Onboard Delivery Mission in April, bringing more versatility and capability to the carrier strike group commander. It is the only aircraft in the airwing capable of landing on a carrier with the power module, Kelly added.
New V-22 is designed specifically for the Navy
Beyond the versatility a tiltrotor brings, the Navy variant is designed to operate on all of the types of ship certified for the MV-22B, including:
Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), for Vertical Replenishment (VR)
Tarawa and America-class landing helicopter assault ships (LHA),
Wasp-class landing helicopter dock ship (LHD),
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD),
Nimitz and Ford-class aircraft carriers (CVN) for both VR and Launch and Recovery (LR) operations, along with VR and/or LR operations to numerous naval supply ships in use today.
“It’s notable that a CMV-22B is expected to be able to fly directly to any of these types of ships operating further afield thanks to its available range,” Kelly said.
The aircraft will be used to transport personnel, mail, supplies and high-priority cargo from shore bases to aircraft carriers at sea, NAVAIR stated in a news update.
It also differs from the Marine Osprey by extended operational range, a beyond-line-of-sight HF radio, a public address system for passengers, and an improved lighting system for cargo loading. The extended range is provided by two 60-gallon tanks installed in the wing for an additional 120 gallons of fuel with the forward sponson tanks enlarged for increased fuel capacity.
The CMV-22B is anticipated to be fully operational by 2023, with 44 aircraft in its fleet.
Decades before America’s Space Shuttle would roar into the sky, the United States already had plans to field a reusable spaceplane. Born out of Germany’s World War II efforts to create a bomber that could attack New York and continue on to the Pacific, Boeing’s X-20 Dyna-Soar was to be a single-seat craft boosted into the sky atop American rockets.
It would soar in the sky in the blurred line between earth’s atmosphere and the vacuum of space, bouncing along the heavens before releasing its payload over Soviet targets miles below. The X-20 was a 1950s science fiction fever dream born of the nuclear age and the earliest days of the Cold War… And according to some experts, it very likely would have worked.
Operation Paperclip and the burgeoning Cold War
As World War II came to a close, the United States and Soviet Union’s relationship with one another was already beginning to sour. Nazi Germany’s war machine had torn through the continent, often on the backs of Germany’s state-of-the-art military technology, but geopolitics is a game of theater and pragmatism in equal measure. While the world ached for justice, defense officials in both America and the Soviet Union already saw the Cold War looming large on the horizon. Justice mattered in the minds of these leaders, but not quite as much as surviving the next great conflict to come.
Nazi technology had given Germany an advantage on multiple military fronts, and both America and the Soviet Union knew the scientists responsible for these technological leaps would soon be looking for a means to escape prosecution for their roles in the conflict. Both nations, recognizing the strategic advantage their knowledge could offer, quickly set about capturing as many Nazi scientists and researchers as they could. In the United States, this effort to leverage Germany’s scientists came to be known as Operation Paperclip.
In all, Operation Paperclip, which was organized by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and largely executed by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, brought some 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States following the war, where they were given roles in America’s ongoing military and technological efforts. NASA’s famed Wernher von Braun, the man who developed the Saturn V rocket that brought America to the moon, was perhaps the most high profile German scientist to come through Paperclip, but among the others were Walter Dornberger and Krafft Ehricke.
In their newfound roles at Bell Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturing firm, Dornberger and Ehricke first proposed the concept of a sort of vertical-launched bomber and missile in one. In Germany, they had called this theoretical platform the Silbervogel, or Silver Fish. Today, the plan seems quite logical: The vehicle would be sent aloft atop a rocket booster and propelled all the way into a sub-orbital but exoatmospheric altitude where it would briefly enter space, before gliding down toward the atmosphere and being “bounced” back up thanks to the vehicle’s wings.
