Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are now flying these new F-35 variants

This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.

Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.

Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).

Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.


Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.

Photo by United States Marine Corps

At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.

By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.

The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.

“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.

Also read: F-35, once beaten by F-16s, shows stunts older jets can’t touch

VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.

Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The self-defense umbrella will make you feel like a Kingsman

In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.

Would-be attackers, however, are not.


Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm

youtu.be

The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.

It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.

Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.

The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.

The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.

Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.

While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This year’s Navy fleet week New York has a theme

This year, just like every year, America’s port cities will receive a series of special guests, American sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. But instead of just flooding the city streets with 2,600 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen complete with dress blues and white cracker jacks, this year’s Fleet Week in New York is bringing a theme: “Remembering World War I.”


Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

U.S. troops from New York State march down the streets of New York City.

The official centennial of the Armistice that ended the Great War may have come and gone, but the pageantry and tradition that surrounds the 100-year anniversary celebration of the end of World War I lives on. The U.S. Navy is partnering with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, in a number of activities to tell the story of the 4 million American men and women who wore the uniform a century ago.

For the Navy’s annual visit to New York City, the story will also include the City’s role in the War to End All Wars. Notable events include

  • The horrible Black Tom explosion which damaged the Statue of Liberty.
  • The Ill-fated Lusitania’s departure for her last voyage from Pier 54 on Manhattan’s West Side.
  • The local men and women who fought the war, including the Harlem Hell Fighters and the Rainbow Division

Read: This is why you can’t climb the arm of the Statue of Liberty anymore

But the history of New York in the Great War is more than just a series of milestones. New York City is also an important place in U.S. Navy history, especially as it pertains to World War I. Half of the U.S. Navy’s World War I ships were built in Brooklyn. Half of all U.S. troops departed from and returned to the piers of Hoboken. The biggest Victory Parade of the war took place down 5th Avenue.

To help tell these incredible stories, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is offering subject matter experts, who can help local audiences understand this rich local history, and to possibly connect with their own World War I veteran family members. Five U.S. Navy ships, three U.S. Coast Guard cutters, four U.S. Naval Academy Yard Patrol boats, one Military Sealift Command ship, and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels will participate during 2019 Fleet Week New York, May 22-28.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

11 of the most powerful fully electric cars money can buy

Though it gets a lot of attention, Tesla isn’t the only company creating electric cars.

Some traditional carmakers like Aston Martin and Porsche are exploring the rapidly-growing electric car field with super powerful new models which add their own flair for luxury and speed to the market.

Meanwhile, other much smaller companies are exploring the high-end electric sector, such as the relatively unknown Aspark — which hasn’t even released a production vehicle yet.

Horsepower is measured a little differently for electric cars, as an electric motors’ full torque is deployed as soon as the driver steps on the accelerator. That means an electric car can feel more powerful than an internal-combustion-engined (ICE) car with the same horsepower rating at the low end, but start to lose some of its gusto at sustained high speeds unlike a gas-powered car.

With that crucial difference in mind, here are 11 of the most powerful electric cars money can buy, including some that are setting world records.


Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Nio EP9.

1. Nio EP9

Nio has been called the “ Tesla of China.” With the EP9 supercar, it’s obvious the company means business.

The car has a top speed of 195 mph and horsepower rating of 1,341, giving it a zero-to-60 time of only 2.7 seconds. Nio boasts the car has double the downforce of a Formula One racecar and delivers a F-22 fighter pilot experience by cornering at 3G.

The EP9 has a range of 265 miles before needing a new charge, and a full charge takes 45 minutes. The car also has an interchangeable battery system that takes 8 minutes to swap.

The Nio EP9 is also self-driving and set a record in 2017 for the fastest lap driven by an autonomous car at the Circuit of Americas track.

At least six of the 16 produced units have been sold to investors at id=”listicle-2639641248″.2 million each.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

2018 Tesla Model S 75D.

2. Tesla Model S Performance

Tesla no longer boasts the horsepower ratings for its cars, but the ,990 Tesla Model S Performance is plenty powerful. It can propel its nearly 5,000-pound frame to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds. Tesla says its top speed is 163 mph and it carries an average range of 345 before complete discharge.

