This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile - We Are The Mighty
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This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile

The Air Force is buying a new bomber, dubbed the B-21 Raider, which has generated a lot of headlines and is considered one of the biggest priorities for the service. However, another program may be just as important – even if it doesn’t get the press.


According to an interview that TheCipherBrief.com had with retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who was one of the primary planners of the Desert Storm air campaign, that program is the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO. In plain terms, it is a new cruise missile.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
David Deptula during his service with the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

While the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile is perhaps the most famous – and perhaps the most widely-used cruise missile since Operation Desert Storm – the Air Force has had a pair of cruise missiles it launched from its bombers for about four decades. They were the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile.

While some might argue that the B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers make cruise missiles unnecessary, Deptula said that was not the case. In fact, they make the stealth bombers more potent.

“The LRSO, when carried by B-21s, will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft, with multiple cruise missiles making defense against this combination highly problematical,” he said. “This combination strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.”

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

One of the biggest factors in making that challenge intractable is that the bombers are able to attack from just about any point on the compass. In essence, the cruise missiles would enable a B-21 to hit multiple targets from unexpected directions.

Older bombers like the B-52 and B-1B will also be able to use LRSO as well, with Deptula explaining that they would thus “add mass to an attack” against an adversary. The missile is planned to enter service in 2030 according to FlightGlobal.com, and will feature both nuclear and conventional warheads.

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The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Is Russia really flying combat missions from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov? That is a question percolating as recent satellite photos caught some of the planes that are known to operate from the carrier at a land base, as opposed to operating directly from the carrier.


According to a report by IHS Jane’s, a satellite photo from Airbus Defence and Space shows eight Su-33 “Flanker D” fighters on the ramp of Humaymim Air Base.

That airbase, located near the coastal city of Latakia, has become Russia’s main center of operations during its intervention in Syria. Russia also has a naval facility in Tartus, roughly 45 miles to the south of Latakia, that has been used since 1971 under an agreement by the Soviet Union with the regime of Hafez al-Assad.

While it is not uncommon for carrier-based planes to operate from land bases (the n Cactus Air Force at Guadalcanal, which featured planes from the air groups of damaged carriers, is perhaps the most famous instance), this is a sign that Russia’s carrier is less than it seems. In essence, while the Russians are claiming that the Kuznetsov is carrying out a combat deployment and launching sorties, this ship really was more of a glorified aircraft ferry. This is the purported flagship of the Russian Navy.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The Kuznetsov displaces 61,000 tons, and usually carries 15 Su-33 Flankers, but is also capable of carrying up to 20 MiG-29s. One of the MiG-29s crashed earlier this month due to issues with the carrier’s arresting gear combined with an engine failure on the modern multi-role fighter.

The pilot ejected and was recovered, a very unexpected hiccup in Russia’s efforts to showcase the carrier, which has had a reputation for breaking down while on deployment. Since the crash, the MiG-29s have apparently been grounded.

Russia has used the conflict in Syria to test out new weapon systems like the Su-35 “Flanker E” and the SS-N-27 Sizzler. Russia also has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to defend its bases in Syria.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force replaces chem light with a glowing crayon

Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.


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Today in military history: Burr slays Hamilton in a duel

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton fans — grab your second and let’s get into it.

Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies before emigrating to the American colonies to study in 1772. His hard work and impassioned persona would drive him to become a key figure in the Revolutionary War, one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers, and a defender and champion of the U.S. Constitution.

Aaron Burr was born into an influential family and, though orphaned at the young age of two, he would go on to graduate from college at just 16 years old and serve with commendation during the American Revolution. He defended a free press, abolition, and women’s rights. Soon, however, Hamilton’s star would begin to outshine Burr’s, who was often seen as an opportunist with shifting allegiances.

Both men served in the Continental Army and then began their decades-long political rivalry, finally culminating in the presidential election of 1800. An unprecedented tie split Congress between Thomas Jefferson and Burr; but Hamilton’s support of Jefferson helped break the deadlock in Ol’ Long Tom’s favor.

Four years later, Hamilton campaigned against Burr and attacked his character. Defeated and bitter, Burr decided to restore his reputation by challenging Hamilton to a duel. 

