MIGHTY SPORTS

After Action Report #2: A Special Forces vet picks his NFL performers of the week

Stats? Projections? F$%k that noise. Numbers can’t guarantee wins, but being a tough as nails sure helps. As the 2018 NFL Season enters its second week and fantasy football fans continue to debate advanced metrics, the veterans at We Are The Mighty are taking a different approach to finding the best players across the league.

This week, our team of self-declared fair-weather fans scouted the NFL to find the players worthy of serving on one the military’s most elite units: the Army Special Forces — Operational Detachment Alpha, known exclusively as the “A-Team.”

A Special Forces team is full of quiet professionals, each of whom has a set of unique, special skills, ranging from demolitions to weapons to communications. Earning your place on a Special Forces team takes training, time, and a little luck, but it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Can you perform under pressure?


This results-based mentality is exactly the same approach used by NFL players across the league and, in the season’s opening week, five players have distinguished themselves worthy of making the inaugural “A Team Report.” Some earned this distinguished honor by breaking records while others made the list via sheer, viking-level badassery. Either way, all the players on this week’s A-Team Report stepped up when it mattered.

Here are this week’s picks:

(NFL YouTube)

Defensive Back Prince Amukamara — Chicago Bears

Defensive Back Prince Amukamara and his first career pick-six.

(NFL YouTube)

Safety Shawn Williams — Cincinnati Bengals

Safety Shawn Williams strip sacks Quarterback Joe Flacco.

(NFL YouTube)

Quarterback Dak Prescott — Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback Dak Prescott completes a touchdown pass.

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Geronimo Allison — Green Bay Packers

Wide Receiver Geronimo Allison blocks a kick against the Minnesota Vikings.

(NFL YouTube)

Wide Receiver Keelan Cole — Jacksonville Jaguars

Wide Receiver Keelan Cole completes a one-handed catch

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Drone Dogfight: Air Force plans to pit manned fighter against a drone next year

The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.

Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.


As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.

Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)

Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.

Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.

A hawk for hunters

The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.

Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.

“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3).
“What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”

As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.

Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.

Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.

“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military loves the Hellfire missile

When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.


Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.

The Hellfire was test-fired from a version of the M113 armored personnel carrier. (US Army photo)

After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.

The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.

But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.

A Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35, fires an AGM-114M Hellfire missile near San Clemente Island, Calif., during a live-fire combat training exercise. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez)

The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.

Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlV4ey_AEOw
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy may soon have a way to shoot down hypersonic missiles

The U.S. Navy plans to begin deploying interceptors that can shoot down hypersonic missiles aboard some Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in just a few years. Though some critics counter that the Navy’s timeline seems awfully optimistic, as no existing missile defense system has proven capable of intercepting an inbound hypersonic weapon.


Hypersonic missiles fly in excess of Mach 5, and potentially much faster than that, making them so much faster than the ballistic and cruise missiles previously employed by national militaries that even advanced air defense systems like America’s destroyer-based Aegis Combat Systems can’t find and shoot down hypersonic missiles in flight. This has raised the alarm among many within the Defense Department, both in order to field America’s own hypersonic weapons and, of course, to find ways to defend against those employed by foreign militaries.

There are different methods of achieving hypersonic velocities with a missile, including scramjet propulsion that often requires either a rocket-assist at launch or deployment from fast moving aircraft, as scramjet motors require a high volume of airflow in order to effectively operate. Conversely there are also hypersonic “glide vehicles,” which are traditionally carried to a high altitude using a rocket motor similar to those employed on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The hypersonic glide vehicle then separates from the booster and travels back to earth at exceedingly high speeds. In fact, some of these missiles travel so fast that the kinetic transfer of their impact is enough to sink a vessel without the need for an explosive warhead.

The United States has been fairly public about its efforts to begin fielding its own suite of hypersonic missiles in the coming years, but until recently, America’s Defense Department has echoed the popular consensus that hypersonic weapons can’t be stopped. Now, however, America’s Regional Glide Phase Weapon System (RGPWS) is seeing rapid development for the purposes of deployment specifically (at least initially) aboard America’s advanced destroyers.

America already relies heavily on its fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers for missile defense, which some critics have called a waste of destroyer bandwidth. When serving in an air defense role, U.S. Navy destroyers are left criss-crossing specific areas of ocean to maximize their ability to intercept inbound missiles, which, some argue, is a waste of a platform that’s capable of supporting a wide variety of defense operations. However, it seems the U.S. Navy’s plan for hypersonic defense will also leverage the multiple launch tubes available on America’s destroyers, effectively guaranteeing the continued use of destroyers for missiles defense for years to come.