Owners can recharge at the company’s Supercharger locations, where 15 minutes is good for 130 miles in optimal conditions.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Rimac’s C_Two.

(Rimac)

3. Rimac’s Concept One and C_Two

Rimac’s Concept One, which debuted in 2011, has a rating of 1,224 horsepower, allowing it to reach top speeds of 220 mph and hit 62 mph from a standstill in just 2.5 seconds. The nearly id=”listicle-2639641248″ million supercar’s 90 kWh battery pack gives it a 310-mile range.

Rimac made only 88 units of the supercar, and British TV personality Richard Hammond famously crashed one in 2017.

In 2018, the Croatian company unveiled Concept One’s successor, the C_Two. With a 1,914 horsepower rating and a 403-mile range, the newer sibling is able to go from zero-to-60 in 1.85 seconds and a 256 mph top speed

The supercar can be charged 80% in 30 minutes when it’s connected to a 250 kW fast-charging network. It also includes a list of driver assistance systems, such as facial recognition to open doors and start the engine. It can also scan your face to determine your mood, and if the C_Two determines emotion s such as stress or anger, it will start playing soothing music.

The planned 150 units of the .1 million car were nearly all purchased within three weeks of orders opening. The cars will be delivered in 2020.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Genovation GXE.

(Genovation)

4. Genovation GXE

The Genovation GXE is a converted all-electric Chevy Corvette with a horsepower rating of 800. It currently holds the record for “fastest street-legal electric car to exceed 209 mph,” but the company claims it can even get to 220 mph. It can go zero-to-60 mph in under three seconds.

The 0,000 car also has a range of about 175 miles, according to Genovation’s computer simulations.

Delivery of the 75 planned units will begin by the end of 2019.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

2020 Tesla Roadster.

(Tesla)

5. Tesla Roadster

The next generation of the Tesla Roadster is arriving soon.

This new Roadster will be able to hit top speeds of over 250 mph, and 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, Tesla says. There’s also a removable glass roof that stores in the trunk, turning the car into a convertible.

The 0,000 car also will have a 620-mile range, the longest of any on our list.

The company is now taking reservations for 2020 delivery.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Aspark Owl.

6. Aspark Owl

The Aspark Owl, a 1,150 horsepower supercar, will be able to reach 174 mph and have a 180-mile range. The Owl recently hit 62 mph in 1.9 seconds, although it’s still in testing.

Only 50 of the .6 million car will be produced, according to Bloomberg, and the company plans on delivering them in mid-2020.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Porsche Taycan.

(Porsche)

7. Porsche Taycan

Formally known as the Mission E, the Taycan will be Porsche’s first fully-electric car. Porsche initially had a target of 20,000 units for its first year of production, but it recently doubled this number due to interest, and the company already has more 30,000 reservations, it recently revealed.

The Taycan has a horsepower rating of over 600 that allows it to travel zero-to-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds. The car also has a range of 310 miles on a single charge and can get 60 miles of range from just four minutes of charging.

The supercar is expected to have a starting price of ,000,according to the Drive.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Dendrobium D-1.

(Dendrobium)

8. Dendrobium D-1

The D-1 is the first in a series of electric cars by Dendrobium Automotiv e. The car originally debuted at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show and made an appearance at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans event.

The car is still a prototype but is estimated to have an output of 1,800 horsepower, giving it a top speed of over 200 mph and the ability to see 60 mph in 2.7 seconds.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Pininfarina Battista.

9. Pininfarina Battista

The Battista is a 1,900 horsepower rated electric car from Automobili Pininfarina. The Battista can reach 60 mph in under two seconds.

The Battista will have a range of around 300 miles on one charge.

North America will see 50 out of the 150 Battista units that will be made. Half of those 50 have already been claimed, despite a .5 million price tag, according to CNBC.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Aston Martin Lagonda.

10. Aston Martin Rapide E

Rapide E will be Aston Martin’s first fully electric vehicle. The 612-horsepower car can reach a top speed of 155 mph and can go zero-to-60 mph in four seconds.