There are conflicting accounts as to how the duel went down. Some say Hamilton deliberately fired into the air — an act of honor. Burr’s second claimed Hamilton shot at Burr and missed. Either way, Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach and Hamilton died the next day. 

Burr’s political career fell into ruin after that, with the nation outraged that a sitting Vice-President could brazenly shoot someone. 

202 years later, Dick Cheney asked history to hold his beer.

Featured Image: Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. After the painting by J. Mund. Note: Possibly due to artistic license and the problems of perspective and canvas size etc, the duelists are standing at an unusually short distance from each other. However, it is known that some duels did indeed take place at very short distances such as this, though most were fought where the opponents were standing approximately 50 feet apart. The protagonists are dressed in anachronistic 18th century dress, not the common fashion of the early 19th century.

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Air Force expecting to have hypersonic weapons by 2020

The Air Force will likely have high-speed, long-range and deadly hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, providing kinetic energy destructive power able to travel thousands of miles toward enemy targets at five-times the speed of sound.


“Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles – so that gives you lots of standoff capability,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While much progress has been made by Air Force and Pentagon scientists thus far, much work needs to be done before hypersonic air vehicles and weapons are technologically ready to be operational in combat circumstances.

“Right now we are focusing on technology maturation so all the bits and pieces, guidance, navigation control, material science, munitions, heat transfer and all that stuff,” Zacharias added.

Zacharias explained that, based upon the current trajectory, the Air Force will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s. A bit further away in the 2030s, the service could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle.

“I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
Hypersonic Technology Vehicle | DARPA

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

“They have great kinetic energy to get through hardened targets. You could trade off smaller munitions loads for higher kinetic energy. It is really basically the speed and the range. Mach 5 is five times the speed of sound,” he explained.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target.

“If you can get control at a low level and hold onto Mach 5, you can do pretty long ranges,” Zacharias said.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

For instance, Zacharias cited the 1950s-era experimental boost-glide vehicle called the X-15 which aimed to fire 67-miles up into the sky before returning to earth.

China’s Hypersonic Weapons Tests

Zacharias did respond to recent news about China’s claimed test of a hypersonic weapon, a development which caused concern among Pentagon leaders and threat analysts.

While some Pentagon officials have said the Chinese have made progress with effort to develop hypersonic weapons, Zacharias emphasized that much of the details regarding this effort were classified and therefore not publically available.

Nevertheless, should China possess long-range, high-speed hypersonic weapons – it could dramatically impact circumstances known in Pentagon circles and anti-access/area denial.

This phenomenon, referred to at A2/AD, involves instances wherein potential adversaries use long-range sensors and precision weaponry to deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of some strategically significant areas such as closer to an enemy coastline. Hypersonic weapons could hold slower-moving Navy aircraft carriers at much greater risk, for example.

An April 27th report in the Washington Free Beach citing Pentagon officials stating that China successfully tested a new high-speed maneuvering warhead just last week.

“The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test,” the report from the Washington Free Beacon said. “The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.”

X-51 Waverider

Scientists with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s research arm are working to build a new hypersonic air vehicle that can travel at speeds up to Mach 5 while carrying guidance systems and other materials.

Air Force senior officials have said the service wants to build upon the successful hypersonic flight test of the X-51 Waverider 60,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in May of 2013.

The Air Force and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research entity, plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.

The X-51 was really a proof of concept test designed to demonstrate that a scram jet engine could launch off an aircraft and go hypersonic.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
X-51A | DARPA

The scramjet was able to go more than Mach 5 until it ran out of fuel. It was a very successful test of an airborne hypersonic weapons system, Air Force officials said.

The successful test was particularly welcome news for Air Force developers because the X-51 Waverider had previously had some failed tests.

The 2013 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, Air Force officials said.

A B-52H Stratofortress carried the X-51A on its wing before it was released at 50,000 feet and accelerated up to Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds. As the scramjet climbed to 60,000 feet it accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The X-51 was also able to send back data before crashing into the ocean — the kind of information now being used by scientists to engineer a more complete hypersonic vehicle.

