The Badger is officially the smallest passenger tank on Earth, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a one-man, all-terrain vehicle designed to breach buildings and other fortified positions. It’s powerful enough to break down doors yet small enough to fit in a lift.
Make no mistake, this tank is not a novelty. Howe Howe Technologies, the makers of this little beast, have experience making vehicles for the military. Howe Howe specializes in the fabrication and design of armored and military-grade vehicles. The Badger, however, is currently being used by SWAT teams.
Understanding the mental cost of taking someone’s life can be nearly impossible for those people who have never experienced it. In this StoryCorps video, Joseph Robertson, an infantryman who served during the Battle of the Bulge, tries to explain to his son-in-law the guilt he has carried since he killed a German soldier approaching his position.
StoryCorps, which works nationwide to collect oral history, has a veteran specific program, Military Voices Initiative, where veterans and service members can tell their stories.
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief could go fast — it had a top speed of 1,390 miles per hour. But this “fighter” was, in reality, a powerful tactical bomber. But despite being designed to put bombs on land targets, the F-105 proved to be a deadly adversary to those who attacked from the sky — it was a rare bird; it was a bomber that could kill a fighter.
The F-105‘s design process started in 1950 as the intended replacement for the F-84F Thunderstreak, a plane that hadn’t yet made its first flight. The YF-105A prototype first flew in 1955 and was soon followed by the first production version, the F-105B. However, the F-105B was quickly deemed out-dated, as it could only operate in daylight and in good weather.
A look at the wide variety of weapons the F-105 Thunderchief could carry into battle.
The main weapon of the F-105 was supposed to be a B28 or B43 “special store” — a nuclear bomb. The later B57 and B61 nukes were later made options for the plane as well. Thankfully, these were never used in anger. But what did get use was the F-105’s ability to carry up to 14,000 pounds of ordnance — not to mention AIM-9 Sidewinders and a M61 Vulcan gun with 1,028 rounds of ammo.
With the onset of newer models, specifically the F-105D, the Thunderchief became a lethal plane in any weather condition, day or night. The F-105D was the workhorse during the early days of the Vietnam War. The plane successfully pummeled land targets, like the Paul Doumer bridge, while excelling in air-to-air combat. The F-105 scored 27.5 kills in the skies.
The F-105G Wild Weasel version of the Thunderchief was used to kill or suppress enemy surface-to-air missile sites.
The F-105F, intended as a combat trainer, instead became the basis for the most notable Wild Weasel of the Vietnam War – the F-105G. One Wild Weasel pilot, Leo Thorsness, would earn the Medal of Honor in the F-105 for taking on North Vietnamese MiGs during an effort to rescue a downed air crew.
The F-105 stayed in service until 1984, marking nearly three decades of service. Learn more about this lethal multirole fighter in the video below.
Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.
The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.
The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.
The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.
“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.
Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.
“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force is one of the world’s most modern air forces. It is also very large (100 combat planes) compared to the size of the country (276 square miles – less than a quarter of the area of Rhode Island). One could wonder how they fit all their planes in there?
The answer is, they don’t. In fact, about a quarter of Singapore’s primary combat jets, a total of 40 F-15SG Strike Eagles and 60 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, aren’t based in Singapore at all. They’re in the United States.
You’ll find ten of Singapore’s F-15SGs at Mountain Home Air Force Base, the home of the 366th Fighter Wing (which operates F-15E Strike Eagles). They are assigned to the 428th Fighter Training Squadron.
Fourteen of Singapore’s F-16C/D fighters are at Luke Air Force Base, the home of the 56th Fighter Wing, which handles training for not only the F-16, but for the F-35. They are assigned to the 425th Fighter Training Squadron.
So, why is roughly one-fourth of Singapore’s combat aircraft inventory stationed across the Pacific Ocean, well over 8,500 miles away? Well, the answer is Singapore’s small size, and its poor geography. Singapore is really an island nation pushed smack dab between Malaysia and Indonesia, and its airspace is less than six miles across.
