This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

With modern technology, US soldiers can learn the essentials of operating everything from grenade launchers to .50-caliber machine guns before they ever set foot on a firing range.


Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment recently conducted virtual-reality training on a number heavy weapons at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Capt. James Ruane, the company’s commander, explained the virtual-reality system to Insider, introducing how it works and how it helps the warfighter.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center, Feb. 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

This virtual-reality system, known as the Unstabilized Gunnery Trainer (UGT), gives users the ability to operate mounted M240B machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers, and .50-caliber machine guns — all heavy weapons — in a virtual world.

“When the gunner has the goggles on, he’s able to look around, and it is almost like he’s in an actual mission environment,” Ruane told Insider.

The virtual-reality system is designed to mimic a heavy weapon mounted on a vehicle. In the simulated training environment, users can engage dismounted and mounted targets, as well as moving vehicles and stationary targets.

“It’s the same type of targets they would engage on a live-fire range,” Ruane said.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier on a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The “weapon” is designed to feel and function much like an actual machine gun or grenade launcher.

“When you pull the trigger and actually fire this thing, it moves,” the captain said. “It has the same recoil as a weapon system would. So it gives the gunner as real of an experience as you could have in a virtual environment.”

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

To operate the gun, the user even has to load ammunition.

There are, however, limitations to the system that prevent it from being a perfect one-for-one training platform for the real deal.

For example, this virtual-reality training platform does not factor things like jams or barrel changes in, despite both issues being important parts of operating a heavy machine gun.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers practice on a Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer, February 9, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

In addition to the single gunner training system, there is also a convoy trainer for three vehicle crew members and a dismount.

“In this setup, you have a driver, you have a vehicle commander, and you have a gunner,” Ruane told Insider. “You also have the ability to have a dismount, and all members of that crew are plugged into the same virtual system.”

“They are all wearing the goggles,” Ruane added. “They all have weapons systems attached to the [VR] system, including a dismount who would have an attached M4.”

“They operate like a crew,” he said, telling Insider that while the training, usually carried out over the course of a weekend, is focused on taking troops through the gunnery tables, the simulator can also be used to train forces for convoy protection missions and other more complex mission sets.

The training normally involves two vehicle crews, but it could be connected to other systems for training with a platoon-sized element.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The company commander said he has seen marked improvements in performance since the introduction of the virtual reality trainer a few years back.

“I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement over the last five years,” the captain said.

“In the beginning, crews would have to go two or three times through gunnery,” Ruane, who has been with his company for five years now, told Insider, explaining that soldiers would make “simple mistakes.”

“Now,” he said, “crews are able to get through their engagements and get qualified as a crew” with some of “the highest scores that we’ve seen in the scoring cycle over the last five years.”

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Ruane says virtual reality has enhanced their training in a big way.

“A lot of people think, especially some old-school military people, think that the virtual-reality stuff takes away from the actual live-fire ranges, when in fact this is actually an enhancer,” he explained, adding that “when you get out to the live-fire ranges, it is going to be muscle memory at that point, and it’s going to go flawlessly.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What changes when drug cartels are listed as foreign terrorists

Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump’s offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” saying we just needed a “call from your great new President.” But that call never came.


In order to expand the range of options for American intervention, Trump is looking into designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move he says will come in the next 90 days.

“They will be designated,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”

That process means the cartels acting like a foreign terrorist organization, specifically meeting certain criteria set by the State Department. The organization must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities, and present a threat to U.S. national security.

Under the ‘terrorist activity defined, they meet the criteria for being engaged in hijacking and sabotage conveyances, detaining/murder/injuring an individual or a government organization to keep them from doing any act as a condition for the release of an individual,” Lenny DePaul, Chief Inspector/Commander of the U. S. Marshal Service, told Fox News.

The groups are also guilty of targeted assassinations, using explosives to threaten and destroy government institutions, and posing a danger to individuals and property.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Once designated a foreign terrorist organization, cartel members would no longer be able to enter the United States, Americans would no longer be able to do business with these groups, their sub-organizations, or legitimate organizations with ties to the cartels. This includes doing business with any known member of any cartel. Domestic law enforcement would also be able to prosecute gang members and drug dealers using anti-terrorism laws. An estimated 80 percent of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, and the violence is only getting worse.