“After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed,” according to an Air Force statement. “At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment.”

This Air Force the next-generation effort is not merely aimed at creating another scramjet but rather engineering a much more comprehensive hypersonic air vehicle, service scientists have explained.

Hypersonic flight requires technology designed to enable materials that can operate at the very high temperatures created by hypersonic speeds. They need guidance systems able to function at those speeds as well, Air Force officials have said.

The new air vehicle effort will progress alongside an Air Force hypersonic weapons program. While today’s cruise missiles travel at speeds up to 600 miles per hour, hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10, Air Force officials said.

The new air vehicle could be used to transport sensors, equipment or weaponry in the future, depending on how the technology develops.

Also, Pentagon officials have said that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts.

For example, senior Air Force officials have said that hypersonic flight could speed up a five- hour flight from New York to Los Angeles to about 30 minutes. That being said, the speed of acceleration required for hypersonic flight may preclude or at least challenge the scientific possibility of humans being able to travel at that speed – a question that has yet to be fully determined.

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WATCH: Here’s what happens when you walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to get a selfie

There are few things in the world so sacred they’re guarded 24/7/365 by armed sentinels. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery certainly qualifies as hallowed grounds. Consequently, when a woman ignores the “Do Not Cross” signs, squeezes past the barriers and tries to get a selfie, the Sentinels act REAL QUICK to put her in her place. We’re not exactly sure when this video was taken (although the ever-reliable folks on reddit tell us this is “new video footage”) but the moral of the story is always the same: Respect the fallen. Read signs. Obey armed guards.

If you’ve never seen the changing of the Guards or visited Arlington National Cemetery, try to find a way. It’s one of life’s most humbling, incredible places. Just make sure you read the signs.

From the Arlington National Cemetery website:

Through the ages, one of the consequences of warfare has been large numbers of unidentified dead. Sometimes unidentified remains resulted from poor record keeping, the damage that weapons of war inflicted on bodies, or the haste required to bury the dead and mark gravesites. In the United States prior to the Civil War, unidentified remains were often buried in mass graves. At Arlington National Cemetery, these include unknown soldiers and sailors from the War of 1812 who were discovered buried at the Washington Navy Yard and reburied at Arlington National Cemetery in 1905.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), high casualty rates and lack of personal identification led to large numbers of unknowns originally buried along marching routes or battlefields. The system of national cemeteries was established in 1862 to ensure the proper burial of all service members. Still, many unknown remains were recovered in the years following the Civil War. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are individual Civil War unknown burials as well as the remains of 2,111 Union and Confederate soldiers buried beneath the Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns. While exact numbers are unknown, estimates indicate that nearly half of the Civil War dead were never identified.

During the Spanish-American War (1898), the U.S. military’s policy was to repatriate (return to the United States) the bodies of service members who died abroad. New Army regulations required that soldiers be buried in temporary graves with identifying information. The Army’s Quartermaster Corps, which oversaw burials and repatriation of bodies, employed a burial corps. Identification rates went up to significantly.

World War I and the Creation of the Tomb

During World War I, U.S. service members received aluminum identification discs, the precursors to “dog tags,” to aid the process of identifying remains. The War Department created a new unit in the Quartermaster Corps, the Graves Registration Service, to oversee burials. During and after World War I, however, Americans debated whether bodies should be repatriated. With more than 100,000 U.S. casualties (compared to fewer than 3,000 in the Spanish-American War), repatriation was more challenging.

France and Great Britain, which suffered significantly higher casualties and more unknown dead than did the United States, barred repatriation of their citizens’ remains. To ease the grief of their citizens, France and Great Britain each repatriated and buried one unknown soldier on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920. Great Britain buried its Unknown Warrior inside Westminster Abbey in London, and France buried its Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. These unknowns would stand in for other British and French service members whose remains could not be identified.

The American policy, by contrast, gave options to families of the war dead. If requested by the next of kin, the remains of service members who died in Europe would be transported to anywhere in the United States at no cost to the family. Or, families could choose to bury their dead at permanent U.S. military cemeteries to be established in Europe.

