These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

The United States military is testing a new form of surveillance: high-altitude balloons.

The tests, first discovered by The Guardian’s Mark Harris in an FCC filing, are being conducted in South Dakota through the Sierra Nevada Corporation — a defense contractor employed by the US government.

The balloons can float as high as 65,000 feet, and are able to track vehicles day or night, regardless of the weather.

The goal of the balloons, according to the FCC filing, is: “To provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats.”


The company named in the filing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to test the balloons. The United States Southern Command (Southcom) commissioned the tests; the balloons are scheduled to begin flying in South Dakota and conclude in central Illinois.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted drone aircraft flies a combat mission.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

Though the technology might sound strange, it’s not the first pairing of balloons with tech hardware to enable surveillance: The Israeli government has repeatedly used surveillance balloons with cameras attached in Israel.

The surveillance balloons in this case, however, are equipped with so-called “synthetic-aperture radar” devices from Artemis Networks — a tech company that makes wireless radar devices. Using an SAR device, users can create high-resolution images using radio pulses, which enables a much higher level of detail in surveillance use.

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Sierra Nevada Corporation responded to requests for comment as of publishing.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s stealthy ‘Hunter’ drone just took first flight

Russia’s new heavy combat drone has flown for the first time alongside the country’s most advanced fighter jet, giving the fighter a new edge in battle, the Russian defense ministry announced Sept. 27, 2019.

“The Okhotnik unmanned aerial vehicle has performed its first joint flight with a fifth-generation Su-57 plane,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

The two Russian aircraft flew together “to broaden the fighter’s radar coverage and to provide target acquisition for employing air-launched weapons,” the ministry added.


Unmanned aerial vehicle “Okhotnik” made the first joint flight with a fifth-generation fighter Su-57

www.youtube.com

Photos of the Okhotnik first surfaced online in January 2019, but it wasn’t until June 2019 that the unmanned aircraft was formally unveiled.

This summer, the heavy attack drone completed its maiden flight, during which it flew circles over an airfield for 20 minutes.

Первый полет новейшего беспилотного летательного аппарата «Охотник»

www.youtube.com

The flight involving both the Okhotnik drone and the Su-57 fighter appears to confirm what some have suspected for months — that the stealthy flying-wing drone was designed to fight alongside and provide critical battespace information to Russia’s new fifth-generation fighters.

In January 2019, shortly after photos of the Okhtonik appeared online, photos of an Su-57 with an interesting new paint job appeared. The redesign featured silhouettes of a Su-57 and a flying-wing aircraft that looked a lot like the Okhotnik.

Russia claims that the Okhotnik has stealth capabilities, a byproduct of its shape and an anti-radar coating, and is equipped with electro-optical, radar, and other types of reconnaissance equipment.

The heavy attack drone is currently controlled remotely, but in future tests, it is expected to perform in a semi-autonomous state and eventually a completely autonomous mode, TASS reports.

Testing with various armaments is expected in the next few years, and the drone will be handed over to Russian troops around 2025.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘Herky Bird’ is a favorite of Rangers and special operators

Special operations forces have long been fans of the C-130. Why not? It’s one of the most versatile platforms available. The basic transport has been a standby for airborne units over the years, but when it comes to carrying the precious cargo that is American special operations forces, no ordinary Hercules will do.


Over the course of several decades, the Air Force has developed advanced versions of the C-130 platform to be used specifically by special operations. One of the first was a variant of the old C-130E, dubbed the MC-130E “Combat Talon,” which entered service in 1966. The MC-130P “Combat Shadow,” derived from the HC-130P, entered service in 1986. The MC-130H was a special-operations version of the C-130H that entered service in 1991.

All of these planes, however, are pretty old by now.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

A MC-130J with the 413th Flight Test Squadron takes off. Note the winglets on the plane.

(USAF photo by Samuel King)

The C-130J version of the Hercules entered service in 1999, replacing aging C-130E models. Continuing the tradition of its predecessors, the C-130J was also modified for use by special operations forces. Older MC-130Es and MC-130Ps were first in line to be replaced by a total of 37 MC-130Js, according to a United States Air Force fact sheet.

The MC-130J first entered service in 2011. It was given the name “Commando II,” taking on the designation of the Curtiss-Wright C-46 “Commando,” a cargo plane that mostly saw action in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was retired in 1968.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

A new MC-130J Commando II taxis on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

(USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

The MC-130J has a top speed of 415 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 3,000 miles. It’s capable of refueling up to four helicopters or tiltrotors at a time. It’s also equipped with advanced electro-optical and infra-red sensors.

