Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

It’s often said that if you want to know what equipment your car will have in 10 to 20 years, just look at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; and it’s true. Every car today has a pretensioner seatbelt that preemptively tightens to prevent you from jerking forward in the event of a crash. The S-Class was the first car to include this feature in 1981. Today, many cars have active safety systems that use radar and cameras to detect if you’re about to have a collision and apply the brakes to bring you to a stop. While adaptive cruise control was first introduced by Mitusbishi, Mercedes introduced the first system that could bring the car to a complete halt on the S-Class back in 2005. The same principle applies to the military too. If you want to know what the regular line soldier will be equipped with in a few decades, look no further than special forces. Here are a few pieces of gear that have trickled their way down from tier one.

1. Rifle Optics

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
A Delta Operator with an Aimpoint 2000 on his CAR-15 (U.S. Army)

In modern infantry units, just about every soldier gets some sort of optic on their rifle. Whether it’s a magnified ACOG or red dot CCO, having some sort of optic is a huge help when you’re on the shooting range (both one-way and two-way). The Army has even adopted a new variable-power rifle optic to equip all of its line soldiers across the force. However, before optics were commonplace in infantry units, they were first seen in special forces. One of the first red dots fielded by special forces was the Aimpoint 2000. “This was a game changer to me,” said former Delta operator Larry Vickers. “I went through OTC with iron sights…went to A Squadron, saw guys using red dot, I tried it, and at that point I realized the advantage that something like an Aimpoint red dot sight brings to the table…The way that red dot rights are used today kinda started back in the Delta Force late 1980s era with the Aimpoint 2000.”

2. Silencers

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
A Navy SEAL (left) armed with a silenced MP5 (U.S. Navy)

Yes, they’re called silencers. Hiram Percy Maxim received the patent for his design in 1909 and marketed them as “Maxim Silencers”. The DoJ and ATF also use the term silencer. However, silencers are a bit of a misnomer. Depending on variables like caliber, bullet weight, powder, and barrel length, a silencer generally suppresses the sound of a gunshot. Very few firearms can actually be silenced to Hollywood levels of quiet. Still, the devices are effective at masking or modifying the noise created by a gunshot. Special forces units have used silencers since at least WWII with specialized weapons like the Welrod. In 1993, the Special Operations Peculiar Modification kit was introduced. The SOPMOD accessory system allowed special forces operators to adapt their weapons to different missions with attachments like optics, lights, and a silencer. At the end of 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had begun widespread fielding of suppressors. The Corps’ goal is to field 30,000 suppressors by FY2023. The Army is also considering widespread use of suppressors with its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

3. ATVs

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
A special forces prepares to drive his ATV into a CH-47 Chinook (U.S. Air Force)

Well, ATVs and four-wheelers anyway. A specialized dune buggy called the Desert Patrol Vehicle was used extensively by special forces during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, the first U.S. forces to enter Kuwait City were Navy SEALs in DPVs. During the early years of the War on Terror, light utility vehicles were purchased off-the-shelf and employed by special forces. They proved invaluable for navigating the mountainous terrain and rough trails of Afghanistan. Motorcycles, quad bikes, and four-wheelers all helped tier one operators hunt down and destroy Taliban fighters throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the potential of off-the-shelf vehicles like these, the Army adopted Polaris vehicles like the MRZR Diesel and the Sportsman MV850. These vehicles are often employed by light infantry units as scouts to quickly transit rough terrain. Their small size means that they can also be driven into a CH-47 Chinook and airlifted onto the battlefield.

4. Pistols

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
A Navy SEAL armed with a Sig Sauer pistol (U.S. Navy)

While pistols are not new to line units, they are less common. The Beretta M9 was generally issued to officers and senior non-comissioned officers, but not to leaders at the squad and fireteam levels. On the special forces side, all members are dual-armed with both a rifle or their assigned weapon and a pistol. However, with the adoption of the Sig Sauer M17/M18 pistol, the Army plans to issue sidearms down to squad and fireteam leaders. This new policy gives junior leaders in regular line units more options in close quarter battle situations. Moving in this direction, it’s likely that all line soldiers will eventually be dual-armed just like special forces.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Say goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler with these fun facts

In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.

