The Slow Mo Guys — a YouTube channel dedicated to filming action shots in super slow motion — released a cringeworthy video of one of their cameramen getting bare body tazed.
The video starts with a couple of incredible slow motion shots of the Taser being deployed: one side shot followed by a frontal.
Dan Hafen, the volunteer for this experiment, is introduced at 1:50 of the video and soon takes off his shirt to capture the full prong penetration. OUCH.
Watch his muscles contract from the point of impact to the rest of his back like a water rippling in a pond after a stone is tossed in.
His face says it all.
Here’s the barbed prong being pulled out of his skin.
Service members authorized to carry Tasers have to pass a written test and be able to effectively engage a target with a minimum of two Taser cartridges before they can carry a Taser. Once they complete training, they have the option to get tazed, according to the Air Force.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.
“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.
Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.
(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)
“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)
I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.
It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.
Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:
• “No, singing or playing of music;
• no cooking food;
• avoid speaker phones
• watch your voice volume
• deal with gas in the restroom
• always knock before entering a cubicle
• no “prairie-dogging”
In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!
“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.
“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.
“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”
I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”
Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.
“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.
“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”
We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.
(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)
I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.
Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:
“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”
“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.
“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.
The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.
My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.
A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).
I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.
I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:
1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are
2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base
3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property
4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.
5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.
6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice
7. Never litter
8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness
9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with
10. Never reveal the locations of buried items
11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment
12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!
(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.
(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)
It is a civilian version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon developed for paratroopers and, like its full-sized brother, is certain to turn heads when it’s pulled out to send some rounds downrange.
The FN Military Collector Series is a line of faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of the actual government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference the lack of select fire capability.
While the two rifles in the series take “replica” to a whole new level, the M249 SAW models take things a step farther. Though semi-automatics rather than machine guns, there just aren’t other guns like this available without signing up for a term of service.
“The M249S Para is the fourth in our series of classic, semi-automatic FN military rifles and like the Standard, the Para is authentic to the last possible detail,” said John Keppeler, senior vice president of sales and marketing for FN America, LLC. “You’ll notice only two major differences between the semi- and full-auto versions — the barrel length and reconfigured internal components to change the rifle’s operation from open-bolt to closed-bolt.”
“Authenticity was critical in this series and we changed as little as possible,” he added.
The FN M249S Para has a machine gun grade 16.1-inch barrel, flip-up feed tray, integrated bipod, and the adjustable telescoping and rotating buttstock. It has an overall length of 31.5 inches to 37 inches and weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds — slightly lighter than the FN M249S Standard.
It can operate with linked ammunition or a standard M16 or M4/AR15 magazine.
Like the M249S Standard, the M249S Para has a top cover with an integrated MIL-STD-1913 rail for optics or other accessories, a folding carrying handle, crossbolt safety, non-reciprocationg charging handle, and quick-change barrel capability.
While the military M249 Para was originally intended for use by airborne infantry, the weapon’s shorter length and lighter weight have made it popular with many gunners, particularly those who spend a lot of time getting in and out of vehicles and those deployed to urban combat zones where space is tight and ranges are often short.
The FN Military Collector Series guns are top-notch firearms and draw a lot of attention when they’re sighted, but that quality and near-military authenticity does not come cheaply.
The FN M249S Para has an MSRP of $8,799 in black and $9,199 in flat dark earth. But owning and shooting one of these guns, particularly with a belt of 5.56, could make the steep price seem like a good deal.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
The M2, known as “Ma Deuce,” is a classic machine gun that is coming close to a century of service with the United States military. This gun fires about 600 rounds per minute, and has been used on ground mounts, on boats, and even was the main armament of most of America’s World War II fighters. When it comes to suppressive fire, you just can’t get much better than the M2.
Or can you?
The M134 Minigun is a classic machine gun in its own right, first entering service during the Vietnam War – and it soon shows it could deliver a lot of BRRRRRT! in a small package. In one sense, it is a retro design since it’s based on the Civil War-era Gatling gun. The original Civil War Gatling guns were hand-turned affairs.
The Minigun, however, uses electric power to spin the barrels. As a result, the Minigun can put a lot of rounds downrange – as many as 6,000 rounds a minute.
In this video, the hosts of “Triggers” decide to find out which actually puts more on the target. A 55-gallon drum “volunteers” to be the test subject. Actually, as an inanimate object, it had no real choice in the matter. But hey, there’s plenty of 55-gallon drums where that came from, right?
The hosts then go a thousand yards away for the purposes of the test. The M2 takes the first five-second burst, then the Minigun takes its five-second burst.
