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 FIT

Hump Day: Games I would play in my head while hiking

Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.


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

Maybe slip on some ice…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Will Perkins)

Going internal

On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.

“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”

On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.

I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.

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

You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

Making it fun

Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:

  • Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
  • During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
  • I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
  • My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.
This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessika Braden)

  • At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
  • “A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
  • I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
    • Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
    • Roll credits.
This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…

(Photo from the Thayer Soule Collection (COLL/2266) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division)

The right answer

Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.

This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.

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

Keep moving forward…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)

In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.

But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.

Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?

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

This Navy vet built his own car from a top-secret jet engine

The first thing one might notice about the barracks at a military base is that there are a lot of nice, shiny, new cars parked there. It’s not a secret that troops like to buy new vehicles when they join the military. When someone with a love for cars and speed learns how to rebuild and maintain jet engines, like many in the military do, no one should be surprised that they use those skills in their post-military career.


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

Pictured: The TAPS Class of the future.

Arthur Arfons didn’t actually become a jet engineer when he joined the Navy in 1943. He was a diesel mechanic who worked on landing craft in the Pacific Theater of World War II, even landing at Okinawa to support the Marines invasion of the Japanese island. He may have been a Petty Officer Second Class, but his mechanic’s skills were first-rate. It was just something he loved to do. By 1952, he had returned to his native Ohio and started building drag racing cars with his brother, Walt.

That’s how Art Arfons would make history.

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

Art Arfons in the “Green Monster 2.”

In their first outings, they used a classic V6 Oldsmobile engine that barely peaked at 85 miles per hour. Their next attempt was a significant step up. They put an Allison V12 aircraft engine, normally used in a Curtiss P-38 Lightning fighter plane. Called the “Green Monster 2,” and painted to resemble the nose of a P-38, it would break the existing land speed record by clocking at 145.16 miles per hour.

When Art Arfons split from Walt, he somehow picked up a General Electric J79 jet engine from a scrap dealer. The engine had sucked up a bolt and was considered unsalvageable by the U.S. military. Art bought it from scrap for just 0. GE and the U.S. military were very much against Arfons purchasing the J79, considering it was Top Secret technology at the time.

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

The “Green Monster” featuring a Starfighter engine arrives to set a record.

Arfons rebuilt the jet engine, capable of 17,500 pounds of static thrust with its four-stage afterburner. His newly rebuilt engine, normally used in an F-104 Starfighter, was put into the next iteration of his “Green Monster” vehicles (he named all his vehicles “Green Monster”), where he used it to set the land speed record three more times between 1966 and 1967, topping out at 576 miles per hour.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why NATO went to an emergency session in the latest meeting

NATO leaders entered a special emergency session on July 12, 2018, after President Donald Trump was said to have spoken very bluntly about his demands that the countries spend more on defense.

During the summit, Trump broke diplomatic protocol by calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, saying, “Angela, you need to do something about this,” a source told Reuters.

Leaders of Afghanistan and Georgia, non-NATO members, were asked to leave for the emergency session.


Trump singled out Germany on July 11, 2018, when he accused the country of being “totally” controlled by Russia because Russia provides a large share of its oil and natural gas. Merkel fired back that Germany was independent and a strong NATO ally.

“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”

Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.

“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.

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

The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.

Trump’s NATO grudge

Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.

NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.

Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.

Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Lynx might be the most versatile helicopter ever

Some helicopters are loved because they carry a lot of firepower, like the AH-64 Apache. Others, like the CH-47 Chinook, are loved for their ability to haul troops and gear. Some helicopters, like the UH-1 Iroquois, are beloved icons from a past war. The AgustaWestland Lynx, however, is none of these things, but it has been a valuable asset for the Royal Navy and British Army for nearly three decades.


The typical Lynx has a crew of two, a top speed of 158mph, and a maximum range of 426mi, but it’s this chopper’s versatility that makes it stand out. Here’s a look at the Lynx in its various roles.