It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.


Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

#BabyPictures

It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS

First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Its victories were flawless

Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Its job was to jam enemy radar

But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

It’s the longest serving tactical jet

F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.

For now.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden

Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Snipers made three out of four of their longest kills with this rifle

Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.


Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

The McMillan Tac-50.

(McMillan Firearms)

According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.

So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.

(Hornaday)

Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.

One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s why they’re called dog tags

Carrying identification into battle isn’t something new, but that doesn’t mean Americans haven’t put our own unique spin on it.

Ancient Spartan warriors each designed their own shields so that if they fell in battle, the shield could be retrieved and given to family, which sounds really touching, except imagine having to create a shield from scratch? Sounds like a lot of work that no one has time to do.


Then, the Roman Legionnaires started wearing thin lead disks in pouches around their necks called signalculum. These discs are the first recorded history of what we now know as a dog tag. The disc included the name of the Legionnaire and the legion to which he was a part.

More recently, identification tags were issued to members of the Chinese military in the middle 19th century. These tags were wooden, worn at the belt, and included the servicemember’s age, birthplace, unit, and enlistment date.

A look back at the history of dog tags

During the Civil War, some soldiers pinned identification information onto their uniforms with their names and home addresses. Others wrote identifying info on their rucksacks or scratched it into their belt buckles. Seeing a demand for battlefield identification tags, manufacturers began advertising and marketing to soldiers and service members’ families. These identification tags were often pins in the shape of a branch of service and were engraved with the service member’s name and unit. Machine stamped tags were made from brass or lead and usually had an eagle or a shield on one side, with a list of battles on the other side. However, these tags had to be purchased by the service member or their family, which meant that not everyone had them.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that tags became a standard part of the American military uniform. In 1906, General Order No. 204 was issued from the War Department, which mandated an aluminum tag be worn at all times. GO 204 stated that the tag could be worn around the neck, underneath clothing, by a cord or throng passed through a small hole in the tab and detailed the tag’s place as part of the standard-issue military uniform. Tags were issued for free to enlisted personnel and at a cost to officers.

By 1916, the Army changed the regulation to include the issuance of two tags – one to stay with a service member and one that would be sent to the person in charge of record keeping. Two years later, the Army adopted the service member system, which we know today as the DoD ID. That didn’t last too long, though. Today’s tags have social security numbers on them instead of DoD identification numbers.

In WWII, the circular discs were replaced with the oval shape still in use today. And that’s where most historians think that the tags got their moniker since the tag looks like a dog collar tag.

What’s on the tag?

Over the years, the information stamped on the tag has changed, and each branch of the military puts different information on them, even now. What’s remained consistent is the name of the service member, religion, and blood type.

During WWII, there were only three religious options a service member could choose – P for Protestant, C for Catholic and H for Hebrew (Jewish). Now, current options are also basically endless, ranging from NRP (No Religious Preference) to D for Druid. There’s no list of approved/official religions.

Marine Corps dog tags also include the size of the gas mask that the Marine wears. Current tags still utilize the historic two-tag system, with one long chain that can be worn around the neck and a tag interlinked with a smaller chain. The dog tags we know today are largely unchanged since the Vietnam War, but there are some talks in place about changing the information shown on a tag, including adding additional tags for soldier data, medical information, and carry records.

New dog tags are expected to contain microchip technology that will also hold a service member’s medical and dental records. That’s a far cry from the ancient Spartan shields, for sure.

Articles

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superb pilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.


In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
Recognition graphic of a ZSU-23-4. (U.S. Army)

The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.

The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.

Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.

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

US Army tests Black Hawk digital cockpit

Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.

The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.

Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.

Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.


Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.

“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.

“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.

They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.

“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.

“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.

“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.

“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.

“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.

“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.

“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”

Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.

“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.

(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)

Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.

New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.

“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”

Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.

“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.

Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps F-35s hit hard with back-to-back bombings in the Pacific

Marine Corps F-35s recently carried out the first at-sea “hot reload” of ordnance, dropping 1,000-pound bombs in the Pacific in rapid succession, the Marines said in a statement.

Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters armed with a 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition and a 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb took off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp and conducted a strike on a “killer tomato,” a large red inflatable target.

After dropping its payload, the aircraft quickly returned to the ship, refueled, reloaded, and set out on a second attack run on the floating target.


The fifth-generation stealth fighters also opened fire with their GAU-22 cannon, which can uses four barrels simultaneously to fire 3,300 rounds per minute. The 25 mm gun is, according to Military.com, carried on an external pod on the Marine Corps’ F-35 variation, which is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings on the amphibs, basically small aircraft carriers.

F-35 Lightning Jet 25mm Cannon Firing! GAU-22 Equalizer

www.youtube.com

At-sea hot reloading is a critical capability that allows for the surge offensive air support for strike missions in this theater, where US forces are increasingly training to fight in contested environments. While the training is not directly aimed at any particular adversary, the US military is focused on great power competition and is training for a high-intensity conflict with China and Russia.

“Our recent F-35B strike rehearsals demonstrate the 31st MEU’s lethality and readiness to address potential adversaries.” Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard the Wasp, said in a statement. “The speed that we can conduct precision strikes with devastating effects while providing close air support to our Marines is nothing shy of awesome. Bottom-line; the F-35B defines shock and awe!”

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

An F-35B Lightning II makes the first vertical landing on a flight deck at sea aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Seaman Natasha R. Chalk)

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Sallese, aviation ordnance officer with the 31st MEU, said that the troops are learning to “rain down destruction like never before.”

Marine F-35Bs with the 31st MEU achieved another milestone earlier this year, flying in “beast mode” and conducting strike missions with externally-loaded inert and live munitions.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Artificial intelligence wasted a veteran fighter pilot in a bunch of simulated dogfights

Scientists have claimed that computers would replace humans in the cockpit for some time, but artificial intelligence simply hadn’t reached the point where it could compete successfully against a human opponent.


But now, at least in simulators, it has. ALPHA, the AI, bested a retired Air Force fighter pilot repeatedly while running on a tiny, cheap Rasberry Pi computer that is often used to teach children coding basics.

Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee helped guide ALPHA’s programming and flew against ALPHA in a series of air battles in a computer simulator, battles that he lost every time when flying against the mature version of ALPHA.

At first, ALPHA was being used as a tool to create better simulators for training pilots and testing tactics. ALPHA took control of “Red” fighters flying against a “Blue” force. Red typically held a numerical advantage while Blue typically had a technological advantage with longer range missiles, a larger payload, and an AWACS flying in support.

The AWACS is a radar system that gave Blue forces better situational awareness and targeting data.

In the initial matchups, ALPHA’s Red team won more than it lost but took heavy losses. Then Lee and the programmers at Psibernetix, the company that created ALPHA, began making adjustments to its programming and ALPHA begin to win. Soon, it won every engagement.

So, Lee decided to take control of a Blue fighter personally to try and give the other team an advantage. He flew engagement after engagement against ALPHA.

 

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
Retired Air Force Col. Geno Lee flies against ALPHA in a simulator. Photo: UC Creative Services Lisa Ventre

 

ALPHA won every fight and, whenever Lee stayed in the air for a protracted period, Lee was shot down.

Lee told the researchers that ALPHA was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI (he’s) seen-to-date.”

Lee later told UC Magazine reporter M.B. Reilly that, after flying missions against ALPHA, “I go home feeling washed out. I’m tired, drained and mentally exhausted. This may be artificial intelligence, but it represents a real challenge.”

Now, ALPHA does have some advantages of its own. First, it utilizes a “Genetic Fuzzy Tree” system. GFT systems work closer to the way a human brain works than most computers. Rather than try to calculate every variable when computing a solution, it keeps track of key bits of data and forms generalities.

But it can form decisions based on those generalities 250 times faster than a human can blink. When controlling four aircraft, it can take in all available sensor data, create a new plan of action, and adjust each jet’s controls to implement that plan every 6.5 milliseconds.

 

This allows ALPHA to constantly choreograph the jets’ movements to cover one another. If one pair of Red planes are forced to evade and are in danger, ALPHA can direct a second pair to move into position on the attackers instantly.

