These are the 'American Choppers' of the Air Force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

With the eight 13 hour flights the aircraft of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing have on a daily basis, some parts of the aircraft can wear down, crack or break over periods of time.

The 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight, also known as “Fab Flight” or the “American Chopper” of aircraft maintenance at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is in charge of identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage. They fix whatever can be broken, from a metal panel off the side of a KC-10 Extender to a tiny cracked screw the size of a fingernail.


“Members of the fabrication flight are true artists,” said Master Sgt. Charles Silvas, 380th EMXS fabrication flight chief. “They are able to evaluate damage and visualize — in three dimensions — the repair necessary to return mission essential aircraft back to original serviceable condition. Then they are able to take flat metal and transform it into three-dimensional repairs in a time-sensitive environment with stringent guidelines.”

Many jobs in the maintenance field have written instructions to assist them in most troubleshooting situations, but the Sheet Metals section has a vast amount of factors when it comes to fixing parts, causing them to have to think outside the box more often than not.

“The nature of changing out parts makes it simple to write instructions tailored to every step in the process,” said Tech. Sgt. Garrett W. Magnie, 380th EMXS fabrication flight NCO in charge. “With fabrication however, whether it be machining a new part, welding on aircraft, or determining the best approach to restoring the structural integrity of the airframe to original strength, weight, and contour, our repair processes require that we utilize the instructions within the technical data as well as our experience in order to execute the most safe and efficient solution.”

The Sheet Metals shop is in charge of receiving deficient parts from all over the installation and fixing them, making them a very cost-efficient method, rather than purchasing a new part.

Like the Sheet Metals shop, the Non-Destructive Inspection shop supports all of the aircraft assigned to the 380th AEW using various techniques involving technology with their innovative ways.

“Most of our work requires us to trust our judgement and knowledge,” said airman Isaiah Edwards, 380th EMXS NDI technician. “We are capable of combining science with technology to evaluate the integrity of structures, metals, system components, and fluids without causing any damage, or impairing future usefulness to any parts. We do all this in a cost-effective way while still using extremely technical and accurate methods.”

Through understanding their significant role, using top-notch precision, and trusting their gut, the Fab Flight continues to do their part in achieving mission success.

“The Fabrication Flight accomplishes this mission by identifying and repairing aircraft structural damage and ensuring aircraft motors are ready to accomplish the mission,” Silvas said. “The Fabrication Flight is essential to keeping mission capable aircraft available to provide air superiority in the region, supporting both America and her allies.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What you need to know about POW/MIA Recognition Day

Written on the flag that commemorates U.S. service members that are being held as prisoners of war or have gone missing in action is a promise: You are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, those who aren’t directly affected by a loved one or military coworker who is a POW or MIA likely only actively remember these service members at important functions, with the setting of the POW/MIA table. That being said, there is a less well-known moment to take time to remember those who served and have not yet — or may never — make it home.

In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution declaring the third Friday in September to be the date in which we, as a nation, remember those whose fates remain unknown.


The remembrance day is not just to honor those who have been lost fighting for the United States, it’s also to assure current and future service men and women that the people of the United States and its military will do everything they can to find those who were captured or went missing. And we will bring them home.

A 2005 Congressional Research Service report documented tallies of American military members who were captured by the enemy and notes those who died in captivity. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, who never stops searching and trying to identify the repatriated remains of those missing in action, also keeps a tally.

The following is an accounting of all those who’ve been captured or have gone missing since World War II.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

American airmen held in a Nazi Stalag Luft POW Camp during World War II.

World War II

As of 2005, Congress reported 130,201 service members were imprisoned during World War II, 14,072 of which died. There are approximately 73,014 from World War II who are still missing, but those numbers are incomplete at best due to limited information from the time period.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

Americans captured by Communist forces in the Korean War.

Korean War

Of the 7,140 service members who were imprisoned during the Korean War, 2,701 of them died as a result of their captivity. There are still 7,729 missing in action.

In 2016, the DPAA accounted for 61 missing from the Korean War. Recently, President Trump’s efforts to repatriate remains from North Korea yielded the return of 55 sets, two of which have been identified.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

Americans held by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War were marched through the streets of Hanoi.

Vietnam War

Roughly 64 prisoners of war held by the enemy during the Vietnam War died as a result of being held captive out of a total 725 held prisoner. An estimated 1,603 are still unaccounted for from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

Pfc. Jessica Lynch (left) was captured by Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her friend, Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa (right), was killed in that action.

