NASA wants to build a 'quieter' supersonic aircraft - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award of a contract for the design, building, and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began April 2, 2018, and runs through Dec. 31, 2021.


Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.

Once NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it’s safe to operate in the National Airspace System.

Beginning in mid-2022, NASA will fly the X-plane over select U.S. cities and collect data about community responses to the flights. This data set will be provided to U.S. and international regulators for their use in considering new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land, which could enable new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pentagon urges US to lead in 5G technology

The next advancement in cellular technology, 5G, is expected to be so fast that it’s able to surpass the speed of wired internet now provided by cable companies.

Current 4G technology provides download speeds of about 1 gigabit per second. With 5G technology, download speeds are expected to increase to 20 gigabits per second, said Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Lord spoke yesterday at the Atlantic Council here to discuss the Defense Department’s efforts to advance 5G technology in the United States and to ensure that when 5G does make its debut, it’s secure enough to transmit information between U.S. military personnel and its allies without being intercepted by potential adversaries.


U.S. and allies must take lead

That means the U.S. and its allies will need to take the lead in developing this next generation of telecommunications technology, she said.

“When we talk about 5G, everything is going to be moving over it, eventually,” Lord said. “What we need to do is make sure how that information is moving, and how you can get at it, and how you can keep it secure.”

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Lord likened development of the 5G infrastructure and technology to that of a new home. She said new home owners certainly would want to know that whoever built their home, wired it for electricity, installed the communications systems, or installed the doors and windows hadn’t also built in a way for them to sneak back into that house undetected after the new owners had moved in.

“That’s where we are with 5G,” Lord said. “If we are going to run our entire warfighting ecosystem though communications — which is where we are today — we need to make sure that when we send a critical message that others aren’t hearing it. We need to be able to test that.”

On the modern battlefield, and on the battlefield of the foreseeable future, communications is going to play a critical role, Lord said. Information must flow between mounted and dismounted soldiers, from ships at sea and from those under the sea, as well as to space and aircraft.

“In order to get relevant situational understanding, we are trading information back and forth all the time,” she said. “What will happen is, if we do not embrace 5G, and we are just getting going in 4G in a lot of areas, we are going to have a latency or a delay in those conversations that could render everything we have as ineffective.”

U.S. industry and partners must provide advancements

Advancements in 5G must come from U.S. industry and U.S. partners to be trustworthy and reliable, Lord said.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

“Right now there is quite an intensive dialogue going on to understand where in Europe we might partner,” Lord said. “And there has been an enormous amount of discussion about the threat that we see by the Chinese — theft of intellectual property — coming into our networks. We have to collectively decide how we are technically going to secure our networks — how we legislatively have to have protection.”

Lord said a whole-of-government approach is needed to get a handle on 5G. The State, Treasury and Commerce departments and the National Security Council should be involved along with DOD, she said.

“I think you are going to see a huge call to action this year to come together with really what is almost a national industrial policy for 5G, because the stakes are high,” Lord added. “5G from a technology point of view is a huge opportunity, but it’s a huge threat.

“If we don’t embrace it and apply it towards our goals, we could be overcome quickly with technical overmatch,” she continued. “And we can’t allow that to happen. … We have a warfighting imperative. If we cannot communicate as quickly, or quicker than our adversaries, if we cannot have situational understanding as to what is happening on the battlefield, then we are going to be in a position where our national security is threatened.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian pilot just flew their stealth fighter like a convertible

Recently surfaced images and a brief video show Russia’s premier stealth fighter, the Su-57 Felon, flying without the canopy enclosure for the aircraft’s cockpit. While there isn’t a great deal of information available to go along with the footage, it seems very likely that the canopy was not lost due to an accident, but was rather removed intentionally for a specific type of flight testing known as a “cockpit habitability trials.”


giant.gfycat.com

We first spotted this footage on Reddit, uploaded by user u/st_Paulus, but the event also caught the attention of Scramble Magazine, who posted a screen capture to their Facebook account, credited to a Twitter user they called Hao Goa.