Learn more about this impressive special-ops plane in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qun5hkYXkk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

A UFC superstar choked out a US troop in a USO show

UFC superstar Paige VanZant appears to have choked out a US soldier on May 2, 2018 — but it was all in good fun.

VanZant, 24, was showing a crowd of soldiers at a USO event how to perform a rear naked chokehold before the soldier passed out and went limp, a new video from TMZ shows.


When VanZant let go, the soldier collapsed and was caught and dragged backwards by Max Holloway, another UFC fighter, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Although dazed, the soldier then stood up and smiled. Hopefully he didn’t lose too many brain cells.

It’s unclear where the video was shot, but VanZant and Holloway were visiting bases in Spain, Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Korea this week as part of a USO tour. Watch the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s now easier for Marines with out-of-regs tattoos to get back in the Corps

A new tweak to Marine Corps policy will reduce paperwork for re-enlisting Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve who have tattoos that fall outside regulations.

The change was shared late March 2018 with career planners and recruiters who work with prior-service Marines, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It came via a total force retention system, or TFRS, message, used to share policy updates pertaining to recruiting and retention.


While rules governing when exceptions can be made to tattoo standards aren’t changing, the way cases involving tattoos that fall outside guidelines are processed is.

Previously, a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve looking to go back on active duty would have to complete a tattoo screening request, endorsed by Marine Corps Headquarters, for any undocumented tattoos that don’t comply with policy.

Now, he or she can simply submit a Page 11 administrative counseling form related to the tattoos. Any tattoos that have not been documented during prior service, have not been grandfathered in according to regulations, and fall outside current guidelines require a Page 11 form. This would be created, Carlock said, when a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve visited a recruiter to begin the process for return to active duty.

“They said, ‘Let’s reduce that back-and-forth. Just send me the Page 11,'” Carlock said. “That was what this message was. Let’s streamline it.”

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith)

The change is not, however, the more-lenient tattoo policy that some hoped for.

After receiving the TFRS message, one recruiter made a public post on Facebook announcing newly relaxed policy standards.

“There is no telling how long this is good for but at this moment we can bring “out of regs” Marines to the reserves … this may be the chance to update your training records (promotion) get on some Tricare, make some money, and earn some points towards retirement!!” the recruiter wrote.

That post has since been removed; Carlock said it was erroneous.

“There was no change to tattoo policy. There was a change to the process,” she said.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
U.S. Marine Corps tattoo regulations as of June 2, 2016.
(USMC)

In a December 2017, interview, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com he had no plans to relax the current policy. Marines are still not allowed to get full sleeve tattoos, and there are size limits on tattoos that wrap an arm or leg. Tattoos on the neck, face and hands are also all out.

The most recent tattoo policy change was made in 2016, under Neller. It eased up on some regulations, allowing Marines to get “wedding ring” finger tattoos, and clarified other guidelines. It also gave Marines 120 days to get noncompliant tattoos documented in their personnel file.

Since then, Carlock said, no active-duty Marines have been forced out of service as a result of their tattoos.

“If the recruiters came to me and said, ‘We can’t make mission with this [tattoo] policy,’ I would have to go back and look,” Neller said.

But, he added, that hasn’t happened so far.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face,” Neller said in the December 2017, interview. “We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock-and-roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft finishes flight across the Pacific

US Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Darwin completed a trans-Pacific flight in MV-22 Ospreys for the fourth time, transiting from Darwin, Australia, to their home station on Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Sept. 19, 2019.

The flight consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced, supported by two KC-130J Hercules from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, and was conducted to improve upon the Osprey trans-Pacific concept that had been developed and refined over the past three MRF-D iterations.

“Being able to fly our aircraft from Australia to Hawaii is a great example of the flexibility and options that the Ospreys create for a commander,” said US Marine Maj. Kyle Ladwig, operations officer for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363, Reinforced.


These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

MV-22 Ospreys takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 20, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s takeoff during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

An MV-22 Osprey prepares to conduct air-to-air refueling from a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at sea, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

US Marines debark a KC-130J Hercules during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, at Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

US Marine KC-130J pilots watch MV-22s take off during the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, RAAF Base Amberley, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

MV-22 Ospreys and KC-130J Hercules parked during Marine Rotational Force-Darwin trans-Pacific flight, Cassidy International Airport, Kiribati, Sept. 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Colin Kennard)

The MV-22 Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, combining the vertical capability of a helicopter with the speed and the range of a fixed-wing aircraft.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

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

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


 

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo U.S. Air Force)

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

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
A JAS 39 Gripen with a combat payload (Photo Saab Group)

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

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

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

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

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

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

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this Russian helicopter is often the top ranked in the world

Best attack helicopter in the world? America built the first dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-1, and variants of it are still flying. So maybe that one? Or perhaps the MH-47s from Vietnam, highly modified cargo helicopters loaded with guns? Or America’s premiere, the AH-64 Apache, which can be equipped with air-to-air missiles? They’re all great, but there’s a surprisingly strong case for Russia’s Ka-52.