Conflicts Since 1991

Since 1991, a further 37 servicemen and women have been captured by the enemy during various conflicts, including the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan. None are still in captivity, but six are still missing from those conflicts.

This brings the total number of American missing from conflicts since World War II to a whopping 82,478. A full three-fourths are believed to be lost in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, with 41,000 presumed lost at sea.

You are not forgotten.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force successfully flies hypersonic missile on B-52 bomber

The U.S. Air Force just flew its first test flight of the AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, a hypersonic weapon Lockheed Martin says it will continue to ground and flight test over the next three years.

The weapon, known as ARRW (pronounced “Arrow”), flew on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft on June 12, 2019, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The tests were aimed to gather data on “drag and vibration impact” to the weapon as well as the performance of the carriage bay on the aircraft, the service said. The Air Force released photos of the flight via Twitter on June 18, 2019.

As part of a rapid prototyping scheme, the Air Force has been working with Lockheed, the prime contractor, to develop the hypersonic tech that would move five times the speed of sound as the Pentagon races to win the global race for new hypersonic technologies.


Lockheed officials touted the Air Force’s first flight here at the Paris air show.

“This captive-carry flight is the most recent step in the U.S. Air Force’s rapid prototyping effort to mature the hypersonic weapon, AGM-183A, which successfully completed a preliminary design review in March,” Lockheed officials said in a release. “More ground and flight testing will follow over the next three years.”

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(U.S. Air Force)

Joe Monaghen, spokesman for Lockheed’s tactical and strike missiles and advanced programs, told Military.com that the first test of ARRW represented a milestone that paved the way for future flights and continued integration.

While the Defense Department is pursuing multiple avenues for hypersonic technologies, the variety will give the Pentagon better selection “to determine what works best operationally, across the different branches and mission sets,” Monaghen said.

Boeing Co., manufacturer of the B-52, said the recent test shows that the Cold War-era bomber can operate for years to come despite its age.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

(U.S. Air Force)

“This recent success put the [Air Force] well on its way to the live-launch testing of an extraordinary weapon soon,” said Scot Oathout, director of bomber programs at Boeing, in a statement. “The future B-52, upgraded with game-changing global strike capability, such as ARRW, and crucial modernizations like a new radar and new engines, is an essential part of the [Air Force’s] Bomber Vector vision through at least 2050.”

The Air Force awarded a second contract to Lockheed in August 2018 — not to exceed 0 million — to begin designing a second hypersonic prototype of ARRW. The Air Force first awarded Lockheed a contract April 2019 to develop a separate prototype hypersonic cruise missile, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW).

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 simple whiskey cocktails to make this summer

A well-made whiskey cocktail is a nice reward at the end of any day. But sometimes classic cocktails are too much. For one thing, unless you’re a seasoned drink-slinger, many whiskey cocktails are often too complicated — or intensive — to whip up at the end of a long day (Hey if you want to shake the hell out of that classic whiskey sour, go right ahead). For another, the alcohol content of one concoction can quickly equal that of two or three regular drinks. Sometimes this is great; other times, not so much. Because while we’d like this to not be the case, “falling asleep in the chair” is not really a regular item on the nightly to-do list.

That’s what inspired this list of one-shot whiskey cocktails. They’re all great to sip at the end of the day but won’t put you on your ass — or require four kinds of hooch and one of those hilariously long copper mixing spoons. They’re simple, refreshing, and very drinkable. What more do you want from a summer cocktail?


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(Photo by Jessica Lewis)

1. The Blinker

What is it? The Blinker is a simple, refreshing drink made with grapefruit juice and rye whiskey. While they might not seem like the most obvious combination, one sip and it might just become your new summer go to.

Try it with: Michter’s Rye. It’s bold enough to shine through the intensity of the grapefruit tang.

How to make a Blinker:

  • 1-2oz Rye
  • 2-3oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1oz raspberry syrup

Instructions: Shake over ice and strain into a coupe glass.

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2. Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola

What is it? A way better version of the classic whiskey and Coke.

Try it with: Knob Creek. The strong vanilla notes compliment the peach flavoring.

How to make a Bourbon and Georgia Peach Coca-Cola:

  • 1-2oz Knob Creek Bourbon
  • 4-6oz Georgia Peach Coca-Cola
  • Garnish with a fresh slice of peach

Instructions: Fill a highball glass with ice and add all the ingredients.

