These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

When the U.S. military is looking for a custom bike, they look to DARPA. This time, they needed a stealthy dirt bike that could handle rough terrain… and maybe a few other tasks SEALs and Green Berets might need during an operation.


Two potential models were the frontrunners for DARPA’s project. The Silent Hawk, designed by Logos Technology, and the Nightmare, built by LSA Autonomy. They are both hybrids, capable of running on lithium-ion batteries or a variety of fuels, including JP-8, propane, or even olive oil.

An artist’s rendering of the Silent Hawk.

Both are about as loud as a garbage disposal while running on fuel and about as loud as an indoor conversation when running on batteries.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
LSA Autonomy’s Nightmare Hybrid Dirt Bike

The differences are where it gets interesting. The Nightmare weighs 400 pounds while Silent Hawk weighs 350. Those extra 50 pounds go toward generating additional horsepower for the Nightmare’s all-wheel drive. Silent Hawk was built with a battery pack that has a higher density and active cooling system to keep lithium-ion batteries from exploding.

The two bikes can also provide power to external devices, including medical equipment, blue force trackers, and communications gear.

Bikes — especially dirt bikes — aren’t new to the military. Veterans and active duty bike enthusiasts have been building their own custom bikes for years. It’s a huge community. One retired Marine Corps First Sergeant even founded a vocational therapy non-profit centered on building custom dirt bikes. It’s called Warrior Built.

Dirt bikes and motorcycles are also a reliable means of communication in large-scale combat. It was used as recently as the Millennium Challenge Exercise, where a Marine General was able to take on an entire carrier group maintaining comms using messengers on dirt bikes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the new B-21 bomber can beat Russian air defenses

The Air Force is preparing for a substantial technical “critical design review” of its next-generation B-21 Raider bomber, an aircraft said by developers to mark a new “generation” in stealth technology able to elude the most advanced air defenses in the world.

The review, described by Air Force officials as a key step prior to formal construction of the aircraft, will assess design specs, technology plans, computing power, and weapons integration for the new bomber – a platform which service developers say will advance stealth technology itself to new, unprecedented dimensions of technological sophistication.


“The B-21 program has completed preliminary design review. The next step is critical design review. The Air Force remains confident in the B-21’s progress and in delivering this new capability as planned in the mid-2020s,” senior Air Force public affairs director Anne Stefanek, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.

Critical reviews of the emerging B-21 design are essential to engineering a platform able to accommodate the most advanced current and anticipated future stealth properties — which include stealth coating and configuration, radar cross section reduction, and heat signature suppression technologies, among other things.

A new generation of stealth technology is being pursued with a sense of urgency, in light of rapid global modernization of new Russian and Chinese-built air defense technologies; advances in computer processing, digital networking technology and targeting systems now enable air defenses to detect even stealth aircraft with much greater effectiveness.

Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defense weapons, believed by many to be among the best in the world, are able to use digital technology to network “nodes” to one another to pass tracking and targeting data across wide swaths of terrain. New air defenses also use advanced command and control technology to detect aircraft across a much wider spectrum of frequencies than previous systems could.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

This technical trend has ignited global debates about whether stealth technology itself could become obsolete. “Not so fast,” says a recent Mitchell Institute essay – “The Imperative for Stealth,” which makes a lengthy case for a continued need for advanced stealth platforms.

The essay’s principle claim, fortified by lengthy analysis, offers a window of substantial detail into comments from Air Force senior leaders that the B-21 will advance stealth technology such that it will be able to hold “any target at risk, anywhere in the world, anytime.”

“The US is now developing its fourth generation of stealth aircraft. The computational capabilities that were available to design the F-117 and B-2 are dwarfed by the power now available to design teams,” writes the Mitchell Institute essay, by Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett, USAF (Ret.) and Col. Mace Carpenter, USAF (Ret.)

Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges, noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons or other easily detectable aircraft features, means that radar “pings” can have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object.

