This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.


Gripen – Always combat ready

www.youtube.com

You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.

The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.

But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)

That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.

Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.

But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

A Saab JAS-39 Gripen in flight.

(Oleg V. Belyakov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Electronic warfare, using radar and other signals to mask your own forces while also jamming the enemy’s machines, is one of the tools that’s supposed to keep the F-35 safe. But where the F-35 was laboriously and expensively built with its antennas and sensors in the stealth skin of the aircraft, Gripen took a more traditional route and just built fighters with electronic and conventional weapons, akin to the EA-18G Super Hornet.

But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.

There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.

And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Royal Navy’s stealth sub can stay submerged for 25 years

The UK’s submarine fleet conducts some of the most secret missions in the Royal Navy. For that, it requires the quietest ships ever built – the Astute-class submarine. Capable of tracking enemy ships, listening in on foreign communications, tracking vessels and aircraft, delivering special operators, and more. It can even launch a volley of Tomahawk missiles while submerged.

And no one would ever see it coming.


This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The seven Astute-class subs will soon be the only attack subs in the Queen’s fleet. The only other submersible ships will be tasked with carrying the UK’s sea-based nuclear arsenal. The rest of the Royal Navy’s subs will be decommissioned by the time the Astute and her sister ships are all in the water.

Engineers at BAE were tasked with something nearly impossible: silencing a 7,400-ton nuclear-powered warship with 100 British sailors on board. They had to reverse engineer how noise would be emitted from the ship, trace them to the source, and dampen it. And since the submarine would be completely vulnerable while completing its mission, the engineers also had to protect the ship from a torpedo impact, one that would be designed to break the ship’s back.

And yes, the Astute can take a direct hit from a modern torpedo.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

But the Astute and its class are still under construction. There have been a few mishaps, only a couple of those are due to engineering. An accident ran the ship aground a couple of years ago, causing minor damage. Since then, leaks and corrosion have been reported. Engineers working on the ship say since each ship costs id=”listicle-2637996202″ billion, they can’t make a viable prototype – it’s too expensive. But the lessons learned in the trials are being incorporated into the construction of the other ships.

Other factors that keep the ships quiet are the acoustic tiles that cover the ship’s exterior, the ultra-quiet rafts holding the pumps for the seawater that cools the ship’s reactor, and a diffuser that keeps the ship’s extra carbon dioxide from bubbling to the surface. The ship also has its magnetic signature reduced, and its wake is designed to be minimal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US could lose to China on AI if it doesn’t make some big changes

Major powers are rushing to strengthen their militaries through artificial intelligence, but the US is hamstrung by certain challenges that rivals like China may not face, giving them an advantage in this strategic competition.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling cutting-edge technological capabilities that have any number of possibilities, both in the civilian and military space. AI can mean complex data analysis and accelerated decision-making — a big advantage that could potentially be the decisive difference in a high-end fight.

For China, one of its most significant advantages — outside of its disregard for privacy concerns and civil liberties that allow it to gather data and develop capabilities faster — is the fusion of military aims with civilian commercial industry. In contrast, leading US tech companies like Google are not working with the US military on AI.


“If we do not find a way to strengthen the bonds between the United States government and industry and academia, then I would say we do have the real risk of not moving as fast as China when it comes to” artificial intelligence, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said, responding to Insider’s queries at a Pentagon press briefing Aug. 30, 2019.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan.

(U. S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

Shanahan, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said that China’s civil-military integration “does give them a leg up,” adding that the the Department of Defense will “have to work hard on strengthening the relationships we have with commercial industry.”

China’s pursuit of artificial intelligence, while imperfect, is a national strategy that enjoys military, government, academic, and industry support. “The idea of that civil-military integration does give strength in terms of their ability to take commercial and make it military as fast as they can,” Shanahan explained.

The Pentagon has been dealt several serious blows by commercial industry partners. For instance, Google recently decided it is no longer interested in working with the US military on artificial intelligence projects. “I asked somebody who spends time in China working on AI could there be a Google/Project Maven scenario,” Shanahan said Aug. 30, 2019. “He laughed and said, ‘Not for very long.'”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford sharply criticized Google earlier this year, accusing the company of aiding the Chinese military.

Shanahan acknowledged that the relationships between the military and industry and academia that helped fuel the rise of Silicon Valley have “splintered” due to various reasons, including a number of incidents that have shaken public trust in the government. “That is a limitation for us,” he admitted.

“China’s strategy of military-civil fusion does present a competitive challenge that should be taken seriously,” Elsa Kania, a Center for New American Security expert on Chinese military innovation, wrote recently.