The 0,000 car has a range of around 200 miles and can be fully charged in three hours in ideal conditions.

Only 155 units of the Rapide E will be made available with deliveries starting in 2020. One of them may be driven by Daniel Craig in the next James Bond film, according to British media reports.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Lotus Evija.

(Lotus)

11. Lotus Evija

Lotus’ Evija is poised to be the first fully-electric British hypercar. The company will fully reveal the Evija during Monterey Car Week starting Aug. 9, 2019.

Although the company has not released final specifications, its target is 2,000 horsepower, which would be good for a zero-to-62 mph acceleration time of under three seconds and a top speed of around 200 mph, according to CNET.

The car will cost around million and 130 units will be made.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Fox News interview that led to new trial for Army major

President Donald Trump announced an unprecedented review of a former Army Green Beret, who had been charged with murder for the 2010 killing of a suspected Taliban bomb-maker.

“He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” the president said in a tweet Dec. 16, 2018.


The charges against Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn mark the latest step in a 9-year probe aimed at resolving whether the decorated former Green Beret is a war hero, as many believe — or a war criminal. The Army opened its latest investigation in December 2016, after Golsteyn admitted in an interview with Fox News to killing the suspected terrorist while his unit was deployed in Afghanistan.

The interview, which took place in October 2016, was part of a pre-election Fox News special discussing rules of engagement, which had become more restrictive during the Obama administration. In it, Golsteyn said military rules required him to release the suspect.

Golsteyn appears to be standing by his 2016 admission that he killed the Afghan, but disputes that he killed the man in cold blood. Instead, he claims that he and another soldier set out after the suspect soon his release, believing he still posed an imminent threat to US troops.

During the Fox News interview, Golsteyn described the circumstances of the suspected Taliban militant’s detainment.

The Afghan was suspected of involvement in the killing of two Marines, who died in an explosion. Golsteyn said in the interview that Afghan tribal leaders helped identify the suspect. US forces detained the man, but because of strict rules of engagement they had to release him.

In the interview, Golsteyn said he was concerned that the Afghans who aided US forces would be targeted by the suspected bomb maker.

“It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed,” Golsteyn said.

How We Fight: A Fox News Special Report w/ Bret Baier

www.youtube.com

The Army’s case

Golsteyn received a Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, for actions during his deployment in Afghanistan. But after he detailed the incident in an interview with the CIA, the Army opened an investigation and stripped his award. He was also removed from the Special Forces.

According to Army documents obtained by the Washington Post, Golsteyn reportedly told the CIA that he and another soldier escorted the suspect back to his home but rather than releasing him, they assassinated the unarmed Afghan man. The Army documents also allege that Golsteyn and two other soldiers later burned the body in a trash pit at their base compound.

But the same Army documents show that members of his unit expressed doubt that the officer would kill an unarmed suspect, and investigators found no evidence of a corpse in several burn pits, according to the Post.

The Army’s investigators did not have enough evidence to press charges.

Now prosecutors may be able to use Golsteyn’s on-air confession to bolster their case. Otherwise, Golsteyn’s attorney Phil Stackhouse says there is nothing new.

“They have insinuated to me that they have new evidence,” Stackhouse told Fox News. “I don’t believe there is any new evidence at all.”

Golsteyn says the charges are based on a ‘complete lie’

“They quoted me as saying that me and someone else with me took a detainee to his home and assassinated him. The problem is I never said that,” Golsteyn told NBC News on Dec. 20, 2018. “It was a complete lie.”

NBC News reported Golsteyn stands by what he told Fox News in 2016, but maintains that he did not violate military law. Stackhouse made an appearance on Fox and Friends Dec. 16, 2018, to support his client. In the interview, Stackhouse said that shortly after releasing the Afghan man, Golsteyn and another Special Forces soldier set out after him, maintaining that the man was planning to continue making bombs for the Taliban and posed an imminent threat to US forces.

Will Trump’s tweet sink the Army’s case?

