Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost) - We Are The Mighty
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Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.


FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.

The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.

The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.

Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.

“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The Limited Edition versions include many of the accessories troops are issued alongside their rifle. (Photo credit FN America)

Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.

The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.

The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The FN America M249S SAW is about as awesome as it can get. (Photo credit FN America)

The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.

For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.

The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.

While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.

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This Coast Guard reservist saved an Army-Navy convoy in World War II

The Coast Guard’s USS Glendale served in the Pacific in World War II, and it was commanded by a reservist who earned the Bronze Star for his actions during a Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 5, 1944.


Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Harold J. Doebler was commanding the Glendale in a convoy of 35 Army, Navy, and merchant ships on their way to Leyte Gulf the Phillippines. The Glendale was assigned to anti-submarine and anti-air operations for the convoy.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The USS Glendale (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

On Dec. 5, friendly flights of C-47s began passing over the convoy. At first, this wasn’t of great concern, but Japanese pilots saw the situation and decided to exploit it. They flew their planes into the C-47 formations until they were close to the convoy, and then swooped down to attack the ships.

Doebler maneuvered the Glendale and other ships of the convoy to form a screen that attempted to pick off the Japanese attackers before they could reach the rest of the convoy. But the problems of target identification continued as gunners had to be confident that they weren’t firing at friendly planes before they pulled the trigger.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The USS South Dakota fired on an incoming Japanese bomber. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

During the battle, multiple torpedo bombers hit the SS Antone Saugrain, and a bomb hit the SS Marcus Daly, but no other ships in the convoy were damaged thanks to the screen led by the Glendale.

In the late afternoon, just after the Marcus Daly was hit, the convoy was joined by four new destroyers. With this greater firepower, the convoy was able to drive off the rest of the Japanese attacks and the rest of the ships were able to continue safely.

The Antone Saugrain later sank from the damage inflicted by the torpedo bombers, but the safe zone established by the destroyer and frigate screen allowed other vessels to rescue 413 crewmembers safely before the ship went down. The Marcus Daly was able to continue with the convoy despite severe damage and the loss of 72 of its crew.

Doebler was later promoted to rear admiral and received the Bronze Star for his actions leading the convoy screen.

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This nonprofit partnered with Google to bring a tech solution to military & veteran families

Millions of Americans have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and personal disruptions it has caused this year. Particularly vulnerable are veterans who, despite their service to our country, continue to struggle with service-related conditions that increase their risk. The virus has exacerbated pre-existing conditions to include: physical/mental health, substance abuse as well as financial, food and housing insecurity. Tens of thousands of our military and veteran families are in crisis and slipping through the cracks – it is unacceptable. 

Most Americans believe that service members always receive the care and benefits they deserve once they leave the military. It is true that the branches of the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) play an invaluable role in providing support for those who have served: offering healthcare, educational assistance, home loans and other services. But even if these federal agencies were working perfectly, they do not have the capacity (or mandate) to provide the kind of wrap around and holistic coordination of care these families require.

The need for help is too great for any one entity, even part of the federal government, to fulfill on its own. Nonprofit organizations have identified this challenge and have done their best to fill the gap. However, the sheer number of organizations operating today, along with their varying qualifications and processes, makes navigating those resources almost impossible, particularly for those in crisis. For a military or veteran family, finding the resources you need from a nonprofit with a trusted track record can be frustrating or ultimately fruitless.  For a community that struggles with depression and suicide, hitting a dead-end in a seemingly endless search for help can be a death sentence.

It is imperative that we solve these persistent access issues and make good on our promises as a nation to those who have served our country. To do this, we must completely rethink how to meet these objectives. In service of that mission, part of the solution must be leveraging technology innovation to better reach and serve those who have served our country.  

Recently, my organization, the Code of Support Foundation (COSF), partnered with Google on their “Serving Veterans” initiative to remove barriers between veteran families and the resources they have earned. Google is leveraging PATRIOTlink®, our network of vetted, cost-free resources that offers tailored, hyper-local queries to meet the needs of our veteran community. In addition, COSF supplements the PATRIOTlink platform with individualized support through trained case coordinators, to help veterans find support every step of the way.

This partnership is part of a larger “Tech for Good” movement, wherein many tech companies work to resolve ongoing access issues for veterans. Salesforce announced their Vetforce Alliance initiative last year to boost veteran hiring. Amazon now provides a variety of resources to soldiers transitioning to civilian life. Cisco and others have developed CyberVetsUSA, which provides free cybersecurity training and certification to veterans and military spouses. And just last year, the Consumer Technology Association made Code of Support its first nonprofit member. Partnerships like these are critical, as we leverage powerful, dynamic, but easy-to-use technology that goes beyond point solutions to point problems to encompass the full scope of resources and opportunities that veterans and their families need. 