Researchers believe that if ALPHA was split among two computers, one handling sensor data and the other computing actions, ALPHA could adjust its plans and adjust flight paths 1,100 times per second.

The success of ALPHA is impressive, but the system isn’t exactly ready for combat. While ALPHA receives sensor data with “noise” incorporated, errors and missing data that would occur in a real fight, it hasn’t flown in a situation where the signals between planes were jammed. This would make its coordination between planes more challenging.

In their paper in the Journal of Defense Management describing ALPHA’s success, the creators note that ALPHA would make a great wingman for human pilots. So, human pilots would fly lead and command the mission while sending AI controlled jets into the knife fight against enemy jets. This would match plans the Air Force has for the future.

The full paper on ALPHA, which goes into much greater detail about how ALPHA was created, how it works, and what its limitations are, is available in the Journal of Defense Management.

(h/t Popular Science)

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it’s actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn’t exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They’re accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they’ll find it’s not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:


Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Hopefully it isn’t this bad.

(MemphisLifeSociety)

They get rusty very easily

For a weapon that’s supposed to be used in “every clime and place,” these rifles seem to get rust like boots get married – way too quickly. This just means that you should carry some CLP and scrub it off regularly — another task to add to the pile.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Find time to clean it when you can.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Richard Currier)

Cleaning is a headache

Outside of problems with rust, the chamber gets caked with carbon after firing a single magazine. This is yet another thing you’ll have to spend time cleaning. And when you break the rifle down, you’re going to find carbon has found its way into every possible small space.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Again, just keep that chamber as clean as possible.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Jams are too common

If there’s a bit of dirt in the chamber, prepare for some double feeds or stove-pipe jams. This might just be the fact that many of these rifles have been worn down from participating in two separate combat theaters, but the fact remains: your gun will jam.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Have fun clearing buildings with these.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie Wolf)

They’re too long

An M16A4 is nearly 40″ long. For close quarters, these really aren’t the best weapons. You’ll have to find ways to adapt the rifle to the environment but, at the end of the day, it’s a pain in the ass to try and jump through a window with it.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Just take the covers off and put a grip on.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Rail covers make the hand guards slippery

You could just refrain from using covers, but without them, you run the risk of degrading your rails. With them, you won’t be able to get as steady of a group, which means your per-shot accuracy will go down slightly.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US troops could get climbing powers like Spider-Man

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is more apt to describe their new climbing technology to be more like geckos than Spider-Man. Despite being less awesome, DARPA’s comparison is much more accurate – but only because Spider-Man isn’t real and geckos are. Still, the tech would allow troops to scale surfaces like glass walls in full kit with no extra noise.

Sound too good to be true? It’s called the Z-Man project, and it has already been tested.


American troops never know where they could end up until they’re prepping to go. Even then they don’t really know what kinds of obstacles they’ll encounter during the missions – or more importantly, how they’ll overcome those obstacles. The how is part of DARPA’s job. Its mission is to develop technology that creates transformational change across industries in order to give American troops an edge on the battlefields of tomorrow. For the last couple of years, it’s been notoriously adept at making our superhero dreams become a reality. Now they’ve gone and done it again: this time it’s Spider-Man.

Which is a really good choice, not only because of the urban environments U.S. troops frequently encounter but because all branches encounter unending problems when working in a foreign environment and could rely on the flexibility provided by the kinds of powers Spider-Man has. The first test was the development of polymer microstructures that would allow wearers to scale any surface.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Intermolecular forces between its toes and a surface means the gecko easily attaches to and from any surface.

Geckos have hundreds of stalk-like setae that are around 100 microns in length and 2 microns in radius all over their feet. From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae, approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest, branch out and contact the climbing surface. A Gecko can hold itself up with one toe, making it the animal world’s expert on climbing. Until now.

DARPA demonstrated the power of the new climbing system on a glass wall. A 218-pound man ascended a 25-foot tall wall with an additional carrying load of 25 pounds. He had no other climbing equipment than the gecko-inspired climbing gear. The climber used paddles with the gecko tech to ascend the structure.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

A DARPA engineer scales a wall using the new Z-Man technology.