Trump’s decision to tweet his support for the former Green Beret is an unprecedented move that may prove beneficial to Golsteyn’s defense.

The president lauded Golsteyn as a “US Military hero,” which could count as a violation of unlawful command influence — a tenet of the military justice system that prohibits leaders from influencing the outcome of a court-martial. But it is typically flagged when leaders prevent a defendant’s access to due process, and does not necessarily apply in this case, experts told Task Purpose.

It is unclear whether Trump’s tweet means he intends to ever grant Golsteyn a pardon, and the president can still do so at any point.

As far as the Army’s treatment of Golsteyn, Stackhouse told Fox News, “I think he’s been betrayed.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 terms you won’t believe have military origins

There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.

Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.

1. “Best man”

In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.

2. “Boondocks”

These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.

3. “Cowboys”

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
On their way to the first Cowboys-Patriots Super Bowl. Public domain.
 

Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.

4. “Face the music”

In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.

5. “Last ditch effort”

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Public domain

In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.

6. “The whole nine yards”

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Loading up a P-51 Mustang.

This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”

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This is why the terminology matters between firearms

In just about every discussion, precise terminology matters. Take the term ‘troops,’ for example. Both Soldiers and sailors fall under the ‘troop’ category, but they’re drastically different. Even within sailors, a ‘submariner’ is very different from a ‘Seabee.’ When two types of troops have responsibilities that overlap, such as an Army combat engineer and a Navy Seabee, the preciseness of terminology is even more important to avoid confusion. Weapons also call for the same type of specific language, as there are many tools to fill similar — but not identical — roles.


Author’s note: There are many classifications and categories of firearms. This is only meant to be a brief intro sprinkled with a dash of comedy. In the following article, there will be things missed and things discussed that don’t have a universally accepted term — like a slug-barrelled, magazine-fed, semi-automatic shotgun which is totally not a rifle. 

Anything can become a weapon in the right hands. Hell, as many of us know, a sandal is a terrifying weapon in the hands of an angry mother. This is also a perfect explanation for what constitutes an assault weapon. If your mother is wearing the sandal, it’s just footwear. If your mother saw your sh*tty report card, she’s now reaching for her “assault sandal.” ‘Assault’ is just the descriptor for a weapon being used against someone.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Any slipper can become an assault chancla in the wrong hands.

Now, a weapon is only considered a firearm if it uses a burning propellant to cast a bullet, missile, or shell. This is the universally accepted term for everything ranging from a Howitzer to a pistol. Then there’s the term ‘gun.’ Most people use this as the catch-all, but it’s not. A gun is a weapon with shells or rounds manually-loaded into the chamber through a breach (or muzzle for older firearms). Typically, this term is used for crew-operated cannons, like field guns and artillery.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Does it take more than one person to fire it? It’s a gun. (Photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Some long guns (like muskets or light machine guns), most shotguns (especially breach-loaded ones), and some handguns (like revolvers) can be called guns and no one will bat an eye. These fall under either small arms (single-operator firearms) or light weapons (designed and typically team-operated). “Light weapons” includes your heavy machine guns and portable rocket launchers.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Easily the largest source of confusion, however, is the small arms category. A rifle gets its name from the helical pattern cut into bore wall (the rifling) of the barrel. Back when rifling was introduced on a musket, it was known as a “rifled gun.” The rifling makes the round more accurate at further distances. It’s the same reasoning behind throwing a football in a spiral.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Is it a rifle? Is it a gun? The answer is: yes. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Akanewich)

Rifled barrels are used in a wide assortment of firearms, from small arms to crew-serviced weapons. Handguns can have them, and so can the aforementioned slug-barrelled shotguns. But without any other distinguishers, the term ‘rifle’ covers a huge categorical umbrella. It covers anything that’s a single-user, magazine-fed firearm with a long, rifled barrel. Carbine is a fairly loose term, but it generally applies to rifles with shorter barrels.