“Looking forward, US policy should concentrate on recognizing and redoubling our own initiatives to promote public-private partnership in critical technologies, while sustaining and increasing investments in American research and innovation.”

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

US soldier provides security during a short halt in Iraq.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)

The US is not without its own advantages.

One important advantage for the US as it looks at not only what AI is but the art of the possible for use in the military is US warfighting experience, something China doesn’t really have.

Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that China has “advantage over the US in speed of adoption and data,” but explained that not all data is created equal. “Just the fact that they have data does not tell me they have an inherent strength in fielding this in their military organizations,” he said.

China can pull tons of data from society, but that, Shanahan explained, is a very “different kind of data than full-motion video from Afghanistan and Iraq,” which can be carefully analyzed and used to develop AI capabilities for the battlefield.

The Department of Defense is looking closely at using AI for things like predictive maintenance, event detection, network mapping, and so on, but the next big project is maneuvering and fire.

Shanahan said “2020 will be a breakout year for the department when it comes to fielding AI-enabled technologies,” but what exactly that big breakout will look like remains to be seen.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hoped this bomber could kill carriers

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a problem. Well, to be honest, they had over a dozen problems: United States Navy carrier battle groups. Each American aircraft carrier was able to bring in five squadrons of tactical jets to take down targets on land, and the Soviets got a good look at what carrier air wings could do in the Vietnam War.


The Soviet’s Tupolev Tu-16 Badger simply could not be counted on to counter this massive threat and survive, so they started looking for better options. The first effort to replace the Badger, the Tu-22 Blinder, was a disappointment. It had high speed, making it harder for opposing fighters to intercept, but it wasn’t the easiest plane to fly. So, Tupolev tried to field a new replacement.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
A Soviet Tu-22M Backfire-B bomber aircraft is escorted by an F-14A Tomcat aircraft. (DOD photo)

What emerged was a plane that would dominate the nightmares of American admirals. The Tu-22M Backfire had high performance and wouldn’t struggle with any of the many issues that plagued the Blinder.

There are some key differences between the Tu-22 Blinder and the Tu-22M Backfire. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a fourth crew member to the three-man crew of the Blinder. The primary armament also changed. Unlike its predecessors, which made heavy use of gravity bombs, the Backfire is primarily a missile shooter. Its main weapon was the AS-4 Kitchen, a missile with a range of 310 miles that carries either a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead or a one-ton conventional warhead. The AS-4 can hit targets on land or ships at sea.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
Air-to-air right side view of a Soviet Tu-22M Backfire aircraft. (DOD photo)

The Backfire entered service in 1972. It has a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and is capable of mid-air refueling. The capability was reportedly deleted after the START treaty, but Russia’s compliance with arms control treaties has been dubious in recent years.

Learn more about this lethal bomber in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkMOE497Ixs
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY GAMING

One armed Marine veteran makes waves streaming on Twitch

Marine Corps veteran and amputee video game streamer known amusingly as “ToeYouUp” has been making headlines as of late for his win in the uber-popular battle royale game, Apex Legends. The Marine Corps vet lost his arm in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24 but hasn’t let it affect his love for video games.

For those of you who have played Apex Legends (one of the humble 25 million to enjoy its February debut), you know how difficult it can be to get a single kill in this game, let alone a win. However, ToeYouUp managed to get a win in the game — using one hand, one foot, and a run-of-the-mill, ol’ Playstation 4 controller.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rafuhqNnkm8
ToeYouUp getting his first Apex Win

www.youtube.com

ToeYouUp getting his first Apex Win

He’s also opted to forego any modifications on his controller. Instead, he uses his left hand to press the controller buttons, move, and aim his character. Then, he uses his toe to fire. Just look at that trigger discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

How fitting then, for a Marine, that he specializes in first-person shooting games. Specifically, he alternates between Apex Legends and Battlefield V. You can take the boy outta the Marines, but you can’t take the Marines outta the boy.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

It’s also important to note that ToeYouUp’s channel is a blast to watch independently of his amputation. It’s actually allowed him to develop a play style that is far more watchable than a lot of his two-handed counterparts — because it’s unique. His motions tend to be far more linear, and he surveils the landscape far more than most top ranked Apex Legends players, so what could initially be looked at as a “limitation” is actually quite the opposite — it makes for more creative play.

On a website full of thousands of people who can play a game well, it’s far more entertaining (and refreshing) to see someone who can play the game with their own style and approach. Twitch users are noticing, too — he’s jumped up thousands of followers since his Apex Legends win went viral.

