This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

The Blackhawks are one of the lesser-known superheroes in the DC Comics pantheon today, but from the 1940s to the 1960s, they were big names. The only hero who outsold them during the early years of their run was Superman.


Part of the appeal was their planes. In the 1950s, their primary mount was the Lockheed F-90, which they used to fight off their monster and alien foes.

But here’s the kicker – the plane they flew has some origin in fact, but it never got past the flight test stage.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
F-90 with the Blackhawks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Dubbed the “XF-90,” the experimental plane’s tale is one of the few real failures that came from Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works.

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Air Force was looking for a long-range jet fighter to escort bombers to targets. Lockheed went with the F-90, and proceeded to build it in a very sturdy fashion.

The good news was that this was one tough plane, and had six 20mm cannon (enough to blast just about any plane out of the sky), but it weighed 50 percent more than its competitor, the XF-88 Voodoo from McDonnell.

From the get-go, the XF-90 had problems. The plane was underpowered and was outperformed by the F-86A — even when afterburners were added to the plane’s two XJ34 jet engines. The Air Force chose the XF-88 Voodoo to be its penetration fighter, but that never went into production.

Only two XF-90s were built.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Lockheed had tried a number of other options, including the use of a single J47 engine to boost the F-90s performance, but there was too much re-design work involved. The first F-90 version the Blackhawks used, the F-90B, did feature a single engine. The second version, the F-90C, was said to be lighter version of the F-90B.

The Blackhawks eventually faded — partially due to some bad 1960s storylines — and the super hero team was eventually eclipsed by Batman and many of the superheroes who are familiar today.

And as for the XF-90 prototypes? One was tested to destruction by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the other was banged up in the nuclear tests of the 1950s.

That second plane is currently in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

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DARPA is building a drone to provide ‘persistent’ surveillance virtually anywhere in the world

DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”


If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.

Also read: Hundreds of enlisted airmen line up to fly drones

Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
DARPA

Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.

If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
DARPA

“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.

“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
DARPA

Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.

Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

A military unit losing its colors is pretty humiliating — maybe even as bad as losing a battle. But it probably feels pretty good to be the one who captures those colors. And American troops have captured a lot of enemy flags over the years.


While the Geneva Convention demands all POWs be allowed to keep their personal belongings and protective gear, a “war trophy” like a captured flag doesn’t really apply.

But even if troops decide not keep trophies like an enemy flag, that doesn’t mean they can’t snap a quick photo – just as many have before and will likely do for many wars to come.

1. Civil War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Union soldiers pose with Confederate flags that they captured in battle during the Civil War. Each was awarded a Medal of Honor for grabbing the enemy’s flag.

2. United States Expedition to Korea

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Marines with a captured Korean flag from the Korean conflict with the Joseon Dynasty of 1871.

 

3. Spanish-American War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. troops capturing Spanish guns at Malate Fort in Manila, Philippines. (U.S. Army photo)

 

4. Philippine-American War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
An American soldier with Filipino weapons and flag in Ocampo, the Philippines ca. 1901.

 

5. U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag in Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

6. World War II

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. soldiers with a surrendered Italian flag at Paestum, Italy. (U.S. Army photo)
This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima with captured Japanese flags. (U.S. Army photo)
This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
American Paratroopers pose with a captured Nazi flag after landing in Normandy. (U.S. Army photo)

 

7. Korean War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. troops with a captured North Korean flag during the Korean War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

8. Vietnam War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Sailors from SEAL Team One captured this flag during the Vietnam War, circa 1970. (NARA photo)

9. Invasion of Grenada

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
1st Platoon, B Co, 1st Ranger Battalion with a flag from Cuban barracks captured during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. (photo by Bryan Staggs, who captured the flag and is standing in the front row, right)

 

10. Invasion of Panama

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. troops during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, in December 1989. (photo by Ron Busch)

 

11. The Iraq War

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rod Coffey holds the flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, in Diyala Province, Iraq, 2008. (photo from Rod Coffey)

There are, of course, many other photos of American troops with captured enemy flags that we can’t post here. There are photos depicting joint U.S.-Afghan forces taking down a Taliban flag. Photographer Scott Nelson also took a photo of U.S. troops with a captured Iraqi flag during the 2003 Invasion.