Troop carrier

As a troop carrier, the Lynx holds eight infantrymen. This is a small payload compared to the UH-1 (which is capable of holding 13 troops), but eight troops is the size of a British section (their term for a squad-sized unit). In this role, the Lynx usually packs two guns, either 7.62mm general-purpose types or .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
A Lynx AH.7 in utility helicopter mode, where it can haul eight troops. (DOD photo)

Anti-tank gunship

In this role, a Lynx packs eight BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missiles. The TOW, as you might recall, has been a mainstay for the United States and a number of its allies since the Vietnam War. The Lynx also can carry 70mm rockets in pods, giving it more options for ground targets.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
The Lynx is also a potent tank-killer with the BGM-71 TOW missile. It also can carry 70mm rockets. (Royal Navy photo)

Maritime operations

The Lynx is used by a number of navies, from the Royal Navy and French Navy (the two original customers) to the South Korean and Royal Thai navies. The primary weapons of the Lynx are Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Sea Skua anti-ship missiles. The Lynx saw some use as an anti-sub chopper in the Falklands War, but in an actual engagement with an Argentinean sub, it used its Sea Skuas – not the weapon you’d expect.

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range
The Lynx HMA.8 served with the Royal Navy until its retirement last year, being replaced by the AW159 Wildcat. (DOD photo)

The Westland Lynx family of helicopters, in its various roles, will be around for a long time – especially with the development of the AW159 Wildcat, a souped-up, anti-submarine variant of the Lynx.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Chinese spy was arrested for allegedly stealing aerospace secrets

A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.


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

Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)

“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”

“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”

“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.

Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.

Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.

​According to the indictment:

Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.

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

A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.

(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What to know about the Combat Controller who will get the Medal of Honor

President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to the family of a fallen U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller at a ceremony on Aug. 22, 2018, for his extraordinary heroism in March 2002 while deployed to Afghanistan.

According to the medal nomination, Tech. Sergeant John Chapman distinguished himself on the battlefield through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity,” sacrificing his life to preserve those of his teammates. Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 that came under overwhelming enemy fire during a heroic rescue attempt on Takur Ghar mountain, Afghanistan, March 4, 2002.


“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen.”

During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop, the MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team flew into an enemy ambush. Intense enemy small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire significantly damaged the helicopter, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts into the “hornet’s nest” of enemies below. Following a controlled crash landing a few miles away, the remaining team members elected to fly back to the enemy-infested mountaintop in a heroic attempt to rescue Roberts.

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

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman

During the rescue attempt, Chapman and his teammates once again received heavy enemy fire from multiple directions. Chapman, despite the enemy fire, charged uphill through thigh-deep snow to directly assault an enemy position. He took the enemy bunker, cleared the position, and killed the enemy fighters occupying the position.

Then, with complete disregard for his own life, Chapman deliberately moved from the bunker’s protective cover to attack a second hostile bunker with an emplaced machine gun firing on the rescue team.

During this bold attack, he was struck and temporarily incapacitated by enemy fire.

Despite his wounds, Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters before paying the ultimate sacrifice. In performance of these remarkably heroic actions, he is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.

“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman fought tenaciously for his nation and his teammates on that hill in Afghanistan,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “His inspiring story is one of selfless service, courage, perseverance, and honor as he fought side by side with his fellow Soldiers and Sailors against a determined and dug-in enemy. Tech. Sgt. Chapman represents all that is good, all that is right, and all that is best in our American Airmen.”

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

John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.

He continued, “I extend my deepest thanks to the members of Tech. Sgt. Chapman’s family, his military family, and the Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who were his brothers on the battlefield and who have remained committed to honoring his legacy. He is a true American hero.

“This is a reflection of our commitment to recognizing the heroic actions of our Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. “As Chapman’s story reminds us, we have a sacred duty to honor the actions and sacrifices of all our service members. I share our Airmen’s deepest gratitude to the Chapman family, as well as the family members of all those who gave their lives serving our great nation.”

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s most prestigious military decoration. It is awarded by the president, in the name of Congress, to military members who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in action with an enemy of the United States.

Chapman will be the 19th Airman awarded the Medal of Honor since the Department of the Air Force was established in 1947. He will be the first Airman recognized with the medal for heroic actions occurring after the Vietnam War.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Satellite photos: North Korea is rebuilding nuclear launch facility

Satellite images taken just after the collapse of February 2019’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un show North Korea rebuilding a long-range-missile test site it pledged to dismantle, experts say.

The photographs are from March 2, 2019, two days after Trump’s meeting with Kim ended without agreement on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

They show North Korea rebuilding its long-range-rocket site at Sohae, according to analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Previously, the Tongchang-ri facility had been used for satellite launches using missile technology North Korea is banned from using by the UN, the analysts said.