However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existant or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft. A stealth aircraft will, for instance, appear in the shape of a bird or insect to enemy radar.Given the increased threat envelope created by cutting edge air defenses, and the acknowledgement that stealth aircraft are indeed much more vulnerable than when they first emerged, Air Force developers are increasingly viewing stealth capacity as something which includes a variety of key parameters.

This includes not only stealth configuration, IR suppression and radar-evading materials but also other important elements such as electronic warfare “jamming” defenses, operating during adverse weather conditions to lower the acoustic signature, and conducting attacks in tandem with other less-stealthy aircraft likely to command attention from enemy air defense systems.

Given these factors, Air Force developers often refer to stealth configuration itself as merely one “arrow” in the quiver of approaches needed to defeat modern air defenses.

“Mixing stealthy aircraft with conventional aircraft, deception, air defense suppression, and electronic jamming will complicate an enemy’s defensive problem set by an order of magnitude,” the paper writes.

The authors of the paper explain that newer stealth technology able to outmatch advanced multi-frequency air defenses must utilize a characteristic known as “broadband stealth.”

Multi-band or “broadband” stealth, which is designed to elude both lower frequency area “surveillance” radar as well as high-frequency “engagement radar,” puts an emphasis upon radar cross section-reducing tailless designs such as that now being envisioned for the B-21.

“The B-21 image released by the USAF depicts a design that does not use vertical flight control surfaces like tails. Without vertical surfaces to reflect radar from side aspects, the new bomber will have an RCS (Radar Cross Section) that reduces returns not only from the front and rear but also from the sides, making detection from any angle a challenge,” the Mitchell Institute writes.

Stealth fighter jets, such as the F-22 and F-35, have an entirely different configuration and rely upon some vertical flight control surfaces such as tails and wings. Being more vulnerable to lower frequency surveillance radars due to having a fighter jet configuration, an F-35 or F-22 would depend upon its speed, maneuverability and air-to-air attack systems to fully defend against enemies. Given that fighter jets require tails, wings and other structures necessary to performance, they are naturally inherently less stealthy than a high-altitude bomber.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

Two F-22s during flight testing.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Newer methods of IR or thermal signature reduction are connected to engine and exhaust placement. Internally configured engines, coupled with exhaust pipes on the top of an aircraft can massively lower the heat emissions from an aircraft, such as the structure of the current B-2 – the authors of the essay say.

“Hot gases from the engine can be further cooled using mixing techniques in the exhaust system,” the paper writes.

Technical progress in the area of advanced computer simulations are providing developers with an unprecedented advantage in designing the new bomber as well.

“Simulations of interactions between designs and various threat radars are now far more accurate and realistic, allowing additional refinement of stealth design solutions before any hardware is actually built or tested,” the essay writes.

The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.

If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will likely have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO — Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, according to Air Force developers, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to capture Hussein, kill bin Laden, and make your bed

It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.


These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.

In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.

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A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

But McRaven was a uniquely qualified choice to plan the mission since he wrote the book on special operations as his master’s thesis. His 1993 paper, The Theory of Special Operations has been published and sold, but you can get it as a free pdf from tons of government websites.

The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.

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The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.

To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.

On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.

Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014

www.youtube.com

For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.

The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.

Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.

But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.

Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.

So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why your future bunkers might be made of wood

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.


It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.

So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.

(YouTube/Sisekaitseakadeemia)

But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.

The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.

The blast tests were done in 2016 and 2017 at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was before the hurricane wiped out many of the base’s structures (which were not CLT).

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops

That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.

(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)

The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.

Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.

All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.

Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.

Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.

Articles

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.


These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
Illustration: Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.

Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.

The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

Four companies were recently awarded phase 1 contracts for the project and are tasked with designing launch and retrieval systems for the gremlins. Phase 2 involves the creation of a preliminary design of the drone itself and phase 3 will requires that manufacturers create a functioning prototype.

The drones would be “limited-life” aircraft and fly approximately 20 missions each before being retired. Their downtime between missions would need to be 24 hours or less.

If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.

