You’ve probably used one, or know of the iconic shape. After all, 10 million of these pocket knives are produced annually. But how does one factory produce 45,000 each day, and in such a precise manner?
The Swiss Army knives has been around for nearly 130 years. It was originally delivered to the Swiss Army by Karl Elsener in 1891. The knives are now produced by Victorinox, Europe’s largest knife manufacturer. The company was founded in 1884.
The main factory in Ibach, Switzerland, produces a variety of knives, designed to offer versatility and compactness. Here, it takes around 5 minutes to produce a pocket knife depending on the model. There are 400 different models.
The basis of the knife is 85% iron, along with 13% chromium and a small trace of other metals.
2,400 metric tonnes of steel are imported to the factory each year. From these rolls, knife blades are stamped to 2 millimeters thick. This requires 50 metric tonnes of pressure. Each roll can make 16,000 blades.
Various tools require various alloys for hardness. Blades are made from hard steel, whereas screwdrivers are formed from softer steel. The blades are rounded off using triangular-shaped plastic wheels and water.
The knife blades are then extracted via a magnet and grinded down again to achieve an exact width. They are imprinted with a company stamp, then placed in an oven at 1,050 degrees Celsius.
The signature red outer casing is formed via injection molding. Other tools for the knives are produced on nearby machines via a process of milling and grinding.
The classic officer’s knife is assembled by machine at the factory. Other editions are assembled by hand.
The blades are smoothed and given a final inspection. A small metal cross emblem — the Victorinox Cross Shield — is inspected via a microscope to ensure standard thickness. This was added the first time in 1909 and later to all Victorinox knives since 2006.
The knives are exported from the Ibach factory to over 120 countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In November 2018, the Air Force targeted its personnel at bases in Europe with spear-phishing attacks to test their awareness of online threats.
The tests were coordinated with Air Force leaders in Europe and employed tactics known to be used by adversaries targeting the US and its partners, the Air Force said in a release.
Spear-phishing differs from normal phishing attempts in that it targets specific accounts and attempts to mimic trusted sources.
Spear-phishing is a “persistent threat” to network integrity, Col. Anthony Thomas, head of Air Force Cyber Operations, said in the release.
“Even one user falling for a spear-phishing attempt creates an opening for our adversaries,” Thomas said. “Part of mission resiliency is ensuring our airmen have the proficiency to recognize and thwart adversary actions.”
Sailors on watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.
(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)
The technique has already been put into real-world use.
Just before Christmas in 2015, Russian hackers allegedly used spear-phishing emails and Microsoft Word documents embedded with malicious code to hit Ukraine with a cyberattack that caused power outages — the first publicly known attack to have such an effect.
In December 2018, the US Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with involvement in a decade-long, government-backed effort to hack and steal information from US tech firms and government agencies.
Their group relied on spear-phishing, using an email address that looked legitimate to send messages with documents laden with malicious code.
For their test in November 2018, Air Force cyber-operations officials sent emails from non-Department of Defense addresses to users on the Air Force network, including content in them that looked legitimate.
The emails told recipients to do several different things, according to the release.
One appeared to be sent by an Airman and Family Readiness Center, asking the addressee to update a spreadsheet by clicking a hyperlink. Another email said it was from a legal office and asked the recipient to add information to a hyperlinked document for a jury panel in a court-martial.
“If users followed the hyperlink, then downloaded and enabled macros in the documents, embedded code would be activated,” the release said. “This allowed the threat emulation team access to their computer.”
US Cyber Command.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
Results from the test — which was meant to improve the defenses of the network as a whole and did not gather information on individuals — showed most recipients were not fooled.
“We chose to conduct this threat emulation (test) to gain a deeper understanding of our collective cyber discipline and readiness,” said Maj. Ken Malloy, Air Force Cyber Operations’ primary planning coordinator for the test.