If you do decide take a battlefield souvenir, be sure to fill out your DD Form 603-1.

Intel

This Remarkable Video Shows What It’s Like For Medevac Crews To Rescue Troops Under Fire

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Summer M. Anderson/ US Navy


After watching this video from The New York Times, it’s easy to see why Medevac crews have one of the most intense jobs in the military.

Also Read: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded

Medevac crews have the dangerous job of flying into gunfights in unarmed helicopters to provide medical care to wounded troops. It’s a race against time, and it’s nothing short of astonishing.

The video starts with a crew racing across Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in a Black Hawk helicopter in response to wounded Marine. The terrain makes it difficult to spot ground forces, so they bank and turn to avoid the ground fire, that may, or may not be there.

Green smoke signals the helicopter, which also serves as the chosen landing spot by the Marines huddled just a few yards away. The helicopter doesn’t just land, however; it circles around the troops to assess the danger. Once it finally lands, the Marines rush the wounded corporal to the Black Hawk for evacuation while others stand watch.

Even with a circling pass around the Marines, the medevac crew in the helicopter drew fire from three sides. Watch how the rescue unfolds in this short three-minute video:

H/T: Funker 350

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These 12 awesome photos were ruined by blank firing adapters

Military folks get some of the best chances at awesome profile pics. They wear camouflage without looking ridiculous, spend a lot of time with firearms, and are generally physically fit.


Unfortunately, these awesome photos are often ruined by one little detail: blank firing adapters that turn weapons into big noise-makers. Sure, they make training much safer and cheaper, but is that really worth it when BFAs ruined these 12 photos?

1. A Marine pulls guard with his super-scary, blank-firing weapon as two Georgian soldiers giggle at him.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)

2. A U.S. Army Ranger student, assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, realizes that his weapon couldn’t even kill a squirrel with this stupid BFA on it, July 8, 2016

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)

3. “Do I look like Rambo?” “No.”

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Johnson)

4. A soldier provides no security while on patrol because his weapon has been neutered with a BFA at Exercise Saber Guardian 16.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anita VanderMolen)

5. Paratroopers blow open a door with real explosives and then attack their enemy with loud noises at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(GIF: Fort Irwin Public Affairs Jason Miller)

6. Spc. Timothy Squires, an infantryman, scans his sector of fire and prepares to make “Pew, pew!” noises during a squad-level situational training exercise held in Kosovo, July 25, 2016. “Pew, pew!” noises are exactly as lethal as weapons with BFAs.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)

7. Marine Corps infantry squad leaders try to look cool while rocking BFAs. They come close but just can’t get past the stigma of the unusable weapon.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

8. A U.S. Army Ranger student searches a simulated enemy prisoner of war. If the POW learns that the Ranger student’s weapon can only fire sound waves, he’ll likely resist and escape.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Austin Berner)

9. An Army squad leader shows his men how to get a decent Facebook profile photo with a BFA. The BFA turns an otherwise lethal weapon into a prop.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)

10. A cadet lays down imaginary cover fire for his teammate during a grenade course. The teammate’s grenades could actually kill someone but this simulated cover fire is useless.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

11. A U.S. airman, right, actually manages to look cooler than a soldier simply by having a functioning weapon. The airman also has a pretty sweet helmet.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: Fort Bliss Ismael Ortega)

12. A U.S. Army soldier rocks sunglasses, a machine gun, and a belt of ammo but still looks funny thanks to mismatched camo, laser tag gear, and a blank firing adapter.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
(Photo: U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Quentin Johnson)

popular

French Marines ended a hostage crisis with a bayonet charge

French Marines were manning observation posts on either side of the Vrbanja Bridge. They were UN peacekeepers, the first to arrive in the decimated city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in May 1995. But their day was to begin in humiliation and end in bloodshed as their mission to hold the observation posts quickly escalated into the first UN combat mission of the war.