Since 2006, some 250,000 people have been killed in cartel infighting. The reason? The Mexican Government under President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in an effort to end drug and gun violence. It began with 6,500 troops sent to Michoacán state and ended with 45,000 being sent in. By the end of Calderon’s term, 120,000 Mexicans were dead due to cartel-related violence. Since the escalation of violence, the cartels have turned into full-on insurgent groups.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

(Drug Enforcement Agency)

The cartels have begun to hire mercenaries and recruit paramilitary forces to protect their trade routes and territories. They use insurgent tactics and propaganda methods to intimidate journalists and influence the Mexican populace. When their public relations campaigns have little effect, they all turn to violence and targeted killings.

But Mexico is pushing back against the United States.

“Our problems will be solved by Mexicans,” President Andres Manuel Lopez said a press conference. “We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Retired military officers are urging against a war with Iran

Iran just conducted a massive rapid deployment exercise that consisted of 12,000 coordinated troops – the Islamic Republic was saying to the world that any attackers would face a “crushing blow.” Over two days, Iran’s regular military forces used ground troops, fighter planes, armored vehicles, and drones to practice its methods of repelling invaders over 190 square miles.


The exercises are aimed at Israel and the United States, both of which Iran considers a regional menace. Back in the United States, regardless of Iranian training exercises, a growing portion of the military community is urging against a war with Iran, and the effort is being led by retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Eaton is best known for his command of training Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Led by Eaton, a cadre of former General-grade officers wrote an open letter to Congress, urging against provoking a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian military exercises played no role in the letter, which had been in the works for some time. In the letter, Eaton, the other officers, and the non-profit Vet Voice Foundation remind Congress about the costs of the current wars the United States is still engaged in right now.

“A full-scale military conflict with Iran would be a huge and costly undertaking,” the letter reads. “It’s a lesson we’ve learned before as a nation, at great cost. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us a lot in blood and treasure. We know that war with Iran would require hundreds of thousands of American service members to deploy and could result in even larger numbers of American casualties and injuries―alongside an unknown number of civilian deaths.”

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

While the United States does not have any kind of motive to attack Iran as of this writing, the letter is urging Congress to pass legislation to keep the White House from using military force without direct Congressional approval. The current authorization for the use of military force used by the Trump Administration to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere is the same one used by his predecessors Obama and Bush, signed into law by President Bush after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The new National Defense Authorization Act could bar the use of force in Iran.

Specifically, the letter endorsed a bi-partisan detail in the 2020 NDAA that would prevent “unauthorized” military force in or against Iran, sponsored by Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna and ardent Trump supporter and Florida Republican Congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz. There is no current language in the Senate version of the bill. Before going to the President’s desk, the NDAA would need to be reconciled and passed by both houses. The letter urged the inclusion of the Iran language in the final bill.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

U.S. troops are deployed to hundreds of countries – Iran is not one of them.

The group of military officers believes the interests of the United States are better served by focusing on the confrontations with Russia and China, instead of expanding into another Middle East conflict.

“The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum,” the letter reads.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Destroyer pierces Chinese claims in Pacific waters

In what a Chinese official deemed a “provocation,” the US sent one of its guided-missile destroyers through Chinese claimed waters on Jan. 7, 2019, as the two nations kicked off trade talks in Beijing.

Reuters reported Jan. 3, 2019, that the talks, held between trade representatives from both countries, are meant to begin “positive and constructive discussions,” ultimately aiming to ease an ongoing and increasingly devastating trade war.

But just as the talks began Jan. 7, 2019, guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell sailed by the Paracel Islands, one of several hotly contested chains in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.


The same day, Chinese media aired a clip depicting a Chinese air force pilot issuing a warning to an unidentified aircraft in the air defense zone they imposed, although it is unclear when the encounter occurred.

Both encounters took place in areas where China has made sovereignty claims that are not internationally recognized. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all made competing claims in the South China Sea; the air defense zone was claimed in 2013 in an attempt to justify China’s grasp for control of the East China Sea, which has been disputed by Japan, according to the South China Morning Post.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

A still image from footage of a Chinese fighter jet engaging a foreign aircraft over the East China Sea.

(China Central Television/YouTube)

Lu Kang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Jan. 7, 2019, that China had sent warships and aircraft in response, calling the McCampbell’s transit a violation of international law.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rachel McMarr, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said the operation was not meant as a political statement or directed at any one country, but designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims.”