The lessons “will inform data-driven decisions for improving policy, streamlining processes and enhancing threat-based user training to achieve mission assurance and promote the delivery of decisive air power,” Malloy said.
While fending off spear-phishing attacks requires users to be cognizant of untrustworthy links and other suspicious content, other assessments have found US military networks themselves do not have adequate defenses.
A Defense Department Inspector General report released December 2018 found that the Army, the Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency “did not protect networks and systems that process, store, and transmit (missile defense) technical information from unauthorized access and use.”
That could allow attackers to go around US missile-defense capabilities, the report said.
In one case, officials had failed to patch flaws in their system after getting alerts about vulnerabilities — one of which was first found in 1990 and remained unresolved in April 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For over a century, machine guns have had a major effect on ground combat. Their efficacy against infantry prompted the invention of the tank in World War I, for instance. They’ve changed the way wars are fought and have played a huge role in forging history.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not all machine guns are the same, and getting the nomenclature right is important. While this isn’t as hotly contested as the debate between “magazine” and “clip”, it can get touchy. We’re talking about some cool machine guns here, we want to make sure we’re using the right terms as we imagine letting loose on a range with them.
There are several types of machine guns. Let’s take a look:
Original HMG – Heavy Machine Guns
As originally understood, this term applies to water-cooled guns intended to provide a sustained volume of fire, like Germany’s Maxim machine guns that were used in World War I or the Browning M1917. HMGs are typically heavy, stationary weapons. They might not be very mobile, but as a grunt, you don’t wanna have to charge them.
MMG – Medium Machine Guns
These guns emerged in World War II as a more mobile option for sustained fire. The M1919A4 is a prime example. MMGs don’t provide as much sustained fire as water-cooled guns, but their versatility and firepower have proved to be very lethal.
AR – Automatic Rifle
The automatic rifle emerged in World War I. The earliest issued rifles, namely the French Chauchat, were pieces of crap, but later offerings, like the Browning Automatic Rifle, were mainstays of World War II. Today, the Marines field the M27.
LMG – Light Machine Gun
The light machine gun was another strike at finding that sweet spot between firepower and mobility. Like an automatic rifle, it uses a box magazine and you can fire it from your shoulder. However, using the bipod is highly recommended for accuracy. When you think LMG, think Bren or Lewis.
GPMG – General Purpose Machine Gun
After World War II, some engineers took a look at all the machine gun options and realized that they could come up with something that balances all available capabilities. Germany’s MG34 and MG42 were the first GPMGs to emerge. Today, just about every country uses these.
SAW – Squad Automatic Weapons
Also known as LSWs, or Light Support Weapons, these weapons emerged as a problem was discovered with the GPMGs. GPMGs typically used ammunition of a different caliber than ARs and LMGs. SAWs use the same type of ammo as the rifle squad, making it an efficient, potent choice. A modern example is the M249 SAW.
HMG (Modern) – Heavy Machine Guns
The modern heavy machine gun packs huge amounts of stopping power with .50-caliber rounds. For examples of the modern HMG, think Ma Deuce or the Russian DShK.
For more details on how to tell which type of machine gun you’re admiring, watch the video below:
The US Marine Corps received its first CH-53K King Stallion on May 16, 2018, landing at Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina, according to The Drive.
“[This is] the most powerful helicopter the United States has ever fielded,” CH-53 program chief Marine Col. Hank Vanderborght said in April 2018. “Not only the most powerful, the most modern and also the smartest.”
But it’s also the most expensive. With a price tag of about $144 million, it costs more than the F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter.
Still, the King Stallion can haul three times more than the helicopter it’s replacing, the CH-53E Super Stallion.
Here’s what it can do:
Engineered by Sikorsky, the CH-53K King Stallion made its first flight in 2015.
It’s also fitted with a glass cockpit, which basically means it has digital displays, for the four-man crew, as well as fourth generation high-efficiency composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips.