Wait until you see the results from this little head-to-head competition between these two full-auto classics via the Military Heroes Channel.
During the course of covering the five entries for the Navy’s FFG(X) program, much has been made of the light armament of the littoral combat ships. They are limited to what are essentially point-defense systems, specifically, the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. This missile has a range of about five nautical miles, and usually comes in launchers holding 11 or 21 missiles.
Now, the RIM-116 is joined by the Mk 15 Phalanx as the major point-defense systems on U.S. Navy ships. But there are some drawbacks that one has to keep in mind with these systems: they both have a finite supply of ammo (albeit the Phalanx’s ammo issues are not as bad as the RIM-116’s), and their limited range means that the ships may take some damage when the missile is stopped by those systems (albeit not as much as it would take from a direct hit).
The RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile has a range of five nautical miles, but the launcher can only hold so many rounds.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr.)
One of the ways that those drawbacks will be addressed is from a system called HELIOS. According to materials obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, this sea-based directed-energy weapon could either replace both of these systems or help supplement them.
Lasers would bring the best of both the RIM-116 and Phalanx systems for just about any warship. They would offer the extended range of a system like the RIM-116 (possibly a little more), and they would have almost no limits on the ammo (just keep the juice flowing!). This is a good thing for something like the littoral combat ship.
The Mk15 Phalanx carries more ammo than the launchers for the RIM-116, but has a much shorter range.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Weinert)
Lasers have been used to guide bombs in the past, and the United States tested an airborne laser on a 747 for a number of years before the plane was dismantled. Still, it may be that when it comes to beating missiles headed for ships, BRRRZAP could replace BRRRRRT or a missile launch in the near future.
The U.S. Army Research Lab recently paired a human Soldier with a battlefield robot in the first real-world demonstration of how robots can give American troops the edge in a 21st century fight.
The new Army robot being tested as a sort of battle-buddy can sense small changes in a Soldier’s environment that may indicate a threat. Those subtle changes are then relayed to the Soldier’s eye glasses, using state-of-the-art augmented reality to display the information in a quick and easily digestible way.
“This could let robots inform their Soldier teammates of changes in the environment that might be overlooked by or not perceptible to the Soldier, giving them increased situational awareness and offset from potential adversaries,” said Dr. Christopher Reardon, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “This could detect anything from camouflaged enemy soldiers to IEDs.”
The idea behind the Army’s newest robot is pretty simple. Researchers took a small, autonomous ground robot and equipped it with a variety of (LIDAR) laser-ranging sensors. Using those sensors, the robot is able to build a virtual representation of the environment the robot and Soldier occupy. That baseline environment is then constantly compared to the real-time data flowing through the robot’s sensors. When something in the environment changes, the robot identifies the change and transmits the data to the Soldier’s glasses, where the changes are visible in a 3D augmented reality view of the environment.
The two robots used in the experiments are identically equipped, with the exception of Velodyne VLP-16 LiDAR (left) and Ouster OS1 LiDAR (right). (U.S. Army)
“Incorporating mixed reality into Soldiers’ eye protection is inevitable,” Reardon said. “This research aims to fill gaps by incorporating useful information from robot teammates into the Soldier-worn visual augmentation ecosystem, while simultaneously making the robots better teammates to the Soldier.”
In other words, the nearby robot is constantly scanning the area, and when something changes — whether it’s a nearby enemy combatant adjusting his footing or moving the leaves on a bush — that change is highlighted visibly in the Soldier’s field of view (thanks to the system glasses). This will allow troops to immediately identify hidden threats in their environment.
This robot is a part of the broader Army Artificial Intelligence for Mobility and Maneuver Essential Research Program, which seeks to better equip artificial intelligence systems with contextual awareness of its surroundings — particularly as they pertain to maneuverability. By combining such a sensor system with an AI equipped robot, the robot could choose its own path over difficult terrain. Many current robotic systems, including Boston Dynamic’s ever-popular “Spot,” need to be manually put on different settings when traversing a loose, rocky hill, as opposed to a flat bit of field.
In a further bit of good news, the Army team running the experiment swapped out the sensor loads on the robot to test the efficacy of the system using higher and lower resolution sensors, and found that human operators were still able to discern environmental changes fed through the augmented reality glasses while using even low-resolution sensors. That realization means that these robot battle buddies could be produced with low-cost, low-resolution sensors that are not only more cost-effective, but can reduce the computational power (and in turn, battery requirements) of these systems as they explore ways to leverage them in combat.