In December 1920, New York Congressman and World War I veteran Hamilton Fish Jr. proposed legislation that provided for the interment of one unknown American soldier at a special tomb to be built in Arlington National Cemetery. The purpose of the legislation was “to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”

In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from different American military cemeteries in France. On October 23, 1921, the four caskets arrived at the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France.

Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the  Quartermaster Corps, aided by French and American soldiers, rearranged the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.

From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the USS Olympia transported the Unknown Soldier’s casket to Washington, D.C. The Unknown arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921. After arriving in Washington, D.C. on November 9, 1921, the Unknown lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. About 90,000 visitors paid their respects during the public visiting period on November 10, 1921.

On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s new Memorial Amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated at the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards, as well.

Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. During its early years, thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented.

The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

World War II and Korean War Unknowns

Following World War II, some Americans supported the idea of interring and honoring an Unknown from that war. However, the start of the Korean War in 1950 delayed those plans. In August 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the selection and interment of Unknowns from both World War II and Korea.

Fought on four continents, World War II complicated the selection of an Unknown. The chosen Unknown needed to represent all unidentified American dead, not just those from one theater of the war. In 1958, the Army exhumed 13 bodies from military cemeteries across North Africa and Europe and brought them to the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial in France. On May 12, 1958, Major General Edward J. O’Neill placed a red and white wreath on one of the 13 caskets, selecting the Unknown who would represent the Trans-Atlantic (Europe and North Africa) Theater of World War II. The selected casket was then taken aboard USS Blandy for its journey to the United States.

To represent the Pacific Theater of World War II, the Army exhumed five bodies from Fort McKinley American Cemetery in the Philippines (now called Manila American Cemetery) and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (“The Punch Bowl”) in Hawaii. At the same time, they exhumed four bodies from the Korean War that were also buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. All nine caskets were brought to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. On May 15, 1958, Army Master Sergeant Ned Lyle selected the Korean War Unknown. The next day, Air Force Colonel Glenn T. Eagleston selected the World War II Trans-Pacific Unknown. Both caskets were flown to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being loaded aboard the USS Boston.

The USS Blandy and USS Boston met the USS Canberra off the coast of Virginia. On May 26, 1958, all three caskets were placed on the deck of the Canberra, with the Korean War Unknown placed between the two World War II Unknowns. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, then selected the World War II Unknown. The caskets of the World War II and Korean War Unknowns were then transported to Washington, D.C. aboard the USS Blandy, while the remaining World War II Unknown received a solemn burial at sea.

Both Unknowns arrived in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 1958 and lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for two days. Two days later, the Unknowns were transported to Arlington National Cemetery and interred in crypts to the west of the World War I Unknown.

Vietnam War Unknown

Before the Vietnam War ended, Arlington National Cemetery began making preparations to add a third crypt to the Tomb. However, many people believed that advances in technology would mean that all remains from Vietnam could eventually be identified.

In response to mounting political pressure to recognize a Vietnam War unknown, President Jimmy Carter and Max Cleland, Administrator of the United States Veteran Administration and a Vietnam veteran, dedicated a bronze plaque honoring American service members in the Vietnam War on Veterans Day, November 11, 1978, at Memorial Amphitheater.

By May 1984, only one set of recovered American remains from Vietnam had not been fully identified. In a ceremony held at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on May 17, 1984, Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Sergeant Major Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr. designated the remains as the Vietnam War Unknown. The casket was then transported to Travis Air Force Base, California aboard the USS Brewton.

In California, the Vietnam War Unknown was loaded on a C-141B Starlifter and flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. The Vietnam War Unknown lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda from May 25 to 28, 1984. On Memorial Day, May 28, a military procession transported the casket to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On Memorial Day 1984, President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment ceremony at Arlington. In his eulogy, Reagan assured the audience that the government would continue looking for the Vietnam War’s missing in action (MIA) personnel. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War Unknown would lay at rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for almost 14 years.