Articles

Army test fires 3-D printed grenade launcher called RAMBO

Researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center successfully fired the first 3-D printed grenade launcher. This demonstration shows that additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3-D printing) has a potential future in weapon prototype development, which could allow engineers to provide munitions to Soldiers more quickly.


These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
Designed with soldier input, this modified M203 grenade launcher was made mostly from 3D printed parts. (Photo: US Army)

The printed grenade launcher, named RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was the culmination of six months of collaborative effort by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.

RAMBO is a tangible testament to the utility and maturation of additive manufacturing. It epitomizes a new era of rapidly developed, testable prototypes that will accelerate the rate at which researchers’ advancements are incorporated into fieldable weapons that further enable our warfighters. Additive manufacturing is an enabling technology that builds successive layers of materials to create a three-dimensional object.

Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed. Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.

The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the utility of AM for the design and production of armament systems. A 40 mm grenade launcher (M203A1) and munitions (M781) were selected as candidate systems. The technology demonstrator did not aim to illustrate whether the grenade launcher and munition could be made cheaper, lighter or better than traditional mass-production methods. Instead, researchers sought to determine whether AM technologies were mature enough to build an entire weapon system and the materials’ properties robust enough to create a properly functioning armament.

To be able to additively manufacture a one-off working testable prototype of something as complex as an armament system would radically accelerate the speed and efficiency with which modifications and fixes are delivered to the warfighter. AM doesn’t require expensive and time-intensive tooling. Researchers would be able to manufacture multiple variations of a design during a single printing build in a matter of hours or days. This would expedite researchers’ advancements and system improvements: Instead of waiting months for a prototype, researchers would be able to print a multitude of different prototypes that could be tested in a matter of days.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
Parts for an M203 grenade launcher printed on a 3D printing machine. (Photo: US Army)

Depending on a part’s complexity, there can be numerous steps involved before it is ready for use. For instance, in the case of RAMBO, the printed aluminum receiver and barrel required some machining and tumbling. After printing, the components were cut from the build plate, and then support material was removed from the receiver.

The barrel was printed vertically with the rifling. After it was removed from the build plate, two tangs were broken off and the barrel was tumbled in an abrasive rock bath to polish the surface. The receiver required more post-process machining to meet the tighter dimensional requirements. Once post-processing was complete, the barrel and receiver underwent Type III hard-coat anodizing, a coating process that’s also used for conventionally manufactured components of the M203A1. Anodizing creates an extremely hard, abrasion-resistant outer layer on the exposed surface of the aluminum.

The barrel and receiver took about 70 hours to print and required around five hours of post-process machining. The cost for powdered metals varies but is in the realm of $100 a pound. This may sound like a lot of time and expensive material costs, but given that the machine prints unmanned and there is no scrap material, the time and cost savings that can be gained through AM are staggering. The tooling and set-up needed to make such intricate parts through conventional methods would take months and tens of thousands of dollars, and would require a machinist who has the esoteric machining expertise to manufacture things like the rifling on the barrel.

Beyond AM fabrication of the weapon system, ManTech also requested that a munition be printed. Two RDECOM research and development centers, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), participated in this phase of the project to demonstrate RDECOM’s cross-organizational capabilities and teaming. An integrated product team selected the M781 40 mm training round because it is simple and does not involve any energetics—explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics are still awaiting approval for use in 3-D printing.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
A comparison of a 3D printed grenade launcher and one made with standard manufacturing processes. (Photo: US Army)

The M781 consists of four main parts: the windshield, the projectile body, the cartridge case and a .38-caliber cartridge case. The windshield and cartridge case are traditionally made by injection molding glass-filled nylon. Using multiple AM systems at multiple locations helped emphasize manufacturing readiness and the Army’s capability to design, fabricate, integrate and test components while meeting tolerances, requirements and design rules. ARL and ECBC used selective laser sintering and other AM processes to print glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields for the rounds.

The .38-caliber cartridge case was the only component of the M781 that was not printed. The .38-caliber cartridge case was purchased and pressed into the additively manufactured cartridge case. Research and development is underway at ARDEC to print energetics and propellants.

