The Spencer Repeating Rifle was originally considered a useless expense by the U.S. War Department who thought the rifles were too expensive and that they would encourage wasteful firing by soldiers on the lines.
But in the rifle’s combat debut, a Union brigade took an important gap and held it against overwhelming numbers, causing XIV Corps Commander Maj. Gen. George Thomas to declare that the men and their rifles had “saved the lives of a thousand men.”
Union Col. John T. Wilder was an early believer in the Spencer Repeating Rifle, a new weapon design that allowed a soldier to load seven pre-made cartridges instead of pouring powder and loading each round between shots as muskets required.
This gave a soldier carrying a repeating rifle the capability of firing 14-20 well-aimed shots per minute against the 2-3 shots per minute of other troops.
But while Wilder and other officers were eager to try the repeating rifle, the War Department refused to purchase them. Wilder, eager to outfit his mounted infantry brigade with the new weapons, organized funding through his hometown bank.
On the morning of June 24, 1863, Wilder’s mounted infantry brigade was sent as the vanguard of an attack toward Manchester, Tennessee. The first step of the attack was securing mountain passes and Wilder’s brigade was ordered toward’s Hoover’s Gap, the most direct route to Manchester.
The mounted infantrymen rode hard ahead of the rest of Union forces, arriving near the gap and encountering the first elements of Confederate resistance at noon. According to Col. James Connolly, a regimental commander in the brigade, that was when the brigade really got going.
While the corps commanders expected to capture the gap in the following days, Wilder wanted to push the brigade through the gap before the Confederates could reinforce it. Then, Wilder and his men would hold the gap until the rest of the Union army could catch up. Wilder sent Connolly’s regiment on a headlong dash through the gap.
Connolly and his men scattered a regiment of Confederate cavalry and pushed into the gap at a full gallop. He later wrote:
… the valley is barely wide enough to admit the passage of two wagons side by side, and the hills upon either side command the valley completely; as we swept through the valley with our 1,500 horsemen on a gallop we noticed the lines of entrenchments crowning the hills, but they were deserted; the enemy was surprised and flying before us, so we pushed onward until we passed entirely through the “Gap,” when a puff of white smoke from a hill about half a mile in front of us, then a dull heavy roar, then the shrieking of a shell told us we could advance no further as we had reached their infantry and artillery force.
The Union brigade was six miles ahead of its planned limit of advance and approximately 12 miles ahead of its reinforcements, who would have to march through deep mud and up steep hills to reach them.
Meanwhile, the single Union brigade faced a counterattacking force of four Confederate infantry brigades and four artillery batteries.
The Union forces sent their horses to the rear and set up a line of battle on a hill overlooking the southern entrance to the gap. Connolly and his men set up a position supporting the single, light artillery battery the Union had.
The Confederate guns opened a bombardment of the Union soldiers and rebel infantry began marching on the Union artillery battery. Connolly and his men watched the enemy march towards them and then opened fire with their Spencer repeating rifles.
Their first volley of fire cut through the Confederate ranks, but the rebels outnumbered the Union soldiers approximately four to one. The Confederates recovered their colors from the ground and resumed charging.
But the Confederates didn’t know about repeating rifles. The Union quickly fired another volley, and then another, until, in Connolly’s words, “the poor regiment was literally cut to pieces, and but few men of that 20th Tennessee that attempted the charge will ever charge again.”
Riders arrived at the battle and relayed orders to Wilder to withdraw his men, but Wilder ignored the orders and insisted that his men could hold the line.
The fight continued — with the numerically superior Confederates trying to push the Union soldiers off but being cut down by the fire from the Spencers — until after 7 p.m. when Union reinforcements began arriving.
Another artillery battery set up near the exit from the gap and infantry began taking positions near Wilder’s brigade on the hills.
Corps Commander Maj. Gen. George Thomas met Wilder and told him, “You have saved the lives of a thousand men by your gallant conduct today. I didn’t expect to get this Gap for three days.”