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles have been the rage lately. The Navy has been testing the X-47. Bell is offering the V-247 Vigilant for a number of missions. But one UCAV served in the active force way before drones became so popular.
Meet the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, or DASH, which entered service in 1963.
DASH was intended to give the Navy’s modified World War II Allen M. Sumner and Gearing-class destroyers a long-range anti-submarine weapon. Capable of operating up to 22 miles away from a ship, and carrying two Mk 46 anti-submarine torpedoes, DASH could kill just about any submarine in the Soviet arsenal.
With a top speed of 80 nautical miles per hour, and a range of 71 nautical miles, the QH-50 did not have a lot of endurance to hunt. It was intended to simply deliver its payload. It was small — just under 2,300 pounds — and at just under 13 feet long and with a 20-foot rotor diameter, the DASH was able to give these World War II ships a new lease on life.
That said, DASH was not without its problems. The electronics in its era were not reliable — and that is about as understated as calling Jar Jar Binks annoying. Eight out of ten airframe losses were blamed on failures of its early-1960s vintage electronics. One out of ten losses was due to “pilot error” (if such a thing is possible with a UAV), and another ten percent was due to failures in either the engines or airframe.
DASH served with the fleet for six years before it got the chop. While the official reason for the cancellation was unreliability, it should be noted that DASH was being fielded to the fleet around the time the Vietnam War escalated and was at its height. While some QH-50s were modified to serve as spotting aircraft for naval gunfire (a role later filled by the RQ-2 Pioneer), most were retired. Japan was the only other user; they kept their QH-50s operating until 1977.
DASH today is largely forgotten, but it was arguably one of the first UCAVs to see wide deployment — decades before America decided to hang AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on MQ-1 Predator drones.
When you think of moving infantry, one of three options usually springs to mind: Troops marching in unison, troops riding in infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, or transporting troops by the truck-load. In recent years, that third option has undergone a very interesting evolution, largely due to the War on Terror.
TITUS by NEXTER on TATRA chassis, IDET 2017, Brno Exhibition Center, Czech Republic
(Photo by Karel Subrt)
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, wreaked havoc on Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who used unarmored wheeled vehicles, like Humvees, to move troops. Extremely effective and inexpensive, IEDs quickly became a popular choice among insurgents. In response, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were born, specifically tuned to reduce the risks presented by IEDs while maintaining the tactical mobility required by urban warfare.
Developing technology to protect vehicles from explosives is not a new phenomenon. Rhodesia and South Africa had pioneered such vehicles to fight insurgencies in the 1970s. Today, just about every country is developing — or buying — some form of MRAP. France, which has been fighting a radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, is no different. Their vehicle of choice is the Nexter TITUS, which is short for Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System.
The TITUS has a crew of three, a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and can go up to 435 miles on a single tank of gas. It can hold up to a dozen fully equipped troops. This transport system also supports an option for a remote weapon system that can hold a variety of machine guns or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, like the Mk 19.
The TITUS also comes in several variants, including a version for police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, a 120mm mortar carrier, a counter-insurgency version, a water-cannon vehicle, and a “forward-support” vehicle capable of carrying ammunition.
This versatile vehicle will likely be around for a while. Learn more about this tough armored truck in the video below.
Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.
For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.
“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”
The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.
U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018
(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)
“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”
As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.
The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.
The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.
Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
DARPA has been hard at work on the Mission Adaptive Rotor program, a system allowing helicopters to land on sloping, uneven, craggy, or moving surfaces by lowering robotic legs that bend to accommodate the terrain.
While helicopters can already land in plenty of locations other aircraft can’t, there are still a lot of places where landing is tricky or impossible because of the terrain.
The system worked successfully in a recent flight demonstration, but engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology will continue working on it. Beyond allowing for easier and safer takeoffs and landings, the gear is expected to reduce the damages from a hard landing by as much as 80 percent, according to a DARPA press release.