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Beyond technology’s ability to help us achieve our mission, the participation of America’s leading tech companies in this mission helps shine a huge light on the reality facing many of those who have served. Since Google began leveraging its enormous platform to help direct more veterans to PATRIOTlink, we have responded to a more than 200% increase in demand for our services. Code of Support continues to see unprecedented levels of veterans experiencing food and housing insecurity, which will be compounded as the pandemic stretches into the winter months and well beyond the rent and eviction protections currently in place. Veterans have always struggled to access adequate mental healthcare – in this time of national quarantine, referrals from Code of Support to tele-health counseling have tripled. Technology solutions and the nonprofit-technology partnerships that drive innovation can and must serve as the blueprint for bringing real improvements in the lives of military families.

They stood for us, now it is time for us to stand with them. 

Kristina Kaufmann is the CEO of the Code of Support Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of military, veterans, caregivers, and their families by connecting them to the support they have earned through their service and sacrifice.

Articles

A-10s blast ISIS as Syrian ceasefire takes effect

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)


A ceasefire between U.S.-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian forces went into effect in Syria on Feb. 27 — the first major respite in five years of warfare that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The volunteer rescuers from the Syrian White Helmets group reported the ceasefire “holding in the main.”

“Today very quiet,” the group tweeted. “Long may it last.”

But the ceasefire doesn’t apply to Islamic State, of course — nor to Syrian, Russian, American and rebel attacks on the militant group. The Pentagon reported that its allies in the “New Syrian Forces” repulsed Islamic State attacks along the Mar’a Line in northern Syria while U.S.-vetted rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces group gained control of the Tishreen Dam east of Aleppo as well as Shaddadi, a strategic logistical hub for militants in the northeastern part of the country.

Islamic State also attacked Kurdish SDF forces holding Tel Abyad, a Syrian town on the Turkish frontier that was a key border crossing for the militant group before the Kurds liberated it in July 2015. U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flying from Incirlik air base in Turkey strafed the militants, apparently drawing heavy ground fire. The distinctive sound of the A-10s’ powerful 30-millimeter cannons — and the chatter of small-caliber guns presumably firing back — is audible in the video below.

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The Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein — and it worked

In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait in a move which brought swift condemnation from much of the rest of the world. In response, U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered planes, ships, and troops brought in to Saudi Arabia as quickly as possible to help mount a defense against possible Iraqi aggression. As Iraqi troops massed at the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, Operation Desert Shield began in full force, as the Coalition forces grew to 48 nations.


The United States isn’t known for its passivity when it comes to aggression against its interests, however. The U.S. was actively planning a response to the Iraqi invasion and a subsequent liberation of Kuwait, which happened between January and February 1991 in what became known as Operation Desert Storm.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
We pretty much sent everyone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Jackson)

During the military build-up, planners wanted to fool Saddam into thinking the Coalition forces would invade Kuwait near the “boot heel” of the country, while planning to really hit the Iraqi occupation forces with a “left hook” strategy. The centerpiece of this deception effort was at Forward Operating Base Weasel, an effort unlike anything since Operation Fortitude during WWII, the misinformation campaign designed to cover the real location for the D-Day invasions.

FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Photo: Wikimedia

As late as February 21st, Iraqi intelligence still thought the Americans were near the Kuwaiti boot heel, well after the Iraqis were expelled from Kuwait.

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The 10 most useless GI Joes of all time

GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:


1. Altitude

Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

2. Dee-Jay

Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

3. Metalhead

Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.

4. Bullhorn

GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

5. Colonel Courage

The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.

6. Ice Cream Soldier

I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

7. Sci-Fi

His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.

8. Chuckles

Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

9. Ozone

An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”

10. Hardball

Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How NASA tracks wildfires to help firefighters below

Every evening from late spring to early fall, two planes lift off from airports in the western United States and fly through the sunset, each headed for an active wildfire, and then another, and another. From 10,000 feet above ground, the pilots can spot the glow of a fire, and occasionally the smoke enters the cabin, burning the eyes and throat.

