The Navy's classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

Critics have long given the B-52 plaudits for its longevity as a combat aircraft. Can’t blame them — 65 years is one hell of a run. But there is another plane that has done almost as well, and it’s still providing some countries with defense.


That plane is the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Perhaps its most famous pilot is now-Senator John S. McCain III, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War after his Skyhawk was shot down. But the plane had been in service for over a decade before McCain was downed.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
A-4C Skyhawks fly over the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS 33) during the Vietnam War. (US Navy photo)

The A-4 was designed and built by the Douglas Aircraft Company, makers of the SBD Dauntless, the plane best known for fatally damaging three Japanese aircraft carriers in five minutes during the Battle of Midway.

The A-4 came to be known as “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” after its designer, Ed Heinemann. It was easy to see why. The Skyhawk had a top speed of 645 miles per hour and an impressive range of up to 2,001 miles. It could haul nearly 10,000 pounds of bombs and could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. An additional two 20mm cannons gave it the ability to handle air or ground targets.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Three Republic of Singapore Air Force A-4SU Skyhawk aircraft taxi on the flight line at Korat AB, Thailand, during Exercise COPE TIGER ’02. (USAF photo)

The Skyhawk saw lengthy service with the Navy and Marines, and the Marines liked their baseline models so much that they designed the A-4M instead of buying the A-7 Corsair.

The Skyhawk was a truly international affair. Singapore developed the A-4SU, which equipped the jet with two 30mm Aden cannon and added a F404 engine. Argentina, on the other hand, put F-16 avionics on some second-hand A-4Ms, creating the A-4AR Fightinghawk.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Argentina put F-16 avionics in an A-4, and this was the result: The A-4AR Fightinghawk. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Today, Argentina’s Skyhawks are still on the front line. Most others have retired, but some fly for Draken International and other private companies. Learn more about Heinemann’s Hot Rod in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2SK1UrfZ6E
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army pilot’s invention could have saved Kobe Bryant

When Nick Sinopoli saw the first reports of the crash that claimed NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 7 others, his gut told him the cause. “I knew right away what probably happened,” he said.

IIMC, or Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions, is when a pilot flies into clouds or low visibility conditions unexpectedly. Aviators who suddenly find themselves without any ground references can become dangerously disoriented. Without their eyes to tell them which way is up or down they often lose control. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that 86% of all general aviation and helicopter pilots crash when “punching in” the clouds. While Congress, the FAA and other organizations try to find a solution, it’s obvious that  the problem isn’t better equipment or more training. Nobody could find a solution to prevent these senseless deaths. Sinopoli discovered this the hard way.

Nick Sinopoli grew up in Austin, TX., home to legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn. His father loved his music so much that he moved his family to Austin in 1982. Ray Vaughn’s tragic death in a helicopter crash shook the world. In fact, celebrities like Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper and John F. Kennedy Jr. also perished in similar accidents like the one that ended Bryant’s life on January 26, 2020. Sinopoli is no stranger to this type of tragedy himself.

Nick’s friend Rusty Allen, who got him his first helicopter ride, was killed in 2012 when he became disoriented and flew into the ground. “He was the first person I knew who died in an aircraft accident,” he said. Soon after, Nick graduated from Purdue with an engineering degree and went to flight school. There he learned how to “fly instruments”, while his eyes were covered with a piece of cardboard called a hood. On one particular training flight, his hood got stuck in his helmet while Nick was flying towards the runway and his teacher had to yank it out. This moment made an impact on him. He marveled that this antiquated training tool had never been improved. 

Pilots use solid visors to cover their eyes, simulating them being in the clouds. The technology hasn’t changed since Jimmy Doolittle first flew with a “vision restriction device” in 1929. Nick put his skills as an engineer to work, designing a new controllable hood that would mimic flying into the clouds unexpectedly. It’s this transition from being able to see, to not having anything but your cockpit gauges to orient you, that puts inexperienced pilots into a panic. The FAA calls it the “startle effect”. 

Nick knew he had to find a way to solve this nearly 100 year old problem. He said, “I constantly thought about it. It was all consuming. I knew it was my hill to die on. I realized that if anyone was going to stop these accidents, that it would have to be me.” After countless trial and error, Sinopoli perfected his design and sold his car to pay for the patent, which was granted in 2016.