Known as “freedom of navigation” operations, ships and aircraft challenging excessive claims is not a new concept, nor one exclusively practiced by the US. In August 2018, a British amphibious ship sailed close to the Paracels, sparking a confrontation by a Chinese frigate and two aircraft. That same month, the US Defense Department published a map showing instances of Chinese vessels operating in established economic zones of other countries.

While US officials said there is no connection between the transit and the trade talks, Chinese spokesman Kang took a different approach.

“Both sides have a responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he told state media, according to Reuters.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 reasons why you should never trust the barracks lawyer

So, you messed up. That sucks. It’s time to absorb whatever punishment your command team is about to drop on you like an adult and carry on with your career. “But wait,” you hear from the corner of the smoke pit, “according to the regulations, you can’t get in trouble for that thing you did!”

We’ve all seen this happen. That one troop — the one who thinks they know how to help you — is what we call a “barracks lawyer.” They’re not actual legal representation and they don’t have any formal training. More often than not, this troop catches wind of some “loophole” via the Private News Network or Lance Corporal Underground and they take this newfound fact as gospel.

For whatever reason, people routinely make the mistake of believing these idiots and the nonsense that spews from their mouths. Here’s just a brief look at why you shouldn’t take their advice:


This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Think about it for more than half a second. If everyone knew all the stupid loopholes, there wouldn’t be a court martial system.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco)

They think they found a loophole… They didn’t.

The actual rules and regulations have been finely tuned over the course of two hundred years. It’s very unlikely that some random troop just happened to be the only one to figure out some loophole. And, realistically, that’s not how the rules work. There’s a little thing known as “commander’s discretion” that supersedes all.

If the commander says it, it will be so. It doesn’t matter how a given rule is worded.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

What they’re suggesting isn’t real. Want to know what is? Troops breaking big rocks into smaller rocks in military prison.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)

What they’re suggesting is often insubordination.

Advice that these pseudo-lawyers offer often involves a line that often starts with, “you don’t have to follow that, because…” Here’s the thing: Unless a superior is asking you to do something that’s profoundly unsafe or illegal, you have to do it. That’s not just your immediate supervisor — that’s all superiors.

The advice that they’re offering is a textbook definition of insubordination. Disregarding an order comes with a whole slew of other legal problems down the time.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

If they’re on in the first sergeant’s office after every major three-day weekend, they’re probably full of sh*t.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

They’re usually not the best troops in the formation

If they do know what they’re talking about, it’s for good reason. They probably got in trouble once, talked their way out of that trouble, and got let off the hook because the command stopped caring to argue.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

It’s not like there’s an entire MOS field dedicated to solving such issues… oh… wait…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)

They don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about

There are 134 articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice out there and countless other rules and regulations that pop up from time to time. There’s no way in Hell that some private in the barracks has spent the time required to study each and every one of them and how they interact with each other.

If they have, by some miracle of time management, spent the effort required to learn all of this, then why the hell have they been squandering their profound talents in your unit rather than going over to JAG? Which leads us perfectly into…

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

If you live with a lower enlisted troop who’s in JAG, they’re still a barracks lawyer if their head is firmly up their own ass about how they can help you. Catch them on the clock.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

There are actual military lawyers who will advocate for you.

They exist and aren’t that uncommon. They’re often found at the brigade-level or installation-level. It’s their job to take on your case and see how the military judicial system could work for you. Unlike your buddy in the barracks, these lawyers have spent years in military (and often civilian) legal training.

Don’t waste your time placating the barracks lawyer. Actual military lawyers in JAG will take care of you.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Who would win in a fight between F-35 and cheaper Gripen?

The Lockheed F-35 Lightning has been drawing a lot of press – and orders from across the world. According to a Lockheed website, 14 countries either have orders in or are looking at buying the Lightning. But another cheaper jet is making waves.


 

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo U.S. Air Force)

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is part of a long line of Swedish jets, to include the Draken and Viggen. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Gripen has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 1,988 miles. The plane is armed with a 27mm cannon and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance. It is a very advanced fourth-generation fighter (arguably falling in the Generation 4.5 category with the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale).