The pilots fly a straight line over the flames, then U-turn and fly back in an adjacent but overlapping path, like they’re mowing a lawn. When fire activity is at its peak, it’s not uncommon for the crew to map 30 fires in one night. The resulting aerial view of the country’s most dangerous wildfires helps establish the edges of those fires and identify areas thick with flames, scattered fires and isolated hotspots.

A large global constellation of satellites, operated by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), combined with a small fleet of planes operated by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) help detect and map the extent, spread and impact of forest fires. As technology has advanced, so has the value of remote sensing, the science of scanning the Earth from a distance using satellites and high-flying airplanes.


Satellites Aid Active Fire Response

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Satellites Aid Active Fire Response

The most immediate, life-or-death decisions in fighting forest fires – sending smokejumpers to a ridge, for example, or calling an evacuation order when flames leap a river – are made by firefighters and chiefs in command centers and on the fire line. Data from satellites and aircraft provide situational awareness with a strategic, big-picture view.

“We use the satellites to inform decisions on where to stage assets across the country,” said Brad Quayle of the Forest Service’s Geospatial Technology and Applications Center, which plays a key role in providing remote-sensing data for active wildfire suppression. “When there’s high competition for firefighters, tankers and aircraft, decisions have to be made on how to distribute those assets.”

It’s not uncommon for an Earth-observing satellite to be the first to detect a wildfire, especially in remote regions like the Alaskan wilderness. And at the height of the fire season, when there are more fires than planes to map them, data from satellites are used to estimate the fire’s evolution, capturing burned areas, the changing perimeter and potential damage, like in the case of Montana’s Howe Ridge Fire, which burned for nearly two months in Glacier National Park last summer.

Global fire picture from space

In January 1980, two scientists, Michael Matson and Jeff Dozier, who were working at NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service building in Camp Springs, Maryland, detected tiny bright spots on a satellite image of the Persian Gulf. The image had been captured by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument on the NOAA-6 satellite, and the spots, they discovered, were campfire-sized flares caused by the burning of methane in oil wells. It marked the first time that such a small fire had been seen from space. Dozier, who would become the founding dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California at Santa Barbara, was “intrigued by the possibilities,” and he went on to develop, within a year, a mathematical method to distinguish small fires from other sources of heat. This method would become the foundation for nearly all subsequent satellite fire-detection algorithms.

What was learned from AVHRR informed the design of the first instrument with spectral bands explicitly designed to detect fires, NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, launched on the Terra satellite in 1999, and a second MODIS instrument on Aqua in 2002. MODIS in turn informed the design of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, VIIRS, which flies on the Joint Polar Satellite System’s NOAA/NASA Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 satellites. Each new instrument represented a major step forward in fire detection technology.

“Without MODIS, we wouldn’t have the VIIRS algorithm,” said Ivan Csiszar, active fire product lead for the Joint Polar Satellite System calibration validation team. “We built on that heritage.”

The instruments on polar-orbiting satellites, like Terra, Aqua, Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20, typically observe a wildfire at a given location a few times a day as they orbit the Earth from pole to pole. Meanwhile, NOAA’s GOES-16 and GOES-17 geostationary satellites, which launched in November 2016 and March 2018, respectively, provide continuous updates, though at a coarser resolution and for fixed portions of the planet.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

On the left is an imager of a cockpit of the National Infrared Operations Citation Bravo jet N144Z. On the right is a night vision picture of a fire.

(NISROPS image)

“You can’t get a global picture with an aircraft, you can’t do it from a ground station,” said Ralph Kahn, a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “To get a global picture, you need satellites.”

The MODIS instrument mapped fires and burn scars with an accuracy that far surpassed AVHRR. And after nearly 20 years in orbit, the optical and thermal bands on MODIS, which detect reflected and radiated energy, continue to provide daytime visible imagery and night-time information on active fires.

From space, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor observed expansive smoke and aerosol plumes over California’s Central Valley on Nov. 8 and coast soon after the Camp Fire began.Credits: NASA Earth Observatory/Aqua/MODIS

VIIRS has improved fire detection capabilities. Unlike MODIS, the VIIRS imager band has higher spatial resolution, at 375 meters per pixel, which allows it to detect smaller, lower temperature fires. VIIRS also provides nighttime fire detection capabilities through its Day-Night Band, which can measure low-intensity visible light emitted by small and fledgling fires.

The first moments after a fire ignites are critical, said Everett Hinkley, National Remote Sensing Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service. In California, for example, when intense winds combine with dry fuel conditions, the response time can mean the difference between a catastrophic fire, like the Camp Fire that consumed nearly the entire town of Paradise, and one that is quickly contained.