The RGPWS system has apparently been designed specifically for use in the Mk. 41 vertical launch tubes utilized by America’s destroyers and other vessels, which will allow this hypersonic-intercept capability to be rapidly deployed and adopted aboard existing vessels with little need for modifications. According to the Navy, this will allow America to “proliferate the capability” across the force very rapidly.

This system is specifically tailored toward the glide-vehicle method of hypersonic weapon propulsion, designed to engage an inbound hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) during its un-powered glide phase, which despite its extraordinary speed, is the point I which these platforms are most vulnerable to intercept.

Of course, in order to effectively intercept HGVs, the Navy will need advanced warning of their launch. In order to do so, the Navy is working with the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency to field a new space-based sensor system that is expected to be operational within the next three years. Using the early warning provided by this new sensor array, the RGPWS will theoretically be capable of projecting the trajectory of HGVs and intercept them before they’re able to reach their target.

While the RGPWS system will be limited to destroyers initially, these systems will likely find their way into a variety of platforms, including ground and air-launched varieties. If the U.S. is able to find a way to reliably intercept inbound hypersonic weapons, America’s naval stature, and many defense official’s position on the future of aircraft carriers, will both likely shift. Currently, many law makers and defense officials are looking to de-emphasize the role of carriers in near-peer conflicts over fear of losing them to indefensible hypersonic weapons.

As for exactly how the RGPWS system will work–that much remains a secret for now.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Fantasy Football After Action Report: Week 3

Welcome to the Fantasy Football After Action Report: Week 3, where we separated the overreactions from the underestimations. So pull up a seat and grab a pad and a pen, because this after action report will help you see through the settling dust and give your lineup hope in week 4.


The NFL leader in yards per route run (3.26), air yards (291) and target share (38%) is also one the best separators in the game. Keenan Allen is on his way to a career year, boys.pic.twitter.com/kev2Wqflnk

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Blue chip medal

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers- Ladies and gentlemen, the number one receiver in fantasy football. It’s not close. He has 87.7 fantasy points, and the next closest, Julio Jones, has 69.5. What more does Keenan Allen have to do to prove to fantasy owners that he’s a sure thing? He’s got an accurate quarterback who loves him. He’s insanely consistent. He can run routes, he can catch, he’s a red-zone target. He’s arguably the most reliable player in all of fantasy football and could very well win you your league.

Russel Wilson, QB, Seahawks- This preseason Bill Simmons went on the record saying this could “be the year that Russel Wilson ends up on the waiver wire come week 8.” Well, it’s week four, and Russel Wilson is the fourth-highest scoring fantasy QB. He still uses his legs to make plays. His team is playing from behind, so he’s forced to throw the ball constantly, jacking his usability numbers way up. He’s a plug and play.

Terry McLaurin, WR, Redskins- Congratulations to Terry McLaurin for becoming We Are the Mighty’s first-ever Promotion Watch turned Blue Chip Medal winner. He is the fourth-highest scoring receiver in fantasy football. He is 110% bonafide the real deal.

Mark Ingram II, RB, Ravens– Mark Ingram keeps proving himself. He did it on the Saints last year, and he’s doing it this year, too. Even against a stout Chiefs defense—he put up RB1 numbers. Lamar Jackson’s playmaking ability stretches defenses out and causes them to play deep and to the hash, leaving room for Ingram to gash teams for big-time gains. He’s an RB1 moving forward.
A touchdown was not scored by Baker Mayfield and the Browns on this playpic.twitter.com/qsOib4JL7e

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Loss of rank

Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings- Well it’s week three and Diggs has six catches and 101 yards on the year. He is the 70th WR in fantasy football currently, and he couldn’t seem to make anything happen against an absolutely terrible Oakland secondary. Sound the alarm on Stefon Diggs. If you can trade him for 50 cents on the dollar—go buy yourself a couple of gumballs.

Sony Michel, RB, Patriots- How many more opportunities do you give Sony Michel to prove that he is worthy of a RB2/Flex start? He has played against some of the worst competition in the NFL. Last week, after James White’s absence, he was the only solid weapon in the backfield—and he still put up meager numbers. As of now, he is running back 43 in fantasy scoring. The Pats offense is electric, but Michel doesn’t have the spark this year.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns- Baker Mayfield is perhaps the least worrisome of the Loss of Rank winners (losers?) this week. He can still make plays with his legs, he is surrounded by weapons, and he doesn’t have a difficult schedule. However, there are five big problems, and they’re all supposed to be blocking for him. Cleveland’s offensive line is so atrocious that Baker gets jumpy within a half-second of getting the snap. He’s moving out of the pocket prematurely (been there, buddy) and making short-armed throws. His fantasy value was grossly overestimated moving into the season.