One thing you need for flight training, though, is space, and a lot of it. This is especially true with high-performance fighters like the F-15SG and F-16C/D.
Transport helicopter pilots and basic flight training are done in Australia, where the trainees, it is safe to assume, can guzzle all the Foster’s they want. Jet training for the Singaporean Air Force is done in France. Oh, and eight of Singapore’s 17 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters are based near Tucson, Arizona.
In essence, Singaporean flight trainees get to see a lot of the world before they join a front-line unit. Not a bad way to enter service.
Big robots can be useful at times. Just look at what the Kobra can do.
That said, while size matters, there are times when you can get too much of a good thing.
The Kobra, for instance, weighs 500 pounds. Now, that’s not a problem when you can roll it out of a M113 armored personnel carrier, a M1132 Stryker Engineer Squad Vehicle, or an MRAP. But if you’re a grunt and have to carry everything on a foot patrol… well, that 500-pound weight would be a pain.
Thankfully, there is an option for ground troops. Endeavor Robotics has developed the FirstLook, a robot that comes in at just under 6 pounds. That’s about one percent, give or take, of the weight of the Kobra.
This of course, not only is it easy to carry, but in fact, it can be tossed (by comparison, the shot put used at the Olympics is 16 pounds for men, and just under nine pounds for women). This robot can survive a 16-foot fall onto a concrete surface, and get itself upright.
Oh, and FirstLook can be equipped with a manipulator (or an arm) capable of lifting three and a half pounds. That arm weighs just over 59 ounces. The FirstLook can run for six hours, has a top speed of just under 4 miles per hour, is able to serve as a relay for other robots, and can climb obstacles up to seven inches high.
With four cameras, and the ability to use infrared sensors, this small robot can help the grunts check out a cave or building.
In essence, this tiny bot turns out to be a big deal for the troops. You can check out a video about this mini-bot below.
One side effect of the end of World War II was that the United States Navy was left with a lot of extra ships lying around. In fact, the Americans found themselves with so many extra hulls, they couldn’t even give some away. Decades later, that inability to offload ships worked in our nation’s favor — especially during the Vietnam War. Some of these old ships ended up learning new tricks, like the USS Albemarle (AV 5).
During World War II, USS Albemarle served as a seaplane tender, mostly with the Atlantic Fleet. She undertook a variety of missions in the 1950s and was slated to handle the P6M Martin Seamaster flying boat when it was introduced into service. Unfortunately, the P6M never saw the light of day and, in 1962, USS Albemarle was stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels.
USS Albemarle in World War II, where she mostly served with the Atlantic Fleet.
Two years later, however, she was re-instated — but under a new name, USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1). The military was facing a big problem and the former-USS Albemarle was the solution. The Vietnam War saw the first wide-scale use of helicopters in just about every facet of combat. Some served as gunships while others hauled troops. Some evacuated the wounded and others delivered supplies. Many them, however, got shot up in the process and needed repairs.
America had over 12,000 helicopters in Vietnam. With so many helicopters, transporting the damaged ones back to the United States for repairs would’ve been a logistical nightmare. So, instead of bringing helicopters to the repair facility, America brought the repair facility to the helicopters, in the form of USNS Corpus Christi Bay.
After two years of work, USS Albemarle (AV 5) became USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH 1), a floating helicopter repair shop.
From 1966 to the end of the Vietnam War, USNS Corpus Christi Bay served as a floating repair depot for helicopters. Damaged choppers were brought in by barge, where they were fixed and returned to the front lines. USNS Corpus Christi Bay was again stricken in 1974 and scrapped, but she had served America honorably in two wars.
Learn more about her Vietnam-era service in the video below.
Just like every other aircraft, parts on a B-52H Stratofortress age, get damaged and become unserviceable.