(DARPA)

“Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defense pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it,” said Dr. Matt Goodman, the DARPA program manager for Z-Man. “The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”

Intel

Here is (not) the US military’s answer to Russia’s flagship Armata tank

An animated video claiming to be a new U.S. military weapon concept to target T-90 and T-14 Armata tanks has gotten a lot of attention on the Internet. The video titled “US Military SNEAKY SURPRISE for T-90 Armata Tanks” was published on December 10, 2015, and has more than 1.2 million views on the popular YouTube channel ArmedForcesUpdate.


Related: The Russian military actually used this hilarious video to recruit paratroopers

While cool in concept, we were more surprised by the video’s creators, RT News—Russia Today—who’s logo and spinning globe appear at 3:16 of the video. The video’s animation, music and naming convention is also strikingly similar to the Russian transformer video WATM published in November 2015 called “Russian military NASTY SURPRISE in a box for US Military.” RT is a Russian government-funded television network directed to audiences outside of its federation. The network is based out of Moscow and broadcasts around-the-clock programming in different languages across the world.

It’s unclear why would Russian state media make a video destroying its new main battle tank. In the meantime, check out the video. (Russia paid good money for it.)

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55fBmn2y2-s

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 5 worst American aircraft of all time

The U.S. military comes up with some amazing aircraft to meet its battlefield requirements. And American defense contractors are not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to U.S. air superiority.


Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
Like designing a helmet that lets a pilot literally see outside his or her plane, for example.

But not every idea is a hit. No one is 100-percent perfect every time, but sometimes it makes a pilot wonder, “how the hell did this get made?”

5. Vought F7U Cutlass

They should have known there was going to be a problem when the first three prototypes of the “Gutless Cutlass” crashed. To the surprise of nobody, the Navy’s first two delivered F7U also crashed.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Its biggest issue was its nose-driven, underpowered design, which sounds like it might be a problem for taking off from a carrier — which it was. The Cutlass — aka “The Ensign Eliminator” — went away almost as fast as it appeared.

4. McDonnell XF-85 Goblin

This thing looks like the Smart Car of fighter aircraft. It was designed to fly with a bomber fleet, detach, fight off enemy fighters, and then reattach for the trip home. It was a pretty big problem for the Air Force when the Goblin couldn’t re-attach. It was a bigger problem because it also didn’t have landing gear.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Gretchen, stop trying to make parasite fighters happen. It’s not going to happen.

3. The Brewster F2A Buffalo

The appropriately named Buffalo fighter went into action against the nimble fighters Japan fielded in the early days of WWII. They went in, but they never came out because they ambled like an awkward pack animal right into the teeth of superior aircraft.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
As long as it wasn’t moving, it was a fine aircraft.

The Buffalo had a number of mechanical flaws, including — but not limited to — machine guns not actually firing. So, naturally, when the Navy replaced most of their fighters, the Buffalo was given to the Marines, who quickly dubbed it the “Flying Coffin.”

2. Douglas TBD Devastator

When the Devastator was first ordered by the Navy in 1938, it was the most advanced aircraft of its kind. Unfortunately, by the time WWII came around, it was horribly obsolete. It was a slow-mover with a top speed of just over 200 mph and could only drop its torpedo while flying in a straight line… and only if it was flying at less than 115 mph.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too
This flying deathtrap could kill three airmen at a time. That’s efficiency!

Also, sometimes the plane’s torpedo didn’t even explode on impact, negating the whole point of a torpedo bomber.

1. The Cantilever “Christmas Bullet”

Look at this thing; it looks like a refrigerator box with wings. It’s an early airplane, built in 1919 by Dr. William Whitney Christmas, but it looks like it was designed to kill anyone who might fly it. It featured no strut supports for the wings, which were designed to flap in flight. The designer swore it could travel to Germany to kidnap the Kaiser.

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

Unsurprisingly, no pilot wanted to test fly the Christmas Bullet once they actually saw it. One brave man decided to give it a shot… and he was instantly killed when the wings twisted and tore away.

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