OJ Howard, TE, Buccaneers- OJ Howard finally racked up a couple of catches. Then he fumbled. He has had an abysmal start. He has little to no red zone targets (which is what his supporters cite when continuing to start him). He was even called out by head coach Bruce Arians after week one. They say insanity is repeating the same action expecting a different result. So if you have OJ Howard and start him, yet again, in week 4— look forward to 13 more weeks of padded white walls, dixie cup meds, and goose eggs from your tight end.

DAWSON KNOX IS ABOUT THAT ACTION (via @BuffaloBills)pic.twitter.com/Stkmy0AtPd

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Promotion watch

Daniel Jones, QB, Giants- Giants fans rejoice—the Eli Manning era has finally reached its end. And boy oh boy was it a coming-out party for Daniel Jones. In a poetic display of how much younger he is than Manning, Jones picked up 28 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. He was lethal in the air too, finishing with 336 passing yards and two more touchdowns. He is surely worth a waiver wire look, even with Saquon Barkley’s injury.

Philip Lindsay, RB, Broncos- Well if you were anything like us, Philip Lindsay brought his A-game to your bench this week. After a fortnight of slumber, Lindsay was a man possessed in week three. He has racked up 26 fantasy points and was clearly the red zone favorite over workhorse partner Royce Freeman. Keep a very close eye on Lindsay moving into week four.

Dawson Knox, TE, Bills- The Bills are surprising everyone this year. They are the Bills, though, and will find a way to mess up this success. One undeniable bright spot that can’t be buffed out is rookie tight end Dawson Knox. He finished with 67 yards (including one monster 49-yard catch and run that was a finalist for Badass hit of the week medal) and a TD. If you’re in a deep league or strapped for tight ends, give Knox a waiver nod.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Bears- File Taylor Gabriel under the same “sleepy start” tab as Philip Lindsay. The ex-Falcons receiver had an insane Monday night finishing with three touchdowns. Trubisky looked a bit sharper, too, which bodes well for any Chicago pass catcher. This was against a shaky Redskins secondary, so this promotion watch should be met with cautious vigilance.

Here’s Jeff Heath’s hit on Allen Hurns. Looked bad, but Hurns was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power. #MIAvsDALpic.twitter.com/SWrPpnypJI

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Badass hit of the week

Jeff Heath

Well, our two-game streak of offensive lineman winning the Badass Hit of the Week Medal has come to a violent end. Jeff Heath’s hit on ex-cowboys-teammate Allen Hurns can only be described as attempted gridiron murder (although it does look like he was trying to play the ball and ended up decapitating Hurns unintentionally in the process). According to multiple sources, Heath actually texted Hurns after the game and said he “hated the outcome of the play” and was “thinking about him.” Damn. Us too, man.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this weak, slow ship is the most important one in the fleet

She doesn’t look like much. Weighing in at just under 19,000 tons, this ship doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, either. She’s relatively slow with a top speed of 23 knots. So, when you look at a Blue Ridge-class ship, you may wonder to yourself, “just what the heck is this thing’s purpose?”


The short answer: She’s the brains of the fleet. To be more precise, she’s there to “provide command and control for fleet commanders” according to the United States Navy. But it’s not entirely uncommon for a lesser-armed ship to take on such an important role.

Back in World War II, the auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31) served as a flagship in the South Pacific for Admiral William F. Halsey. The transport USS MacCawley (APA 4) was used as the flagship for Admiral Richmond “Kelly” Turner until its loss in a friendly fire incident in 1943. The United States even converted a pair of amphibious ships, USS Coronado (APF 11) and USS LaSalle (AGF 3), to act as fleet flagships during the Cold War.

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)

The two-ship Blue Ridge-class, however, was built specifically for the task of enabling a fleet commander to handle his fleet. As a small, mobile command post, it is much less vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or enemies. There’s a lot of ocean to hide in, so you have to search really hard to find it.

If worst comes to worst, the Blue Ridge does have some emergency firepower. For self-defense, the ship is outfitted with two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. These 20mm guns are a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles, but this ship is intended to be well out of harm’s way. Its primary weapons are its array of communications antennae, allowing commanders to handle operations across an entire theater if need be.