The visor is made of a special material that goes from opaque to clear when electricity is applied. A tap on the ICARUS app lets the instructor select any level of visibility and choose how fast the visor becomes clouded. Pilots can now be forced to train in “bad weather” every time they take off, honing their planning skills from day one. “Making good decisions is just as important as being able to fly in deteriorating conditions. If you can train pilots to make better decisions then people don’t die. It’s just that simple. Everyone who has perished in these kinds of accidents would be alive today if the pilot had just stepped back and made a better decision before they got themselves into trouble,” Sinopoli says.

Now when pilots are faced with low visibility, it will not be the first time they’ve experienced it. Every day can be a bad weather day with ICARUS. “We can simulate the worst weather conditions that you’ll ever find yourself in. Best of all, you’ll be able to feel the true sensations of actual flight. A Green Beret told me that the first time the bullets start flying, you’re not going to suddenly become a good warrior. You have to realistically train like you fight before you see combat. What makes IIMC so deadly is that pilots could never train for it in the aircraft, until now,” Nick said. This is called primacy, or “first learned is best learned.”

ICARUS works equally well in airplanes and helicopters. It’s been requested by universities, flight schools, helicopter EMS operators, law enforcement, government agencies and military testers, including foreign militaries. Training for dangerous dust landings will also be safer with Nick’s invention. Multiple devices can be controlled from the app. You can also train snowy landings, smoke in the cockpit for aerial firefighting, etc. Sinopoli explained, “You can train brown-out dust landings with your entire crew in a parking lot on a clear day. That saves time, money and it’s obviously safer.” The applications for his invention are ever expanding. 

Pilots have already trained with the invention, earning their “instrument rating” with the FAA. Military and civilian instructor pilot Pedro Vargas has flown with ICARUS in airplanes and helicopters and says, “The ICARUS Device is a game changer. I was blown away after I flew with it the first time! It literally changes everything that the aviation world thought they knew about flight training.” Once pilots see what the device does, they instantly recognize how the revolutionary invention has finally solved the most dangerous problem affecting both civilian and military flying.

While it’s easy to see the value in training costs, damaged equipment and maybe even eventual insurance savings, this veteran-run venture has only one goal in mind, to save lives. Nick says, “We’ve been using the same technology for 91 years. Kobe Bryant’s pilot had recently been through a special bad weather training course in a simulator before the crash. It obviously didn’t work. None of the people on his helicopter had to die. A century of new technologies and regulations are not the ultimate solution to saving lives. The solution is better pilots.”
Check out this amazing device at www.icarusdevices.com for more info.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

An Israeli company made this double-barrel AR-15 for the US

In following the grand tradition of “if one is good, then two must be great” thinking, Israel’s Silver Shadow firearms manufacturer is marketing this double-barreled AR-15 for sale in the United States. Check out this double-barrel rifle no one asked for that the military will never, ever use.


But just because the military won’t ever use it doesn’t mean civilians won’t try to have fun with it. After all, this isn’t the first time someone thought two barrels was better than one.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
That kind of thinking goes all the way back to the Civil War.

Besides, it works for shotguns, right? Why not AR-15s?

Originally marketed as an AR variant under a company named Gilboa, Silver Shadow makes this line of double-barreled weapons here in the U.S., where the 16-inch barrel, twin-trigger rifle is legal for civilian use. The twin trigger is how the company avoids the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ definition of a machine gun.

Each barrel of the Gilboa Snake has its own independent gas block and tube, meaning it can fire multiple rounds with each trigger without the delay and recoil of the weapon cycling between trigger pulls. It also has two separate ejection ports, so hot brass can go down the shirt of the person laying prone to your left and right.

Everything else about the rifle is made with standard AR-15 parts and it still fires the 5.56mm NATO round. Most importantly (in the unlikely event someone were to use the rifle in combat), the weapon also utilizes two standard magazines, one feeding into each barrel.

How to zero the Gilboa Snake

Zeroing the weapon requires zeroing both barrels independently of each other and then zeroing them relative to one another. Then you need to zero them together, as shown in the video below.

Firing a double-barrel AR

The guys over at Guns and Ammo got their hands on an early version of the rifle a few years back and demonstrated firing it at a range.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian armored car is one of the world’s most popular troop carriers

When you hear the term, “armored car,” the first thing that comes to mind might be those Brinks trucks that haul a lot of cash. But the term also refers to military vehicles, many of which notably served in World War II. After that war, they fell out of popularity in favor of tracked vehicles due to their offroad mobility.