To see the system in action, check out the video below:
The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.
But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.
Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.
“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.
Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.
The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.
Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.
The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.
“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”
Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.
“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.
Getting uniforms Amazon-quick
On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)
“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.
The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.
“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.
The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.
Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.
The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.
“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.
Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.
In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.
Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”
Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.
Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.
“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.
Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.
The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.
Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.
“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.
Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.
Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.
Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.
The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.
“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.
A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.
“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”
The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.
Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.
“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.
In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.
A UH-1N Huey helicopter.
The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.
The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.
The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.
The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In a tactical situation, the last thing a Soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy.
The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck. team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday.
The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by Soldiers in field conditions later this year.
Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.
The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for Soldiers:
The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
The hydrogen fuel cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
When the vehicle isn’t moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kW of peak power. There are 120 and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.
Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.
While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army’s role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next near.
How it works
Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn’t come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.
As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there’s plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn’t exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.
That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.
Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven’t yet settled on which approach to use.
Christopher Colquitt, GM’s project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn’t the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.
Most gas stations aren’t equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.
Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system itself. Fuel cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.
In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.
The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It’s a huge undertaking.
By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn’t just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel cell technology.
Colquitt said the ZH2’s performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds of torque through the motor to the transfer case.
The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.
Not ready for consumers
Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn’t yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.
The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM’s Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.
The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the Soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.
Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM’s own Proving Grounds in Michigan.
Not since the year 1066 have the British home islands been successfully invaded by an outside power. One of the reasons for that is the United Kingdom’s unfailing, stout supply of able British seamen. But the UK may no longer be dependent on the bravery of those men. Instead, the Royal Navy might be filled with robotic, autonomous submarines to rule the high seas.
In February 2021, the government of the United Kingdom announced that it will be accepting submissions for sensors, computers, and other technology to outfit its new crewless fleet of submarines.
Formally referred to as the Extra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV), the robot submarines are still in the very early experimental phases, but critical to its development is its ability to move and see as it traverses the depths of the world’s oceans.
The first trial submarine in the series of experiments will be 30 feet long and displace about 10 tons. The technology being developed for the new robot fleet will be tested in the water, in a real-world setting.
Not much else is known about the future of this fleet, either by those who will be submitting potential technology or by the Royal Navy itself. One of the objectives, says Popular Science, is that the UK’s navy will be determining its own future needs as well as the potential abilities and limitations of underwater autonomous vehicles.
There are at least two companies already using their tech to build similar submarines. Boeing’s Echo Seeker is one example as is the UK’s home-built Manta sub. But the proposed electronic sensors and other components will be installed on the Royal Navy’s existing XLUUV (made by MSubs, Ltd.), tested in the sea trials, and then removed.
For companies looking to develop their technology in this area, it’s a chance to build, develop, and test their wares in real-world environments under the auspices of a real military purpose. The Royal Navy, while testing the equipment, will not be signing contracts to buy any of it.
“The main aim of this activity is to help the Royal Navy shape future requirements and design future capabilities and concepts of operation,” the Ministry of Defence said in an announcement, “whilst providing innovators in industry and academia the opportunity to develop and test technology aligned to this future capability.”
The call for technology is not limited to defense contractors or corporations. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is opening it to anyone who has technical expertise in underwater sensors. Tech startups, individual innovators, and even universities are welcome to propose technology for the new robot submarines.
The United Kingdom’s engineers will be on hand to fix any external technology to the XLUUV and integrate it into the submarine’s operations.
While the future defenses and nuclear capabilities of the Royal Navy may one day be in the hands of robotics underwater vehicles, there are some functions that will still require the UK’s cadre of brave sailors. These are missions like underwater intelligence gathering, tracking enemy submarines, and the myriad other things submariners do while deployed for months on end, things they just can’t talk about.
But crewless subs operating unseen in the depths around America’s greatest ally may give enemies pause to wonder what’s down there – and how long they can stay hidden from view.