The reason for these ships in one photo: It provides a secure location for command and control, allowing admirals and generals to run operations.

(DOD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

The Blue Ridge-class command ships will be around for at least 20 more years, if not longer — not bad for ships that were commissioned nearly 50 years ago!

Learn more about the brains of the United States Navy’s fleet in the video below.

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

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MIGHTY SPORTS

Why Americans should give a damn about soccer

Every sports bar across the world right now is packed to the brim as soccer football fans gather to cheer their country on for the FIFA World Cup. Argentina’s Lionel Messi came out of retirement for one last Cup. England’s Harry Kane is shaping up to be the best player of the tournament so far. And Brazil’s Neymar is making hilariously bad flops.

All while barely any Americans bother to check out the score. Admittedly, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team didn’t qualify this year but even when they did kick ass in 2014, Americans still don’t care.

There are several unjust reasons why most Americans don’t bother with our soccer teams. The elephant in the room is our own version of football. Historically speaking, America has always favored its own version of football and relegating what (nearly) everyone else in the world calls football to just being called soccer.


The reason for that change in name goes back to when both sports were created. The first to get their rules codified and organized was then called “association football” which was given the shortened nickname by the Brits (the ones who essentially invented the sport) to just “soccer.” The gridiron football played by Americans was just referred to as American football. It’s just redundant to call it American football while in America. Kind of like that scene in Delta Farce with Mexican standoffs in Mexico.

Americans may not really care about soccer…but you know who does take the U.S. soccer teams seriously? Everyone else in the world. The U.S. team is beloved by many soccer fans around the world because they are one of the few teams that actively discourages flopping (when players make an extremely lousy attempt to get a foul for the other team by pretending they’re hurt — seen in this video below. Watch it. It’s brilliant.):


Sure, the stubbornness to give into the unsportsmanlike behavior may put the team at a disadvantage but it’s a point of pride that the U.S. teams avoid doing it. According to The Atlantic, this flagrant attempt to get a free kick is what sours the entire sport for American viewers. But it’s something American fans can at least point out in other teams and say “We are better than that.”

There are many other examples of what the American teams do far better than anyone else that not too many Americans know about. For instance, the third ranked active male international player for goals is actually an American: Clint Dempsey. The other two players ahead of Dempsey are Ronaldo and Messi, who are both considered to modern-day legends in the sport.

Another player that Americans can proudly look up to is Tim Howard. In the 2014 World Cup, Howard made a World Cup record-number of saves against Belgium by stopping 15 attempts. He’s also scored an unbelievable goal from the penalty area (which spans the entire field) in a Premiere League match. Everyone around the world lost their collective minds because of his breathtaking skill.

Plus I think his glorious beard/shaved head combo would fit well with our veteran audience.
(Photo by Ray Terrill)

As fantastic as Howard and Dempsey are, their skills are outdone by the pure dominance of the Women’s U.S. soccer team. Ever since the FIFA Women’s World Cup’s inaugural tournament in 1991, the United States has taken home the title three of the seven times. In the other four times, the US Women’s team came in second once and third place three times. That’s a 100 percent franchise championship appearance rate with a 42 percent title win rate. This level of a sport’s dynasty is unheard of in any other sport.

USA! USA! USA!
(Photo by Rachael C. King)

But shy of a potential for a London gridiron team, inclusion of a handful Canadian teams in the NBA and MLB, and plenty of American hockey teams in the Canadian NHL, Americans don’t have a real presence in the sporting world outside of the Olympics.

Time and time again, the U.S. soccer teams have proven their worth on the world’s sporting stage and we could prove our power with enough interest. Unlike any other U.S. sport franchise, you can’t trade out players in the FIFA world series. Other athletes could be traded and the rosters of local teams change every season. Soccer players will represent their country for life.

This also bonds all U.S. fans. Regardless if you’re from rural Kansas, urban Los Angeles, or a suburb outside of Boston, the U.S. national soccer teams’ fans are all over. This gives us another great way to show up in the rest of the world.

If all of this doesn’t excite you, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be hosted by the United States with Canada and Mexico also hosting games. This is an awesome opportunity for many fans to watch the fun as seventeen American cities will host games; three cities from Canada and another three from Mexico will also host.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia will challenge any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.


According to a report by DefenseOne.com, a statement by the Russian government on Nov. 10 laid out a very hard-line position against the ban on what the United Nations is calling “lethal autonomous weapon systems,” or LAWS.

This screen capture fro a video released by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows a robot equipped with weapons. (Youtube screenshot)

“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”

The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”

An Endeavor Robotics 710 Kobra checks out a vehicle. (Youtube screenshot)

The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.