You can join the masses and watch the vet drop some virtual bodies on his Twitch channel below.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

CDC director: We can control virus in 4 to 8 weeks if everyone in the US wears a mask

Now is the time for everyone to wear masks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and his colleagues wrote in an editorial published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

While the organization has been slow to warm up to broad mask-wearing recommendations — first advising, but not requiring, healthy members of the general public on April 3 to cover their faces when out and about — Redfield and his colleagues now say mask wearing should be universal because “there is ample evidence” asymptomatic people may be what’s keeping the pandemic alive.


“The data is clearly there that masking works,” Redfield told Dr. Howard Bauchner, JAMA’s editor in chief, during an interview Tuesday that corresponded with the editorial’s release. “If we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think in the next four, six, eight weeks … we can get this epidemic under control.”

One model projects universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November 

In the paper, Redfield, with his CDC colleagues Dr. John Brooks and Dr. Jay Butler, pointed to research demonstrating the effectiveness of masks.

One study of the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts showed how universal masking of healthcare workers and patients reversed the infection’s trajectory among its employees.

They also pointed to the Missouri hairstylists who were infected with COVID-19 but did not infect any of their 140 clients, presumably because of the salon’s universal masking policy.

A CDC report also released Tuesday detailed this case, concluding “consistent and correct use of face coverings, when appropriate, is an important tool for minimizing spread of SARS-CoV-2 from presymptomatic, asymptomatic, and symptomatic persons.”

Meanwhile, a modeling program from the University of Washington projected universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November.

“Mask mandates delay the need for re-imposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement, MarketWatch reported. “Moreover, those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”

Not wearing a mask is like opting to undergo surgery by a team without face coverings

The JAMA paper also highlighted the two key reasons masking works: It protects both the wearer and the people they come in contact with.

While early recommendations focused on masking’s benefit to those around you, Redfield and colleagues emphasized the benefit to the wearer as well.

They likened not wearing a mask with choosing to be operated on by a team without any face coverings — an “absurd” option because it’s known the clinicians’ conversations and breathing would generate microbes that could infect an open wound.

“Face coverings do the same in blocking transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the doctors wrote.

Proper social distancing and handwashing are equally important measures, though, when fighting the virus, Redfield told Bauchner.

People are coming around to mask wearing, but there’s still resistance 

More people are coming around to mask wearing, with a separate CDC report, also out Tuesday, showing the rates of mask wearing in public increased from 61.9% to 76.4% between April and May.

Redfield told Bauchner he was “heartened” to see President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence setting that example.

But there’s still resistance, and the issue remains politicized — something Redfield and his coauthors hope their editorial will cut through.

“At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” they wrote.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This deadly resistance fighter was the Wonder Woman of WWII

One of the leaders of the attack was an Australian woman that Resistance Capt. Henri Tardivat called “the most feminine woman I know.” Her name was Nancy Wake. But as she and her men approached the factory that night, there was a problem. A sentry spotted them. Wake sprang at him just as he was about to shout a warning, clamped a forearm beneath his jaw, and snapped his head back.


The man’s body slipped quietly to the ground.

“She is the most feminine woman I know,” Tardivat added, “but when the fighting starts, “then she is like five men.”

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
Wake had a bounty of 5 million Francs on her head.

From April 1944 until the liberation of Paris the following August, Wake served as a top British agent in German-occupied France. She personally led attacks on German installations, including the local Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon, sabotaged bridges and trains, and once during a German attack took command of a section whose leader had been killed and directed suppressive fire as the group withdrew.

Her courage was never questioned, and “her brain worked with the speed and smoothness of skates on ice,” as Australian Russell Braddon wrote about her.

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, when the war broke out in 1939, Wake found herself in Marseille married to French industrialist Henri Fiocca, a wealthy, fashionable, and one account says “frivolous” Society woman. But the frivolity ended when she met and befriended captured British officers kept prisoner in the city and eventually began helping them escape to Spain. She also began working as a courier for the Resistance.

The Gestapo, aware of her presence but not her identity, dubbed her the “White Mouse” for her ability to slip away and avoid detection.

In 1943, her luck ran out.

[She was arrested in a street sweep in Toulouse, interrogated, and beaten but not identified, and the Resistance was able to free her after four days. She escaped France, leaving Henri behind, first by leaping from the windows of a train, then hiding among bags of coal in the back of a truck, and finally in a forty-seven-hour trek through the mountains.

She made it to England where she volunteered for the Special Operations Executive. In April 1944, after training, she parachuted back into occupied France to serve with the Resistance fighters in the Auverge region of southcentral France, where a force of almost 8,000 men headed by Tardivat was hiding in the forests and raiding German facilities. On her person were a million francs for the Resistance groups and plans for their part in the upcoming D-Day invasion.

For the jump, she wore silk stockings beneath her coveralls.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
Wake before the Second World War.