The Department of Defense and civilian partners continued working to identify remains recovered from Vietnam. Through these efforts, they reviewed evidence that suggested the Vietnam War Unknown was likely Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, a pilot who had been shot down in 1972. At the request of Blassie’s family, the Department of Defense exhumed the remains from the Vietnam Unknown’s crypt on May 14, 1998. Using DNA testing, scientists positively identified the remains as those of Blassie. In accordance with the wishes of his family,

Blassie was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. The crypt designated for the Vietnam War Unknown remains vacant. On September 17, 1999 — National POW/MIA Recognition Day — it was rededicated to honor all missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.

Guarding the Tomb

In March 1926, soldiers from nearby Fort Myer were first assigned to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards, present only during daylight hours, discouraged visitors from climbing or stepping on the Tomb. In 1937, the guards became a 24/7 presence, standing watch over the Unknown Soldier at all times.

The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit on April 6, 1948. At that time, The Old Guard began guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Soldiers of The Old Guard also serve as escorts to the president and conduct military ceremonies in and around Washington, D.C., including military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery.

Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb Guards must undergo a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of the Tomb Guard’s routine has meaning. The Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.

Wreath Layings and Visitors Today

Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has long been a way for individuals and organizations to honor the sacrifices of American service members. Presidents, politicians, public figures and foreign dignitaries have all paid their respects in this way. Honor Flights, which honor our nation’s veterans with all-expense paid trips to see the memorials in Washington, D.C., almost always visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and sometimes lay wreaths. The opportunity to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony is also open to the general public, including school groups. In addition, each year, millions of people from around the world visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Some visit to honor military service and sacrifice; some to mourn a loved one; and some because of the Tomb’s historical and national significance.

One hundred years after the World War I Unknown’s burial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continues to be a powerful symbol of service and sacrifice, mourning and memory.

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This is how the bow evolved throughout the history of warfare

The bow often takes center stage in period pieces any time before the invention of gun powder. From modern portrayals in the Hunger Games series to those in a Roman epic, the bow is a weapon that has shaped the course of human history more than any other weapon. You would be hard-pressed to find a roleplay video game without one. Even Greek Gods wielded them in battle. The family tree of this weapon grows at the crossroads of human warfare.

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile
Even blue aliens a billion miles away are skilled archers (20th Century Fox)

Origin of the bow and arrow

Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.

Britannica

Like other weapons of war, the bow started with the humble beginning as a hunting tool. It was invented in Africa 71,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found bows on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. The Native Americans in North America are believed to invented the bow and arrow independently and it spread south to the rest of the Americas. Arrows are expensive and only wealthy countries could reasonably keep their armies equipped. This was true until the bow took its logical next step in its evolution.

The Long Bow

The Longbow first arrived in Europe around 3,000 B.C. and appeared in the battle of Somerset, England in 2,690 BC. The weapon gets its name from, well, being long. At six feet, it was as tall as the archer wielding it. It had a max effective range of 320 meters. They were the armor-piercing rounds of their day, able to penetrate anything up to and including plate armor. The weapon has become synonymous with the English although it was invented by the Welsh. It is romanticized in literature, movies and video games because it is a good weapon. Its biggest disadvantages were that it took years for a soldier to learn to use effectively and the cost of training.

The Composite Bow

Composite bow is a type of traditional bow made of horn, wood, and sinew which are laminated together and is similar to the “laminated bow” which is made only of layers of wood. Most of the composite bows are recurve bows (when not stringed they curve opposite of the archer) that have wooden core with horn on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back. Wooden core is made of multiple pieces, joined with animal glue in V-splices. Horn is used on the inside because it can store more energy than wood in compression. Sinew, placed on the back of the bow is soaked in animal glue. It is obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer and is used because it will stretch farther than wood which again stores more power.

HistoryofArchery.com

The invention of the composite bow is believed to have been ushered in the 1700s B.C. by the Shang Dynasty in China. Parallel thinking and engineering saw a proliferation of composite bows across the Mediterranean and Europe. The Mongol composite bow changed the course of history in one fell swoop in the hands of Genghis Khan. His version of the bow was designed to be shot on horseback. Everything in the Mongol culture was centered around the horse. The world wasn’t ready when the Great Khan forged the largest empire in history with it. You could either join the Mongols or have total war upon your people: The original “Plata o Plomo”.