In current production, the M781 projectile body is made of zinc. Zinc is used because it’s easy to mass-produce through die-casting, it’s a dense material and it’s relatively soft. The hardness of the projectile body is critical, because the rifling of the barrel has to cut into the softer obturating ring of the projectile body. The rifling imparts spin on the round as it travels down the barrel, which improves the round’s aerodynamic stability and accuracy once it exits the barrel. Currently, 3-D printing of zinc is not feasible within the Army. Part of the beauty of AM is that changes can be made quickly and there is no need for retooling, so four alternative approaches were taken to overcome this capability gap:

  • The first approach was to print the projectile body in aluminum as an alternative material. The problem with that approach is that aluminum is less dense than zinc; therefore, when fired, the projectile achieves higher speeds than system design specifications call for. Interestingly, even though the barrel and projectile body were printed from the same aluminum material, because the printed barrel was hard-coat anodized, it allowed for proper rifling engagement with the softer untreated printed aluminum projectile body.
  • The second approach was to print the projectile body in steel, which better meets the weight requirements, and then mold a urethane obdurating ring onto it. The obturating ring is required to ensure proper engagement and rifling in the aluminum barrel. We couldn’t keep the obturating ring as steel, like we did with the first approach, because steel is a lot harder than aluminum, and even with the hard-coat anodization it would have destroyed the grenade launcher’s barrel. So for this approach, the projectile body’s design was modified to take advantage of design for AM. The original projectile body designs did not consider AM fabrication and processing. For this AM technology demonstrator, the design was modified to take advantage of AM design rules to reduce the amount of post-machining required. This approach also used 3-D printing to fabricate a “negative” mold and then create a silicone positive mold to produce an obturating ring onto the printed munition bodies.
  • The third approach also utilized a groove and obturating ring, but instead of overmolding, the plastic was printed directly onto the steel projectile body using a printer with a rotary axis.
  • The fourth approach used a wax printer to 3D-print projectile bodies. Using the lost-wax casting process, plaster was poured around the wax bodies and allowed to set. Once set, the hardened plaster mold was heated and the wax melted away. Molten zinc was then poured into the plaster mold to cast the zinc projectile bodies.

ARDEC researchers used modeling and simulation throughout the project to verify whether the printed materials would have sufficient structural integrity to function properly. Live-fire testing was used to further validate the designs and fabrication. The printed grenade launcher and printed training rounds were live-fire tested for the first time on Oct. 12, 2016, at the Armament Technology Facility at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

Testing included live firing at indoor ranges and outdoor test facilities. The system was remotely fired for safety reasons, and the tests were filmed on high-speed video. The testing included 15 test shots with no signs of degradation. All the printed rounds were successfully fired, and the printed launcher performed as expected. There was no wear from the barrel, all the systems held together and the rounds met muzzle velocities within 5 percent of a production M781 fired from a production-grade grenade launcher.

These are the new custom stealth dirt bikes made for covert ops
Grenade launcher practice rounds made using a variety of non-standard manufacturing techniques. (Photo: US Army)

The variation in velocities were a result of the cartridge case cracking, and the issue was quickly rectified with a slight design change and additional 3-D printing. This demonstrates a major advantage using AM, since the design was modified and quickly fabricated without the need for new tooling and manufacturing modifications that conventional production would require. More in-depth analysis of material properties and certification is underway. The RAMBO system and associated components and rounds are undergoing further testing to evaluate reliability, survivability, failure rates and mechanisms.

Before the live-fire testing, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center gathered warfighter input from the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. The regiment was consulted on features and capabilities it would like to have available on the M203A1 grenade launcher. Using that feedback, NSRDEC created the standalone kit for RAMBO. The M203 grenade launcher is typically mounted under other soldier weapons.

NSRDEC researchers took advantage of AM and rapidly created prototypes and kits that included custom handgrips based on warfighter requests and specifications—customization made possible because of the design freedoms and rapid turnaround afforded by AM.