Wilder and his men had inflicted over 200 casualties on the Confederates while suffering fifty-one deaths of their own. This four-to-one advantage in casualties came despite an exact opposite disadvantage in troop numbers.
Wilder’s brigade was honored with a new nickname, “The Lightning Brigade.”
Unmanned air vehicles, better known as drones, have been operating for a long time. And those drones have been used in some high-ranking terrorist kills, like the one that took out Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
Other unmanned vehicles are on the ground and are being tested by the Army and Marine Corps.
And the Navy’s gotten into the unmanned game as well. In 2014 the service tested small, unmanned boats as a way to prevent a repeat of the 2000 attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). But Rolls Royce is now proposing something that could put the Navy’s plans to shame.
According to a company release, Rolls Royce is developing a 700-ton vessel capable of operating for 100 days unmanned, and it could be a game-changer for navies around the world. This vessel would be about the size of the Nanuchka-class corvette. It would have a range of 3,500 miles and a top speed of more than 25 knots.
What might this vessel be used for? The big mission Rolls Royce is pitching is “coastal patrol and surveillance,” logistical support, or even as a means to protect other vessels. This ship would still be very capable for its size, largely because, “[m]any of the habitation systems and accommodation compartments are removed, bringing immediate cost savings and making the vessel smaller.”
“The autonomous platforms are likely to cover a range of single role missions, e.g. patrol and surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening, while the larger manned ships will cover the multi-role missions,” Rolls Royce adds.
In addition to having on-board sensors, the unmanned vessel could also carry a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. In essence, it is a robotic aircraft carrier for drones. This could make things very interesting at sea.
If you saw The Pacific on HBO, then you saw what amphibious landings usually involved during World War II and most of the 1950s and 60s. Higgins boats were used to deliver infantry and light vehicles while heavier vehicles and tanks came from larger landing craft or ships that beached themselves.
That is no longer the case. These days, the grunts are likely to ride in on helicopters, like the CH-53E Super Stallion and the MH-60S Seahawk, or tiltrotors, like the MV-22 Osprey. When possible, Marines use these aircraft to fly in from dozens of miles offshore. Sometimes, however, the mission requires an approach by sea — and when it does, it doesn’t make much sense to run a landing ship tank onto the beach.
A new landing craft was developed to be the perfect entry vessel: the Landing Craft Air Cushion. It isn’t exactly a boat — it’s a hovercraft — and it’s a huge step up from WWII-era landing craft that were, in actuality, barely functional. Previously, troops were often forced to wade through water – a very slow process that left them very vulnerable. If you saw the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, you get the idea.
The LCAC entered service in 1987 and the United States bought 91. They have a crew of five and can haul troops, tanks, and cargo onto the shore and well inland. Unlike previous landing craft, the LCAC can move inland a bit and then deliver the troops, instead of dropping the ramp at sea. The Marines can storm beaches without getting their feet wet.
While the LCAC can’t take much punishment, it still gets the Marines’ vehicles ashore quickly.
Learn more about this combat hovercraft by watching the video below!
In 2018, Boeing filed patents for a number of potential cannon mounting solutions for the supersonic heavy payload bomber, the B-1B Lancer, with the intent of creating a B-1B gunship similar in capability to the famed Spooky AC-130 and its most recent successor, the AC-130J Ghostrider. While the patents indicate Boeing’s interest in prolonging the life of the venerable Lancer, there’s been little progress toward pursuing this unusual design.
Recently, the U.S. Air Force announced plans to begin retiring its fleet of B-1Bs in favor of the forthcoming B-21 Raider, prompting us to ask ourselves: could we actually build a B-1B gunship to keep this legendary aircraft in service?
Could we really build a B-1B Gunship?