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
A JAS 39 Gripen with a combat payload (Photo Saab Group)

The F-35, on the other hand, offers stealth technology and very advanced avionics, making it a fifth-generation fighter. MilitaryFactory.com reports it has a top speed of 1,199 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,379 miles. It also has a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance, and comes with a GAU-22 25mm cannon.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)

So, why would a country want the Gripen? Two words: Math and money. The F-35 comes in at anywhere from $94 million to $122 million, depending on the variant, according to Lockheed. Now, this price may go down, but it’s still pretty steep. According to GlobalSecurity.org, South Africa paid roughly $1.5 billion for 28 Gripen, which comes to about $53.5 million per jet. That’s a $40 million savings, and you get everything the F-35 can do but stealth.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

But which plane can win in a fight? The Gripen has high performance, but the F-35 can see it easily. The F-35, on the other hand, is much harder for the Gripen to see. Fighter pilots have a saying, “Lose the sight, lose the fight.” That means the Gripen, as impressive as it is, would come out second-best in a fight with the F-35.

Still, it’s better than relying on a MiG or Sukhoi.

Articles

This space plane is still on its secret mission in orbit

A classified unmanned space plane has been in orbit for over 500 days, but no one is telling the public what it’s doing.


Drones are in the news nearly every day. Tiny toys snapping exciting photos for our Instagram accounts. Commercial drones working for farmers and municipal agencies. Missile-armed drones performing strikes on enemy locations. Unmanned craft, in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, are conducting more missions for more people all the time.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
So what was this space drone actually doing on its secret missions up there in outer space? (Photo U.S. Air Force)

Operated by the United States Air Force, the X-37B is at the top of the drone pyramid and is pushing the outside edge of the envelope as you read this.

The X-37B, sometimes called the Orbital Test Vehicle, is a small unmanned reusable spacecraft built by Boeing that looks a lot like a small space shuttle. It’s 29 feet-long with stubby wings and angled tail fins. Unlike the famous shuttle orbiters that it resembles, however, it lacks a vertical stabilizer. It launches atop an Atlas V 501 launch vehicle inside the booster’s payload fairing and, at the end of its mission, returns to earth and lands on a runway like the 80s-era space shuttle.

What the space plane does while it’s up there, though, is mostly a mystery.

The first X-37B mission, OTV-1, flew in 2010 and lasted for 224 days — close to the X-37B’s designed 270-day endurance. The second mission, flown by a second X-37B, flew in 2011 and lasted 468 days. The third mission, performed by the first spacecraft, lasted an astounding 674 days. The current mission, dubbed “OTV-4,” was launched on May 20, 2015, and recently passed 500 days in orbit.

The Air Force is tight-lipped about how long OTV-4 will last, though it must last until at least March 25, 2017, if it’s going to break OTV-3’s record.

The X-37B program began as a NASA project. One of the X-37’s primary missions was to have been satellite rendezvous for refueling and repair, and the small space plane would have been carried to orbit inside a space shuttle’s cargo bay.

As the program progressed, however, the plan shifted to launching atop an expendable booster and, in 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over the program. DARPA continued development of the X-37, resulting in the current X-37B for the US Air Force.

Once the project transferred to the military, it became classified.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
Doesn’t exactly look like a friendly little space drone does it? (Photo U.S. Air Force)

The spacecraft itself is not terribly secret. For the past six years, numerous news stories have been run about the “secret” space plane and many photographs have been published.

What the X-37B does while it’s up there on missions lasting well over a year, though, is the source of much conjecture. The fact sheet for the X-37B on the official Air Force web site describes the mission as “an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”

That’s an explanation that doesn’t explain much, however, and doesn’t seem to justify the enormous expense of building, launching, and operating the spacecraft.

Of course, theories on the internet abound. Some have claimed that the X-37B is an advanced spy satellite. Some wonder if the X-37B could be an experimental space bomber. Others believe that the original mission of satellite rendezvous for maintenance could easily have been adapted to more nefarious purposes, such as interfering with or destroying satellites operated by nations such as Russia or China.

Ground observers have watched what they believe to be the X-37B make significant changes to its orbit, a maneuver in line with the space saboteur theory.

In 2012, during the OTV-2 mission, the editor of Spaceflight magazine claimed that the X-37B was probably spying on the Chinese space station Tiangong-1. Other experts, however, publicly doubted and dismissed the idea as improbable at best.