It’s obviously pretty unusual to see a pilot at the stick of an airborne, supersonic fighter without the protection of the cockpit canopy, but these somewhat rare tests are vital in the development of an aircraft. Pilots use these flights to test different aspects of the platform’s emergency escape procedures in a realistic and dynamic environment. A photo of BAE test Pilot Keith Hartley conducting a similar flight aboard a Tornado XZ630 in the late ’80s has made its way around the aviation circles of the internet for years, though it’s tough to come by images or video of these tests on other platforms.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(BAE Systems)

“In 1988, our test pilot Keith Hartley flew at 500 knots in a Tornado aircraft with the canopy off, testing the emergency escape procedures of the jet; just one example of the lengths we go to test the safety of the planes we build for the RAF.”
-BAE Systems on Twitter

Obviously, flying without your cockpit canopy comes with some significant risk. Not only does the canopy protect the pilot from the incredible winds associated with flying a high speed aircraft, it also exposes the pilot to intense cold, and as anyone who’s ever ridden in a convertible will tell you, all that wind noise can be pretty distracting. Other common threats to aircraft (like bird strikes or inclement weather) can also be exacerbated by the loss of a protective layer between the pilot and the outside world. Fighter jet cockpits are pressurized, though not in the same way as most commercial airlines. Instead, the cockpits of most fighters maintain ambient air pressure until they climb above a certain altitude. Without the canopy, flying above that altitude would be extremely dangerous, despite the pilot’s mask-fed oxygen supply.

Risk be damned, these tests can help to ensure the procedures you train pilots to execute during emergency situations really work. In other words, the risk is a calculated one meant to save lives.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(WikiMedia Commons)

Russia’s Su-57 Felon is the nation’s first stealth fighter, and has suffered a number of setbacks along the long road to production. Originally intended as a joint effort shared between Russia and India, India backed out of the agreement in 2018. While public statements remained civil, it has widely been rumored that India’s lost interest could be attributed to issues with the new aircraft’s stealth capabilities; potentially brought about by Russia’s inability to manufacture body panels with the incredibly tight production tolerances required to limit the radar return of an aircraft.

Continuing on their own, Russia built about a dozen Su-57s which have served as a token force of fifth-generation aircraft for the Russian military, while offering little in the way of actual combat capability. Late last year, Russia announced that they would finally begin serial production of the Su-57… only to have the first aircraft to roll off the production line promptly, and embarrassingly, crash during testing.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Su-57 being built (United Aircraft Corporation)

However, recent images of production Su-57s suggest that the aircraft may indeed be better than its prototypical predecessors, with seemingly tighter panel tolerances that just might make Russia’s stealth fighter a bit stealthy after all.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY MOVIES

3 pieces of military tech from ‘The Mandalorian’ that we’re already working on

It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about “The Mandalorian,” but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.

What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for a space western (I am, after all, a card carrying Browncoat), but it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Mandalorian” is choke full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century, but is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.

While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s fair warning: spoilers ahead.


What sort of tech is that? Well there’s…

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(Disney)

Weapons that can see through walls

In episode 3 of “The Mandalorian,” Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, but is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.

Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.

Lumineye Through Wall Sensing Demo

www.youtube.com

This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR based rather than using radar technology. As FLIR themselves point out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow the detection of heat signatures, putting Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction… unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(Disney)

Jet Packs that actually work

Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of “The Mandalorian” (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack, which made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. By the end of episode 3, we do get to see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence, proving that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.

While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created “The Mandalorian”). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth

www.youtube.com

Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back like you see in “The Mandalorian,” so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… but dual wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(Disney)

A grappling cable that works

Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys, and while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s, but are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago, but I didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

(Alex Hollings)

A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory, and the exact system I used has since been contracted to the Chinese government for their special operators.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


popular

This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coast Guard watch opens fire on shark as it closes in on swimming crew

A member of the “shark watch” on a Coast Guard cutter had to open fire on a shark this week to dissuade it from continuing to approach his crew mates.