Russia, however, stuck with wheeled vehicles. The BTR-60/70/80/90 armored personnel carriers run on eight wheels each. But one of the most versatile vehicles they have in their arsenal is the BRDM-2 armored car.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
A Polish BRDM-2 with the turreted 14.5mm KPV machine gun. (Image under public domain)

The BRDM-2 entered service in 1966 and was widely exported. While it may look like a normal four-by-four vehicle, it actually has additional wheels on its belly to aid with offroad mobility. The BRDM-2 is equipped with some night-vision systems and it has a turret that houses a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun.

A lot of BRDM-2s saw action in the various Arab-Israeli wars, including the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israelis managed to capture a number of these vehicles. While some were donated to museums, the Israelis mounted BGM-71 TOW missiles on others for use in combat.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
A BRDM-2 equipped with AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles at an Israeli museum. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Bukvoed)

The Soviets built over 7,000 BRDM-2s, and not all of them were used in a reconnaissance role. Others were armed with anti-tank missiles, like the AT-3 Sagger or AT-5 Spandrel, and used to defend against enemy armor. Others were equipped with the SA-9 Gaskin.

American troops faced off against the BRDM-2 in Grenada, where a few were captured and sent back. American troops had a great deal of success against this vehicle during Desert Storm and even more success during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. As many as 40 countries have operated this vehicle, which is now being slowly retired around the world.

Learn more about this vehicle in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXKUIvrLMFs
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy may look to this Army workhorse for special ops

For years, the Navy has been planning to buy Lockheed’s newest version of the Sea Stallion helicopter, the CH-53K King Stallion. In fact, they’ve already pre-ordered 200 of the new helicopter. But Lockheed’s new bird is running into a lot of stumbling blocks, ones that have the Navy careening toward a tried-and-true Army favorite: The Chinook.


The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

The Chinook took its first flight with the U.S. Military in 1961.

The Pentagon has directed the Navy to look at buying maritime versions of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter, a version that is protected against the corrosive seaborne environment of aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships. Lockheed’s billion King Stallion program has run into a series of technical problems and delays over the past few months. The program is delayed by more than a year and still has “100 outstanding deficiencies that require resolution,” according to Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Since one of the missions for the new King Stallion is moving heavy cargo, not just any replacement will do. That’s where the Chinook comes in.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

The CH-53K King Stallion.

“There is simply no other helicopter that comes close to the performance of the CH-53K or that can meet Marine Corps requirements,” said Bill Falk, Lockheed’s King Stallion program director. The Marine Corps agrees, saying adapting the CH-47 for maritime operations is no simple fix or easy upgrade. The Marines believe the Chinook can’t provide the heavy lift necessary for future operations.

Boeing, of course, disagrees, saying the helicopter already “conducts ship-based operations for U.S. Special Forces and international operators, and enjoys a strong reputation among all the U.S. services.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the most successful fighter pilots in history are all Nazis

When Erich “Bubi” Hartmann died in 1993, he was still the most successful fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare. With an astonishing 352 kills, his record is all but assured until World War III comes around. He’s not the only former Nazi Luftwaffe pilot whose name is at the top of the list. In fact, the top ten pilots on that list all have German names, including Gerhard Barkhorn (301 kills), Günther Rall (275), and Otto Kittel (267).

How did one of the most notably absent air forces in history rack up such impressive kill counts?


The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

Hint: They had to be good because their bosses were so bad at their jobs.

The reason German pilots scored so high is a combination of skill and time in the air. There’s probably also a dash of luck in there, if they managed to survive the war. Since the Luftwaffe saw its best successes at the beginning of the war, taking on obsolete and unprepared air forces in enemy countries, Nazi pilots were fighting for years before American pilots. When the war came home, the number of German pilots dwindled, and enemy targets over Germany rose.

A skilled pilot could rack up quite a kill count in that time, especially if they had to fight until the whole war was over, or they were killed or captured.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

And they did.

(U.S. Army)

In contrast, American pilots would be sent home, or rotated out after a certain amount of time spent in the air. At the height of World War II, allied fighter pilots were required to spend at least 200 hours behind the stick of a fighter aircraft before being eligible to be rotated home. American pilots dutifully fought the required amount of time and went home for some RR.