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

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

A South Korean lawmaker who was present at a closed-door briefing by South Korean intelligence March 5, 2019, told the Associated Press that the structures being restored at the site included roofs and building doors.

The lawmaker said the National Intelligence Service director, Suh Hoon, told them that North Korea could be preparing to restart tests of long-range missiles if talks with Washington conclusively collapsed.

He suggested that another possibility was that the site could be dramatically blown up in a display of commitment to denuclearization if talks with the US resulted in a deal.

North Korea had begun to dismantle the facility following an agreement reached at June 2018’s Singapore summit between Trump and Kim, and it had been dormant since August 2018, experts say.

According to the monitoring website 38 North, efforts to rebuild structures at the site began between Feb. 16 and March 2, 2019. Trump’s summit with Kim began Feb. 27, 2019.

Its experts say the images show the rail-mounted processing building, where launch vehicles are worked on before being moved to the launch pad, are being rebuilt.

They also identified support cranes, new roofs, and an engine support structure being developed at the test stand.

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

Researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe this image of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad as showing the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North Korea.

(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)

In a Fox News interview March 5, 2019, the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, warned that new sanctions could be imposed on North Korea if the country did not further commit to denuclearization.

“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear,” he said.

“They’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them, and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.”

Sanctions on North Korea are already restrictive, but experts at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation believe there is room for tougher measures to be imposed on Chinese financial entities accused of aiding North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The Council on Foreign Relations has argued that the existing sanctions regime requires better enforcement if it is to be effective.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we all need to understand the Medal of Honor

There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.


Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.

Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.

WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.

Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.

If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.

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

WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?

Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.

WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?

Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.

WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?

Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.

For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.

WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?

Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.

You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.

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

WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?

Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.

WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?

Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.

WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?

Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.

Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.

The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.

You can buy tickets to see the film and support this story and legacy on The Last Full Measure’s website.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Did you know these 5 badasses were military spouses?

The military community is chock-full of milspouse super-achievers – men and women who manage to find personal and professional success despite the many, many (did we mention many?) obstacles the military throws their way. Anyone living the milspo life already knows dozens of people who make a mockery of the dependa stereotype, and we wrote this story to highlight a few. Here are five more milspouses making their marks on the world.


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

The country music star

RaeLynn sang her way into America’s ears as a contestant on The Voice in 2012. Five Top 40 hits and two albums later, the talented performer and military spouse is showing the world that being married to the military doesn’t mean giving up on dreams. Her husband, active duty soldier Joshua Davis, enlisted after they were married in 2016, and the couple has been juggling the demands of Army life and Music Row stardom ever since. As she told People Magazine, “There’s a level of sacrifice that you have to do as a military spouse that the average person might not have to do,” she said. “You can’t talk to your significant other all the time. There’s the fear of when they do deploy, of not seeing them again and that underlying fear of just hoping that they’re okay.” We feel you, girl.

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

upload.wikimedia.org

The media mogul

Sheila Casey has given most of her life to the military. For 40 years she kept the home fires burning so her husband, former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, could rise to the very top rank in the Army, and she did it without losing her own career or identity in the process. Sheila now serves as Chief Operating Officer of The Hill, a top U. S. political publication that covers The White House, Congress, policy, campaigns, lobbying, business and international news. Prior to joining The Hill in 1997, she was Director of Finance at the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas, and worked as an audit manager for Grant Thornton, a national CPA firm. And she did it all while living that milspo life all over the United States, Europe and Egypt and volunteering with a number of organizations, including as chair of Blue Star Families Board of Directors. She also gives her time to Parents as Teachers; The National Domestic Violence Hotline; Snowball Express; the Washington Press Club Foundation; the Board of Advisors for ThanksUSA; The Bob Woodruff Foundation; The Military Child Education Coalition, and the GI Film Festival.