Boeing’s patents indicate a number of cannon-mounting methods and even types and sizes of weapons, giving this concept a broad utilitarian appeal. America currently relies on C-130-based gunships that, while able to deliver a massive amount of firepower to a target, max out at less than half the speed that would be achievable in a B-1B gunship. The Lancer’s heavy payload capabilities and large fuel stores would also allow it to both cover a great deal of ground in a hurry, but also loiter over a battlespace, delivering precision munitions and cannon fire managed by a modular weapon control system.
In theory, it all sounds well and good, but there are also a number of significant limitations. The B-1B Lancer’s swing-wing design does allow it to fly more manageable at lower speeds, but it would almost certainly struggle to fly as slowly as an AC-130J can while engaging targets below. Likewise, a B-1B gunship would be just as expensive to operate as it currently is as a bomber–making it a much more expensive solution to a problem one could argue the U.S. has already solved.
But that doesn’t mean we’ll never see this concept, or even these patents, leveraged in some way. If you’d like to learn more about the concept of turning a B-1B into a gunship, you can read our full breakdown (that the video above is based on) here.
Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.
The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.
That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.
Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.
(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)
Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.
The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.
According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”
Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.
(Photo by John Kappa)
The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.
The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Donald Trump, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has released a video of one of its most inhumane and fearsome nuclear weapons ever created — and it’s purpose-built to avoid US defenses.
The weapon, a high-speed nuclear-powered torpedo, isn’t like other nuclear weapons. While there’s a risk of radioactivity any time an atom is split, nuclear weapons have typically used nuclear detonations to create heat and pressure, with lingering radioactivity emerging only as a dangerous side effect.
But the new Russian torpedo uses radioactive waste to deter, scare, and potentially punish enemies for decades.
These types of nuclear explosions “suck up dirt, or water, contaminates it with debris from the bomb, and then lofts it into the atmosphere,” leaving deadly radioactive fallout potentially strewn across thousands of miles, Schwartz said. What’s more, the bomb is rumored to have its nuclear core coated in a metal that would make the fall out last for half a century.
Russia’s nuclear-powered torpedo.
“It’s an insane weapon in the sense that it’s probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.
Russia hasn’t specified how big the nuclear warhead is, but Kristensen said reports indicated it’s “anything from a normal yield to up to 100 megatons,” making it potentially one of the biggest bombs ever built.
Russia has advertised a simple mission for the torpedo: “Going in and blowing up a harbor with the purpose of blanketing a coastal area with radiation to make it uninhabitable” in a “blatant violation on the international laws of war, which require them to avoid collateral damage,” Kristensen said.
What the video shows us
Russia, which first leaked images of the weapon in 2015, released the video of the torpedo, called “Poseidon,” along with several other updates on new weapons programs. Putin announced all of the weapons in a March 1, 2018 speech in which he said they’d been designed to defeat all existing US defenses.
The video of the Poseidon shows its stern suspended in a factory with engineers standing by. Lines across its hull indicate where its various components and chambers separate and indicate a large space for a warhead.
Analysis from H.I. Sutton shows that Russia augmented a test submarine to carry the Poseidon as far back as 2010, indicating a long testing period.
But Russia traffics in military propaganda frequently, and it may be bluffing on how far along its weapons are. The torpedo is shown only in a lab setting, and then the video cuts to a computer-generated simulation. The actual weapon shows its ability to steer in water, and doesn’t even show it can propel itself.
Additionally, the video demonstrates a new, only slightly less dangerous use for the weapon: Targeting US aircraft carriers and their strike groups. As it stands, the US doesn’t have a way to defend against fast-moving torpedoes like the Poseidon.
The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.
“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)
Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.
Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.
SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.
Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)
That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.
Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.
Fleet Readiness Center East is celebrating an achievement, and likely first, in using 3D printing and polymers as a supply solution to repair components for the H-53E.
Research and Engineering Group engineers used a polymer additive manufacturing process — fused deposition modeling — to produce replacement blade inspection method vents (BIM vents) for the aircraft’s main rotor blades.