The concept and funding for this project initially came from ManTech and ARDEC. ARDEC managed and executed the project with collaboration from other RDECOM AM community of practice and associated member organizations. Some of that collaboration was ad hoc and need-based—the need to find certain printing capabilities that ARDEC lacked, for example—and other collaborative efforts represented a concerted effort to leverage the experience and expertise of the community of practice.

Key organizations included ARDEC, Army ManTech, ARL, ECBC, ­NSRDEC, America Makes, DOD laboratories and several small businesses. ARL worked with ECBC for development of printed glass-filled nylon cartridge cases, and with NSRDEC for designs and fabrication of the printed standalone kits with Soldier-requested variations.

The Army Special Services Division at Fort Meade, Maryland, expeditiously printed aluminum barrels and receivers to complement ARDEC’s capabilities for additive manufacturing of metals. America Makes developed and printed finely tuned AM barrels and receivers. The project also included services from several small businesses and service houses for AM. The cross-organization teaming between government and industry illustrated the current state of the art for AM and the robustness and manufacturing readiness of AM as an enabling technology for current and future U.S. production.

The 40 mm AM-produced grenade launcher and components were a highlighted project at the 2016 Defense Manufacturing Conference. Although there are still many challenges to be addressed before Armywide adoption of AM, demonstrations like this one show the technology’s advances. Successfully firing an AM-produced weapon system validates AM maturation and applicability in armament production.

By using AM, researchers and developers will be able to build and test their prototypes in a matter of days rather than months. Designs and parts previously unachievable can now be realized. Complex designs that lighten, simplify and optimize armaments are now feasible and manufacturable. These advancements will improve products and facilitate faster and more efficient transition from the labs to the field, further enabling our warfighters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China launches new combat-ready unmanned warship

China has launched a new “world-leading unmanned warship” that is supposedly ready for combat, Chinese media reports.

The JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, a new product of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is 50 feet in length and displaces 20 tons. Chinese media reports that this ship is capable of conducting the same missions as China’s Type 052 destroyers, namely air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions.

Chinese military observers refer to China’s latest development as a “mini Aegis-class destroyer” because of its radars, vertically-launched missiles and torpedoes, the Global Times reports, referencing the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, many of which are equipped with powerful Aegis radars, surface-to-air missiles, and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.


“This is [People’s Liberation Army] vaporware,” Bryan Clark, a US defense expert and former naval officer, told Insider, referencing technology that is a bit more conceptual than meaningfully applicable.

“The boat is very similar to commercially-available unmanned harbor patrol vessels,” he said.

“Like those boats, there is a mount on the forward deck that would normally carry a machine gun. It may also have some vertically-launched rockets or small missiles in cells on the rear deck or behind the gun.”

China has yet to say what type of missions this vessel might conduct. “This boat doesn’t have the range for operations very far from Chinese territory. Therefore, it may only be good for patrolling around China’s islands in the South China Sea or around Chinese ports,” he said.

China first revealed a model of the JARI unmanned warship last year in South Africa at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition, where a China industry representative explained to Navy Recognition that the medium-sized vessel is propelled by a single water jet, has a maximum speed of 42 knots, and has a maximum range of 500 nautical miles.

The model showed a 30mm main gun with eight vertical launch systems behind the cannon and two light torpedo launchers on each side of the superstructure.

Another model was again showcased at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi back in February, where Defense News noted that the vessel included an electro-optical sensor, a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, and a rocket launcher, among the previously-mentioned features.

It is unclear how many of these features have been effectively incorporated into the final design. There are actually quite a few uncertainties surrounding this technology.

Seth Cropsey, a seapower expert at the Hudson Institute, told Insider that China is getting better and better at technology but said there are questions of “how soon the Chinese can field this, what its real capabilities are versus what its advertised capabilities are and, this is important, how many of these things they are going to put out to sea.”

The JARI can, the Global Times reports, be controlled remotely or operate autonomously, although more testing is required before it can fully do the latter. Chinese military analysts have talked about this vessel being used with other drone ships to create a swarm.