If you spend enough time online, you’re certain to find any number of wild ideas. One of the most outlandish theories about the X-37B is that it’s not unmanned at all. The idea is that a hibernating astronaut is onboard the space plane and that experiments are being conducted to prepare for long-duration manned missions to Mars or, perhaps, to station a quick-reaction force of soldiers in orbit for secret missions anywhere on the globe. Or above it.

Whatever the X-37B is up to, it seems to be doing a good job of it. Work is being done to make it possible for the drone to land at Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle landing strip. Part of the shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility, without a mission since the shuttle program ended, is being modified to process X-37Bs.

A recent NASA presentation discussed the potential to develop a space ambulance which could service the ISS from the X-37B. An X-37C proposal, more than 50 percent larger than the current model, would possibly be able to carry astronauts.

The classified little space plane is a bit of a mystery but certainly one of the most exciting drones in use today. Even if we aren’t sure what’s it doing.

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 11

Oh snap! The first official recruiting ad for the Space Force has finally dropped! Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as hyped as everyone else who joked to their retention NCO that the only way they’d stay in was to reclass as a space shuttle door gunner.

But, like, why do they even need an advertisement at this point? Everyone knows who they are and are already planning on camping out at the recruitment offices when they open. It’s like seeing a commercial for a Ferrari. It’s just a waste of time and money when we’re already sold on the idea.

Whatever. They’re probably going to have a bigger budget than the Air Force – so spend it if you got it, right? Anyway, here are some memes.


1. I don’t care about any of your damn stories from Basic. But you can be damn sure that I’ll play along with whatever BS lie about how badass you are to tell civilians.

2. While we’re in, we all sh*ttalk chief for being OFP. But, he’s literally treating the military like it’s a 9-5 job at that point.

3. North Korean generals got nothing on some of the E-4’s I’ve seen these days…

No photo description available.

4. Anyone know if the vehicles in the motorpool are still fine? No one’s been around to kick their tires in ages!

5. All else fails, pocket sand…

6. One makes things go boom. The other prevents things from going boom. See the problem?

7. Largest amphibious landing in military history and it wasn’t conducted by the branch of the military specifically designed for such a task…

(Yeah, I know. They were in the Pacific and Marine generals assisted in the planning. I thought Marines were at least supposed to understand jokes.)

8. “Ah, I see you’re a man of culture as well.”

9. For the Space Force? In a heartbeat. Then again, I’ve been out for a few years, put on a few pounds, have literally no applicable skills needed in space… But I’d do it.

10. Well. Now I’m going to rewatch Band of Brothers this quarantine… for the 101st time…

11. As long as you don’t have flat feet. (Is flat feet still a thing?)

12. f it looks right, it is right.

13. If you didn’t jump up out of your bunk, but forgot that you’re on the lower one, so you smack your head so damn hard it echoes through the bay, did you even go to basic/boot camp?

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 disgusting diseases older troops had to worry about

So, it turns out there’s a reason your local medic wants to look at your body parts and fill you with pills, and it’s not because they’re a pervert — I mean, they probably are, but that’s not why they’re doing it. See, your ancestors fought in wars where it was fairly common their kidneys to swell up and burn, their genitals to start dripping pus, and their livers to grow holes and leak bile into their blood.

If you consider any of the descriptions above humorous or entertaining (sicko), then read on!


This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Soldiers undergo delousing on the Serbian front of World War I, an effort to reduce diseases like trench fever.

(Popular Science Magazine)

Trench fever

Trench fever was a fever characterized by skin lesions, sore muscles and joints, and headaches — yeah, not much fun. It was first recognized in 1915 as it spread through the trenches of World War I, but it also broke out in some German units in World War II.

It was spread through infected body lice and usually cleared up in a couple of months, but became chronic in rare cases. At least, with trench fever, the lesions were mostly confined to your skin and back… unlike the next entry.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Front and back cover of a truly disturbing book given to World War I troops headed back to the states, apparently filled to the brim will all sorts of disgusting genital bacteria.

(National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)

Literal blue balls (thanks to genital lesions!)

We’re not including a photo here for obvious reasons. A soft chancre is an “infectious, painful, ragged venereal ulcer” that develops at the site of Haemophilus ducreyi. The bacteria can also cause “buboes, or ‘blue balls'” according to a 1918 pamphlet issued by the War Department.