“Those firefighters who are first responders don’t always know the precise location of the fire, how fast it’s moving or in what direction,” Hinkley said. “We’re working to try to give them real-time or near-real-time information to help them better understand the fire behavior in those early critical hours.”

Responders increasingly turn to the GOES satellites for early, precise geolocation of fires in remote areas. On July 2, 2018, for example, after smoke was reported in a wooded area near Central Colorado’s Custer County, GOES East detected a hotspot there. Forecasters in Pueblo visually inspected the data and provided the exact coordinates of what would become the Adobe Fire, and crews were sent quickly to the scene. The fire detection and characterization algorithm, the latest version of NOAA’s operational fire detection algorithm, is in the process of being updated and is expected to further improve early fire detection and reduce false positives.

“The holy grail is that firefighters want to be able to get on a fire in the first few hours or even within the first hour so they can take action to put it out,” said Vince Ambrosia, a wildfires remote-sensing scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “So it’s critical to have regular and frequent coverage.”

Remote sensing data on wildfires is accessed in many different ways. Among them, NASA’sFire Information for Resource Management System, or FIRMS, uses MODIS and VIIRS data to provide updates on active fires throughout the world, including a rough location of a detected hotspot. Imagery is available within four to five hours.

Smoke and public health

Of course, where there’s fire, there’s smoke, and knowing how wildfire smoke travels through the atmosphere is important for air quality, visibility and human health. Like other particulate matter in the atmosphere, smoke from wildfires can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause a range of health problems. Satellites can give us important information on the movement and thickness of that smoke.

Terra carries the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument, a sensor that uses nine fixed cameras, each viewing Earth at a different angle. MISR measures the motion and height of a fire’s smoke plume, as well as the amount of smoke particles coming from that fire, and gives some clues about the plume’s composition. For example, during the Camp Fire, MISR measurements showed a plume made of large, non-spherical particles over Paradise, California, an indication that buildings were burning. Researchers have established that building smoke leads to larger and more irregularly shaped particles than wildfires. Smoke particles from the burning of the surrounding forest, on the other hand, were smaller and mostly spherical. MISR’s measurements also showed the fire had lofted smoke nearly 2 miles into the atmosphere and carried it about 180 miles downwind, toward the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists also closely monitor whether the height of the smoke has exceeded the “near surface boundary layer,” where pollution tends to concentrate. Wildfires with the most energy, such as boreal forest fires, are the most likely to produce smoke that goes above the boundary layer. At that height, “smoke can typically travel farther, stay in the atmosphere longer, and have an impact further downwind,” Kahn said.

The satellites have limitations. Among them, the heat signatures the instruments detect are averaged over pixels, which makes it difficult to precisely pinpoint fire location and size. Interpreting data from satellites has additional challenges. Although thermal signals give an indication of fire intensity, smoke above the fire can diminish that signal, and smoldering fires might not radiate as much energy as flaming fires at the observed spectral bands.

Up close with airborne ‘heat’ sensors

That’s where the instruments on the Forest Service aircraft come in. Data from these flights contribute to the National Infrared Operations Program (NIROPS), which uses tools developed with NASA to visualize wildfire information in web mapping services, including Google Earth. NASA works closely with the Forest Service to develop new technologies for the kind of thermal sensing systems these planes carry.

Each NIROPS plane is equipped with an infrared sensor that sees a six-mile swath of land below and can map 300,000 acres of terrain per hour. From an altitude of 10,000 feet, the sensor can detect a hotspot just 6 inches across, and place it within 12.5 feet on a map. The data from each pass are recorded, compressed and immediately downlinked to an FTP site, where analysts create maps that firefighters can access directly on a phone or tablet in the field. They fly at night when there’s no sun glint to compromise their measurements, the background is cooler, and the fires are less aggressive.

“Every time we’re scanning, we’re ‘truthing’ that fire,” says Charles “Kaz” Kazimir, an infrared technician with NIROPS, who has flown fires with the program for 10 years. “On the ground, they may have ideas of how that fire is behaving, but when they get the image, that’s the truth. It either validates or invalidates their assumption since the last time they had intel.”

The infrared aircraft instruments fill some of the gaps in the satellite data. Field campaigns, such as the NASA-NOAA FIREX-AQ, now underway, are designed to address these issues too. But scientists are also looking to new technology. In 2003, representatives from NASA and the Forest Service formed a tactical fire remote sensing committee, which meets twice annually to discuss ways to harness new and existing remote sensing technology as it relates to wildfires. For example, a new infrared sensor is being developed that scans a swath three times wider than the existing system. That would mean fewer flight lines and less time spent over an individual fire, Hinkley said.