When they first began their occupation of the bridge, one side was overtaken by Bosnian Serb commandos. Dressed in French uniforms and donning French weapons, the commandos took one side of the bridge without firing a shot. They even pulled up to the post in a stolen French armored personnel carrier. For many of the Serbs, it was the last thing they would ever do.

 

A lot of them, like Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, were busy committing war crimes.

 

At gunpoint, the 10 French marines were disarmed and taken captive, and driven to another location. The other two were to be used on the bridge as human shields. The other side of the bridge didn’t even know their comrades had been overrun and captured. When the other unit didn’t check in with headquarters, their platoon commander came to check in on the Marines – he then sounded the alarm. When their fellow marines discovered their friends had been taken captive, they decided to move quickly on the Serb commandos.

“When the Serbs took our soldiers under their control by threat, by dirty tricks, they began to act as terrorists, you cannot support this,” Said Col. Erik Sandahl, commander of the 4th French Battalion. “You must react. The moment comes when you have to stop it. Full stop. And we did.”

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
French APCs on the ground in Bosnia, 1995.

 

When French President Jacques Chirac found out about the captured French marines, he went around the UN and ordered his troops to retake the bridge and find the missing men. The French sent 30 more Marines, 13 APCs, and 70 French Army soldiers to the bridge. But they couldn’t just blow up the observation post or do a regular infantry assault on the position. There were still hostages inside. They were going to have to do it the old fashioned way.

The French marines mounted their first bayonet charge since the Korean War.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
François Lecointre, now a general and France’s Chief of the Defence Staff, led the bayonet charge. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

After the bayonet charge, a 32-minute firefight ensued that saw one of the French hostages shot by a Bosnian sniper, the other hostage escaped, three Frenchmen killed in action and another ten wounded, along with four Serbs killed, three wounded and another four taken prisoner. The 10 French hostages were later released. The Serbs soldiers captured were treated as prisoners of war and held by the UN peacekeeping force.

It was the last time the French Army ever launched a bayonet charge, but for the rest of the time the French were participating as UN Peacekeepers in Bosnia, the Serbian forces kept a clear, noticeable distance from them.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Disruptive technology: The quantum frontier

In the race to master and harness advanced technology, the Air Force is making strides in quantum research, bringing “Q-Day” to fruition sooner. Q-Day, or the day all Airmen will have access to quantum technology, is the ultimate goal for the Air Force Research Laboratory. 

Scientists at AFRL are the backbone of these new developments in quantum mechanics and throughout the last year, they’ve partnered with academia and industry leaders worldwide to speed up these advancements in military technology.

The U.S. military is leading the acceleration of quantum research and development as first adopters for this fundamental technology to move the ball forward. Quantum will lead to technologies that will transform the warfighting domain in revolutionary and unprecedented ways. Air Force Video // James Kever

For Dr. Kathy-Anne Soderberg, a research physicist, exploring this field of science consumes her time at AFRL. 

“Quantum information is a relatively young field in the terms of physics,” she said. “But it has the potential to be a highly disruptive technology and that is because it’s not like anything we know about. We have never encountered this phenomenon before.” 

While most of the Air Force’s technology works on classical mechanics, quantum mechanics dictates how single particles work at an atomic or molecular level, according to Soderberg. Air Force researchers are diving into quantum timing, sensing, networking and computing. 

A classic computer tries to navigate its way through a maze by trying each path, one after another. A quantum computer tries each potential path at the same time, dramatically reducing the time necessary to find the solution. Computers utilizing the laws of quantum mechanics could exponentially increase the speed of computation for the Air Force, enabling the warfighter to act more quickly, a key component of success in any conflict.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
Dr. Kathy-Anne Soderberg is a group leader for the trapped-ion quantum networking group, where her teams were the first within Air Force Research Laboratory to successfully trap an ion.PHOTO AND ILLUSTRATION // AFRL

Although she’s only been with AFRL for seven years, Soderberg has more than 20 years of technical experience in atomic physics and quantum information processing, which she uses daily in an effort to accomplish the AFRL goal. Her passion for physics began immediately after learning about atoms in a middle school science class and her interest continued in high school and college. 