When you’re out on the open ocean, even recreational activities require proper planning and safety precautions, as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball demonstrated in dramatic photos released earlier this week.


A carefully planned swim call, or a period of recreational swimming organized by the ship’s crew, started like any other — with rescue swimmers standing by and an armed “shark watch” standing guard from an elevated position, keeping his eyes trained on the surface of the water for any signs of danger.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a swim call (Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard maintains a “shark watch” or a “polar bear watch” any time crew members are in the water and there’s potential for danger posed by indigenous wildlife. This time, it was Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron who was tasked with keeping a lookout for any aspiring “Jaws” star as other members of the crew got a chance to kick back and enjoy the warm Pacific water.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron on Shark Watch (Coast Guard)

It wasn’t long before Cintron and others spotted the grey silhouette of what appeared to be a longfin mako or pelagic thresher shark approaching the swimming crew. Cintron stood ready, and as the shark closed to within 30 feet or so of the swimmers, Cintron was ordered by his chief to open fire. The gunfire likely came as a real shock to the swimmers; many of whom were not aware of the approaching shark until the shots rang out.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball

www.facebook.com

Cintron fired a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away,” according to a post on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page. It seemed to do the trick at first, only to have the shark once again turn and close with the swimming crew, who were now working to evacuate the water in a calm and organized manner. As the shark once again closed to within 30 or so feet, Cintron fired another burst.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Cintron firing on the approaching shark. (Coast Guard photo)

“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.

It’s important to note that bullets lose a significant amount of energy the minute they impact water. In fact, it’s common for bullets to come apart and tumble harmlessly in just a few inches of water. There was no blood in the water near the shark, and according to Coast Guard public affairs, there were no indications that the predator was injured in the altercation.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball

www.facebook.com

The close encounter with a shark ultimately proved harmless, with the entire crew back on board and only one reported injury (a scrape, ironically enough, right in the middle of a tattoo of shark jaws on one crew member’s leg). Still, this unusual engagement is incredibly rare. According to Military.com’s Patricia Kime, the last reported shark sighting during a Coast Guard or Navy swim call was in 2009, and no shots were fired.

“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the upgrade M2 Browning fans have been waiting for

The M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun — fondly referred to as “Ma Deuce” — is rightly seen as a legend, with over 80 years of service to the troops. This machine gun has outlasted attempts to replace it, including the XM312 in recent years. But if there is one complaint about it – yes, even legendary guns draw complaints – it’s that it’s too heavy and it only shoots about 635 rounds per minute.


Well, there’s not been much progress on the former. The M2 comes in at about 84 pounds, per GlobalSecurity.orgThe GAU-19 did a good job addressing the “slow” rate of fire, but it packed on 22 pounds. So, that and the GAU-19’s need for electricity rules it out as an option for grunts. But they still want to send more lead downrange.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
The GAU-21, also known as the M3M, can fire 1,100 rounds a minute. (Photo from FN America)

Thankfully, there is an answer: the GAU-21, also known as Fabrique Nationale’s M3M machine gun. This is a modified version of Ma Deuce that, according to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo in Washington, D.C., is able to fire up to 1,100 rounds a minute. Not quite the 1,300 of the GAU-19, but still very impressive.

The real nice thing is that the M3M does this and comes in at just under 80 pounds. That’s a four-pound drop from the baseline M2. Now, the 26-pound difference may not seem like much, but that’s 26 pounds that a grunt doesn’t have to carry, leaving them more space for ammo, rations, or extra first-aid supplies.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
A flight of F-86 Sabres over Korea led by Benjamin O. Davis. Their battery consisted of six M3M machine guns, known today as the GAU-21. (USAF photo)

The M3M can be used on aircraft (one notable user was the F-86 Sabre), land vehicles (often mounted on the same pintles as Ma Deuce), and on naval vessels. It was the secondary armament of the M1097 Avenger, and also was used on OH-58 helicopters. In short, this gun provides a lot of firepower without the weight.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are some ‘Star Wars’ fan theories about Rey’s red lightsaber

The newest teaser for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” contains a climactic moment that has fans buzzing: Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber.