To sum up the terminology used in today’s firing ranges as Barney-style as possible: Call the firearm what it is. In general, a rifle is a firearm that only needs one operator. A gun is intended for two operators but can be used by one.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Now you understand this joke a little bit more. (Warner Brothers’ Full Metal Jacket)

Fun fact: The term “assault rifle” comes from the German Sturmgewehr. It was named that because Hitler wanted his new weapon to sound more intimidating, even though it was nearly identical to other selective-fire rifles of the time. So yes, It is very much fascist German propaganda to call a rifle an “assault rifle” to make it more terrifying.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

The Cold War was a terrifying time to be alive.

The war began in 1946 and ended in 1991 when the USSR collapsed. During this period, tensions between the United States and the USSR were extremely high. Proxy wars were fought around the world and there was a constant threat of nuclear warfare.

Reading about historical events and watching documentaries can tell us the facts, but it’s a different thing entirely to think about what it was like to experience it. Here are just a few things US citizens lived through during the cold war.


Children learned to do “duck and cover” school drills.

After the Soviet Union detonated its first known nuclear device somewhere in Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, US anxieties about the threat of nuclear annihilation rose significantly.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Civil defense in the 1950s called for people to take what shelter they could.

(Wikimedia / Library of Congress)

President Harry S. Truman’s Federal Civil Defense Administration program began requiring schools to teach children how to dive under their desks in classrooms and take cover if bombs should drop, according to History. How protective such actions would be in an actual nuclear strike continues to be debated — and has thankfully never had any practical testing.

In any case, this led to the official commission of the 1951 educational film “Duck and Cover,” which you can stream online thanks to the Library of Congress.

There was a constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Cold War ebbed and flowed in terms of tension, but it lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union. That’s a long time to brace for potential impact, both as individuals and as a society.

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Many Americans thought nuclear war could break out at any moment.

(Public domain)

During this time, libraries helped to train and prepare people as best they could with available civil defense information. They showed educational films, offered first aid courses, and provided strategies to patrons on how best to survive in the event of nuclear war. These are valuable services in any time frame, but the tensions constantly playing in your mind as you participated must have been palpable.

As always, pop culture both reflected and refracted societal anxieties back at citizens as a way of processing them. This AV Club timeline offers several great examples, from “The Manchurian Candidate” to “Dr. Strangelove, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” and through the decades to the extremely on-the-nose ’80s film, “Red Dawn.”

Some families built fallout shelters in their backyards.

In the aftermath of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the entire world learned exactly how decimating nuclear warfare could be.

As Cold War tensions escalated between the US and the Soviet Union following World War II, it’s not terribly surprising that the Department of Defense began issuing pamphlets like this one instructing American families on how best to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.

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Bomb shelters were not uncommon.

(United States National Archives)

Converting basements or submerging concrete bunkers in backyards that were built to recommended specifications became a family bonding activity — although in urban areas, buildings that generally welcomed the public including church and school basements and libraries were also designated fallout shelter locations.

There was a strict curtailing of civil liberties during the Red Scare.

While the Cold War was intensifying, one nickname used for communists was “Reds” because that was the predominant color of the flag of the Soviet Union. The House Un-American Activities Committee and infamous Joseph McCarthy hearings happened during this time period, which attempted to root out subversion in the entertainment industry and the federal government.

President Truman’s Executive Order no. 9835 — also known as the Loyalty Order — was issued for federal employees, but smaller businesses soon followed in the federal government’s footsteps. The Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations — effectively a blacklist — was also issued.

Many of the people accused of being communists by McCarthy lost their jobs when in reality there was no proof they belonged to the communist party.

This search for potential communists did not end with the downfall of McCarthy. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, for instance, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover labeled Martin Luther King, Jr. a communist simply because he stood up against racism and oppression.

The US and USSR came close to all-out war because of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Two events during the 1960s almost brought the world to an all-out war.

The first was in 1961 when 1,400 Cuban exiles were trained to overthrow the Fidel Castro’s Cuban government, which had made diplomatic dealings with the USSR. The exiles were sent on their mission by President Kennedy, who had been assured by the CIA that the plan would make it seem like a Cuban uprising rather than American intervention.

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What became known as the Bay of Pigs had a disastrous outcome, with over a hundred Cuban exiles killed and the rest captured. Many Americans began bracing for war.