After a regrettable Google search and lots of crying, this author can confirm that the ulcers look very painful, but nothing about the affected organs looks particularly blue.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Treatment for gonorrhea in 1911. Yes, the doctor is holding what you think he is, and that injection is going where you hoped it wouldn’t.

The clap and syphilis

While gonorrhea — also known as “the clap” — and syphilis are still common STDs, early detection on military bases and a lack of fraternization with locals has made it less of a problem in modern wars than when your grandparents fought. But for troops marching across Europe, hitting on as many French girls as they could, getting a series of sores on their genitals or seeing the dreaded discharge come out of their naughty bits was a real possibility.

And, back then, the only sure-fire test available for diagnoses was getting “rodded off the range,” a test where a doctor slid a cotton swab into a man’s “barrel” and swirled it around 5-10 times. Now, blood and urine tests are used instead. Big win for modern science.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Not today, tuberculosis. Not today.

Tuberculosis

Another disease that was a bigger problem for grandpa than it is for you, tuberculosis is a nasty infection that usually hits the lungs, causing bloody coughs, but can also wreck your liver, kidneys, and other organs. It causes chest pain, breathing troubles, fatigue, chills, and other issues that absolutely suck, especially while in a World War I trench.

It is spread through the air and infected surfaces, which is a big problem when thousands of dudes are sleeping on top of each other in crowded bunkers.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Typhoid Mary, famous for being imprisoned by New York authorities after she was found to be a carrier of typhoid fever.

(Public domain)

Typhoid fever

Typhoid fever, caused by salmonella that infects the intestines, was a huge problem in the Civil War and World War I. Back then, the particularly bad sanitation practices allowed fecal material from infected troops to make it into the food and into the digestive tracts of healthy ones. It triggered skin lesions, diarrhea or constipation, trouble breathing, and fever, among other symptoms.

In the Civil War, doctors hadn’t even figured out the disease yet, and treatment basically involved throwing a bunch of home remedies at the problem while continuing the study the disease’s spread. By World War I, we at least knew what caused it and had a vaccine, but still no cure. It wasn’t until after World War II that the disease became treatable.

War nephritis

Nephritis is inflammation of the kidneys. “War nephritis” was named by doctors in World War I who were looking into a sudden increase in cases with additional symptoms, like headaches, vertigo, and shallow breath.

While it’s still very possible to experience nephritis in war today, the worsened symptoms observed in World War I were thought to be tied to conditions in the trenches and along the front. Nephritis limits the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood, and exposure to the cold and wet conditions of wartime Europe made the problem much worse.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

This is your intestines on dysentery.

Dysentery

Dysentery has a reputation for being a particularly bad case of diarrhea, but that’s not a full picture of the problem. It’s diarrhea that can last for months and include bloody stools. Even when treated, it could lead to secondary infections, like hepatitis and liver abscesses. The liver degradation leads to a buildup of toxins in the blood and body.

So, yeah, pretty horrible. And troops shifting between different fronts and battlefields in World War I allowed different versions of the disease to reach new places and vulnerable populations. Today, it’s easier to diagnose and treat, but the best safeguard is good hygiene and sanitation.

“Soldier’s heart” or effort syndrome

Effort syndrome, also known as “soldier’s heart syndrome,” wasn’t well understood, but it was a tendency for soldiers in the Civil War and World War I to experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, exhaustion, and cold extremities. It’s thought that the syndrome may have been caused by a previous disease, like fever, jaundice, dysentery, etc. combining with the stress and rigors of war.

Over 36,000 troops were discharged in World War I for heart ailments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens US with nuclear doomsday device

Russia’s military and state-sponsored media have reacted with a fire and fury of their own to the news that the US will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), one of the last barriers preventing a full-on Cold War-like arms race in Europe — and there’s already talk of a nuclear doomsday device visiting the US.

The INF Treaty banned land-based nuclear-capable missiles with a range between 300 and 3,200 miles in 1987 when Russia and the US had populated much of Europe with intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The ban eliminated this entire class of missiles and went down as one of the most successful acts of arms control ever.