Wake lived and worked with the Resistance group for the next seventeen months, overseeing all British parachute drops, channeling Allied funds to the Resistance, and battling the 22,000 German fighting men in the area. She also served a command function with the Resistance and took part in raids, at one point just escaping death when the car she was riding in was strafed by a German fighter. At another, she travelled 500 km, through mountainous terrain and German-held territory, to report a destroyed radio and code books.

“When I got off that damned bike… I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t walk. When I’m asked what I’m most proud of doing during the war, I say: ‘The bike ride’,” she later said.

When France was finally liberated, Wake learned her husband Henri had been captured, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo and that his (and her) wealth was gone. In the years after the war, she held several British intelligence positions, got remarried, and lived to age 98. She died in 2011 requesting that her ashes be spread over the mountains where she had fought.

“That will be good enough for me,” she said.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
Nancy Wake survived the war and lived until 2011.

Among the decorations Wake received for were the George Medal, 1939–45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defense Medal, British War Medal 1939–45, French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, the US Medal for Freedom with Palm, and the French Medaille de la Resistance.

She was very likely the most decorated woman of the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s now easier for Marines with out-of-regs tattoos to get back in the Corps

A new tweak to Marine Corps policy will reduce paperwork for re-enlisting Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve who have tattoos that fall outside regulations.

The change was shared late March 2018 with career planners and recruiters who work with prior-service Marines, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It came via a total force retention system, or TFRS, message, used to share policy updates pertaining to recruiting and retention.


While rules governing when exceptions can be made to tattoo standards aren’t changing, the way cases involving tattoos that fall outside guidelines are processed is.

Previously, a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve looking to go back on active duty would have to complete a tattoo screening request, endorsed by Marine Corps Headquarters, for any undocumented tattoos that don’t comply with policy.

Now, he or she can simply submit a Page 11 administrative counseling form related to the tattoos. Any tattoos that have not been documented during prior service, have not been grandfathered in according to regulations, and fall outside current guidelines require a Page 11 form. This would be created, Carlock said, when a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve visited a recruiter to begin the process for return to active duty.

“They said, ‘Let’s reduce that back-and-forth. Just send me the Page 11,'” Carlock said. “That was what this message was. Let’s streamline it.”

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith)

The change is not, however, the more-lenient tattoo policy that some hoped for.

After receiving the TFRS message, one recruiter made a public post on Facebook announcing newly relaxed policy standards.

“There is no telling how long this is good for but at this moment we can bring “out of regs” Marines to the reserves … this may be the chance to update your training records (promotion) get on some Tricare, make some money, and earn some points towards retirement!!” the recruiter wrote.

That post has since been removed; Carlock said it was erroneous.

“There was no change to tattoo policy. There was a change to the process,” she said.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere
U.S. Marine Corps tattoo regulations as of June 2, 2016.
(USMC)

In a December 2017, interview, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com he had no plans to relax the current policy. Marines are still not allowed to get full sleeve tattoos, and there are size limits on tattoos that wrap an arm or leg. Tattoos on the neck, face and hands are also all out.

The most recent tattoo policy change was made in 2016, under Neller. It eased up on some regulations, allowing Marines to get “wedding ring” finger tattoos, and clarified other guidelines. It also gave Marines 120 days to get noncompliant tattoos documented in their personnel file.

Since then, Carlock said, no active-duty Marines have been forced out of service as a result of their tattoos.

“If the recruiters came to me and said, ‘We can’t make mission with this [tattoo] policy,’ I would have to go back and look,” Neller said.

But, he added, that hasn’t happened so far.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face,” Neller said in the December 2017, interview. “We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock-and-roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army Futures Command experiments with putting robots in combat

Imagine if a robot could go ahead of troops, by a kilometer or more, to assess a situation and relay information back that would help commanders know what’s ahead and know how to respond?

Army Futures Command isn’t just imagining that- they’re already building it.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

“This isn’t about robots or technology, this is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield, and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on the planet,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told reporters during a virtual discussion about the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.

A platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, CO spent much of this summer sending two-person crews out in modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles that were built from M113 armored personnel vehicles. The goal of the experiment was to observe the vehicles and to collect and analyze feedback from the soldiers working with them on the feasibility of integrating robots into ground combat formations.

The modified Bradleys are known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-Ds) and the modified M113s are known as Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs).

The goal of the program is to eventually build a collection of vehicles that can be used to provide reconnaissance capabilities and standoff distance or to replace soldiers in high-risk activities like combined arms breaches and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) reconnaissance.

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Coffman emphasized that this summer’s experiment at Ft. Carson was just that, an experiment, and not a test and that there is still much work to be done before soldiers will be able to use robots downrange.