Disney debuted the new look at the upcoming movie, which hits theaters in December 2019, over the weekend at its biannual fan event D23 Expo. Now that the teaser is available on YouTube, fans are going wild with theories about Rey’s possible turn to the dark side.

The Force-sensitive heroine has historically used a single-bladed blue lightsaber, which formerly belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker.


The “Star Wars” franchise has always taken lightsaber ownership very seriously, so it makes sense that fans are analyzing Rey’s new weapon.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Rey is portrayed by Daisy Ridley.

(Star Wars/YouTube)


“We take to heart the lesson that Obi-Wan tried to impart to Anakin: ‘This weapon is your life.’ We’re not ones to lose track of lightsabers,” Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo told Vanity Fair in 2017.

The movies have hinted at Rey’s connection to the dark side before

In many ways, Rey is drawn as a parallel to Kylo Ren, a powerful servant of the dark side.

It’s still unclear, however, whether their similarities are because Rey is drawn towards the dark side or because of Kylo’s remaining connection to the light side. It could also be rooted in a secret familial relationship, since Kylo Ren was born Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa — and eventual student of Luke Skywalker.

Writer Sarah Sahim also noticed that Rey’s weapon on the poster for “The Force Awakens” is literally drawn parallel to Kylo’s red lightsaber, creating a clear resemblance to the double-bladed red lightsaber.

The red lightsaber could mean that Rey will turn to the dark side — and fans are kind of into it

Subtle details from the teaser have led some fans to believe Rey will actually embrace the dark side in “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Rey’s theme music is played in a deeper, darker key, for instance. The footage is narrated by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard in the background just moments before “dark Rey” appears.

Even though a turn to the dark side would be detrimental to her heroic arc, many “Star Wars” fans were captivated by the image of “dark Rey.”

Some believe the moment in the teaser is a “Force vision”

Responding to a fan on Twitter, Nerdist writer Lindsey Romain said it’s “definitely a possibility” that Rey’s red lightsaber moment is “a vision of what she could become” — though she wrote for Nerdist that she believes a real dark turn for Rey is more compelling.

Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson is more convinced of the vision theory. Replying to Romain on Twitter, she attached a photo of Luke’s Force vision from the Dagobah cave, where he sees his own face wearing Darth Vader’s beheaded helmet.

The image of “dark Rey” could be a warning, showing the young hero what she could become and has to avoid.

The “dark Rey” image could also be Force vision for Kylo. It’s possible that Kylo secretly fears that the dark side will win, or the image is being used by Palpatine to manipulate him — in Romain’s words, “to taunt the poor boy about what could have been.”

Another theory is that Rey, or a Rey clone, will be possessed by Emperor Palpatine or another Sith lord

We already know that Palpatine will play a major role in the upcoming film. In addition to narrating the trailer, he’s shown as a massive and menacing presence on the newly released poster.

Palpatine could somehow possess Rey and force her towards the dark side.

Alan Johnson, the Director of Influencer Relations at WB Games, believes that “dark Rey” is one of many Rey clones.

“I still think Rey is a clone and the Sith version from the new ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ trailer is a clone that has been activated and possessed by Emperor Palpatine,” he wrote on Twitter. “The vision she had in ‘The Last Jedi’ screamed ‘clone’ to me at the time.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The US slammed Russia for moving more weapons into Syria

Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.

Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia “should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry.”


Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike early April 2018.

“This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime’s atrocities,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens.

Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, 2018, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down “any” US missile.

Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria’s ally, has provided air support and training for Assad’s military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians.