These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

The navalized Ka-52K has folding rotor blades and can carry an anti-ship missile capable of taking out tanker ships.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Ka-52, in a nutshell, is an attack helicopter with a top speed of 196 mph, an 18,000-foot ceiling, and a 683-mile range. It can carry a few kinds of anti-tank missiles, an anti-aircraft missile, 80mm unguided rockets, and a 30mm main gun. It can also carry a dedicated anti-ship missile, the Kh-35 in its Uran configuration.

And a few of those stats make the Ka-52 seem way better than the Apache or other attack helicopters on paper. For one, the Ka-52’s anti-tank missiles can penetrate slightly deeper than the Apache’s Hellfire missile. Missiles are generally measured these days by how much armor they can pierce after getting past the explosive armor on an enemy tank.

The Hellfire can pierce a reported 800mm of armor by that measurement. But the Ka-52’s ATAKA can tear through 950mm, and the Vikhr can pierce 1,000mm of armor. But the Ka-52’s engines and wing mounts are limited, and so it can carry only 12 missiles against the Apache’s 16.

But the Hellfire’s penetration is still enough to pierce most any tank the Army is going to fly against, and its almost 5-mile range is much better than the ATAKA can do, but admittedly a little shorter than Vikhr which can fly almost 7.5 miles, reportedly.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

An armament diagram shows the weapons the Ka-52 can carry. Those last two diagrams under the center hardpoints of each wing are the missile racks. The helicopter can carry up to six anti-tank missiles from each of the two center hardpoints for a total of 12.

(KPoJluK2008, CC BY-SA 3.0)

So the anti-tank situation is basically a wash. Ka-52 has the edge if you need to penetrate some seriously hardened structures like good bunkers or kill stuff from further away, but the Apache can kill 33 percent more stuff with its missile armament than the Ka-52 can.

The Ka-52 does have one clear missile advantage in that it can carry a dedicated anti-ship missile, the KH-35. The Hellfire and its 16-pound warhead can be pressed into anti-ship service, but the Kh-35 has a much larger warhead at 320 pounds and an obscenely longer range at 80 miles. Basically, the Hellfire can take out small craft at short ranges, but a Kh-35 launched from Richmond, Virginia, can take out a tanker floating in Norfolk’s harbor.

Another small point in the Ka-52’s favor is that its rockets are a bit larger at 80mm instead of 70mm.

So you can give an armament edge to the Ka-52, and it is slightly faster at 186 mph instead of 173. But the Apache can fly 1,180 miles in straight and level flight against a mere 683 for the Ka-52. And it can fly higher, reaching 21,000 feet while the Ka-52 runs out of air at just over 18,000 feet.

And that 3,000-foot change can make a big difference in places like Afghanistan, but it also means that Apaches could protect American soldiers on Russia’s Mount Elbrus while the Ka-52 flitted uselessly well below.

So, yeah, the Ka-52 is a great helicopter. It can carry a wide range of weapons, it’s fast, and it has a decent range and flight ceiling. And if you ever have to fly against it or fight under it, watch out. Especially if you’re on a boat within 80 miles. It’s easy to see why the Ka-52 takes the top spot in a lot of lists.

But in most missions most of the time, the Apache is better. Oh, and the newest Apaches can bring drone sidekicks to the fight, something Russia’s bird can’t do. So expect it to climb to most people’s top spots over the next few years.

And that’s without addressing the potential for an armed version of the SB-1 Defiant or V-280 Valor emerging from the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program. If either of those gets armed in the coming decades, expect them to carry more weight, fly at higher altitudes, and faster speeds than any other attack helicopter in the world, with a flight range that’s equal to or better than what’s out there now.

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the US Coast Guard

This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.

We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.

The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard

Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
They are at attention.

While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
Maybe no one will notice.

When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.

Why to actually hate the Coast Guard

You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.

There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.

We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

Why you should love the Coast Guard

While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
The Coast Guard in its natural habitat.