By 1962, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev bolstered Cuba’s defenses with nuclear missiles in case the US tried invading again. The arms race between the US and the Soviet Union was already in full swing, so tensions were steadily increasing.

When American spy planes gathered photographic evidence of these missiles, President Kennedy sent a naval blockade to “quarantine” Cuba, according to the JFK Presidential Library.

He also demanded removal of the missiles and total destruction of the sites that housed them. Khrushchev wasn’t anxious to go to war either, so he finally agreed after extracting a promise from Kennedy that the US wouldn’t invade Cuba.

People worried the space race could lead to nuclear war.

Through a modern lens, the space race led to scientific advancements across the world as countries rushed to be the first into outer space and to land on the moon.

But at the time, the prospect of the Soviet Union beating the US to the final frontier was more terrifying for Americans than we might realize today.

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Dr. Wernher von Braun, the NASA Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, explains the Saturn rocket system to President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 16, 1963.

(NASA)

CNN reports that regular Americans frequently worried that if the Soviet Union could get a human into space, it could also get nuclear warheads into space. The USSR became the first country to successfully launch a human being into space with Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, and the US later landed on the moon in July of 1969 after heavily investing in its NASA program.

Proxy conflicts, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War, continue to affect the world today.

While the US and the USSR never engaged in armed conflict against each other, they did fight in and fund other conflicts, otherwise known as proxy wars.

The most famous proxy wars during this time are undoubtedly the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but there were numerous other proxy conflicts that happened during the Cold War. Many of these conflicts were extremely deadly for both soldiers and civilians, including the Angolan Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, and the Congo Crisis, just to name a few.

These proxy conflicts also continue to have consequences for citizens and veterans, and have shaped the modern world as we know it.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

8 rarely seen photos from World War I

“The Great War” was named for its size, not the experience of fighting it. Troops lived and slept in the mud and rubble, they fought through heavy machine gun fire and poison gas to roll back Imperial Germany’s occupation of France. About 2.8 million American men and women would serve overseas before the war ended. Here’s a quick peek at what life was like for them:


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(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

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(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

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(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

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(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

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(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 10 worst armies in the world

Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood.

When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples.

This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.


Since the last list of the world’s worst armed forces, Iraq turned the whole “losing half the country” thing around and started showing up for work, so its army is probably a little better now — and that meant it was time for a new list of the World’s Worst.

There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talks versus what it actually accomplishes.

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Some things never change, though. Like North Korea’s pride in a jet from 1964.

But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.

There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.

And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.

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Stop trying to make the Islamic State happen. It’s never gonna happen.

This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP.

To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.

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No one should ever take credit for anything Duterte does. Seriously. Google it.

Also leaving this year’s list is “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor.

Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.

These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.

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This was only a matter of time. (KISS Army)

10. Tajikistan

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Good to know those old Soviet ushankas found a home.

The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death.

If the hazing doesn’t get them, the disease, hunger, or terrible conditions might. This is why no one wants to join the Tajikistan army… except when they’re kidnapped and forced to go.

But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.

9. Russia

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“Why does the brick have to be on fire, comrades? I’m not sure that adds anything to the experience.”

Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:

  • Not starting World War III in Syria.
  • Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
  • Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
  • Building a Navy it can’t crew.
  • Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
  • Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
  • Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
 
But that all depends on who it fights. Just look what happened when Russian “mercenaries” accidentally fought a professional army in Syria.

Spoiler: They died.

8. Turkey

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Yay, you did it. After everyone else did it first.

President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.

Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.

The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.

7. Nigeria

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Some Nigerian army officers sell their weapons and ammo to Boko Haram.

If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.

After escaping the terror of living under Boko Haram and being “liberated” by Nigerian troops, women can now expect to be exploited for sex by Nigeria’s military. Their troops can also be almost as bad as Boko Haram itself.

As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest $2 billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of $2.2 billion, more than the original investment.

6. Afghanistan

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“Congratulations on graduating from Not Going AWOL 101, soldiers.” (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kevin P. Bell)

First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.

Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.

To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.