“I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I learned later I loved atomic physics,” she said. “I thought it was fascinating there was a whole other world out there that we couldn’t see.”  

“When people ask me what I do, I tell them I shoot lasers at atoms, to make them do fun things,” she laughs. “That is where we can manipulate these atoms and expand their potential to do new things, like create superposition and entanglement.” 

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
The ultrahigh vacuum chamber that houses the trapped ion experiment (left). The ion trap (upper right) used in the experiment. It is a surface electrode trap from Sandia National Laboratory. Four trapped Yb+ ions confined in the ion trap (bottom right). The ions are illuminated with resonant 369nm light and the scattered photons are collected on an Electron Multiplying Charge-Coupled Device camera, a device used for extremely low-light video capture, capable of detecting single photons – the fundamental particle of light. The ability to capture multiple ions, used as qubits, could be critical to creating fully functional quantum computers and quantum networks.PHOTO // U.S. AIR FORCE

In 2017, Soderberg’s group was the first within AFRL to trap an ion. Research into harnessing trapped ions will assist in the networking aspect of quantum mechanics. Soderberg also explains this research will develop new platforms to distribute entanglement in greater distances and open the door to emerging technology, such as teleportation, distributive computing and more advancements in clocks and sensors.  

“Working alongside the group and enterprise of AFRL has been incredible; every day is exciting here,” she said. “I continue to look forward to conducting great research and to advance the technology to somewhere it’s not today.”

In addition to Soderberg’s personal and team research and successes, she worked alongside her peers at AFRL to stand up the Innovare Advancement Center, located in Rome, New York. This facility is a central location for domestic and international collaborators to conduct further research on quantum networking and computing. 

Q-Day is the finish line, however, passionate scientists at AFRL are persistently doing what they enjoy, pushing the Air Force closer to its objective.


This article originally appear in Airman Magazine. Follow Airman Magazine on Facebook.

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‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This pistol is USSOCOM’s offensive handgun

A pistol sidearm is generally used as a last resort weapon. On the two-way shooting range, a rifle will generally serve you better than a pistol. However, in the early 1990s, U.S. Special Operations Command held the Offensive Handgun Weapon System competition. The competition sought to procure a primary offensive handgun for use across all branches of SOCOM. Aside from standardizing a handgun, the new weapon would fill a specialized offensive close-quarters battle role.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
A Navy SEAL with the MK23 during phase two trials of the OHWS competition (U.S. Navy)

Heckler & Koch and Colt were the only companies that participated. The Colt OHWS failed primarily because it could not handle the high pressure ammo like .45 Super and +P .45 acp that USSOCOM required. Despite having no competition, the H&K submission was over engineered and optimized for harsh operating environments.

The H&K MK23 is waterproof and corrosion-resistant. Its polygonal barrel is expensive, but is capable of producing a 2-inch group at 25 meters. The handgun is also completely ambidextrous and features oversized controls for use with gloves. The MK23 is part of a weapon system that includes a proprietary Laser Aiming Module, a suppressor, and match-grade ammunition.

The LAM is manufactured by Insight Technology and is designed to work specifically with the MK23. One version of the LAM emits a visible red dot while another emits an infrared dot for use with night vision. Both LAM units can also produce a white light. The suppressor is manufactured by Knight’s Armament Company and is very effective at suppressing the high-pressure ammo.

Testing of the MK23 was extremely extensive. USSOCOM’s requirement was 2,000 mean rounds before failure. The MK23 averaged 6,027 MRBF and was capable of up to 15,122 MRBF. Three pistols were subjected to a 30,000 round endurance test and maintained an accuracy of 2.5 inches at 25 meters. It was also tested in temperatures ranging from -25 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit while exposed to ice, sand, and mud.