“The takeaway really is that we are actively investigating and developing capabilities that will aid decision-makers on the ground, especially in the early phases of dynamic fires,” Hinkley said. “We’re not just resting on our laurels here. We understand that we need to better leverage new technologies to help keep people safe.”

More information on the role of NASA and NOAA satellites and instruments in active fires can be found here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/nasa-covers-wildfires-from-many-sources

Learn more about freely available NASA fire data and related resources: https://earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/toolkits/wildfires

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Marine who lost legs in Afghanistan rescues baby from a smoking car

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Matias Ferreira (left)


A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.

Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.

The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.

Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.

“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.

He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”

While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.

“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”

The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.

“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”

Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.

“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”

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4 unmanned fighters that are being developed for the next war

The major nations of the world have been in an air-to-air arms race since the first fighter pilots fired pistols at each other in World War I. From machine gun mounts to jet engines to stealth technology, the race has always been about making the human in one cockpit more lethal than the other.


It now appears that the race is moving to an entirely new stage where the goal is to make autonomous drones that can kill while the pilot is either in another cockpit or an office far away. While the manned F-22 Raptor is still the king of the roost and F-35 pilots are gearing up for their combat debut, these are the unmanned fighters in development to replace them in the future:

1. BAE’s Taranis

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The British Taranis UCAV flies during testing. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The Taranis unmanned combat aerial vehicle has ruffled a lot of feathers in Europe where large groups oppose autonomous weapons of war. While Taranis will likely be capable of full autonomy, the Ministry of Defense and British Aerospace Engineering have said the unmanned combat aerial vehicle will function as a “man in the loop” system. A human decides what’s a target and the system engages approved targets.

Taranis is primarily a strike aircraft, meaning that it goes after ground targets. But it’s capable of fighting enemy planes and could fly from Britain to continents outside of Europe with limited input from pilots and crew.

 

2. F-16s (Yeah, those F-16s)

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

America’s current entry for an autonomous fighter now that the X-47B will most likely become a flying gas station is actually an old airframe — the F-16 Falcon.

The “Loyal Wingman” program calls for upgrading fourth-generation aircraft like F-16s with autonomous controls, software and hardware upgrades that will let computers fly the jet. Then human pilots in F-35s or F-22s would be able to fight with a few drone F-16s and F/A-18 Hornets backing them up.

The Navy is still interested in developing a next-generation unmanned fighter, but that’s far in the future, while unmanned F-16s could be fighting within a few years.

3. DRDO AURA

India’s Autonomous Unmanned Research Vehicle is a technology demonstrator under development by the country’s Defense Research and Development Organisation. The final weapon is designed to carry its weapons internally and be capable of self-defense, reconnaissance, and striking ground targets.

The exact level of “self-defense” capability the AURA will have has not yet been announced, so this could be a ground-attack drone with limited air-to-air capability. The program appears to be behind schedule but was initially slated for a 2015 prototype and a 2020 completion.

4. Sharp Sword

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
China’s Sharp Sword UCAV conducts a taxiing test. (Photo: Youtube/arronlee33)

China’s Sharp Sword is so wrapped in secrecy that no one’s sure what its ultimate mission will be. It has gone through some iterations and prototypes, but a blended-wing design that flew in late-2013 is the best known version.

It appears that China’s Sharp Sword is based on Russia’s mothballed “Skat” UCAV which has languished for years. China’s primary need for a stealth UCAV is for naval operations in disputed regions of the South and East China Sea.

That means it will need something to defend itself against fighters from U.S. carriers. If it doesn’t get integrated air-to-air weapons, expect it to act as a sensor for ground-based defenses and possibly take on an anti-ship role.

European-NEUROn_-_Dassault_Aviation-UCAV-drone-sits-on-display The Dassault nEUROn is a Pan-European UCAV designed for strike capabilities and technology testing. (Photo: Aerolegende CC BY-SA 3.0)

In addition to the UCAVs discussed above, there are a number of new drones designed to surveil and strike ground targets. Russia’s Skat was canceled, but its technology is incorporated into a new platform developed by Sukhoi, the same company that makes the PAK FA T-50.