“Right now, it’s difficult for a robot, when it looks at a puddle, to know if it’s the Mariana Trench or two inches deep,” said Maj. Corey Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Vehicle-Cross Functional Team. “The RCV must be able to sense as well as a human. It needs to hear branches breaking around it. It needs to know when it’s on soft sand or an incline. We still need to work on that.”

Jeffrey Langhout, director of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center, acknowledged that the robots still have a ways to go and noted that there are particular challenges involved in designing a robot vehicle for combat.

“Right now, we don’t have the sensors to tell us if a puddle is something we can drive through. In the auto industry, high-tech cars are operating on pavement and in a generous GPS environment. We are looking at how to operate in a denied environment, where things can go bad quickly,” Langhout said.

Earlier this year, the Army selected two companies, QinetiQ North America and Textron, to build the eventual vehicles. QinetiQ North America will build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light and Textron will build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Coffman said that the Marine Corps is also using QinetiQ to build an RCV-Light and the two services and working together on the designs.

All in all, Coffman said the experiment was “100% successful.”

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

“We learned where the technology is now and how we can fight with it in the future,” Coffman said.

And just how far in the future are we talking? Unfortunately, pretty far.

Coffman said a second experiment is planned for Ft. Hood, Texas in the first part of the fiscal year 2022 using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles in company-size operations. After that, an experiment will be held to test the vehicles in more complex situations. And after that, the Army will decide if robot vehicles are worth further investment.

This is to say that, cool as the robots are, for now, most soldiers and military families will have to be content just imagining them.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s insane vertical take-off fighters of the 1950s

Nearly two decades before the Harrier jump jet would prove the efficacy of vertical take-off and landing platforms, the U.S. Navy considered taking another approach to fielding fighters without a runway.

In the years immediately following World War II, the United States found itself trying to adapt its newfound airpower to a world with nuclear weapons in it. America knew its monopoly on atomic bombs wouldn’t last forever, and by the mid 1940s, it seemed clear that the Soviet Union would eventually become the planet’s second nuclear power.

That day came sooner than many expected, when a nuclear detonation at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, ushered in an era of military competition between global powers. In just a few short decades, the combined nuclear weapon stockpile of the U.S. and Soviet Union exceeded 70,000. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction tends to be discussed in terms of just the U.S. and Soviets these days, but with stockpiles that large, it was truly the world that hung in the balance as these two superpowers stared one another down from their respective hemispheres.

Nuclear war and the need for VTOL aircraft

(National Nuclear Security Administration)

For some time, nuclear war seemed not only possible, but even likely, as the two nations postured for territory and prestige. Within some defense circles, the question really wasn’t if a nuclear war would break out… but when.

The fact that just 21 years passed between the conclusion of World War I and the onset of World War II is an important piece of context to consider when looking back at the decades immediately following that second great conflict. Military leaders in both nations were largely old enough to have seen not one, but two world wars, each setting a new precedent for war’s horrific destructive capacity. World War III wasn’t a hypothetical concept for much of the world as it is today. World War III seemed like a very real and potentially likely scenario, and the one thing both sides were certain of was that the next global conflict would start the same way the last one had ended: With nuclear weapons.

(Wikimedia Commons)

While America’s politicians largely saw the concept of nuclear war as the end state of a diplomatic failure, America’s military leaders were stuck in the unenviable position of having to plan to fight and win such a war. That meant finding ways to stay in the fight after the first nukes made landfall, and one way that manifested in a number of military aircraft development programs was the concept of VTOL, or Vertical Take-Off and Landing.

Throughout World War II, the world saw an explosion of aviation infrastructure development, as landing strips popped up in every region of the fight. These airstrips throughout Europe and the Pacific would almost certainly be seen as an imposing threat to the Soviets in a new conflict, as they would provide America and its allies with ample opportunity to launch heavy payload bombers deep into Soviet territory.

U.S. Air Force B-29s in 1945 (USAF Photo)

As a result, Pentagon brass believed airstrips would be among the first targets of a Soviet nuclear attack. If they were right and the U.S. couldn’t count on having airstrips positioned around the globe to support combat operations, they needed a new fighter that could take off and land without the need for a well-manicured runway.

The U.S. Air Force considered the Canadian flying saucer known as the VZ-9 Avrocar. The U.S. Navy sought their own solution, and by 1950, they had received proposals from both Lockheed and Convair.

The Lockheed XFV “Salmon”

While the need for VTOL aircraft was seen all across the Pentagon, the Navy saw vertical take-off and landing platforms as an opportunity to deploy intercept fighters from non-aircraft carrier vessels. In fact, the Navy even considered launching VTOL fighters off of merchant ships in a new World War if necessary.