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

The comedian

John Oliver came to the U.S. to do comedy and quickly found fame with his hilarious appearances on “The Daily Show.” In fact, that’s kind of how he met his wife, former U.S. Army medic Kate Norley, who was motivated to enlist by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at age 19. Norley served in Iraq as a combat medic and a mental health specialist and became a veteran’s rights advocate after leaving the Army. Oliver was covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota for The Daily Show, and she was there campaigning with Vets for Freedom. And this is where their story gets funny. Oliver and his crew were caught in a restricted area and, with Oliver in the U.S. on a temporary visa, he and the crew were worried they might get arrested, so they ran. Norley and the veterans campaigning with Vets for Freedom hid them from security, giving Norley and Oliver one of the best “how we met” stories ever. Three years later, they were married. “When you’ve married someone who’s been at war, there is nothing you can do that compares to that level of selflessness and bravery,” Oliver has been quoted saying. “I feel humbled daily by what she has managed to do with her life versus how I’ve decided to fritter away mine.”

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

The politician

Most of the country became aware of Nikki Haley in June 2015 when the then-South Carolina governor stepped in to unite and soothe her state after a white supremacist attacked an African American church in Charleston, killing nine people. Haley masterfully handled a tense, painful moment and helped her state heal. As the first woman to be the governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American to be a governor of any state, she brought a unique perspective to the tragedy. As the sister of a retired soldier and the wife of an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, she understood the risk of inaction. In fact, Haley’s husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, while she was governor. (Oh, NBD. Just juggling all the demands of solo parenting AND an entire state.) “I am unbelievably proud of him and yes, we went through the deployment and single mom stuff, and all that when he was deployed in Afghanistan,” Haley told Military Families Magazine. “I wouldn’t trade it, just because of the pride he has, the pride that we all have for him. We suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Haley in the coming years. She was appointed as the U.N. Ambassador by President Trump, a job she served in for two years, and is widely suspected of having Presidential ambitions of her own.

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

upload.wikimedia.org

The supreme court justice

It’s probably been a minute since Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought of herself as a military spouse. But before she became the Notorious RBG – okay, long before, she was an Army wife. After graduating from college, she married her boyfriend, Martin Ginsburg, and the two moved to Ft. Sill in 1954 because Martin had been drafted into the Army. He served for two years, and then the couple both continued their educations in law and both began legal careers, with Ruth’s culminating in her current position as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Martin passed away in 2010 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. We think those two years as a milspouse must have made an impression on RBG because the first time she argued a case before the Supreme Court, she did it to hook up a milspouse. The year was 1973 and her client was a female service member who wanted military spouse protections for her husband. Back then, the husbands of women who served were not considered dependents and did not receive benefits unless they “were dependent on their wives for over one-half of their support.” But the Notorious RBG helped change that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Eerily lifelike robot dog is working with the police

It seemed like only a matter of time before the sometimes silly, sometimes terrifying robots from Boston Dynamics made their way into police work.

That time has come, apparently: The Massachusetts State Police employed the dog-like Spot from Boston Dynamics from August until early November 2019, Boston public radio station WBUR reported on Nov. 25, 2019.

So, what was the Massachusetts State Police doing with a robot dog?


The loan agreement between Boston Dynamics and Massachusetts State Police explains it’s being used, “For the purpose of evaluating the robot’s capabilities in law enforcement applications, particularly remote inspection of potentially dangerous environments which may contain suspects and ordinances.”

Videos of Spot in action depict the dog-like robot opening doors and performing surveillance — it was used by the Bomb Squad and only the Bomb Squad, according to the lease agreement.

Though Spot was loaned to the Massachusetts State Police for testing, a representative told WBUR that Spot was deployed in two “incidents” without specifying details.

Both Boston Dynamics and the Massachusetts State Police say that the agreement didn’t allow robots to physically harm or threaten anyone.

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

A fleet of Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini pull a Boston Dynamics truck.

(Boston Dynamics)

“Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we’re on the same page for the usage of the robot,” Boston Dynamics VP of business development Michael Perry told WBUR. “So upfront, we’re very clear with our customers that we don’t want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody.”

State police spokesman David Procopio echoed that sentiment. “Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments.”

Moreover, that’s how Boston Dynamics is handling the first commercial sales of Spot.

“As a part of our lease agreement, for people who enter our early adopter program, we have a clause that says you cannot use a robot in a way that physically harms or intimidates people,” Perry told Business Insider in a phone call on Nov. 25, 2019.

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

Boston Dynamics has a range of different robots.

(Boston Dynamics)

Boston Dynamics announced earlier this year that Spot would be its first robot to go on sale to the public.