Countries in the European Union, including Britain, are working together to develop a new UCAV for hitting ground targets that is based on the Taranis and the nEUROn, a UCAV produced by France; Italy; Sweden; Spain; Greece and Switzerland.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Philippines want Russian subs because U.S. ones ‘implode’

The leader of a close US ally is turning to rival Russia for submarines, arguing that if his country were to buy American submarines, they would probably “implode.”

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte lashed out Aug. 17, 2018, after the US warned the Philippines against purchasing Russian Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines. He accused the US of selling its ally only hand-me-down weapons that endanger the lives of Filipino troops, according to local outlet Rappler.


“Why did you not stop the other countries in Asia? Why are you stopping us? Who are you to warn us?” Duterte asked Aug. 17, 2018, at an event in his hometown of Davao.”You give us submarines, it will implode.” He asserted that the US sent his country “used” and “rusted” North Atlantic Treaty Organization helicopters, claiming the poor condition of the platforms led to the deaths of local forces.

“Is that the way you treat an ally and you want us to stay with you for all time?” he asked. “You want us to remain backwards. Vietnam has 7 submarines, Malaysia has 2, Indonesia has 8. We alone don’t have one. You haven’t given us any.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar.

Duterte’s latest outburst was triggered by a warning issued Aug. 16, 2018, by Randall Schriver, the US Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

“I think they should think very carefully about that,” he said, referring to the Philippine government’s interest in acquiring Russian submarines. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”

“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”

An interest in Russian weapons systems has strained relations between the US and a number of allies and international partners in recent months. As Duterte pursues an independent foreign policy often out of alignment with US interests, the Philippines has increasingly looked to develop defense ties with Russia. The country is looking to Russia for submarines as it looks to modernize its military.

“For a nation with maritime territory specially island nation, its national defense is incomplete without (a) submarine,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in early 2018, according to the Philippine Star.

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

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This is how infantrymen learned about their weapons in World War II

During World War II, military trainers had to quickly get recruits ready for combat on the front lines of Nazi Europe and the Pacific Theater. As a result, the U.S. Army created this infantry training video in 1943.


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Infantrymen emplace the 105mm howitzer, their largest weapon in World War II. Today, the 105mm belongs to the artillery battalions. Photo: YouTube/Weaponeer

The video covers all of the major infantry weapons from their ammunition types and ballistic properties to how to best use each weapon in combat. It even shows how soldiers could make Molotov cocktails to take out tanks and the infantry could use 105mm howitzers, “the infantry’s bulldog.”

The film contains some great one-liners, including, “He’ll need more than aspirin after that,” while a Nazi mannequin takes .30-cal. rounds to the dome.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Yeah, aspirin won’t fix this. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

“Don’t think this pillbox is Heaven. The bazooka makes it Hell,” during the anti-tank rocket portion is pretty great as well.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Not photographed: Heaven. GIF: YouTube/Weaponeer

The whole film runs through carbines, improvised weapons, mortars, anti-tank rifles and rockets, and more. It’s funny, but it also makes you think (about dying Nazis). Check it out below:

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How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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13 funniest memes for the week of April 7

Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes:


1. Congrats to the Navy for getting to set off some fireworks last night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
But y u no shoot more?

2. Digital security is important (via Team Non-Rec).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
ISIS is coming for you with stock photos of models.

ALSO READ: The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

3. Navy Capt. Bender got the hookers out before the NCIS raid began (via Military World).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Best. Cruise. Ever.

4. You’ve got to earn that nap time by holding up that book she’s going to read to you (via Decelerate Your Life).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

5. If it’s stupid but it works … actually, this is still stupid (via Coast Guard Memes).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Would love to the new safety briefing when this goes awry.

6. Poor Jody never gets any respect (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
#JodiesServeToo

7. Grade-A, Tier-One killers (via Devil Dog Nation).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Just make sure they’re home before dark.

8. Every paratrooper’s spirit animal on a Saturday jump (via Military World).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Unless it’s a Chinook, Sherpa, or foreign jump. Then, it’s all smiles all around.

9. Shut up, POG (via Pop smoke).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
POGs who wish they weren’t POGs are 1,000 percent more likely to call people POGs than an infantryman is.

10. Yeah. This is worth the next four years of my life (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Career counselors are basically Mephistopheles made flesh (Google it, then print one out and tape it to the career counselor’s door).

11. “Potato” isn’t too shabby (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

12. Good ol’ National Training Center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
So many great memories there.

13. You’ll never run faster than when you’re told you don’t have to run that morning (via The Salty Soldier).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
One word. One syllable. So many feelings.

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