In June of 1951, Lockheed was awarded a Navy contract to build the XFV-1; a prototype fighter with traditional wings, a massive reinforced X-shaped tail, and a 5,850 horsepower turboprop engine spinning a pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers that made the aircraft look like the bastard child of a helicopter and a prop-driven fighter. Most unusual of all, the aircraft was designed to take off and land on its tail, with its nose pointed straight up in the air.

(Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed called on famed aviation pioneer Kelly Johnson to design their VTOL XFV, and one could have argued at the time that the program couldn’t have been placed in better hands. Johnson was just coming off of the development of the P-38 Lightning and then America’s first jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star. His long and storied career as an aeronautical engineer eventually included overseeing first of their kind platforms like the U-2 Spy Plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk.

For testing, the XFV-1 was fitted with an awkward-looking set of landing gear, which included mounting wheels on the bottom of the lower tail wings. In December of 1953, the XFV-1 got its first taste of the sky when Chief Test Pilot Herman ‘Fish’ Salmon managed to make the aircraft “hop” briefly during taxing tests. Less than a year later, in June of 1954, it would make it all the way into the sky for its first real flight.

XFV-1 with landing gear attached (U.S. Navy photo)

Unfortunately, the Allison YT40-A-6 turboprop engine installed on the prototype was not powerful enough to manage actual vertical take-offs or landings. Instead, Lockheed planned to use the forthcoming (and more powerful) Allison T54 engine, which would produce 7,100 horsepower, but issues with the engine’s development meant the XFV’s desperately needed power plant would never arrive.

Scaffolding for the pilot to board the XFV-1 (Lockheed)

The prototype XFV-1 did make a total of 32 brief flights and even managed to hover with its nose up for a short period of time, but never accomplished a single vertical take-off or landing.

The Convair XFY Pogo

(Wikimedia Commons)

Convair’s take on the vertical take-off and landing premise shared a number of similarities with Lockheed’s. Like the XFV, Convair’s XFY Pogo was designed to sit upright on its tail so it could leverage its pair of three-bladed contra-rotating propellers to take off like a helicopter. Then, once in the air, the aircraft would re-orient itself to fly forward like a traditionally prop-driven plane.

XFY on a launch cart (Wikimedia Commons)

For its purposes, the Pogo was more successful than Lockheed’s outing. The first outdoor test flights began in August of 1954, and a series of 70 successful vertical take-off and landing drills following shortly thereafter. By November of that year, the team at Convair with test pilot and Marine reservist, Lieutenant Colonel James F. “Skeets” Coleman at the stick, achieved their first successful transition from vertical flight to horizontal. In order to make the transition easier, the pilot’s seat within the cockpit was mounted on gimbals that oriented the pilot at 45 degrees in vertical flight mode and 90 degrees when flying horizontally.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

Despite its successes, subsequent test flights began to reveal problems with the VTOL upright fighter’s very premise. While flying, the Pogo lacked airbrakes or spoilers to help it slow down after high-speed flight, but more troubling was just how difficult landing the unusual aircraft could be. Pilots had to look over their shoulder and back to the ground as they slowly lowered the fighter down onto its tail. Eventually, a low-power radar system was installed that would help the pilot gauge their altitude with a series of lights, but landing was still risky. It quickly became apparent that the Navy’s plan to put these fighters on a wide variety of non-carrier vessels just wouldn’t work, because only the best pilots in the force had a chance at landing the plane.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Further damning the concept were jet fighters of the era that were reaching speeds as high as Mach 2, while the prop-driven vertical take-off fighters the Navy was testing couldn’t even break the sound barrier. Ultimately, the concept was scrapped, damning both the Lockheed and Convair vertical take-off fighters to life in museums by the end of 1956.

Ultimately, the U.S. Navy would invest heavily into fixed-wing and sweep-wing carrier-based fighters like the F9F Panther, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F/A-18 Hornet. However, vertical or short take-off fighters did still find their way into America’s arsenal. The U.S. Marines began flying the AV-8A Harrier in 1971, and today, Marines are experimenting with using amphibious assault ships to launch sorties of the short take-off, vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B.

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

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Happy little trees: Bob Ross’s first career was in the Air Force

Before he was teaching folks how to paint beautiful landscape sceneries, the late artist Bob Ross served in the U.S. Air Force. In fact, it was where he gained his inspiration for future paintings. 

While working as a first sergeant at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Ross is said to have been acquainted with snow-capped mountains that made regular appearances in his paintings. He began painting them during work breaks, where he was able to create a fast technique that allowed him to make art, even with little downtime. 