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(Photo by Johann Trasch)

3. The Bourbon Bloody Mary

What is it? The vodka brunch classic made with bourbon. Whiskey gives the drink a subtle hint of smoke and more depth than the original.

Try it with: Bulleit Bourbon. The whiskey’s citrus and spice notes accentuate the punch of the tomato and the heat of the hot sauce.

How to Make a Bourbon Bloody Mary:

  • 1-2oz bourbon
  • 4oz Bloody Mary mix (we like McClure’s)
  • A few generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Tapatio hot sauce
  • Garnish with black pepper and a kosher pickle spear

Instructions: Fill a highball glass with ice and add all ingredients. Stir.

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(Photo by Johann Trasch)

4. Japanese Highball

What is it? A whisky-soda with a rock and roll kick. A good Japanese malt gives this classic a radically different profile.

Try it with: Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky. The whisky is fruity and floral and the tiny bubbles from the soda atomize the nose to create a fragrantly charming and refreshing cocktail

How to make a Japanese Highball:

  • 1-2oz whisky
  • 4oz club soda

Instructions: Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add ingredients. Stir briefly.

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(Photo by Adam Jaime)

5. The Single Malt Old Fashioned

What is it? It’s just an Old Fashioned made with Scotch instead of rye or bourbon. The Old Fashioned is a perfect cocktail and normally we don’t like to tinker with perfection. But, variety is the spice of life and Scotch is, and always will be our first love.

Try it with: Ardbeg 10. This single malt adds a big peaty smoke as well as a touch of salt and pepper for a more layered drink.

How to make a Single Malt Old Fashioned:

  • 1-2oz Single Malt Scotch
  • 2-3 Dashes of bitters
  • 1 Tsp of simple syrup
  • Top with 1oz club soda
  • Orange peel for garnish

Instructions: Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the ingredients.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aussie special forces used sawed-off machine guns in Vietnam

Not many remember the Australians’ commitment to aiding the United States in Vietnam, but the Aussies were there, and they sent their best. Australia’s best troops included their very own Special Air Service, special operators in the mold of Britain’s SAS, formidable fighters capable of bringing the enemy’s method of irregular warfare right back home to Hanoi.

The Aussies weren’t content with the M-16, for a number of reasons, so they opted instead to do a little frontier mechanical work on their weapons. The end product became known as “The Bitch.”


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When you want to use an M-16 but your standards are higher.

When the M-16 first took over for the M-1 Garand as a standard-issue infantry weapon, the result was less than stellar. It jammed. A lot. Frustrated troops began leaving their M-16s at home and using AK-47s captured from the enemy instead. The Aussies preferred a weapon that worked. Even after the weapon was updated to fix its issues, the Australians still opted for a different solution. They liked how handy the M-16 could be, but they wanted the stopping power of a 7.62 round.

But the barrel of the S1A2 self-loading rifle was so heavy… what to do?

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

“Cor, mate… I ‘ave an idea…”

The Australian special operators lopped that heavy barrel and its tripod off at the end of the gas block. Then, the MacGuyvers from Down Under fashioned special flash suppressors for the new muzzle for those who wanted it. For those who didn’t, they just left the weapon without any kind of suppression at all. The new, shorter barrel was louder and produced a much bigger bang for the buck.

They wanted the Communists to know who was pulling the triggers and raining death on their Ho Chi Minh Trail parade. If that weren’t enough, sometimes the operators would put a pistol grip on the end so they could control the weapons in fully automatic settings. Others preferred a grenade launcher attachment.

Fun was had by all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Drone Dogfight: Air Force plans to pit manned fighter against a drone next year

The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.

Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.


As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.

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Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)

Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.

Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force
A hawk for hunters

The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.

Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.

“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3).
“What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”

As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.

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The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.

Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.

Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.

“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


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4 of the funniest boot camp stories we’ve ever heard

Far from just marching around and being yelled at by sadistic drill sergeants, basic training can be the source of hilarious stories.


Case in point comes from an awesome AskReddit thread. The thread, which originated with Reddit user mctugmutton, asked the military community for “the funniest thing they witnessed while in boot camp.” The answers run from LOL to LMFAO and glimpse at basic training differences between service branches.

Reddit user sneego: The time half my squad decided to clean their training gear naked.