After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.

Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”

One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
Remember: No Coast Guard, no Chesty.

There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.

Articles

These new mini-drones could revolutionize ground warfare

Many researchers are working to create the next revolution in drones for both war and peace. At the University of Pennsylvania, teams of researchers headed by Dr. Vijay Kumar are making progress on autonomous UAVs. Since they’re autonomous, they don’t need human operators, just the command to begin a task.


The robots created at Kumar Labs are designed for disaster relief and agricultural work, but could change the way the infantry operates, assaulting contested buildings and objectives alongside troops and performing a variety of services.

The first step to moving drones from overwatch in the skies to clearing buildings with squads is getting them into the buildings. The autonomous UAVs created by researchers weigh between 20 grams and 2 kilograms, feature a quad-rotor design that allows hovering, and are nimble, allowing them to fly through small windows or openings.

Of course, if multiple drones are needed on a mission, the drones have to be able to enter the building and move around without interfering with each other or the human squad. UPENN researchers have created different ways for the drones to behave around each other. The copters can simply avoid one another while working independently or on a shared task, follow a designated group leader, or operate in a coordinated swarm as shown below.

Once inside of a building or a village, the drones would get to work. They could move ahead of the squad and create 3D maps of buildings the squad or platoon expects to hit soon.

The little UAVs are capable of lifting objects on order individually or as part of a team. Fire teams that are decisively engaged could quickly request more ammo be brought to their position and see it arrive slung underneath the autonomous drones. Medics could designate a casualty collection point and begin combat casualty care as more supplies are ferried to them. Drones could even be used as suicide bombers, moving explosives to a point on the battlefield and detonating their cargo.

The drones can also construct obstacles. While currently limited to cubic structures made from modular parts, the drones build according to preset designs without the need for human oversight. Platoon leaders could designate priorities and locations of simple construction and the drones would begin completing their assignments. Metal frames could be placed inside windows and other openings to prevent enemy drones from accessing structures. Mines or flares could be placed by drones on the approaches to the objective, slowing an enemy counterattack and warning friendly forces.

Of course, the copters are also capable of completing the traditional drone mission: Surveillance. While not as fast as the larger drones already in use, they could extend the eyes of the drone fleet into buildings. Also, since they can follow preset waypoints, the drones could continuously patrol an assigned area on their own, only requiring a human’s interaction when they spot something suspicious. The drone can even perch on an outcropping or velcro itself to a landing spot, allowing it to turn off its motors and become silent.

Dr. Kumar discussed the robots, the science behind them, and where he hopes to take them during a 2012 TED Talk.

NOW: DARPA’s new robot can jump hurdles, chase you down, and haunt your dreams

OR: The 7 coolest high-tech projects the military is currently working on

Humor

4 interesting things a rifleman can get away with

The military is a weird place with its own unique culture. Although there are strict rules that apply to any and every MOS, there are certain things troops get away with, given the right settings.


Being an infantry rifleman, for example, grants certain permissions that allow you to get away with things that, if done by someone in another occupation specialty, wouldn’t be tolerated.

Related: Why the term ‘every Marine is a rifleman’ needs to stop

1. Being dumb

While it’s a stereotype for grunts to be stupid, it’s rarely true. But in the rare event that a rifleman is dumb, it’s expected, so you get a free pass. But, if you’re not really dumb, don’t make a habit of playing pretend or else you’ll just be your battalion’s own village idiot.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
Please, refer to this flowchart.

2. Being incompetent with office tools

If you get sent to the company office to make a copy of some paperwork but you’re unfamiliar with how to use a copy machine, no one gets mad. Just expect to be treated like an idiot. (See point #1)

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet

3. Going primal

The tribal mentality is encouraged in an infantry unit since the job is barbaric in nature. Higher-ups are surprisingly okay when the lower enlisted riflemen start acting like cavemen because it means they’re getting in touch with a more primitive side that can make them more efficient.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
When you got a field op at 1500 but gotta defend the pass at Thermopylae. (Image via Terminal Lance)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

4. Homo-eroticism

Don’t ask, don’t tell is dead and the LGBT community is very much a part of the military now. But you kinda have to be a grunt to truly understand the relationship grunts have with homosexuality. They’re not all gay, but sometimes you might think they lean that way.

These surveillance balloons can track multiple vehicles from 65,000 feet
And it’s beautiful.

When you spend all day, every day around other men, you learn to become comfortable enough with your sexuality to the degree that homoerotic behavior between heterosexual people is acceptable. In fact, the behavior is seen as humorous.