“I believe this is the first time a polymer AM process has been used to build a flight critical repair component in (Naval Air Systems Command),” said Douglas Greenwood, AM Lead for the Advanced Technology Integrated Product Team. “We don’t usually, if ever, see ‘polymer AM’ and ‘flight critical’ in the same sentence.”
According to Joshua Peedin, senior engineer for H-53 Rotor Systems, artisans in Blade Shop 94304 identified integral damage in the parts during the repair process in 2016. It was a discovery of cracks in the foam beneath the root fairing that pointed to the damage in the vents.
The BIM vents work as part of the indication system to alert pilots to pressure loss in the blades. The BIM vents are critical application items, which means they have a critical function for a major component; not critical in terms of safety of flight.
Peedin said that unavailable parts led him in the direction of the solution. “I contacted our logisticians and (the OEM) to see if we could buy any replacements,” he said. “Neither had any available, so I checked the technical drawings to see if we could manufacture our own replacements.” He said making composite molded replacements were considered, but the composite material was too rigid to meet the required specifications.
Aircraft Mechanical Parts Repairer Todd Bridgers applies a gel viscosity instant adhesive to a blade inspection method (BIM) vent — produced at Fleet Readiness Center East — before applying it to an H-53 blade.
Peedin said Materials Engineers Rob Thompson and Andrea Boxell, from the Polymers and Composites Branch, pointed out FRC East’s capability of 3D printing the part using a material that is chemically similar to the original material — a high-performance, thermoplastic polyetherimide. He also got the help of FRC East Digital Data Center members Justin Reynolds and Todd Spurgeon, AM subject matter experts, to redesign the BIM vents to ensure design compatibility with FRC East’s 3D printers.
“We had many meetings throughout the process to ensure everyone was in agreement to move forward,” said Peedin.
The prototype repair parts were tested under pressure and heat to ensure the repair could withstand in-service conditions and future blade repairs. The local engineers developed, documented, reviewed, and approved the repair procedure through AIR-4.3 Air Vehicle Engineering. The repair was first successfully demonstrated on a scrap main rotor blade asset. The most recent BIM vent repair was the second performed on a production main rotor blade asset using the AM parts.
Greenwood said the accomplishment is also noteworthy, as it demonstrates the flexibility of AM processes. He said FRC East primarily uses the AM printers to make sheet metal form blocks, prototype parts, visual aids, support equipment and many other kinds of parts to support FRC East production.
“All of those parts are built using materials different from the BIM vent parts and none of them are intended for use in flight,” said Greenwood. “Nevertheless, we are using the same printers with a different material to make the BIM vent repair parts.”
Greenwood added, the BIM vent parts mark a new milestone for FRC East. “This is an even bigger achievement for FRC East,” he said. “Using our printers to make polymer AM repair parts on H-53E main rotor blades that will enter the supply system and be used by the fleet.”
The accomplishment offers benefits in the way of cost avoidance, production, and aircraft readiness.
Peedin said the estimated cost to make the type of repair to blades through fused disposition modeling is about ,000 per blade. The pre-existing alternative to the fused deposition modeling repair was to pay the OEM to overhaul the main rotor blade for about 0,000 per blade; a 5,000 savings per blade.
Peedin said, FRC East is now able to keep a steady flow of main rotor blade repair work in the blade shop. “This will lead to a reduction of backordered repairs and ultimately contribute to improvements in the H-53 readiness posture,” he said.
A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.
The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.
“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.
Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.
Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.
Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.
ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.
ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.
Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.
The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.
ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.
Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.
“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.
“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.
X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”
“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.
The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.
The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.
The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.
The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”
The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.
“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”
But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.
“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.
The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.
This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.
A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.
The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.
Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.
Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.
Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.
A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.
From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:
1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.
Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.
Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.
Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.
Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.
Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.
FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.
An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.
So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.
“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.
Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.
“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.
Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.