The US and NATO concluded recently that Russia had spent years developing a banned nuclear-capable weapon, thereby making the treaty meaningless. The US responded by saying it would withdraw and design its own treaty-busting missiles. Russia said it would do the same, though many suspect they have already built the missiles.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

United States President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But Russia’s response to the US didn’t stop there.

A BBC review of Russian newspapers, some state-owned and all adhering to state narratives or censored by the Kremlin, revealed some truly apocalyptic ideas.

“If the Americans deploy their new missiles near Russia’s borders, and in response we deploy ours, then of course, the risk of [nuclear] conflict rises sharply,” an arms-control expert told one paper.

“If US missiles are deployed in Poland or the Baltic states, they’ll be able to reach Russia in minutes. In such an event, the way Russia currently conceives using nuclear weapons, as a retaliatory strike, becomes impossible, since there won’t be time to work out which missiles have been launched against Russia, what their trajectory and their targets are,” he continued. “This is why there is now a temptation for both us and for them to adopt the doctrine of a preemptive strike.”

The expert said the INF Treaty’s demise means both the US and Russia now have to consider nuking the other at the first sign of conflict because missile attacks won’t be as predictable as longer-range salvos from the continental US and Russia’s mainland.

But the expert neglects to mention that US and Russian nuclear submarines can already fire from almost anywhere at sea, already confusing targets and trajectories and taking minutes to reach Russian forces.

Finally, Russian media turned to what’s quickly becoming a propaganda crutch in communicating Moscow’s might: the doomsday device.

Океанская многоцелевая система «Посейдон»

www.youtube.com

Russia recently said it built one of the most devastating nuclear weapons of all time in the form of an undersea torpedo with a 100-megaton nuclear warhead that’s designed to be unstoppable against all missile defenses and create tsunami-size waves, and a radioactive hellstorm that stomps out life on earth for thousands of square miles for decades.

Since they announced the weapon, they’ve already used it to threaten Europe. But now with the INF Treaty in tatters, a military expert told a Russian paper that the doomsday device could see use.

“It cannot be excluded that one of the Poseidon with a 100 megaton nuclear warhead will lay low off the US coast, becoming ‘the doomsday weapon.’ Thus an attack on Russia, will become a suicidal misadventure,” the paper said.

The paper also declined to mention that the US and Russia’s nuclear posture already guarantees any mutual nuclear exchanges would lead to the total destruction of both countries.

Russia’s Poseidon doomsday device doesn’t change the mutually assured destruction dynamic between Washington and Moscow. It provides only a way to destroy more natural life in the process.

Russia’s media may swerve into bombast, but Russia’s actual military has already announced plans to build more weapons and extend the range of weapons to counter the US in what experts peg as the next great nuclear standoff.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Navy needed Spruance-class destroyers

In the 1970s, the United States faced a problem. Many of the World War II-era destroyers of the Gearing and Allen M. Sumner classes were finally showing their age. Not only were these ships entering the tail-ends of their primes, they were also very numerous — the U.S. had built 98 Gearing-class ships and 58 Sumner-class vessels. In fact, if World War II hadn’t ended when it did, we’d likely had even more of these hulls!

Many of these ships were passed on to American allies, where they went on to enjoy long careers. But selling ships off doesn’t eliminate the need for a new destroyer. The Navy was hard at work building a lot of guided-missile destroyers for anti-air action (the Coontz and Charles F. Adams classes), but the Soviets had a lot of subs, and the U.S. needed a vessel highly capable of protecting aircraft carriers and merchant ships from this burgeoning, sub-surface threat.


This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Six Spruance-class destroyers in the process of fitting out. All 31 vessels of the Spruance-class entered service between 1975 and 1983.

(U.S. Navy)

The answer was the Spruance-class destroyer. These ships were fast, notching a top speed of 32.5 knots, and packed two five-inch guns, an eight-cell Mk 29 launcher for the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and an eight-cell Mk 16 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket. The ships also carried two triple-mounted 324mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a pair of Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon Systems, and two anti-submarine helicopters.

The United States built 31 of these ships — but passed on creating a variant capable of carrying four helicopters. Two dozen of these ships were later upgraded with a 61-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that later replaced the ASROC launcher.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

USS Hayler, showing the upgrades to the Spruance design – including a Mk 41 vertical launch system.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Amy DelaTorres)

The ship proved so capable that the hull design was later reused for another 31 ships with advanced anti-air capability. Four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers and 27 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers were built using the hull design of the Spruance.