H&K was awarded the OHWS contract in June 1995. Classified as the USSOCOM MK 23 MOD 0, 1,950 systems were ordered at $1,186 (~$2,026 adjusted for inflation) each. All of the handguns were produced by H&K in Germany and were first delivered on May 1, 1996.

The MK23 is powerful, accurate, and reliable. It excels in its role as an offensive handgun. However, while its size and weight helped to mitigate recoil and retain accuracy, these features made it unpopular for operators to carry. According to armorers, though the MK23 remains on the books and in weapon cages, most go unused. In 2010, it was reported that the MK23 is still taught at the SOCOM armorer course, but not the Naval Special Warfare armorer course.

In response to criticisms, H&K developed the USP Tactical pistol. The Tactical retains much of the MK23’s performance in a more compact size. For this reason, the Tactical is popular with German Army and Navy Special Forces.

Because of its niche role and extremely high retail price, the civilian and law enforcement version of the MK23 yielded poor sales figures. Sold as the H&K MARK 23, the handgun does not include the LAM or suppressor. However, because of the weapon’s affiliation with USSOCOM and its use in the popular Metal Gear Solid video games, it is highly sought after and fetches a premium on the civilian gun market.

Though its application is limited, the H&K MK23 is arguably still the best offensive handgun today. The lengthy process for its adoption by USSOCOM earned it the reputation as the most thoroughly tested handgun in history. Its performance is unmatched thanks to classic H&K over engineering. Just be sure you’ve been extra good this year before asking Santa for one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about the Battle of Midway

Just six months after the tragic bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. and Japanese forces clashed once again in the Pacific. For three days, Navies battled near the Midway Atoll, located roughly half way between Hawaii and the Japanese mainland. From June 4th to the 7th, brilliant minds orchestrated incredible naval feats in hopes of destroying the other side.

Although an Allied victory here is seen as a key turning point of the war, there are so many important details that some are lost even on the most staunch historians. Here are five things you likely didn’t know about this momentus battle.


This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Adm. Yamamoto saluting his Japanese naval pilots.

Japan wanted to mirror the successes of Pearl Harbor

Japanese Adm. Yamamoto wanted to once again employ the element of surprise to defeat Allied forces stationed at Midway. To distract the U.S., Yamamoto sent many ships toward the coast of Alaska in hopes of baiting American reinforcements to defend against a non-existent attack.

Things did not go as they planned.

America’s code-breakers

Military intelligence had intercepted Japan’s plot, including the time and location of a planned attack. Adm. Nimitz decided to take on the challenge of defeating the Japanese by using his well-trained pilots, launched from perfectly placed ships behind the atoll.

Japan thought they’d catch the Americans off-guard and cornered, but Nimitz had other plans.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

A PBY Catalina scout plane, similar to the one that first spotted the incoming Japanese.

The Japanese had strict radio silence

Japan decided to maintain radio silence as they sent their ships toward the coast of Alaska. During a recon flight, a Naval pilot spotted the incoming enemy while flying through the heavy Pacific fog. The pilot thought he had located the main body of attack — in reality, it was a secondary Japanese attack on Midway. In response, the U.S. sent out nine B-17 Bombers to take out the invading force.

Due to strict orders to maintain radio silence, the Japanese ships took on the American bombers alone, instead of letting superior command know.

The American fighters were outnumbered

The Japanese sought to destroy the installations built on the Atoll by Allied forces with bombers launched from carriers. Navy, Marine, and Army pilots took to the skies to fight off the bombers and their sizable fighter escort. The Americans were extremely outnumbered — still, they held fast.

After 27 minutes of bombing, the Japanese ended their first aerial attack. Then, an enemy pilot broke radio silence to alert command that they needed more fighters to sustain their offensive. Before the enemy could make a decision, knowing that they didn’t have guns in the air, American bombers followed the Japanese back to their carriers and began their air raid.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

What shifted the battle in favor of Americans

American pilots went on an offensive, heading straight toward a reported location of Japanese forces. When they arrived, they found nothing but empty seas. Instead of returning to base, aviators made what Admiral Nimitz would later call “one of the most important decisions of the battle.”