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



MIGHTY CULTURE

This aircraft just made history as the largest aircraft to fly

The world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch, flew for the first time on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The massive aircraft took off from the Mojave Air & Space Port’s Civilian Aerospace Test Center in California at 06:58 Pacific Daylight Time and conducted an initial test flight that lasted 2.5 hours achieving a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet and a top speed of 189 MPH before landing.

The aircraft, designed to carry spacecraft to atmospheric launch, can carry a payload of up to 500,000 pounds or 250 tons according to Stratolaunch Launch Systems. The gigantic Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan in the world at 117.3 meters (384.8 feet), significantly larger than the previous record holder, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” heavy lift cargo aircraft. The Stratolaunch is powered by six enormous Pratt & Whitney PW4000 jet engines formerly used on the Boeing 747 that only used four engines.


April 13, 2019’s flight was a remarkable moment in aviation history, attended by aircraft enthusiasts and media from around the world. Aviation photographers ringed the outer fences of the Mojave Air Space Port to shoot photos and video of the historic event. Within minutes of Stratolaunch’s takeoff the internet came alive with photos and video of the historic event.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Stratolaunch makes a low pass over the Mojave Air Space Port on Saturday during its first flight. Note the unusual near-vertical flap confirmation for landing.

(Stratolaunch)

Weather conditions for Stratolaunch’s first flight were ideal, with early morning temperatures in the 40’s to 50’s, light winds, minimum visibility of 10 miles reported by aviation weather surfaces and temperatures rising to 62 degrees Fahrenheit by 1030 local time.

Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd, who watched the aircraft takeoff for the first time Saturday morning, told reporters, “What a fantastic first flight”. Floyd went on to remark, “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

Stratolaunch First Flight

www.youtube.com

April 13, 2019’s first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas. Thomas is a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, F-16 pilot and former Vice Wing Commander of the 46th Test Wing and former Director of NATO Combined Air Operations Center 5. Evan Thomas has also been senior test pilot for Calspan Corporation and has been a test pilot at Scaled Composites for over a year. His specialties in test flight include aviation and test safety, aircraft stability and control testing and operational leadership of flight test teams.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Stratolaunch Chief Test Pilot Evan Thomas, who flew the aircraft on its historic first flight.

(Stratolaunch)

Test Pilot Evan Thomas told reporters after the first flight that, “The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want the first flight to be, and for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted, which is again exactly what we want.”

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft

Stratolaunch touches down after a successful first test flight.

(Stratolaunch)

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why grave-robbing Confederate generals is big business

In April, 2013, an iron casket was found pulled out of its grave and its contents were spilled all over the Old Church Cemetery near Waynesboro, Ga. A man, later found to be Ralph “Bubba” Hillis, and a partner had taken to digging up graves in the cemetery.

Why target this little cemetery? Because it was filled with the remains of Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers.


NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
(Sgt. Sean Cochran, Burke County Sheriff)

The issue of grave robbing by those searching unique, ancient artifacts is a huge problem the world over, especially in places like Egypt, Peru, and Cambodia. These are areas filled with archaeological treasures and a steady flow of individuals who are struggling economically and are willing to risk punishment to go dig up said artifacts for the right price.

And that price can always be found. Illegally-sold Egyptian antiquities are found all over the world as they make their way from the Valley of the Kings to Syria to Dubai to New York and, finally, to whatever buyer is waiting at their final destination. Eager collectors are just waiting to find the right artifact from the right seller at the right price. The same technology that brings the world closer together also brings looters and grave robbers closer to these buyers.

Online sales and auction sites like eBay make it possible for individuals to make these transactions in short order, while the popularity of television shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers show just how easy it is to profit from a few authentic pieces of history. The ease of selling ill-gotten items and the interest garnered by their value and origins are making grave robbing a profitable crime right here in the United States, too.

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A sword like this one, which belonged to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, is worth tens of thousands of dollars. This example was never dug up from a grave, however.