Watch the introduction of the Spruance in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44X_JuPiVHc

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

NASA just selected astronaut Jeanette Epps for a historic space mission by Boeing — 2 years after the agency abruptly bumped her from a first flight

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps may finally be traveling to space.

The agency said Tuesday that it has assigned the 49-year-old rookie astronaut to Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission, slated to launch sometime in 2021.


The mission is actually the second that NASA picked Epps to fly. But she never made the first one, a Russian Soyuz flight that lifted off in June 2018, because the agency abruptly bumped her from the crew about five months ahead of launch.

“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail, or at what level,” Epps said during a conference in 2018 conference, but noted it was not medically related. “There were Russians, several of them, who defended me in the sense that it’s not safe to really remove someone from a crew that has trained together for years.”

NASA told Business Insider in a statement that a “number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” adding that “decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”

Despite the disappointing turn of events, Epps kept her composure over the years.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way that you planned,” she told “Business Insider Today” in 2019. “But I’m still in the astronaut corps.”

With her fresh assignment, Epps is once again poised to make history. The mission is to scheduled to be the first operational flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which should follow an uncrewed launch (possibly later this year) and a crewed flight test in 2021.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

The International Space Station. NASA

Epps will live and work aboard the space station for half a year

NASA selected Epps, an aerospace engineer, to be an astronaut in 2009. Prior to that, she worked at Ford Motor Company as a research scientist before moving on to the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was as a technical intelligence officer for more than seven years, according to her biography.

The Starliner-1 mission’s destination is the International Space Station, a facility that orbits 250 miles above Earth, and which people have inhabited continuously for 20 years. During her new upcoming mission, Epps will live and work aboard the 0 billion, football field-size laboratory for about six months.

Epps has not yet flown to space. She will join fellow spaceflight rookie Josh Cassada and veteran Sunita Williams. Williams, the Starliner-1 mission’s commander, has worked with Boeing and SpaceX over the past six years on the design and functionality of their new spaceships through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I can’t wait for her to join our crew,” Williams said in a video she tweeted on Tuesday.

Cassada tweeted a humorous video congratulating Epps, who grew up in Michigan, on her crew assignment.

“Just a couple of things I think we need to get sorted out. I know we both claim Michigan, I’m not going to arm-wrestle you for it — I’ve seen you in the gym. So maybe we can split it?” Cassada said. “The only other thing we need to get sorted out is, on the Starliner, I call shotgun.”

Starliner launched and landed on its first uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in December 2019. However, the spacecraft experienced two “high visibility close calls” that might have resulted in the loss of the spacecraft, NASA said earlier this year.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, on December 22, 2019. Bill Ingalls/NASA

Boeing is now fixing its software, systems, and procedures to rectify the problems, and — at a cost of 0 million to the company — plans to refly the mission later this year. Assuming there are no further issues, veteran astronaut Mike Fincke, retired astronaut Chris Ferguson, and rookie astronaut Nicole Mann will fly the first experimental crewed flight in 2021.

NASA appears unfazed by a small air leak aboard the ISS, which a three-person crew is currently helping root out and repair.

Had NASA allowed Epps to fly on the 2018 Soyuz mission, she would have been the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the ISS for an extended amount of time. However, that honor will likely go to Victor Glover, who’s slated to fly NASA’s next commercial mission with people, called Crew-1. (SpaceX successfully launched and returned its first astronaut crew on an experimental flight earlier this year.)

Similar to Starliner-1, the Crew-1 mission will be SpaceX’s first operational flight of its commercial spaceship, called Crew Dragon. That mission is slated to fly to the space station as soon as October 23, and Glover will launch with fellow astronauts Shannon Walker and Mike Hopkins, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

The Starliner-1 mission could prove especially important to Epps’ career, in that she is one of 16 active female astronauts in NASA’s corps who may return humans to the moon. Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator, has repeatedly said NASA’s Artemis program will fly the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024.

“Business Insider Today” asked Epps about that possibility during a 2019 interview.

“It’s mind-blowing to think about being the first [woman] to step on this object that you see in the night sky,” she said. “I would hope that my mission would inspire the next generation of women, of all engineers and all scientists to kind of propel us forward, even beyond Mars.”

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

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