(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)
As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.
“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”
“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.
“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.
As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.
The Cold War was a great time for weapons manufacturers. It seems like almost everything was fair game to be weaponized, and nothing seemed out of bounds. The CIA weaponized everything from cars to cats.
But the Americans weren’t alone in their planning to fight World War III with a variety of unique weapons. Our French allies were in on the game too. And nothing could be more stereotypically French than a bazooka-armed Vespa, which seems like something more out of the movie “Roman Holiday” than the 1944 capture of Rome.
Yet, in 1950, the French military commissioned one: an anti-tank scooter that used a two-wheeled Vespa as its base model. It featured a bulletproof, reinforced frame, and an M20 75mm recoilless rifle mounted to the front.
Vespa 150 TAP scooters (also called Vespa ACMA, after the company who designed and made them, Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles) was designed to be a fast-moving anti-armor weapon that could be parachuted into a combat zone to support paratroopers (troupes aéroportées, hence the TAP designation).
A two-man team would be air-dropped in along with a pair of the Vespa 150 TAP motorbikes. The duo worked in concert with one another, one carrying the weapon, and the other carrying the 75mm rounds.
The Vespa was never intended to be able to actually fire the recoilless rifle while moving. The intent was for the pair to stop, unmount the rifle from its perch on the Vespa, use a machine gun mount to set up the rifle, fire, then move on. But it could be fired while moving, if necessary. Still, it was a very mobile anti-armor system.
While the weapon wasn’t as effective against heavy armor, it could still penetrate up to 100mm with high-explosive warheads. This would not be effective against the later T-72 Soviet tanks, but could still be used against T-54 and T-55 as well as the T-62 main battle tank the Soviet Union was fielding at the time.
While the combat Vespa may seem a little silly and stereotypically “French” by today’s standards, the project was actually designed to replace France’s then-current motorcycle fleet. Airborne motorbikes aren’t supposed to be heavy duty gear. Think of them more like pack animals that can be airdropped into combat and make quick runs wherever they were needed.
The French used American-made Cushman scooters to great effect during World War II. Just like the Vespa TAP, Cushman scooters were designed to be dropped with paratroopers from aircraft. Although not fitted with the same (or even similar) firepower, the Cushman line of World War II bikes were similarly lightweight but could be used to move supplies, wounded troops, and messages quickly and efficiently.
France’s new Vespa was designed to handle all of the old Cushman bike’s missions, with the added benefit of being able to potentially take down some of the enemy’s armor along the way. Best of all (for the French Army) it was entirely made and serviced in France.
The French Army eventually made more than 500 of the scooters and deployed the Vespa 150 to serve in both Algeria and in Indochina.
Anyone who might be doubting the effectiveness of the scooter in post-World War II combat (or even today) should remember that messengers on bikes was one of the means of communication used by retired Gen. Paul Van Riper to defeat the U.S. military in the 2002 Millennium Challenge exercise.
So remember the old military adage: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.
The man in charge of waging war on ISIS explained during a teleconference with reporters Oct. 26 that Islamic State militants “make extensive use” of unmanned aircraft in their fight to keep territory in Iraq and the key city of Mosul.
Behold the dawn on Trojan Horse drones. (Photo from Friends of YPG YPJ)
The head of Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said the terrorists use the drones to video suicide strikes on Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, fly in unmanned planes to help target coalition positions and even use the drones to direct fires from mortars and rockets.
ISIS use of drones is “not episodic or sporadic, it’s relatively constant,” Townsend said. “We’ve seen them using drones to control and adjust indirect fires.”
Townsend added that the bad guys are also getting into the armed drone game, with ISIS dropping “small explosive devices” from the UAVs over coalition bases and other targets.
“Those fortunately haven’t had great effect,” he said.
But what’s really bugging him is a new more dastardly way ISIS is using drones.
“Recently we have seen what we think is a Trojan Horse kind of UAV or drone,” Townsend said.