5. Venezuela

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“And now it’s ready to fire, abuela.”

The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.

So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.

Which is exactly what Venezuela’s military did. Cool.

4. Mexico

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“Mexico: At least we aren’t Syria.”

Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they became just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.

To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60 percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.

That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.

3. North Korea

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No one ever did that to Saddam either.

Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:

  1. Create a scene
  2. Threaten all-out war with the South
  3. Get talked down at the last minute
  4. Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.
 

2. Syria

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Do they get issued photos of Bashar al-Assad?

Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.

And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.

1. Saudi Arabia

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What billion a year buys you.

Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.

This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.

Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army is figuring out how to predict future weapons

Imagine being a German soldier in the lines of World War I. You know that your government and rival nations are developing new weapons that will either give you a sudden advantage or spell your doom. Then, a rumble comes across No Man’s Land, and the hulking forms of the world’s first tanks break through the mist and smoke as they bear down on you. The die has been cast, and you are doomed.


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You know what I wouldn’t have wanted to face with no warning or historical precedent. This. This would be scary.

(Public domain)

Predicting the first tank may seem impossible. After all, what German soldier or leader could have predicted that a new American tractor would be adopted into a rolling fortress with cannons and machine guns? Well, new research from an Army laboratory indicates that a weapon like the tank was nearly pre-ordained.

Alexander Kott has discovered a law-like trend in the development of weapons from early footsoldiers and archers to horsemen and towed artillery to modern tanks. Understanding how this progression has functioned and how it will continue might allow the Army to predict the future weapons it will have to fight against.

Kott’s findings are straight-forward, even if the math that backs it up is super complicated. Basically, the development of military technology follows a steady, exponential growth. It’s similar to Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors per chip doubles about every two years.

Just like how Moore’s Law allows programmers to write software for future computer chips, Kott’s research into weapon progression may allow weapon designers to prepare for new weapons even before they debut.

The math is complicated, but Kott’s general contention is that multiple variables of infantry and armored vehicles, especially the firepower and system weight, rise at a predictable, exponential rate. And Kott did everyone the favor of predicting what a tank and infantryman would look like in 2050, according to his model.

First, the infantryman.

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

Alexander Kott used the T-72 tank as part of his data set. This heavy behemoth as part of a trend in weapon design.

(Vivek Patankar, CC-BY 2.0)

The heavy infantryman of 2050 is expected to have an exoskeleton that weighs 55 pounds. That may sound heavy, but the exoskeleton is powered and can carry up to 297 pounds of equipment. That includes armor, a weapon much heavier than the rifles of today, a large combat load of ammunition, and more. Add in the 200-pound soldier, and the heavy infantry of 2050 is a 500-pound, walking weapon.

But the firepower goes up as well. Kott envisions a maximum rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute at a range of up to 1.25 miles. The energy of each shot will likely be about 15,490 joules. That’s roughly similar to the M2 .50-caliber machine gun that has to be mounted on vehicles, ships, or tripods today. Imagine carrying a weapon that powerful everywhere.

But tanks will go through a similar transformation.

Kott predicts a two-person tank crew will ride in a vehicle weighing 55 tons. It will fire up to 10 rounds per minute with an effective range stretching out to over 3 miles. And these rounds will be huge and/or powerful. The expected kinetic energy of each shot is up to 20.9 megajoules. That’s a fast-flying round of something like 135mm.

But as Kott points out in his own writing, there is a possible major change coming to weapons development. As directed energy weapons come into maturity and get deployed, they could change how the model works. Historically, infantrymen and artillery have generated more firepower by firing larger rounds with more explosive energy. But lasers and plasma cannons project relatively little mass.

But Kott still expects future tanks to deliver the equivalent 20.9 megajoules of damage, they may just be able to save a little weight on weapons (weight they may use for power generation within the tank).

So, what’s the value of the research? Kott’s not even releasing sweet designs of what this infantryman and tank will look like.

Well, these trends exist across the world, not just in the U.S. So a tank designer of today knows that they need to design their vehicle to survive hits from a 20.9-megajoule attack. And rifle designers can start thinking about how to deliver a .50-cal’s power in something an exoskeleton-equipped infantryman can get through a door frame.