The value of Civil War-era artifacts has lead to the growth of a booming black market. A single button from a Confederate uniform can net as much as 0. Full uniforms and medals can fetch anywhere from 0 to thousands of dollars for the right collector. According to Southern antiques brokers, an officer’s sword is worth anywhere from ,000 and ,000 — it doesn’t even matter if that officer was a general.

Two big things make dealing in black-market Confederate artifacts so profitable. The first is how rarely these sorts of things are available at auction. Electronic tracking, official dealers, and mandatory identification make it very difficult to illegally transport Civil War relics. The second is the inability to track the authenticity of the artifacts themselves. As you can imagine, Confederate records were kept only for as long as the Confederacy existed, which means there are plenty of legitimate artifacts that lack a kept record.

As a result, there is treasure literally buried all over the South.

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Archaeologists carry out a dig at New Mexico’s Fort Craig cemetery, where the remains of dozens of soldiers and children were secretly exhumed after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting.

(U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

And people are starting to go dig for it — risking stiff prison terms.

But don’t be concerned that your local Civil War museum or historical society is dealing in stolen goods or housing grave-robbed artifacts. You can be reasonably certain that anything accepted by a legitimate museum was purchased with a clear record of ownership and was probably tracked through INTERPOL.

Authorities are now taking to hiring archaeologists to exhume grave-robbed Civil War-era sites in order to preserve the history entombed there while keeping them from being looted again in the future.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the plane that almost beat out the legendary F-16

You may know Chuck Yeager as the man who broke the sound barrier, but back in the 1980s, he was also pitching a new fighter jet — one that arguably would have been on par with some of today’s fighters.


NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
The Northrop F-20 Tigershark. (USAF photo)

That jet was the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. First known as the F-5G, it was a program to give American allies an advanced multi-role fighter to replace older F-5E/F Tiger IIs. The Tiger was a good plane, but arguably at a disadvantage against jets like the MiG-23 Flogger. The Soviet Union was also widely exporting the MiG-21 Fishbed and the world needed a response.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
A Soviet Air Force MiG-23 Flogger. (US Air Force)

American allies had a problem, though. Under President Jimmy Carter, the United States would not release the F-15 Eagle or F-16 Fighting Falcon to many of them. Israel got lucky, and was able to buy the planes, but most other allies had to settle for something less capable. Northrop’s privately-funded venture fit the bill.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
An F-16 Fighting Falcon refueling over Afghanistan (Photo US Air Force)

The F-20 replaced the two J85 turbojet engines typical of the F-5E with a single F404 turbofan, like those used on the F/A-18. It also had the ability to fire the AIM-7 Sparrow, a semi-active radar-guided missile. Northrop also got Chuck Yeager to serve as the pitchman.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
Yeager wearing his star. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The F-20 proved to be very easy to maintain, was cheap (aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that a $15 million per plane price tag was quoted), and had a number of advances that made it a capable interceptor. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-20 had a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour and a range of 1,715 miles. Three prototypes were built, and a fourth would have had more fuel capacity and the ability to use drop tanks.

NASA wants to build a ‘quieter’ supersonic aircraft
A F-20 Tigershark fires an AGM-65 Maverick missile. (USAF photo)

 

The problem was, even with Chuck Yeager pitching it, the Air Force and Navy didn’t want the plane. The last chance for this plane’s success came and went when the Air National Guard declined to replace F-106 Delta Darts and F-4 Phantoms with it, opting instead for modified F-16s. Learn more about this fighter-that-could-have-been below:

Articles

How one Soviet agent single-handedly changed the course of World War II

When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.

Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently. 

At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it. 

Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.

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Sorge (left) in uniform in 1915 (German Federal Archive)

It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China. 

Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.

That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself. 

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He was so good at peddling fake Nazi bullsh*t that he had this guy buying in (German Federal Archive)

By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government. 

Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.

After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR. 

By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.

In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.

After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans. 

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This intel was crucial to the Soviets driving the Germans out of Stalingrad and turning the tide on the Eastern Front (Wikimedia Commons)

Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.


Feature image: German Federal Archive

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