He went on to explain that Islamic State militants landed a UAV inside coalition lines. Thinking they’d gotten an intelligence boon. When the allied forces went out to recover the drone it was detonated remotely, injuring the troops.
“We expect to see more of this, and we’ve put out procedures for our forces to be on guard for this,” Townsend said, adding that U.S. troops and others have downed many drones harassing coalition troops with small arms fire and electronic means, “with varying levels of success.”
“We’re working to try to find better solutions to this pretty thorny problem,” he said.
Calling in air support just got faster, easier, and more precise. DARPA’s new Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld system, otherwise known as KILSWITCH, enables troops to call in air strikes from an off-the-shelf Android tablet. The system could also be used with small UAVs to provide ground troops with greater situational awareness of friendly forces and enemy locations. KILSWITCH is part of the Persistent Close Air Support program, designed to bring fires on target within six minutes of an observer requesting them.
We’ve all seen the cool James Bond clip where Q hands over a Walther PPK/S that can only be activated by 007’s palm print .
If a bad guy tries to pick it up and shoot the superspy, no joy.
For years the idea of a so-called “smart” gun like Bond’s has been largely out of reach for anyone but the covert operators of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to make one for real life. And the feds just took the first step in what could eventually be a handgun fielded to law enforcement and the military that only shoots for an authorized user.
As part of a series of executive actions on gun control released in January, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to look into what a smart gun should look like for military troops and federal agents. His intention was to deploy government resources to push the technology beyond what the civilian market has yielded in hopes of making smart gun technology available for most handguns.
“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality,” the White House said. “In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”
The Armatix iP1 is the first so-called “smart gun” available for consumers. It’s chambered in 22 LR and requires a special watch for the shooter to active the gun.
In July, researchers with the National Institute of Justice released its long-awaited specifications for what a smart handgun should be able to do and how its safety features should work. The requirements represent a high technological bar for military and law enforcement smart gun use, including overrides if the system is jammed, near instant activation and a 10,000 rounds before failure limit.
The Justice Department described “the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies,” the NIJ report said. “In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.”
The NIJ specs essentially call for a polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm or .40 SW handgun without any external safety. Basically, the specs point to a Glock 19 or similar modern handgun when it comes to ergonomics, size, and function.
Researchers said the smart gun should able to be programmed to work only for authorized users, could be activated with a wearable device such as a ring or bracelet, and should be able to shoot even if the smart safety fails.
But the researchers went on to call for functions that go well beyond what current technology allows, including that “the security device shall not increase the time required by the operator to grasp, draw from a holster and fire the pistol as a pistol of the same design that is not equipped with the security device.”
That means zero lag time for the pistol to draw, authorize and fire in a split second.
The smart gun will also have to detect and alert the shooter if there is an attempt to jam the system and be able override the safety and fire despite the countermeasures. And the gun must be able to fire with both a bare or gloved hand, making it tough for technology using biometric sensors to read fingerprints.
Most importantly, the smart gun will have to endure 10,000 rounds with 2,000 draws between any failure. Engineers who build systems like small lights and lasers that attach to handguns have said one of the biggest technological challenges to building miniature electronics is making them tough enough to withstand the repeated recoil of a pistol.
Skeptics have long argued smart guns insert an unreliable technology into a system that’s build to work every time at a moment’s notice and that forcing anyone to use an electronic safety on a handgun could mean the difference between life and death.
“Generally speaking, additional complexity brings increased risk of malfunction and error,” the Justice Department has said. “The types of firearms most commonly used by law enforcement and the broader American public … are relatively straightforward mechanical devices, and manufacturers have faced significant engineering challenges as they seek to seamlessly integrate electronics into firearms’ operations.
But the White House has signaled its intention to push the technology to the field as soon as possible, and the latest NIJ report shows just how solid that technology has to be for troops and law enforcement to trust it with their lives.