Our last week of basic training, we basically spent days cleaning all of our TA-50 (pretty much all your issued gear- rucksacks, ponchos, etc).

The drill sergeants decided it would be more efficient for us to pile up some of the major items as a platoon and organize cleaning teams. Well, the cleaning team in charge of doing ponchos decided to use the showers to make things go faster and to free up the faucets in the laundry room for others to use. So they begin cleaning and then decide to go one step further: Why be careful about getting wet when you can just get naked and get things done even quicker?

Next thing you know, half of first squad is butt naked chatting like nothing unusual is going on when our drill sergeant walks in. The DS just looks in, makes a David Silvermanesque WTF look, says in his thick Puerto Rican accent, “Jesus LORD privates, what the F–K!” and walks out.

Reddit user allhailzorp: The time my friend got an imaginary bathroom siren.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force
Photo: Sgt Reece Lodder/USMC

Not me, but my best friend who recently went through USMC boot camp.

It’s about Week 2. All the recruits are still scared s–tless. Literally, some of their a–holes are clenched so tight they haven’t gone number two since they got there. And by this point, with Marine chow being what it is, there’s quite a backlog building up. My buddy desperately needs to go. He wanted to wait until his individual time that night, but it was too late, he was touching cloth.

So, braving his fear of the DIs, he speaks out. “Sir, this recruit requests a head call, SIR”. Then, he blurts out, “Sir, it’s an emergency, Sir!”

The DI, with his infinite sense of humor:

“Oh really? An emergency huh? Well, you better put on your SIREN.”

My buddy has to wave his hands above his head, and scream “Bee-Boo Bee-Boo” as he ran to the restroom. This continued for the entirety of boot camp, every time he needed the bathroom.

One Reddit user witnessed E.T. phone home during Air Force basic training.

We had a really pasty kid with huge coke bottle glasses with a really high pitched almost robotic voice in our flight that seemed to be a lightning rod for TI abuse.

One morning our TI told the kid that he was on to him and he wasn’t going to allow him to complete his mission. Suffice to say the kid was extremely confused and asked the TI what he was talking about to which he replied “You’re an alien and I know you’re here to gather intelligence about our military.”

At this point, I couldn’t hold in my laughter any longer and went to the other side of the barracks as quick as possible before I got dragged into it. Well, I just got to the other side when the kid comes barreling around the corner and stops right in front of his locker and starts screaming into it that the TI was on to him and that the mission was unsuccessful.

I guess the TI told him that he had to report to the mothership through the communicator in his locker that the mission was unsuccessful and he’d been found out.

From Dan Caddy, author of Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said: The time the DS found a Chinese boy in a wall locker. (Not in the book)

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Screen capture from Amazon.com

My Basic Training Battery had twin brothers in it, Chang L , and Chang K . Chang L was in fourth platoon and his brother was in third. One evening, there were combatives happening in the fourth platoon barracks. Chang K had sneaked into our bay to be a part of this unsanctioned event, specifically so that he could wrestle his brother. Everyone was wearing PT uniforms, except for some reason our Chang, who was wearing nothing but his issued brown briefs, and had removed his glasses for the fight. Suddenly, a wild Drill Sergeant appeared! Chang L, in his underwear, was grabbed by someone and stuffed into their wall locker.

His twin brother, Chang K, ran up to the front of the bay to take his brothers place for mail call. It was a disaster waiting to happen. After mail was handed out, the Drill Sergeant decided to hang around for a bit and have a serious heart to heart talk with us about something that had happened recently (an attempted suicide). The Drill Sergeant had gathered us close and was quietly talking about loyalty and brotherhood when all of the sudden, he was interrupted by the metallic squeal of a wall locker opening.

There was a hushed silence as the skinny little Chinese man, blind without his glasses, peeked out around the door and stepped out, in plain view of the Drill Sergeant. Apparently, we had been so quiet, that he thought we had all left.

DS: “WHY IN THE F–K IS THERE A NAKED CHINESE BOY IN YOUR WALL LOCKER?!”
Pvt 1:”Drill Sergeant, I put him there, Drill Sergeant!”
DS: What the f–k?
Pvt 2: “We were wrasslin’, Drill Sergeant.” It was silent for a few seconds as the DS’s face contorted as though he were about to have an epileptic seizure. His eyes were cartoonishly huge.