One of the things Bob Ross is known for is his calm and quiet demeanor. This can also be traced back to his time serving in the military. He said, with his role of keeping others in line, he had to be mean. “[I was] the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work.” Because of this, he vowed to raise his voice once retiring from the military. This, of course, led to his signature of speaking softly. 

The beginning of a military career and a love for art

At 18 years old, Ross enlisted. It was 1961 and after basic training, he was given a job as a medical records technician. He served for 20 years, retiring as a master sergeant. 

After going to a U.S.O class in Anchorage, Ross began painting as a hobby. However, he soon found that his style differed from his instructors, who were more apt to create abstract pieces. He later found a television show called The Magic of Oil Painting. The show’s unique style, led by Bill Alexander, a German painter, taught Ross to paint quickly. The method is commonly known as “alla prima” or “wet on wet,” allowing the artist to create an entire painting in 30 minutes. This is the same method that Ross would become famous for in his own right.

bob ross
Image via YouTube

With the help of the show, Ross studied the technique and began adding his own skills, creating an entire style of landscape painting. He began selling his paintings and quickly found success, even making more from his paintings than he did from his Air Force salary. 

In 1981, he retired from the service and turned to painting full time. Ross soon returned to his home state of Florida and joined his mentor, painting coach Bill Alexander, as a salesman and tutor for his brand, Alexander Magic Art Supplies Company. 

Eventually, Bob Ross founded his own painting company.

Bob Ross Inc. incorporated his signature permed hair into its logo. Because of the popularity, Ross kept his permed hair going forward.  Through the company, he was able to gain popularity and star in The Joy of Painting, which aired for 12 seasons on PBS from 1983-1994. The show allowed Ross to teach his own style of painting, narrating how to achieve certain results while using the wet-on-wet technique. His son, Steve, also appeared on the show and eventually became a Ross-certified painting instructor. 

Ross passed away in 1995 from complications of lymphoma, leaving behind a $15 million business in art classes and painting supplies. His shows still air on PBS reruns, continuing to teach the masses his landscaping techniques. To see him at work, check out the following video:

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8 of the best dog breeds for veterans with PTS

When heroes come home, sometimes they need a hero of their own. In canine form, that is. Service dogs are invaluable to veterans and civilians alike. These loving, four-legged friends provide emotional support, understanding and protection, and they deserve much more credit than we give them. That said, getting a service dog is about building a partnership. Veterans coping with PTS need a dog that matches their personality and needs, so choose your service dog carefully. Ideally, a service dog to support someone with PTS should be: 

  • Intelligent
  • Intuitive
  • Calm under pressure
  • Driven to learn
  • Social
  • And emotionally intelligent

All service dogs are trained, but psychiatric dog breeds are particularly good at assisting those with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. These 8 breeds are some of the best options out there. Take your pick! 

1. Standard Poodle

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Stop laughing! We’re not kidding. The standard poodle really is an excellent choice for those with PTS. Poodles are one of the top therapy breeds. Highly intelligent and diligent, poodles can learn complex skills, and they possess an innately strong sense of emotional intelligence. They are wonderful at comforting owners and love hugs- and who wouldn’t want to hug a fluffy poodle? Poodles are also a great choice for households with allergy-sufferers because they shed very little and are considered hypoallergenic.

2. Labs

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The lab is easy-going and extremely versatile. Combined, their intelligence and loyalty allow them to learn how to handle the ups and downs of PTS. A lab’s well-balanced personality allows them to keep a level head and, in turn, be a steadfast partner for their owners. They always try to see the best in themselves and find a way to please their owner. Dating back to the days when they were trained as game dogs, they live for approval. Their determination to please is perfect for someone who needs a dog they can rely on. 

3. Golden Retrievers

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Golden Retrievers are a classic choice. They’re loyal, playful and have a naturally sunny disposition. Their tail will be wagging while they comfort you with a nudge and a hug. The Golden Retriever is also adept at reading quick shifts in their owner’s emotions, responding to subtle changes at the drop of a hat. Retrievers are the perfect choice for veterans with kids in the house since they’re very patient and more tolerant of rough handling than most breeds. 

4. Border Collie

If it’s one thing a Border Collie has plenty of, it’s intuition. Border Collies have a long history of leading and retrieving. Because of this, they’re highly tuned in to their handler’s signals, forming a deep emotional bond with their owners. In fact, when Border Collies don’t have a job to do, they tend to get a little antsy. They’re most comfortable when they’re serving others, so Border Collies are well-suited to providing physical comfort during traumatic episodes. Not only will Collies comfort you, but they’ll motivate you to get up and be active each day. It’s hard to say no to a collie that wants to go for a walk! 