The pilots then proceeded to an unlikely secondary location. There, they found the Japanese carriers — unprepared. Immediately, fighters destroyed one of the four Japanese vessels. Other Americans rushed onto the scene to continue the attack. This event shifted the tide of battle to favor the Americans, wresting victory from Japanese hands.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.

According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.

At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.


The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.

“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.

Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”

Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

An S-400 radar unit.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.

Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”

Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.

But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.

The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”

“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.

In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.

An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter

Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.

The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.

The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.

In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.

But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.

India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.

And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.

“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”

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

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Pentagon investigating friendly fire in Army Ranger deaths

Two Army Rangers who were killed in Afghanistan earlier this week may have been struck by friendly fire, the Pentagon said.


Sergeant Joshua Rodgers, 22, and Sgt. Cameron Thomas, 23, both deployed from Fort Benning, Georgia, died during a Wednesday night raid targeting the emir of the Islamic State, a group also known as ISIS and ISIL. A third soldier was injured during the operation but is expected to recover.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
Army Rangers conduct a raid in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elliott N. Banks)

Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said officials are investigating whether the soldiers were killed by American forces or Afghan commandos involved in the raid. He said it was “possible” the Rangers were struck by friendly fire but there are “no indications it was intentional,” he said.

“War is a very difficult thing, in the heat of battle, in the fog of war the possibility always exists for friendly fire, and that may have been what happened here and that is what we are looking into with this investigation,” he said.

Officials said 50 Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos were dropped by helicopter into the Nagarhar Province, located about a mile fro the site where the United States dropped the MOAB on April 13.

Several IS leaders and operatives were killed in the raid.

“We did know going in that this was going to be a very tough fight,” Davis said. “We were going after the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan and doing it in a way that required us to put a large number of people on the ground as part of this mission, and it was a mission that appears to have accomplished its objective but it did so at a cost”

Articles

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

You’ve heard the jokes about the French. Their surplus rifles have never been fired, just dropped once. Raise your right hand if you like the French, raise both hands if you are French.


But there is one thing that isn’t a joke: France’s “force de frappe.” No, this isn’t some fancy drink that McDonald’s or Starbuck’s is serving. The force de frappe – translated at strike force – is France’s nuclear deterrence force.

The French nuclear force is often ignored, though it did play a starring role in Larry Bond’s 1994 novel Cauldron, where an attempted nuclear strike on American carriers resulted in the U.S. taking it out.

France’s nuclear deterrence is a substantial force, though.

According to a 2013 CNN report, France has about 300 nukes. According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, these are presently divided between M51 and M45 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ASMP missiles launched from Super Etendard naval attack planes, Mirage 2000N bombers, and Rafale multi-role fighters.

When launching a nuke, the French have options.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile used on French ballistic missile submarines. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The M51 ballistic missile is carried by the Le Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, three of these submarines carry 16 M45 ballistic missiles, which have a range of just over 3,100 miles and deliver six 150 kiloton warheads.

The fourth carries 16 M51 ballistic missiles with six 150-kiloton warheads and a range of almost 5,600 miles. The first three subs will be re-fitted to carry the M51.

The ASMP is a serious nuke, with a 300-kiloton warhead that is about 20 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. It has a range of 186 miles and a top speed of Mach 3, according to Combat Fleets of the World.

This Air Force prototype had a long life as a comic book fighter
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91). One of these carriers could launch aircraft equipped with a long-range nuclear-tipped missile – and it isn’t the Big E. (US Navy photo)

Furthermore, the fact that it can be used on Super Etendard and Rafale fighters means that the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle now serves as a potential strategic nuclear strike weapon.

While Globalsecurity.org notes that F/A-18s from American aircraft carriers can carry nuclear gravity bombs like the B61, the retirement of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile in 1990 and the cancellation of the AGM-131 SRAM II mean that the United States lacks a similar standoff nuclear strike capability from its carriers.

In other words, France’s carrier can do something that the carriers of the United States Navy can’t.

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