Today, the idea of launching a reusable spaceplane into a suborbital altitude practically sounds run of the mill, thanks to similar concepts being leveraged by everything from nuclear ICBMs to the most advanced, cutting-edge hypersonic weapons, but Dornberger and Ehricke’s proposal was submitted in 1952 — five years before the Soviet Union would launch the world’s first man-made satellite into orbit. Operation Paperclip was devised specifically to leverage Germany’s scientists to help kick-start America’s own exotic military programs, and in hindsight, it’s hard to argue that the effort wasn’t a success, regardless of the ethical implications.
Working in the shadow of Sputnik
On October 1, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first man-made satellite. It was a small, metal sphere, measuring only about 23 inches in diameter, with four external radio antennas trailing behind it broadcasting signal pulses back to Soviet scientists, as well as the rest of the world. What followed has come to be known as the “Sputnik Crisis” in the Western world.
America had been the de facto world leader in terms of both military and economic might following the end of the Second World War, but the success of Sputnik placed America’s supremacy into question. The Soviets had matched America’s nuclear weapons with a test of their own in 1949, and again with the hydrogen bomb in 1953. Now, instead of matching America’s success, the Soviets were starting to take an intimidating lead.
The United States had taken to developing Dornberger and Ehricke’s concept in three separate programs: a rocket bomber (RoBo), a long-range reconnaissance vehicle (Brass Bell), and hypersonic weapons research. Just days after Sputnik 1 launched, the U.S. re-organized their efforts, combing all three programs into the new single Weapons System 464L program, also known as Dyna-Soar.
The new Dyna-Soar effort was to mature in three stages. Dyna-Soar 1 would be a research vehicle. Dyan-Soar 2 would add reconnaissance, and Dyna-Soar 3 would incorporate bombing capabilities. America intended to work fast, planning to test the first iteration by 1963 in glide trials, with powered trials to follow the next year. By then, the Dyna-Soar 2 was expected to exceed Mach 18 in powered flight. A missile based on the Dyna-Soar program was expected to enter service by 1968, with the spaceplane itself operational by 1974.
In order to meet these deadlines, proposals were fielded by both Bell Aircraft and Boeing. Despite Bell’s head start, Boeing ultimately secured the contract and set about work on developing what was to be the X-20 Dyna-Soar.
Building a Dyna-Soar
By 1960, the spaceplanes overall design was largely settled, leveraging a delta-shape and small winglets for control in place of a traditional tail. In order to manage the incredible heat of reentry, the X-20 would use super alloys like the heat-resistant René 41 in its frame, and molybdenum, graphite, and zirconia rods all used for heat shielding on the underside of the craft.
“It was a hot-temperature structure using a nickel super alloy,” said Dr. Richard Hallion, former Air Force chief historian.
“The leading edges of the wing would be made of an even more exotic alloy. There was provision for active cooling.”
That same year, astronauts were chosen to fly America’s new space bomber. Among them was a thirty-year-old Navy test pilot and aeronautical engineer named Neil Armstrong, who would go on to leave the program in 1962.
By the end of that same year, the program was given the designation X-20 and it was unveiled to the public in a ceremony held in Las Vegas. America’s mighty B-52 Stratofortress was chosen to air-drop the X-20 for in-atmosphere flight tests, and the first firing of the rocket booster intended for higher altitude drop-tests was also a success. The project was incredibly ahead of its time, while somehow also being entirely feasible with the technology of the day. In the early 1960s, it seemed all but assured that America would soon be flying space bombers.
Once built, the X-20 Dyna-Soar’s first mock-up measured 35 and a half feet long with a 20.4-foot wingspan. It used three retractable struts for landing. Although it would have its own A-4 or A-9 rocket engine to help it reach an exoatmospheric trajectory, it would effectively glide throughout most of its mission, dipping down into the atmosphere just far enough to create lift, which it would use to bounce back up, skipping across the air enveloping the earth like a stone over a pond. It would continue to skip until it had lost enough velocity to prevent another bounce back up, at which point the pilot would glide the craft back down to earth just like the Space Shuttle.
The X-20 Dyna-Soar goes extinct
Although the X-20 concept was quite literally out of this world, it was still technically feasible, and early tests suggested that the Dyna-Soar may indeed work as advertised. However, the program was also incredibly expensive, and with the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration moving forward with its Gemini program, America’s civilian leaders were becoming more interested in fielding an actual spacecraft they could use to compete with the Soviets, rather than a weapon that offered little in the way of international prestige.