It may be some time before we start seeing the U.S. Army deploy Soldiers with AI-enabled robots, but it seems more clear than ever that AI will play an active role in the combat operations of the 21st century. Last week, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot lost five straight dogfights to an AI pilot developed by Heron Systems, and just recently, Australia unveiled their first “Loyal Wingman” drone that is intended to accompany manned fighter jets into combat once complete.
Russia and China have both boasted development of their own infantry support robots in recent years. Russia’s, known as the Uran-9, is a larger tracked vehicle that, despite its fanfare, went on to grossly underperform while deployed to Syria. China opted instead to develop a flying quad-copter drone intended for use in urban environments for infantry support, thanks to its quick maneuverability and standard rocket payload.
Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill
The Army’s own robot AI initiatives are both benefitting from this Soldier/Robot pairing, as it offers vital information about how robots and humans might interact on the battlefield, while also bolstering efforts to improve the autonomy of these robots so they serve as more of an asset than a potential liability on the battlefield. It seems likely that human beings will always play an essential part of warfare, whether in the skies or on the ground; but AI will be along for the ride, every step of the way.
When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.
So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.
Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.
That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.
Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.
The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.
While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.
But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.
Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.
That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.
This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.
The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.
In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is widely considered to be the best unit of its kind in the world. Known to recruit only the best pilots the US Army has to offer to fly its MH-60 Black Hawks, MH-6 Little Birds and MH-47 Chinooks, the 160th routinely flies in support of America’s most elite troops — Green Berets, Delta Force operators, Army Rangers, and the like.
Not much is actually known about the 160th, and for good reason — it’s still a special operations unit, as its name suggests. But even this outfit is still too “public” for some of the most clandestine missions the Army and Joint Special Operations Command wishes to send its elite operators on.
So the Army stood up an aviation unit that hides deep in the shadows
This outfit is most commonly referred to as “Flight Concepts Division,” though its name has changed many times in the past in order to preserve its cover. Though very little is known about the unit today, we can still infer its role and capability based on what little the Army has released on the Division’s past.
Originally founded as a special ops unit unto itself,first known as SEASPRAY — a highly classified aviation outfit with a number of fronts and covers to protect its identity from public view. Thousands of pilots, cherry-picked from around the Army, were invited to try out for SEASPRAY, but only a handful were selected to continue with the recruitment and training process. Once training was complete, these pilots would go on to fly top secret missions across the world, especially in Central and South America, in support of American special operations objectives.
However, in the mid-1980s, SEASPRAY was disestablished by the Army in the wake of a scandal, its components dispersed and moved to other units to fulfill a similar role.
By the 1990s, the Army had moved chunks of SEASPRAY over to Delta Force, standing up Echo (E) Squadron to support Delta operators with aerial surveillance, insertions and extractions on missions. Pilots and aircraft were transferred over and brought into the fold quickly, receiving further training in assisting Delta assault troops in taking down hijacked cruise ships, inserting operators behind enemy lines and other risky missions.
According to Sean Naylor in his book, “Relentless Strike,” E Squadron pilots were trained and rated to fly a variety of foreign aircraft, including Russian military helicopters popular in the Balkans at the time of the crises there in the mid-to-late ’90s, allowing them to blend in and fly virtually unnoticed. As time passed, whoever, E Squadron’s effectiveness grew so much that brass within Joint Special Operations Command wanted to excise it from Delta Force and stand it up as its own separate unit once more.
Fast forward to the late 1990s, and Flight Concepts Division came into play. Earlier known by a number of other covers and fronts, such as Aviation Technical Services, Quasar Talent and Latent Arrow, this unit provided immeasurable support for “black operations” troops in the Balkans, ferrying them into and out of combat zones surreptitiously without anybody the wiser.
Flight Concepts Division still remains an active unit today with a vague name and an equally obscure mission description. What it actually does in support of American special operations is anybody’s guess, especially while it operates in the shadows cast by its big brother unit, the 160th SOAR. Its aircraft are masked, painted with civilian markings and otherwise kept out of sight, its pilots and aircrew indistinguishable from the average pedestrian on any of America’s streets.
But those who serve with the division are more than likely the best of the very best, the cream of the crop – the elite black ops aviators called upon by Joint Special Operations Command and the president for top secret missions we’ll not hear of for decades to come.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Snipers have to be able to disappear on the battlefield in a way that other troops do not, and the ghillie suit is a key part of what makes these elite warfighters masters of concealment.
“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard, previously explained.
“Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position,”he added.