Even Richard Bong, the Army Air Forces’ highest-scoring ace – the “Ace of Aces” – scored 40 kills in the Pacific Theater from September 1942 until December 1944. His stay was extended because he was also training pilots in the Philippines. He ended up spending much longer in the area, leading missions and training pilots. Even though he wasn’t allowed to seek combat opportunities, Bong still racked up an astonishing 40 kills against the Japanese.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

It seems being one the top aces of any war is just a matter of time… and not getting shot down.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the dive-bomber version of the famed Mustang

The P-51 Mustang is best known as a long-range escort fighter that helped the bombers of the Eighth Air Force blast Germany into rubble. But this plane’s first combat experience came in a very different form – as a dive bomber.

The United States Army Air Force didn’t originally buy the Mustang as a fighter, but as a dive bomber, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. A 1995 Airpower Magazine article reported that the decision to buy a dive-bomber version was made to keep the line open because the Army Air Force had drained its fighter budget for 1942.

The A-36 was officially called the Mustang to keep the Germans from knowing about the dive-bomber variant. Some sources reported the plane was called the Apache or Invader – even though the latter name was taken by the A-26 Invader, a two-engine medium bomber. No matter what this plane’s name was, it could deliver two 500-pound bombs onto its target.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the A-36 was equipped with an Allison engine similar to those used on the P-38 Lightning and P-40 Warhawk fighters as opposed to the Rolls Royce Merlin. This plane had a top speed of 365 miles per hour and a range of 550 miles. It also had same battery of six M2 .50-caliber machine guns that the P-51 had. The guns were in a different arrangement (two in the fuselage, four in the wings) due to the bomb shackles attached to the wings of the A-36.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
This photo shows one of the 177 A-36s lost to enemy action during World War II. (US Army Air Force photo)

Only 500 of these planes were built, and 177 were lost to enemy action. This is because, like the P-51, the A-36’s liquid-cooled engine was easier to disable than the air-cooled engine used on the P-47 Thunderbolt and F4U Corsair. However, the A-36 did score 101 air-to-air kills. This was despite being the Mustang with the “bad” Allison engine. One pilot, Michael T. Russo, achieved the coveted status of “ace” in the A-36, scoring five kills according to MustangsMustangs.net.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Pilots in front of a North American A-36 Mustang. (U.S. Army Air Force photo)

 

Ultimately, the A-36 saw some action in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. It eventually was retired and replaced, but in one ironic twist, eventually, the P-51, intended as a long-range escort, was equipped to carry the same two 500-pound loadouts the A-36 could carry. You can see a World War II-era newsreel on the A-36 below.

While it’s not a bad plane, for ground-attack missions, the P-47 and F4U were probably better planes for the job.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New light attack aircraft one step closer to reality

After years of discussion, the U.S. Air Force has taken the initial steps to buy commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft for its light attack aircraft fleet.

The service is alerting defense firms hoping to compete for the Light Attack Aircraft program that it intends to begin soliciting bids in December, according to a presolicitation announcement posted on FedBizOpps on Aug. 3, 2018.


“LAA will provide an affordable, non-developmental aircraft intended to operate globally in the types of Irregular Warfare environments that have characterized combat operations over the past 25 years,” the post said. “A contract will be awarded in fourth quarter of [fiscal 2019].”

While the program would remain a full and open competition, Air Force officials said the most viable aircraft are the Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.

“Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Textron Aviation are the only firms that appear to possess the capability necessary to meet the requirement within the Air Force’s timeframe without causing an unacceptable delay in meeting the needs of the warfighter,” the FedBizOpps post said.

The two single-engine turboprop aircraft were most recently part of the service’s light attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The second phase of the experiment was canceled in July following a fatal crash.

Navy Lt. Christopher Carey Short, of Canandaigua, New York, was piloting an A-29 when it crashed over the Red Rio Bombing Range within White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on June 22. The Air Force temporarily suspended exercises with the two aircraft before announcing the remainder of the live-fly exercises and combat maneuvers were canceled.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

A-29 Super Tucano

(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)

A Light Attack Distinguished Visitors Day, originally set for July and canceled after the fatal crash, has been rescheduled for Sept. 14 at Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force officials said.