In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China plans new satellites to spy in South China Sea

China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.

Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.


“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”

The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.

The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.

The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.

Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.

In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.

The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.

“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.

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

Articles

This is the most powerful sidearm ever issued by the US military

In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.


Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.

After he was discharged from the Texas Rangers, Walker self-funded a trip to New York to meet Colt. The duo based their design on the five-round Colt Paterson revolver. Walker and Colt would add a sixth round to the chamber, along with a stationary trigger and guard. With that, they created the most powerful black powder handgun ever made.

With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.

When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.

(Warner Bros.)

There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.

Walker was killed leading troops through Huamantla, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War. Colt, who was bankrupt when he met Walker, rebuilt his business and reputation beginning with the Colt Walker 1847.

The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.

Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new SPEAR missile will strike any target on land or at sea

Throughout the course of human evolution, the spear, as a weapon, has provided extra reach against powerful opponents. Back then, the fierce opposition typically had four legs. Today, the spear is antiquated technology. It’s a still a great tool in a pinch, but since the introduction of firearms, better war-fighting tools have taken its place.

But there is a “spear” today that could prove extremely effective in modern warfare.


To be fair, the spear we’re talking about is much more than a sharpened stick. In this case, we’re talking about the SPEAR 3 missile (“SPEAR” actually stands for Selective Precision Effects At Range).

This mock-up of the MBDA SPEAR, on display at SeaAirSpace 2018, shows the wings that help give this missile an 80-mile range.

(Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The SPEAR 3 is an upgrade to the SPEAR 2, which was also known as the Brimstone 2, and comes with three big changes. First, the SPEAR 3 weighs just over twice as much as its predecessor (roughly 220 pounds). The SPEAR 3 uses a turbojet engine as opposed to the rocket motor of the Brimstone. And, finally, a wing kit has been added to the missile, which, according to a handout, gives the SPEAR a “beyond-horizon reach.”

So, how far can this precision weapon go? By some estimates, as far as 80 miles. The missile is pretty small and is intended to be used to engage tanks, naval vessels, and just about any target in between. The SPEAR 3 uses a combination of inertial navigation and GPS guidance as well as a multi-mode seeker and a two-way datalink to accurately find its target.

This rack holds four SPEAR missiles, and can fit with an AIM-120 AMRAAM or a MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile inside a F-35’s weapons bay. Let’s see a S-400 battery survive that!

(Graphic by MBDA)

Unlike the old SPEAR, which would only fly solo, an F-35 can carry four SPEAR 3s in a weapons bay alongside air-to-air missiles, like the AIM-120 AMRAAM or the MBDA Meteor.

Although the spear has come a long way since its pointy origins, this newest iteration gives opposing forces plenty to fear.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force grounds over 100 C-130s after discovering wing cracks

The US Air Force has decided to pull nearly a third of its C-130 transport aircraft out of service after discovering “atypical cracks” on the wings, Air Mobility Command (AMC) revealed.

After consulting with maintenance and engineering teams, AMC Commander Gen. Maryanne Miller decided that it was necessary to temporarily remove 123 of the Air Force’s 450 available C-130s from service after cracks were discovered on the lower center wing joint, or “rainbow fitting,” during depot maintenance.

“General Miller directed an immediate time compliance technical order inspection to identify and correct any cracking to ensure airworthiness of these C-130 aircraft,” Air Mobility Command said in a statement Aug. 8, 2019. “The Air Force takes the safety of its airmen and aircraft very seriously and is working diligently to identify and repair affected aircraft as soon as possible.”


AMC says that that the removal of more than one hundred C-130s, a workhorse for the Air Force, will not affect overseas operations.

A C-130 Hercules.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Each C-130 transport aircraft requires roughly eight hours to fully inspect. If a plane is found to have a problem, it will be repaired; otherwise, it will be returned to service. Eight aircraft have been inspected and returned to service, Task Purpose reported, citing an AMC spokesman.

The latest move, as Air Force Magazine notes, follows a decision earlier this year to ground around 60 C-130s due to propeller issues. The Air Force began looking closely at these issues after a damaged blade caused a C-130 tanker crash that killed 16 US service members; a maintenance depot failed to properly fix the blade.

The Air Force has been struggling as mission capable rates for aircraft have declined in recent years, dropping from 77.9 percent in 2012 to 69.97 percent last year. It recently came to light that only 7 of the Air Force’s 61 B-1 bombers are ready to fly.

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