The US military has experimented with small crewless swarm boats, as well as medium-sized unmanned surface vessels like the Sea Hunter.

Earlier this month, the US Navy expressed an interest in the development of a large unmanned surface vessel, “a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”

The Navy has said that it is pursuing “a balance of high-end, survivable manned platforms with a greater number of complementary, more affordable, potentially more cost-imposing, and attritable options.”

Expert observers suspect the new revelation is a response to US Navy plans. “I believe one of the drivers for this rollout from the PLA is the US Navy’s recent announcement of its proposed Large USV,” Clark told Insider.

Cropsey explained that “this is a start” for the Chinese, but added that “it doesn’t really compare to what we’re planning.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Teddy Roosevelt’s gun was as awesome as he was

In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.


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In 1976, the Navy discovered the USS Maine was actually sunk by a fire that hit its ammunition stores, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.

Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.

Also: 7 cool facts about the Battle of San Juan Hill

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Someone should have told Spain that white was a bad choice of uniform color.

Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.

First and foremost (maybe?), it was a gift to him from his brother-in-law, U.S. Navy Capt. William Sheffield Cowles. Where Cowles acquired it makes it really special: the weapon was salvaged from the wreckage of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor just a few months prior to the battle.

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You can’t spell “counterattack” without the letters ‘T’ and ‘R.’

The weapon is valued at over id=”listicle-2628915902″ million and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”

The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some military survival kits include condoms

Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.

The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.


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Water.

Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.

You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.

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Tinder.

I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.

We use dryer lint.

Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.

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Barrels.

Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.

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First Aid.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the Army’s powerful light tank could look like

The US Army just moved one step closer to a new light tank intended to boost the firepower of airborne and other light infantry units.

The Army is currently looking for a new tracked armored vehicle able to protect and support infantrymen as they “destroy the enemy in some of the worst places in the world,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said Dec. 17, 2018.


“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” he told reporters at a media roundtable.

The infantry has artillery, but “there’s no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield, to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain,” Coffman explained. That is where Mobile Protected Firepower comes into play.

Two companies, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, have been awarded Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping contracts for this development project, the Army revealed Dec. 17, 2018. Each contract is worth 6 million, and each company will provide a total of 12 prototypes.

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BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

The purpose of Mobile Protected Firepower is to “disrupt, breach, and break through” fortified defenses

The MPF, a 30-ton light tank expected to fill a critical capability gap, is one of five next-generation combat vehicles being developed by Army Futures Command, a new four-star command focused on preparing the force for high-end warfighting against near-peer threats in an age of renewed great power competition.

The Army, shifting its focus from counterinsurgency to high-intensity multi-domain operations with an eye on rivals China and Russia, wants contractors to deliver a vehicle that offers mobility, lethality, and survivability.

The MPF light tanks would provide the firepower to breach heavily-fortified defensive positions, potentially in an area, such as Russian and Chinese anti-access zones, where the US might not be able to achieve absolute air superiority.

The MPF vehicles will help Infantry Combat Brigade Teams (ICBTs) “disrupt, breach, and break through” secure defensive zones, Coffman explained.

The final Mobile Protected Firepower light tank, which will be delivered to troops in 2025, will be a tracked vehicle with either a 105 mm or 120 mm cannon that can withstand an unspecified level of fire. The Army also wants to be able to carry at least two light tanks aboard a C-17 Globemaster III for easy transport.

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BAE Systems displayed its Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting Exposition in October 2016 in Washington.

(BAE Systems via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

BAE Systems’ MPF solution

BAE Systems presented a Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting Exposition in 2016. BAE Systems’ latest proposal is a variant of the original design.

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BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

“Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach,” Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems, said in a statement.

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GDLS displayed its Griffin tech demonstrator, a starting point for MPF discussions, at the AUSA Annual Meeting Exposition.