One detachment at Barksdale Air Force Base has developed a way to take those unusable parts and create hands-on training opportunities for maintainers.
“Normally, we have to coordinate with the maintenance squadron to find an aircraft that’s not being flown or worked on and ask if we can get a block of time to go out and perform training tasks,” said Master Sgt. Michael Farrar, 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 5 superintendent. “Training is important and everyone understands that, but you have actual missions being completed out there on the flight line. So, there is always a chance for us to be in the way or even not being able to get the aircraft to do our training and that is where the unserviceable parts come in.”
By utilizing aged or operationally condemned parts, the Air Education Training Command detachment assembles trainers that allow for a safe and focused environment for their airmen to learn in.
For example, the detachment has a functioning landing gear trainer, which allows them to show maintainers step-by-step how to complete tasks such as replacing hydraulic fluid or change a tire without the worries of damaging operational aircraft, outside distractions or the fast-paced actions being conducted on the flight line.
Tech. Sgt. Dylan Drake (left), 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 5 crew chief instructor, speaks to his students during a course at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., June 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tessa B. Corrick)
“We want to provide effective training, so if using an operational aircraft is better, we would certainly like to do that over a trainer,” said Tech. Sgt. Dylan Drake, 372nd TRS FTD 5 crew chief instructor. “However, having the trainers here is certainly more convenient and gives us the ability to do it over and over if we need to.”
Currently, the detachment is trying to get a section of a B-52H tail from the boneyard to use for drag chute training, which will alleviate one of their most difficult training scenarios to set up.
“The reason the training is problematic to organize is because the chutes are only deployed after a flight, so trying to coordinate a time where we have the students and also have an aircraft land can sometimes be tough between the communication and timing,” Drake explained. “Having that tail section here that we can load whenever we need to would be a great addition to our capabilities.”
Airman 1st Class Tyler Hall (left), and Airman 1st Class Chase Guggenbuehl (right), both 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 5 students, place a tire dolly on a landing gear trainer during a crew chief class at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, June 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tessa B. Corrick)
This hands-on experience has proven to be effective to students when it comes to absorbing the information.
“This form of instruction is a lot better because when you’re actually doing it yourself, it’s a lot easier to retain,” said Airman 1st Class Chase Guggenbuehl, a student at the detachment and 11th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “It makes you want to pay attention. It’s not just words on a screen. The actual tools and parts of the jet are right in front of you to help you see how it actually works.”
Unserviceable parts sit on a table at the 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 5 at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, June 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tessa B. Corrick)
The feedback from the courses at Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB, North Dakota, have been so positive that it is now being used as a model for maintenance field training across the Air Force.
“It’s awesome to be a part of this capability and help other maintainers get the training they need to be effective and ultimately getting the aircraft off the ground and completing the mission,” Farrar said. “That is only possible when you have a team who is dedicated to what they do, care about their students and who are always looking for ways to be more impactful.”
This is Warrior Wednesday — a new, ongoing series where we’ll highlight military members who performed heroically in combat but are relatively unknown in the broader community. Put simply, these are stories of bravery that need to be told.
During the initial invasion of Iraq on March 25, 2003, then-1st Lt. Brian Chontosh responded to an enemy ambush on his convoy in a way most would expect to see only in a Hollywood action movie. After being attacked by Iraqi forces with mortars, automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades — and caught in the kill zone — Chontosh directed his driver to go straight toward the enemy position as his .50 cal gunner fired.
But wait, there’s more. From his citation for the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award:
He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.
“I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective,” Chontosh told Marine Corps News at his award ceremony.
When it was all over, Chontosh had cleared 200 meters of the enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others. Still, he didn’t want to take all the credit — instead commending the Marines with him that day for saving his life.
“They saved my life, multiple times that day, during the ambush,” Chontosh told Stripes. “That’s all them. If it wasn’t for them, I would be the lieutenant who would be reported as … a case of what not to do.”