The DS pointed at the practically nude Chang L and screamed at him to get his f–king ass over to the third platoon barracks. Chang L started to interject, presumably to inform the DS that he had confused him for his brother, but was unable to finish because at this point the DS was knocking things over and screaming his lungs out. Chang ran away, blind and naked, stumbling into furniture as he fled, leaving his terrified twin brother in his place. I don’t believe that we actually got our Chang back until PT the next morning, when they were able to switch back.

Get Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said via Amazon or Barnes and Noble locations nationwide.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This amazing weapon is made of narwhal tusk and meteors

Many great warriors throughout history enjoyed having rare, exquisite weapons. The fictional King Arthur had his Excalibur. The real-life Charlemagne had Joyeuse. But it was some unknown Inuit tribesman who had the rarest, most magical weapon of all – a spear made from the horn of a Narwhal, tipped by iron from a meteor.


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For centuries, the horn of what we know today as the Narwhal was a pretty uncommon sight in European countries. European kings as recent as just a couple of centuries ago believed the “horns” sold to them by Viking traders were from the mythical unicorn and used them in everything from crown jewels to their drinking goblets. In reality, they were actually the tusks of a medium-sized whale; what we know today as a Narwhal. While this didn’t make the tusk any less rare, it did mean the source was less mythical and just really cold – the Narwhal preys on other sea life in the cold Arctic waters of the North.

Meanwhile, much further back in Earth’s history, a particular meteorite collided with Earth. The iron-based ball hit what we know as Cape York, Greenland today. It left a chunk of iron ore that weighed 31 metric tons embedded in the Earth’s surface. The local Inuit called it Saviksoah, or “Great Iron” and used it as a source of metal for hunting and building their communities.

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Explorer Robert E. Peary with a chunk of the Saviksoah meteor.

The tusk of the now-endangered Narwhal can grow anywhere from five to ten feet in length and is a sensory organ, covered with nerves on the outer part of the tusk. So that tusk (which is actually a long, spiral tooth) doesn’t just fall out or shed naturally. For every Narwhal tusk, there’s a dead Narwhal out there somewhere. For the Inuit, they use the occasion to make hunting weapons from the tusks, and the length is ideal for making a spear.

To form an arrowhead, the natives need a source of metal, and, being unable to mine iron ore, they used the meteor as a source of the metal. Instead of using the blacksmithing techniques we all know through movies, televisions, renaissance faires, and whatnot, the Inuit had to use cold forging techniques – that means they just stamped the cold metal until it was beat into the shape they needed.

So it’s not impossible that this lance is the only example of a spear-like weapon forged from the cold iron of a million-year-old meteor then wedged atop the rare ten-foot tooth of a near-mythical Arctic whale. It’s just highly unlikely. And while people have been making weapons from the Ivory of Narwhals for decades now, know that killing one for its tusk is just as illegal as killing anything else for its ivory – only the Inuit are still allowed to hunt the creatures.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new device helps amputees manage phantom limb pain

Amira Idris is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain. During her undergraduate studies, she worked at a prosthetic clinic where she learned that many patients believed their life was over after amputation. She became determined to help change that mindset.


Her work with amputees brought up the phenomenon of phantom limb pain, where patients experience pain sensations in limbs that no longer exist. Idris explained that the nerves are still there, but they’ve been snipped, so they continue to send mixed signals to the brain.

She got to work on a prototype to combat that pain.

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U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Redmond Ramos warms up before competing in the athletics portion of the Invictus Games at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London Sept. 11, 2014. (DoD photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault, U.S. Air Force/Released)

She developed a product that stimulates the nerves with vibration therapy, which not only helps with nerve pain management, but increases blood circulation and reduces symptoms of arthritis or restless leg syndrome as well.

Her work led her to the creation of the ELIX, a patent-pending socially conscious wearable device that has been proven to help amputees with phantom limb pain.

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In 2016, the VA medical centers treated nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations. (Image of ELIX device courtesy of Amira Idris)

But that’s only the beginning. Now she is on a campaign to donate 100 devices to veterans. She’s running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money that will directly go towards materials and supplies, product development, and manufacturing of the ELIX specifically to give to veterans suffering from phantom limb pain.

She wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device, and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Did you know a Soviet physicist is behind all of America’s stealth?