5. Pit Bull

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Pit Bulls are one of the most misunderstood breeds on the planet. Despite their vicious reputation, Pit bBulls are dedicated to their owner’s needs and show compassion in stressful moments. With proper training, Pit Bulls can be obedient, help manage their owner’s condition and hold a powerful emotional presence to deliver much-needed comfort. Pit Bulls are low maintenance in terms of grooming, which is a plus for vets with physical limitations.  The only downside? Pit Bulls have been stereotyped as being aggressive, so some airlines may not accept them as support dogs. 

6. Pomeranian

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

Pomeranians might be a surprising choice for a PTS specialty breed, but this pint-sized doggy has more to offer than meets the eye. Personality-wise, these tiny creatures are filled with energy and love. Their intelligence and high energy levels allow them to partake in intensive training and learn quickly in comparison to other breeds. Pomeranians are compact, travel-friendly and family-friendly, which is great for owners who are short on space or don’t have time for long walks. The only thing to watch out for is the grooming requirements for these puffballs- much like their long, luscious fur, the brushing and bathing duties are pretty intense. 

7. German Shepherd

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

There’s a reason German Shepherds are one of the most common military working dog breeds, and they’re an absolutely perfect choice for PTS. The German Shepherd is fully equipped to spring back quickly from stressful situations with their owners. With the right training, they can learn to detect episodes and panic attacks before they even happen and diffuse the situation. Their signature move is pawing at the owner to alert them of triggers and divert their attention from a potential flare-up. German Shepherds are also some of the most loyal, obedient and dependable dogs you can own. They’re very gentle and sweet toward their favorite humans, but they’re also highly protective. If you’d like a service dog that can double as a guard dog, a well-trained German Shepherd is probably your best bet. 

8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

This majestic breed little breed is typically seen as a standard lap dog, but it has immense potential for those with PTS. In fact, one of the Spaniel’s most valuable characteristics is its ability to form an intense bond with its owner. That’s why spaniels are often called “velcro dogs!” Unlike many other small dog breeds, Spaniels are quiet and collected. They handle high-pressure situations well in comparison. They need proper training like any service dog, but they can become wonderful emotional support pets with the right education.

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The insane training South Korean commandos took to infiltrate North Korea

In October of 1983, a team of North Koreans bombed the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Yangon, Burma in an attempt to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan. The president survived, but 21 others were killed, including 17 South Koreans and important members of the South Korean government. 

Although the South publicly denounced North Korea for its actions in the United Nations, privately, the country vowed revenge and began to train a team of special operators to infiltrate North Korea to inflict biblical retribution.

South Korea, one elderly veteran says, had been training commandos for such missions since the North attempted to assassinate the South’s president at the Blue House in 1968. That mission was called off, but the Republic of Korea trained thousands of secret specialists in case a mission was necessary.

In response to the Yangon Incident, the South Korean military decided to destroy some of North Korea’s most significant landmarks, like the Tower of the Juche Idea and the Pyongyang Central Broadcasting Tower.

Training began immediately after the future commandos were selected. But they weren’t picked from the regular army or even the South Korean Special Forces. They were recruited from the civilian population with the promise of overwhelming sums of money given to them or their families, should they not survive the mission. The South Koreans allegedly preferred to get young single men with no parents for the training. 

For basic training, these civilians were forced to run at least 8 miles per hour while carrying 19-pound rucksacks and 3-pound weights on each ankle. The idea was to be able to stay ahead of North Korean special forces once their missions were complete. One trainee remembers his rucksack caused his back to bleed, created a giant blister, and soon turned his back into a giant callous. 

The trainees also needed to learn how to charge through barbed wire and iron fences at top speed, search for booby traps and evade them, all so they could make it to the North through the demilitarized zone. 

Once in North Korea, the operators would have to survive far from civilization, hiding out in the mountains and evading the Korean People’s Army. To do so, they learned to survive by eating rats and snakes in the south. Once in a major city, however, things could go wrong very fast.

The trainees learned to be North Korean soldiers, use North Korean weapons, and wear North Korean uniforms. Despite successive presidents calling off major retaliation against the North (including the bombings of prominent landmarks after the Yangon Incident), Southerners still made thousands of incursions across the DMZ. 

North Korea is still a very strange place. (Vietnam Mobiography, Flickr)

In the days before satellite imaging, the only way to get intelligence and imagery across the border was to actually go there and snap photos. Retaliatory attacks were made, but if the North Koreans cared, they didn’t share it with the world. 

Thousands of South Koreans were trained to go north, and thousands went. Thousands also did not return. Those who did were sworn to secrecy. What is known about the infiltrators only comes from the son of one of them, who overheard things his father would talk about while staring into space, drinking a soju. 

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