Do you know someone we should highlight for the next Warrior Wednesday? Email us info [at] wearethemighty.com with their name, rank, award received, and any other information you think is relevant.
In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.
Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.
With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.
When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.
There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.
The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.
Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Bell Helicopters Textron, one of the companies behind the V-22 Osprey and the makers of a proposed Army tilt-rotor, are pitching a new drone for the Navy and Marine Corps that packs tilt-rotor technology into a large drone capable of carrying weapons, sensor platforms, and other payloads into combat.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
The Bell V-247 Vigilant is to be an unmanned bird capable of operating at ranges of 1,300 nautical miles from its ship or base, carrying 2,000 pounds internally or a 9,000-pound sling load, or spending 12 hours time on station.
Of course, those numbers represent maximum endurance, maximum lift, or maximum range. A more likely mission profile combines all three. Bell says the aircraft will be capable of carrying a 600-pound payload 450 nautical miles for a mission with 8 hours time on station. It can also refuel in flight, further extending ranges and time on target.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
And, with just two V-247s, a commander could establish 24-hour persistent reconnaissance of a target. That implies a much lower set of maintenance requirements than manned aircraft, since many require more hours of maintenance on the ground than they get in-flight hours.
Best of all, because the wings fold and it doesn’t need space for a crew, the V-247 would fit in about the same amount of space on a ship as a UH-1Y, tight enough for it to land on Navy destroyers, whether to shuttle supplies or to refuel and re-arm for another mission.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
For armament, Bell highlights its ability to fire air-to-surface missiles, helping Marines on the ground or potentially helping interdict fast boats during a swarm attack on the water.
All in, the design has a lot of the numbers that planners would want to see in a support aircraft. And, because it doesn’t require a pilot, it can do a lot of complicated tasks while reducing the workload of the military’s already strained pilot population. It’s easy to see a role for an aircraft like this in fleet replenishment, in amphibious assault and air support, and in ship-to-shore logistics.
(Bell Helicopters Textron)
But, the Navy and Marine Corps are already on the hook for a large number of V-22 Ospreys. The Marine Corps has made the V-22 one of its most numerous aircraft, flying them across the world. And the Navy is looking to buy 38 V-22s to conduct fleet replenishment missions around the world, ferrying everything from engines to potatoes from warehouses on land to ships at sea.
So, while it would be useful for the Navy to get some smaller, unmanned aircraft to move the smaller packages between ships — especially since V-22 exhaust is so hot and fast-moving that it breaks down ship decks faster than other aircraft — there may not be enough money to go around. But the V-247 might represent a valuable asset for the Marines and Navy. And many of the sea services’ missions for the tilt-rotor would be valuable for the Army as well.
More graphic depictions of the proposed aircraft are available below.
We would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone walked into a room and said, “You know what the world needs more of? Motorcycles with miniguns on them!”
Did the people blessed with this kind of wisdom previously work as Sonny Barger’s life coach? It certainly seems like every 1-percenter’s wet dream. Were they perhaps former department of corrections employees who were fired over suggesting that electric chairs be replaced with electric bleachers?
Perhaps they once pitched an ad-campaign slogan to Honda along the lines of, “You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle with a cannon.”
Wherever the idea came from, it apparently didn’t fall on deaf ears.
What was once only possible in movies has finally been brought to life, and RECOIL was privileged to see it in action. Lane splitting just took on a whole new meaning.
Brainstorming sessions between Dillon Aero and Tailgunner Exhaust led to something that looks like the bastard son of Blue Thunder. The Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X Interceptor, as it’s called, found its way to our email inbox — so we sent our editor, Iain Knievel, out to investigate the situation further. We were all curious to see if this thing was intended for anything other than a potential reboot of Street Hawk (congrats if you even remember that show).
Our research revealed that the M134X was truly an engineering masterpiece. That’s because the brains behind it really know their craft.