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, top acquisition official for the Air Force, told reporters at the time that the service would continue to work with defense industry partners to complete remaining test requirements, which mostly consist of maintenance and sustainment data.

He said then that a potential request for proposal for light attack, also known as OA-X, could be issued by December.

“If we decide that we’re going to go forward with the acquisition … if that’s the direction we’re going to go, we want to get an RFP out on the street by December,” he said last month. “If we go down that path … what we then want to do is make a downselect decision within the next fiscal year.”

The Air Force in 2016 announced plans to hold flight demonstrations with a handful of aircraft to test whether lighter, inexpensive and off-the-shelf aircraft might be suitable in ongoing wars such as Afghanistan.

As part of Phase I, four aircraft — the A-T6 and A-29, as well as AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion — conducted demonstrations and weapons drops during the experiment at Holloman in August 2017. After Phase I was completed, the Air Force selected the Wolverine and Super Tucano to undergo more demonstration fly-off scenarios between May and July of this year.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

In November, key lawmakers agreed to provide the Air Force with 0 million to continue experimenting with the planes. Additionally, lawmakers recently passed the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes 0 million “to procure Air Force light attack aircraft and associated long lead material,” according to the bill’s summary.

If the planes can be interoperable with other militaries’ planes, the result would be a diverse fleet of aircraft with partners across the world, officials have said.

“We must develop the capacity to combat violent extremism at lower cost,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement released Aug. 3, 2018. “Today’s Air Force is smaller than the nation needs and the Light Attack Aircraft offers an option to increase the Air Force capacity beyond what we now have in our inventory or budget.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Military.com in September that the light attack initiative should be viewed as a new way of doing business — not just a plane, but part of a larger communications system.

OA-X “is actually not about the hardware — it’s about the network,” he said, adding he wants the service to train more often with coalition partners who may not have high-end fighter aircraft.

“At the same that we’re looking at a relatively inexpensive aircraft and sensor package, can I connect that into a network of shareable information that allows us to better accomplish the strategy as it’s been laid out?” Goldfein asked.

Bunch last month added, “We’re still going to experiment and try out the network in other areas over time. The goal of this network is to get it to the point where we can utilize it in other platforms beyond light attack.”

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

Articles

How America’s automakers supplied the allies during World War II

When Isoroku Yamamoto warned that Japan had no chance to win World War II, he famously cited America’s industrial might. One of the biggest areas where that strength came into play was with the automotive industry.


As this video by Fiat Chrysler shows, the automakers did step up big when World War II hit. One notable example not covered in the video is that most of the Avengers were not built by Grumman, they were built by General Motors (and thus, they were called TBMs, as opposed to the TBF for the Grumman-built versions). GM also built a lot of Wildcats as the FM and FM-2.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft guns. (Screenshot from Fiat Chrysler video)

Chrysler, though, was very good at building tanks. First the M3 Lee (or Grant) was rolling off the assembly lines — in some cases before the factory was completely built! The Grant was eventually replaced by the M4 Sherman. They also built lots of trucks — including the half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks that were ubiquitous in the military.

This video notes that Chrysler was responsible for about 25 percent of America’s tank production — more than all the tank production of Nazi Germany. What is also notable is that many designs that came to Chrysler were improved by its engineers.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Tank treads produced by Chrysler. (Screenshot from Fiat Chrysler video)

Check out the five-minute video from FCA America that explains the U.S. automakers’ amazing role in supplying the troops in World War II.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why MRE directions use ‘a rock or something’

If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.


To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.

“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”


Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.

“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”

The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.

Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Lauren Oleksyk of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, holds a Flameless Ration Heater and a Meal, Ready-to-Eat. This is the 20th anniversary of the heater’s introduction.
(Photo by David Kamm)

“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”


The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.

“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.

The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.

“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”

Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.

“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”

The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.

“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”

The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.

“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”

Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.

“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.

“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the science behind how submarines dive and resurface

Let’s start with the basics: Ships stay afloat because the weight of the water that it displaces equals the weight of the ship. As gravity pulls down on the ship; water creates an opposite upward force called buoyant force, which prevents the ship from sinking.