“If we had pursued it as a black-world program like the U-2, it might have gone ahead,” explained Hallion. “I never saw any technical issue that would have been a show stopper.”
On December 10, 1963, the X-20 program was canceled. The United States had invested $410 million in its development, or more than $3.5 billion in 2021 dollars, but the Dyna-Soar was still a long way off from being the space bomber it was intended to become. Even per Hallion’s positive recollection of the effort, the X-20 was still at least two-and-a-half years away from working and would have required at least another $370 million to complete. A space bomber would indeed offer global range, but in 1957, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the B-52, the same bomber tasked with helping test the X-20, could circle the globe all on its own, without any need for pricey rockets.
Upon canceling the X-20 program, the U.S. government diverted its remaining funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory effort that used Gemini spacecraft to demonstrate the value of a crewed military presence in Earth’s orbit.
But the X-20 was not completely swallowed up by history. Elements of the program could be found in NASA’s Space Shuttle, and of course, the Space Force’s secretive X-37B bears more than a passing resemblance to the X-20. The X-37B is not touted as a space bomber and almost certainly isn’t, but the reusable spaceplane may, in fact, be one of America’s most capable reconnaissance assets.
Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.
Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.
We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.
Can’t go wrong with any of these choices
9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.
Near the top of every Marine’s gift list
Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.
Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.
Please, check on your friends this time of year
An ear and a shoulder
Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.
If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.
What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.
Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.
New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.
To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.
ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.
(U.S. Army illustration)
“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.
This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.
Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.
Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.
The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.
Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.
“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”
At a quick glance, the rules as outlined by the Geneva Conventions on which weapons are allowed (and disallowed) to be used in combat make little sense. The objective of combat is, ultimately, to put an enemy down so the conflict will end — and yet such killing must be done via the most humane means available.
Weapons like a nuclear ICBM are strongly condemned by the international community — but a depleted uranium tank buster round is fine. A Browning .50 caliber Machine Gun is entirely legal, but simply shaving a side of a bullet is a war crime. Incendiary grenades are banned, but (and it’s very explicitly stated) a flamethrower was permitted and often used during the Vietnam War.
So how, exactly, do the Geneva Conventions delineate what is and isn’t allowed when killing the enemy? It all boils down to two simple words: military necessity.
This idea of the Conventions was to keep war as humane as possible, not just for the sake of civilians that may be in the area of operations, but for combatants. This is achieved by limiting the infliction of undue harm.
It’s understood that, by the very nature of combat, one side’s troop will be required to end the life of the other, but such killing doesn’t need to be sadistic or cruel. The previously-mentioned shaved bullet, or “dum-dum round,” is banned because, instead of entering the human body and either exiting or stopping, a dum-dum round ricochets around the organs, causing an extreme level of pain before ultimately killing via internal bleeding.
Say the enemy is attacking troops from a positioned reinforced by armor. The troops in that position are allowed to use the lowest-level solution to counter enemy actions. Sure, an ICBM would technically get the job done, but that’s escalating the situation to an extreme level, putting civilians at unnecessary risk. Still, The troops something to punch through that armor, like a depleted uranium tank buster round.
It’s not quite as cut-and-dry as that, though. “Military necessity” accounts for what’s available at any given moment. If troops roll up in a vehicle outfitted with an M2 machine gun and terrorists open fire, troops aren’t required to fall back and find something a little less powerful than the .50 cal they have on hand.
That being said, the use of weapon, round, or weapon system must be carefully considered when there’s a chance civilians are in the area. After all, the objective of a given conflict is to stop the enemy by whatever means — not to harm innocents.
With those qualifying factors in mind, let’s consider a weapon like the flamethrower. Despite its reputation, this weapon wasn’t designed solely to roast the enemy alive. The flamethrower’s intended use is to clear out hard-to-reach tunnels and bunkers when sending in troops with only conventional means would likely result in their deaths. This same justification can be applied to thick forests or jungles.