You may have seen the work of brothers Cal and Charlie Giordano, proprietors of Tailgunner Exhaust, not only in their Gatling gun-inspired exhaust systems, but creations such as a handmade submarine that have appeared in episodes of Modern Marvels. They decided to approach the minigun gurus at Dillon Aero about creating a promotional conceptual bike.
Unlike many concept vehicles that are all show and no go, this one was engineered to be fully functional and designed for the average rider to operate.
To our knowledge, mounting a functioning minigun to a motorcycle chassis was never attempted until now.
The 300 pounds of recoil generated by the 7.62 NATO-caliber M134 was enough to make people believe that such a feat defied the laws of physics and begged too many unanswerable questions. Even if it could be fired while riding, how long would it take before the frame began to tear? Could it be aimed with any degree of accuracy? Was the driver guaranteed a Darwin Award?
The bike was built not only to defy the naysayers of minigun versatility, but also as a way to deploy the weapon system to the field quickly or to catch a fast-moving vehicle. In order to create a bike that drove and handled well enough to do all this, they chose the proven Yamaha R1 Superbike chassis as the platform. Its aluminum frame and high power-to-weight ratio enables the package to be light on its feet.
To disperse the load, Tailgunner created an aluminum cantilever mount for the gun that attaches where the custom extended swingarm connects. The linear actuator enables the gun to be moved up and down by a switch located where the turn signal formerly resided. The custom fuel tanks were moved to the rear of the bike for better balance. Heavy-duty billet aluminum steering yokes were also specially made for the project. Body panels are all fabricated from aircraft-grade aluminum and covered in MultiCam wrap by Crye Precision. Believe it or not, the whole bike only weighs about 500 pounds.
An air intake was built into the mount and two external air filters were mounted up high to allow for better filtration and easy maintenance. The bike is powered by a Yamaha 1,000cc inline-four with a twin nitrous oxide system. It’s all mated to the six-speed Yamaha transmission. The electronics are powered by a 12-volt battery that runs the motorcycle, with a separate 24-volt battery mounted inside the swingarm to operate the gun. A large Samsung smartphone in front of the driver serves as instrumentation to keep it simple.
The motorcycle doesn’t have to be running to fire. The gun can be armed with a switch on the console in front of the driver. The trigger is very appropriately located where the horn button was. Aiming is accomplished by moving the cantilever up or down and steering the bike right or left. Although that’s really dead reckoning in terms of accuracy, a laser sight and gun-mounted camera may be added in the future, with reticles appearing on the smartphone.
After two years of trial and error, a finished bike finally met the standards of all parties involved. The M134X will be put up for sale when its promotional duties are completed, and it is, in fact, street legal (without the gun, of course, unless you have the proper permits). Tailgunner could even create a replica if the money’s there. Civilian and law enforcement versions are already in the works.
Not only have the minds involved disproven the notion that mounting a minigun on a motorcycle was impossible, but they showed that it could be done in a practical way. Who knows, maybe we’ll see M134Xs roaming the battlefield one day with additions such as smoke screens, oil slicks, or caltrops. It seems the fellas at Tailgunner figured out a way to channel the spirits of Richard Gatling and Burt Munro. Nice to know guys who can come up with things like this are on our side. Check out the full videos on RECOILtv to see the M134X in action.
Don’t think the fun stops there. Cal made this super shorty Timemachinist AR-M134X to complement the Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X project. It’s an all-billet build based on a Sharps lower and a custom-made Timemachinist/Tailgunner Gatling-style upper.
Since the motorcycle itself and miniguns are nearly unobtainable to the public, you might be seeing AR Gatling Gun-inspired full-float tubes for sale in the future if the interest is there. The barrels don’t spin, but this pistol version has a Noveske 7.5 Diplomat barrel inside it.
While the AR-M134X was designed to look like a minigun barrel assembly, it was engineered to function as a high-performance handguard. Check out more of Cal’s work, such as his custom watches, at www.timemachinistwatches.com.