Pyotr Ufimtsev was a scientist associated with a number of prestigious universities and labs in Moscow. Listen to a few of the institutions he was at, and it becomes pretty clear what his primary interests were. He worked at the Central Research Radio Engineering Institute, the Institute of Fundamental Technical Problems, the Moscow Aviation Institute, the Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of Academy of Sciences, and more.


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The Northrop B-2 Spirit.
(U.S. Air Force)

Notice the combination there? Aviation, radio engineering, and technical problems? That’s because he was very interested in how radio waves reflected off of objects; how radar actually worked at the most detailed and precise levels. He didn’t know it, but his work would put him at the forefront of a new American industry: stealth engineering.

Ufimtsev wrote a number of important papers as he studied exactly how radio waves bounced off of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. One of the most interesting things he found was that it wasn’t just the size of an object that determined how it appeared on radar; shape was actually more important.

And certain shapes were unlikely to reflect much energy back to the radar, meaning you could make a large object appear very small if you just gave it the right shape.

Much of Ufimtsev’s work was quietly translated into English where a number of American scientists read it. A 1962 paper translated as Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction was of particular interest. Many U.S. scientists simply saw the paper and incorporated it into their own research, or they rebuffed it and went about their day. But there was one team of engineers who saw the paper and saw it as potentially groundbreaking.

Lockheed engineers working in the “Skunk Works” division, the same engineers who made America’s first jet fighter during World War II, saw the chance to create something entirely new and novel. What if they could create an entire plane with the shapes and materials that sent little energy back to a radar?

Such a plane could be large, like the size of a bomber or fighter, but would show up on radar as a little bit of electromagnetic noise. It would be invisible as long as no one knew to look for it, and it would still be challenging to detect even after its existence was disclosed.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Best of all, the growing number of homing missiles that American pilots would face would become essentially useless. Homing missiles needed a strong radar signal to get within range of an enemy target before switching to a seeker built into the missile. This process would almost certainly not work against a stealth aircraft, making the pilots much safer.

There were plenty of possible uses for such a plane, but Lockheed started by building a ground-attack plane, though they further camouflaged the program by labeling it a fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk dubbed the “Stealth Fighter.” The same lessons were later used in the B-2 bomber and are now present—in new forms—the F-22 and F-35. And some of Ufimtsev’s work will undoubtedly be recognizable in the B-21 Raider.

Other branches have gotten in on the stealth made possible by Ufimtsev, like the Navy with its Sea Shadow project that created stealthy boats.

Ufimtsev has gotten recognition from the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and even the U.S. for his work. He has been named to prestigious positions at universities like UCLA in California. He is 90 years old. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.

It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”

The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds. 

“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.

Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”

The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.

“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.

The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.

The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.

From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.

They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next. 

“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set. 

These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.

“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to improve your mental health with food and exercise

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), it’s my job to help veterans understand how changes to their diets and lifestyles can change their lives. Here are the most common reactions that I see:

“I feel so much better, physically and mentally!”
“I feel like a new man!”

It’s true. One of the biggest benefits to improving eating and activity patterns is an enhanced mood! Your brain is fueled by the foods you consume, and what you eat can affect how your brain functions.

But that’s not all. Keeping a healthy gut is key, too. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is mostly made in your GI tract, regulates your sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to an increased risk of low mood and depression. This complex pathway is not entirely understood, but early research from the National Institute of Health suggests achieving an optimal level of serotonin production will help keep the body in good health.

So, what can you do to keep a healthy mind and gut?


Getting started

  • Follow Mediterranean Lifestyle guidelines to reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
  • Water: Consume at least 64 ounces each day (for most healthy individuals; if you have Congestive Heart Failure, are on dialysis, or another medical condition, you may have different fluid needs).
  • Vegetables: Eat at least 3 servings each day.
  • Fruit: Eat at least 2 servings each day.
  • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, albacore tuna: Eat 2 servings per week.
  • Limit processed foods, refined sugars and sugary beverages.
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes/week.
These are the ‘American Choppers’ of the Air Force

(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)

It can be overwhelming to think about changing your diet and lifestyle, but there are many resources available at your local VA. If you want to get started on a journey toward improving your mind, body and spirit, contact your PACT team or your local MOVE! Weight Management Program.

Many VA facilities also offer Healthy Teaching Kitchen classes where you can learn to prepare healthy foods with delicious flavors. If you’re interested in these great opportunities or other nutrition-related topics, contact your local VA to speak with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Be sure to contact your PACT team or Mental Health team if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or changes in mood.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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