(General Dynamics via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

General Dynamics’ MPF

General Dynamics Land Systems displayed a technology demonstrator at AUSA 2016 as a starting point for discussions with the Army about its expectations for the MPF platform.

The company is currently playing its cards close to the vest with its latest proposal, offering only the following picture while clarifying that the vehicle pictured is not the company’s exact offering.

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A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.

(General Dynamics photo)

“We are excited about this opportunity to provide the US Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams,” Don Kotchman, the vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems US Market, said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why U.S. troops still wear laces on their boots

With all the advances in military clothing technology these days, there’s still one glaring holdover from the days of military uniforms gone by: boot laces. We have velcro work uniforms, and velcro body armor, zippers on work pants, and plastic buckles have replaced the old metal clasps on web gear.

Yet, every day, U.S. troops are lacing up their boots just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Commando 30-plus years ago. What gives?


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Pictured: me before work every morning during my time in the Air Force… In my head.

The truth is that there’s actually a good reason for all the combat/work uniform gear that American troops wear every day. From the way it’s worn, to what it’s made of, to how it’s worn, it all actually has an operational value to it. The most enduring reason velcro isn’t used as a means to secure one’s boots is that shoelaces are built to last, like most other military-grade gear. Velcro wears out after repeated use and becomes less and less sticky with time.

Another reason for laces securing their boots is that if one of the laces does happen to wear out and snap, a spare boot lace can be secured pretty easily. All a Marine at a combat outpost in the hills of Afghanistan has to do to re-secure his boot is to get a lace and lace it up. If it were secured with velcro, both sides being held together would require a seam ripped out and new velcro patches sewn in its place.

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“Cover me, this is a hemstitch!”

Speaking of austere locations, has anyone ever tried to use velcro when it was soaking wet or caked in mud? For anyone who’s ever seen a recruiting video for any branch of the military (including the Coast Guard), it becomes pretty apparent that mud, water, and lord-knows-what-else are occupational hazards for the feet of the average U.S. troop. Bootlaces don’t need to be dry, clean, or chemical agent-free to work their magic, they just work.

The whole idea behind clothing a capable, combat-ready force is to eliminate the worry about the clothing as long as each individual troop follows the clothing guidelines. Everything about military work gear and combat uniforms is that they can be worn relatively easily and their parts can be replaced just as easily – by even the least capable person in a military unit.

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Even the new Second Lieutenant.

Finally, the most significant reason troops need laced-up boots instead of goofy velcro attachments is the most unique aspect to their chosen profession: the idea that they may be in combat at some point. Military combat medics will tell you that the easiest way to access a wounded foot area is to simply cut the laces away and toss the boot. That’s probably the biggest combat-related factor.

Besides, where would Marines string their second dog tag if they secured their boots with velcro?

Articles

This Black Cat was bad luck for the Japanese navy

The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.


According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.

The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.

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PBY-5A Catalina flying over the Aleutian Islands during World War II. (US Navy photo)

The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.

The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”

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Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.

These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.

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Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.

Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.

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A PBY Catalina in service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After World War II, many Catalinas were retired, but some served on. The last military unit to operate them was Brazil’s 1st Air Transport Squadron until they were retired in 1982, according to the website of the Brazilian Air Force Aerospace Museum.

Articles

Here are 6 things you may not have known about the US president’s personal jet

It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.


Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.

While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:

1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.

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Columbine II, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s official transport and the first presidential plane to use the Air Force One callsign (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.

Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).

2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.

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Pres. George W. Bush in the Presidential office aboard Air Force One in 2008 (Photo White House)

You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.

3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.

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A Secret Service protective agent stands vigilant over Air Force One as it refuels at Ramstein Air Base in Germany (Photo US Air Force)

On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.

The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment.  It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.

4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.

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A VC-25 arrives at Andrews AFB with the casket of deceased Pres. Gerald Ford (Photo US Air Force)

Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.

5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.

Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.

In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.

6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.

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President Trump during a welcome ceremony at Brussels Int’l Airport. Note that the VC-25 is parked with its left side facing the crowd (Photo White House)

Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.

Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.