It cannot, however, be used as the sole weapon of a troop, unless it is the only weapon on hand, and it cannot be used to specifically destroy the plant cover to prevent it from spreading, unless the plant cover is being used by the enemy as a military objective.
The aftermath of using a flamethrower isn’t something that can be controlled, so it’s highly discouraged, but not forbidden if used with caution.
A U.S. congressman and former Army infantry officer has started a company that makes an exact replica of the rifle wielded by soldiers he fought against in Iraq.
Dubbed the “Tabuk,” the Iraqi-made AK-47-style rifle remains a rare collectible and cannot be brought back to the United States. However, veterans who want a souvenir of their service in Iraq can get one made in detail to look and act the part.
And best of all, they have Iraq veteran to thank.
Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell is one of the founders and owners of Two Rivers Arms in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is making the replica Tabuk rifles and other Iraqi-designed arms. Retired from the Army in 2006 after helping lead the mission to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq during Operation Red Dawn, Russell is now a Republican congressman representing Oklahoma’s 5th district.
The replica Tabuk his company makes is a semi-automatic, long-stroke gas piston operated rifle chambered in 7.62×39 mm with a rotating bolt and firing from a detachable 30-round box magazine. And all of the original markings on an Iraqi Tabuk have been replicated to exacting detail.
In the Late 1970s Saddam Hussein ordered his Ministry of Defense to start production on a domestically made variant of the AKM. This was in the middle of the on again, off again war between Iraq and Iran and a reliable supply of small arms was needed. As the Iraqi military already had a good relationship with the former (at that time current) Yugoslavia an easy partnership was formed and tooling and training delivered.
The new Iraqi made AKMs were dubbed the Tabuk and were identical copies of the Yugo M70B1 and M70AB2 rifles.
Russell and his company spared no expense in making the replica Tabuk as close to the ones U.S. troops saw in Iraq as possible. In fact, they’re so authentic looking, Two Rivers Arms-made Tabuk rifles were used in the movie “American Sniper.”
The right side of the rear sight base on the Two Rivers-made rifle is marked “Tabuk” and “Cal. 7.62x39mm” in English just as on the original. Two Rivers Arms took special care to match the style, size and font of all the engravings using original samples. On the left side of the rear sight block is found the same text as on the right but in Arabic.
In between the name and caliber designation is the lion circle emblem that appears on all Tabuks. This is supposed to represent the Lion of Babylon standing in front of a pyramid and surrounded by a circle. The lion is standing over a prostrate man and has a saddle on its back as in legend it was ridden by Ishtar the Babylonian goddess of love and war.
A final touch of authenticity is that every rifle comes with an exact reproduction of the Iraqi instruction manual issued to troops and manufactured from an original and hard to find manual. It is of course in Arabic.
The Two Rivers Arms Tabuk replica rifle comes in at about $1,200.
Tesla Cybertruck’s controversial style and decked out armor-like exterior and towing capability seem like overkill for everyday driving, but they could be perfect for camping just about anywhere.
During the presentation, Tesla emphasized that the Cybertruck is “completely adaptable for your needs.” The company is marketing the truck as the best of a truck and a sports car, but information on its website hints at other future possibilities.
The most expensive edition of the Cybertruck has 100 cubic feet of storage space, which would be useful for camping gear.
Tesla’s renderings at least show that the company is thinking about the possibility of a camper conversion, with one image showing a tent attached over the truck bed and what appears to be cooking attachments on the tailgate.
Tesla fans have shown an interest in converting their electric vehicles into more comfortable places to sleep in the past. Dreamcase sells mattresses designed for specific car models, designed to “transform your car into a luxury double bed.” It already sells mattresses for three current Tesla models.
Regardless of whether Tesla releases more information about possible camper conversions, the Cybertruck design already has the ability to tow an RV. The Cybertruck has a towing capacity of up to 14,000 lbs, which is more than enough to tow even the heaviest Airstream on the market.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.