A ghillie suit is a kind of camouflaged uniform that snipers use to disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow. US Army Staff Sgt. David Smith, an instructor at the service’s sniper school, recently showed off a ghillie suit that he put together from scratch using jute twine and other materials.
Ghillie bottoms have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back of it where jute and other materials can be attached to break up the outline of the groin area.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
A view of the ghillie bottoms from the back.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
Ghillie tops, like the bottoms, also have some kind of webbing or net material attached to the back and shoulders where jute can be attached to break up the outline of the shoulders and the space beneath the arms.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
A view of the ghillie top from the back.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
The Ghille tops and bottoms have been reinforced in the front with extra material in order to allow for longer wear of the suit with less damage to the natural material under it and to allow for individual movements like the low crawl.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
The head gear, which can be a boonie hat, ball cap, or some other head covering, has webbing or net material sewn in so that the sniper can attach jute or vegetation to it in order to break up the natural outline of a wearer’s head and shoulders.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce)
Snipers concealed in grass by their ghillie suits.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
When it all comes together, snipers become undetectable sharpshooters with ability to provide overwatch, scout enemy positions, or eliminate threats at great distances. “No one knows you’re there. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, previously told Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A pilot scans the screen on his helmet-mounted display, monitoring air speed and information about his ground target. Then in a quick turn and ascent, he pushes the plane through the flickering gloom of a stratus layer up to a brightly lit flight path above the clouds. For intermittent moments, his helmet-mounted display screen washes out in the changing light conditions. A thousand miles away outside a remote desert village, a special ops team storms a warehouse where hostages are being held, bursting from glaring daylight into a dark, windowless building. Do they waste precious seconds swapping sunglasses for clear ballistic eyewear before they enter?
The Air Force’s concern about reliable visibility of helmet-mounted displays led to a revolutionary light-attenuating liquid crystal technology that is working its way into flight helmet visors as well as combat eyewear for on-the-ground warfighters. In 1997, Bahman Taheri was on the faculty at Kent State University’s renowned Liquid Crystal Institute (LCI) when he learned that the Air Force was looking for solutions to their helmet-mounted display visibility issues — solutions that had been stubbornly elusive.
“They wanted a product, not more research,” Taheri says. That meant the Air Force needed to move beyond the academic realm and work with a company that could actually develop and manufacture a technology. Taheri was intrigued, challenged, and confident he could help. With backing from the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, he and two colleagues from LCI, Tamas Kosa and Peter Palffy-Muhoray, co-founded AlphaMicron, Inc. AlphaMicron’s tint is just one of many successful innovations enabled by the U.S. Air Force’s SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
On the TV show Shark Tank, prospective entrepreneurs receive a chance to turn dreams of a successful business into reality by presenting their ideas to investors in hopes of receiving financial support.
In a way, the Air Force SBIR/STTR Program office is a ‘Shark Tank’ of sorts for the Air Force.
The SBIR program was established by congress in 1982, with the idea to set aside a substantial amount of research and development money to be focused on small businesses.
“The idea behind it was to look for problems within organizations where creative, innovative, leading-edge solutions could solve a problem not only quickly, but could also then spark the economy by nurturing a small business to grow and become a viable U.S. national asset,” said David Shahady, director of the Air Force SBIR/STTR program.
Shahady touts a recent SBIR program success story about a small business called MMA Design LLC, of Boulder, Colorado. A recipient of the 2016 SBIR Tibbetts Award, the company has developed several new technologies through the SBIR program to help alleviate the growing problem of space junk in orbit around the Earth. MMA Design employees created a virtual chute that opens up behind a satellite in order to slow and change the orbit of the satellite after it’s no longer useful, allowing it to fall and burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere. They also designed a steerable solar panel array that allows smaller-class satellites to capture more power, allowing them to be used for longer missions, and then provides operators the ability to help steer the craft down into the atmosphere to get it out of orbit.
“It’s exciting to be the front-end investor that puts money into these small companies and see these folks mature their businesses,” Shahady said. “MMA Design started with a small number of people and now they have an increasing number of employees, so you’re not only solving an Air Force problem, but you’re also helping to build the national economy.”
Each year, federal agencies which are part of SBIR publish announcements of their topics or problems to be solved and small businesses can submit proposals for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Potential ISIS recruits are promised sports cars, multiple wives, money, guns, and glory. But it turns out that Western jihadists are being used as “cannon fodder” for ISIS (also known as ISIL or Daesh), according to this TestTube News video.
” … many young fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria are being thrown into frontline warfare or are being manipulated into carrying out suicide bombings.”
Silly would-be terrorists, they promise you a paradise, but they give you a hell-hole.