They also have to figure out how you poop in it.

Kott’s full paper is available here.

Articles

8 gadgets that make life in the field more bearable

Roughing it in the field can be tough. The first few days might seem kind of fun and cool, but after a week of limited internet and electricity, no showers, and sleeping in the dirt, everyone starts itching for a few creature comforts.


But, there are a few gadgets and tools that can make life easier (without weighing down your ruck). Here are 8 of them:

1. Portable solar chargers

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
(Photo: Mcjones2003 CC BY-SA 4.0)

One of the best things for keeping a modern, connected life going in the field is solar power. Grunts at a small base or outpost aren’t going to get much access to generator power, but small solar panels can let them power a couple of devices.

The big concern on these is balancing weight to power. No one is willing to add too many pounds on just for a chance to play Pokemon Go in the field.

2. Rugged cell phones

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
(Photo: OutdoorMen CC BY-SA 4.0)

Some manufacturers make special “military grade” phones, but troops can usually get away with a solid, mainstream phone in a great case.

The phone should have a solid state hard drive and either be waterproof or have a waterproof case. In a pinch, a standard case and an MRE beverage pouch make all phones waterproof.

3. E-readers

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The Navy created their own e-reader and named it the NeRD. Photo: US Navy Ensign Sandra Niedzwiecki

A quality e-reader is standard kit for avid bibliophiles in the field and can keep a soldier or Marine in the field occupied during whatever off-duty time he or she is afforded. The best models are rugged, have low power requirements, and can hold plenty of books.

Avoid anything that is more tablet than e-reader. With only a limited amount of solar power, fancy readers with color graphics and other power hungry features can end up spending most of their time in a line for a charger.

4. Pop up bed net

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Yes, she is in a pop-up shelter inside of a larger tent. She was also in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic and didn’t want to catch malaria which was the more common threat. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. V. Michelle Woods)

These quick shelters keep out all the annoying bugs that bite and crawl over troops in the field. In areas at high risk for West Nile and other diseases, the military branches sometimes issue them. Everyone else has to buy them with personal funds.

Like everything else on this list, keep a firm eye on weight and make sure to pick a camouflaged or subdued color. The first sergeant won’t let you use a bright orange shelter in a tactical situation.

5. Chemical heating pads

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
It doesn’t take a big warmer to take the edge off in the field. Little things will do the trick. (Photo: Public Domain)

Look, it gets cold in the field and hour six on overnight guard in a hasty machine gun position is much more comfortable with a small heating pad in your pockets or taped to your chest. The problem is most of them can only be used once.

That’s all right, though. Pick a small, long-lasting version rather than a big back pad or something that’ll give a short burst of heat. A single hand warmer on a patch of skin with high blood flow—try the hands, near the armpits, or anywhere with a major artery—can take the edge off the cold and last for an entire guard shift. It’ll usually even have enough juice left to help you get to sleep when you rack out afterward.

6. Small flashlights and headlamps

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An Army EOD technician attempts to remove a simulated explosive device from a hostage during a training exercise. When you’re removing bombs from hostages, you want your hands free. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Ashley Marble)

Headlamps with red lenses are a necessity for the field. No one wants to wear that big, D-battery flashlight the military often includes on packing lists. Opt for a smaller LED flashlight that can be carried in the pocket for directional lighting, and get a headlamp for map reading, walking around and general use.

7. Field stool

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi
Yes, it’s a boring photo. Camp stools are boring objects until you have to ruck out to the field, set up tents and build defensive positions and then look for somewhere to finally sit. (Photo: Amazon.com)

This isn’t complicated. There’s not always a hill or fallen log to sit on, so a nice field chair is a great asset. The best of these are small stools that only weigh a few ounces.

8. Steel spoon

Trying to cut through a beef patty with an MRE spoon can get dicey at times. You can hedge against broken utensils by always carrying an extra plastic spoon from an old MRE, or you can purchase a steel spoon like your grandfather carried and cut with confidence.

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