Those sales have already begun through the company’s “Early Adopter Program,” which offers leases to customers with certain requirements. If a customer violates that agreement, Boston Dynamics can terminate the relationship and reclaim its robot — it also allows the company to repair and replace the Spot robots it sells.

Perry said the Massachusetts State Police is the only law enforcement or military organization that Boston Dynamics is working with currently.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 15th

There’s just something special about Duffle Blog articles. Most joke news sites make it completely obvious that they’re jokes and should never be taken seriously. Most rational people would read a headline like “Are Millenials killing the telegram industry?” and take the joke at face value. Then there’s satire – an art form truly mastered by the folks at DB.

Actual satire is a joke about something taken to the extreme so the audience can see the absurdity in whatever is being ridiculed. Think Stephen Colbert when he was on Comedy Central. Great satire blurs those lines so obscurely that no one can really tell the absurdity. Think Don Quixote and how people believed it was a story about how chivalrous knights were.

Their recent “VA tells vets to use self-aid, buddy-aid before asking for appointment with doctor” is perfect satire. Great article and when you read it, it’s obviously a joke. But that’s not how people reacted to the headline. Oh boy. It’s fake, but it feels like it’s something that could be implemented next Thursday…


On a much lighter note, half of all social media users were unable to connect Wednesday, and we got a new trailer for the upcoming Avengers film. I’m not saying it’s a coincidence, but it definitely smells like the greatest viral marketing strategy for a film to date.

If you survived the “Snappening,” enjoy some memes!

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

(Comic by The Claw of Knowledge)

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

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

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

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

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

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

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

(Meme by Valhalla Wear)

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

(Meme via American Trigger Pullers)

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

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the plan for a 747 aircraft carrier

Longtime readers of WATM know that the U.S. Navy had flying carriers in the 1930s that eventually failed as zeppelins began crashing and fighters increased in size and weight. But the Air Force wanted their own aircraft carriers in the 1970s, and they thought the new Boeing 747s were just the ticket.


The Air Force’s Crazy 747 Aircraft Carrier Concept

www.youtube.com

It can be easy to forget now, over 40 years after the 747 first launched, just how big the plane is. The fact is that some cargo variants of the plane still out-lift the C-5 Galaxy and C-5M Super Galaxy, and even the original 747s were massive for their time.

So the Air Force figured, “What if we made jet fighters small enough to fit in the fuselage?”

The Air Force had already experimented with different methods of pairing bombers and fighters through the late 1940s to 1960s. But the only flying carrier was tested on the B-36 Convair. The Gremlin fighters that could fit in the bomber were too tiny and susceptible to turbulence, and pilots couldn’t make the linkups work.

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

A mock-up of how planes could fit inside the 747 on a conveyor belt along the plane’s spine.

So when the Air Force asked Boeing to take a look at an airborne-carrier variant of the 747, Boeing imagined its own tiny “microfighters.” Ten of these could be teamed with a single 747 equipped with a conveyor belt that could hold them in the plane and shift them to the open bays for launching.

The concept even called for a crew that could re-arm microfighters while the carrier was in flight. And the fighters could be refueled without fully re-entering the plane.

But the Air Force never pursued the idea beyond the 60-page proposal from Boeing, which might be best since a lot of important questions were left unanswered. Could the 747s really carry enough fuel to keep themselves and the microfighters going in a battle? Would the microfighters struggle with the same turbulence problems as the B-36s Gremlins?

What would be the combat radius for a microfighter after leaving its 747? Would it be large enough for the 747 to stay out of range of air defenses while remaining on station to pick up the fighters after the mission?

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

Boeing experimented with different microfighter designs, but none of them ever went into a prototype phase.

Most importantly, Boeing believed that microfighters could go toe-to-toe with many full-sized fighters at the time, but was there any real chance that Boeing could keep iterating new microfighters that could out-fly and fight full-sized fighters from Russia as the years ticked by?

It seems like it would’ve been a big lift for the aircraft designers and military planners to make the whole program militarily useful.

A new concept that uses drones instead of piloted fighters has popped up multiple times in recent years, and it features a number of key improvements over the 1970s 747 concept. Most importantly, drones don’t have pilots that need to be recovered. So if they face a range shortfall, have to fight Russian fighters on disadvantaged terms, or need to be left behind to save the carrier crew, it’s no big deal.

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