Related: 27 incredible photos of life on a US Navy submarine

Submarines use ballast and trim tanks, which are filled with air or water to submerge or raise the ship. When the submarine is floating on the surface, the tanks are filled with air causing its density to be less than the surrounding water. When the submarine dives, the tanks are flooded with water causing its density to be greater than the water causing it to sink.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Science Channel, YouTube

Some submarines use two hulls—one inside of another—instead of ballast tanks. This design allows it to flood the outer hull with water, which causes the vessel to sink, while the crew work and live in the inner one. An example of a double hull design is the Russian Alfa Class submarine considered by many to be the hot rod sub of the Cold War for its incredible speed. Designed during the 1960s, the Alfa Class submarine remains the fastest of its kind till this day, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

As the outer hull fills with water, the submarine dives.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Brit Lab, YouTube

As the water is replaced by air, the submarine resurfaces.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Brit Lab, YouTube

This video shows how American submarines dive and resurface using its ballast tanks:

Science Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a Pave Hawk helicopter gets to the War in Afghanistan

While the Air Force is best known for dropping bombs on the enemy — and they’ve done a lot of that throughout the War on Terror — there is one critical mission that some elite airmen carry out: evacuating wounded troops in the middle of a firefight. Air Force Pararescue took that mission on in Afghanistan, even though it’s not exactly what they were trained for — the original mission was to recover downed aircrews.


As a result, the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk has had quite a workout. This is the Air Force’s standard combat search-and-rescue helicopter, which replaced the older HH-53s. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-60 has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and the ability to use 7.62mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns. It has a crew of four and has a hoist that can haul 600 pounds.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Members of the 26th and the 46th Expeditionary Rescue squadrons scramble for a personnel mission at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Dec. 29. From notification, the units have 15 minutes to be airborne and must transfer the patient to Camp Bastion’s Role 3 in one hour. (USAF photo)

But there is one question: How do you get a Pave Hawk to Afghanistan? Or to other disaster areas, like Mozambique in 2000? Well, believe it or not, the helicopters fly in — but not by themselves. Despite the fact that they can be refueled in mid-air thanks to a probe, the helicopters often are flown in on the Air Force’s force of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.

You may be surprised, but the HH-60 is actually an easy cargo for one of these planes to carry. It comes in at 22,000 pounds — or 11 tons. The C-17 can carry over 170,000 pounds of cargo, per an Air Force fact sheet. The C-5 carries over 281,000 pounds. With weight out of the way, the only remaining issue is volume — and the HH-60 addresses that with folding rotor blades.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day
Believe it or not, the Pave Hawk is easy for a C-17 to lift. However, it is a tight fit in terms of volume. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So, if a Pave Hawk needs to go to Afghanistan, they fold the rotor blades, roll the chopper onto the C-5 or C-17, and take off. The cargo planes reach Afghanistan with a bit of mid-air refueling. Once it lands, the HH-60 rolls off, the rotor blades are unfolded, and it’s ready to save lives.

Check out the video below to see an HH-60 arrive in Afghanistan:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers put new, more accurate rifle to the test

US Army sharpshooters recently field tested a new, more accurate sniper rifle out west, where these top marksman fired thousands of rounds and even when waged simulated warfare in force-on-force training.

Eight Army Ivy Division snipers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tested out the new M110A1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), an upgraded version of the current M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), at Fort Carson in Colorado, the Army revealed in a statement.


Comparatively, the new CSASS offers advantageous features like increased accuracy and reduced weight, among other improvements.

“The CSASS is smaller, lighter, and more ergonomic, as the majority of the changes were requested by the soldiers themselves,” Victor Yarosh, an individual involved in the weapon’s development, explained in summer 2018. “The rifle is easier to shoot and has less recoil, all while shooting the same round as the M110,” which fires a 7.62 mm round.

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.

(Maj. Michael P. Brabner, Test Officer, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Operational Test Command)

“The CSASS has increased accuracy, which equates to higher hit percentages at longer ranges.”

The recent testing involved having the “snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” according to Maj. Mindy Brown, a US Army Operational Test Command CSASS test officer.

These types of drills are an “extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft,” Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, one of the snipers involved in the testing said.

The CSASS has not been fielded yet, but in 2018,Congress approved the Army’s planned .2 million purchase of several thousand CSASS rifles.

The Army began fielding the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R), distributing the weapon — a derivative of the CSASS — to a few select units for limited user testing last fall. The rifle “provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges,” the Army said.

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