The Crossbow

The crossbow, leading missile weapon of the Middle Ages, consisting of a short bow fixed transversely on a stock, originally of wood; it had a groove to guide the missile, usually called a bolt, a sear to hold the string in the cocked position, and a trigger to release it.

Britannica

There is a lot of debate whether crossbows are bows in the modern era especially when it comes to hunting. In the United States, some hunting seasons in different states prohibit the crossbow when bows are allowed. Other states restrict them to when rifles are allowed or restrict them altogether. Historians are also conflicted on when a crossbow was a bow and when it split into two separate categories. Crossbows are usually just as regulated as firearms and bows are considered sports equipment.

So, at this point in the evolutionary timeline of the bow, we can see it has become something new. While it may not fall under archery perfectly because even though it is a kind of bow, it is not a bow itself. It shares more history with the bow but the function of a crossbow is closer to rifle – with matching laws. Crossbows also have a PR problem across borders. In Brazil they’re considered a toy yet in the U.K. they’re associated with poachers but in America they’re used for hunting or zombies.

Feature image: Warner Bros.

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Using your VA loan as an investment

We sometimes get asked by our loan candidates about if they can use their VA loan as an investment. While the answer to this question depends on what you consider an investment, I can share how I used my VA loan as an investment.


Multi-Family Homes

The VA loan can be used to purchase up to a 4-unit house so long as it is owner occupied. These homes are also known as multi-family dwellings, and can be referred to as 2, 3, or 4 family houses. These homes are typically separated units with each functioning as a separate apartment.

In 2008 I used my VA loan to purchase a 3-family home in Massachusetts with 2 out of the 3 units rented out at $1,250 per unit for a total of $2,500 per month that I was collecting in rent. I moved into the 3rd unit and my monthly principle & interest, taxes, and insurance payment to the bank was approximately $2,700.

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Through this arrangement I was able to own a home and only pay $200 ($2,700-$2,500) a month towards my monthly payment. This gave me the opportunity to have my tenants pay down my mortgage while I lived almost free in my home. Fast forward to 2012 and I now live in another home but still own the 3-family and have it fully rented out and clear over $1000 a month in rental income after accounting for my fixed expenses.

Below are some basics to consider. It is important to note, though, that being a landlord is an entirely different topic and not for everyone. Also, like most investments and being a homeowner, there is risk, so it is important to do your homework.

  1. Identify the area you are interested in buying: If you are interested in generating rental income it is important to look at areas that have low home values with higher rental amounts. The lower the cost of the home the lower your monthly payment amount. The higher the market rents are in the market then the more that your tenants will contribute to your payment and more of your money that you’ll keep.
  2. Start looking at homes: Any realtor can set you up with Multiple Listing Services (MLS) updates based on your criteria that you tell them. Also, a good realtor knows markets that would best suit your criteria and can guide you in were to start looking. You tell them the area that you are interested in looking at, your price range, and types of homes (single family, 2, 3 or 4 family units). Then, you will start getting emails with homes that meet your criteria that if you want can start scheduling a viewing.
  3. Know your costs: The amount that you will be paying monthly is your principle, interest, taxes, and insurance is what you should focus on. You can use VA Loan Captain’s Payment Calculator and input different scenarios to see what your payment would be. There are also other costs such as water/sewer that I typically allocated $100 a month for. Also, there are costs for maintaining any home single or multi-family which you will need to consider and depends on the age and condition of the property.
  4. Know your rents or potential rents: You can ask your realtor what the average rents are in the market that you are looking at. For example if average rents in the market for 1-bedroom apartments are $1000, and the units in the multi-family home that you are looking is average to what is available market, then you can use that to determine what you could charge if the units are vacant; or, what you could charge if there are tenants already in but paying a lower amount.
  5. Other considerations: If you go this path you will be a landlord which is something that is a small part-time job and not for everyone. Having some basic knowledge on appropriately screening applicants and knowing the state law will go a long way. Basic items for screening applicants include doing a credit check and collecting and calling references.

Overall, using a VA loan to purchase a multi-family was a great experience that has now set me up with a solid cash flow positive investment. While this was beneficial, it required a lot of work and learning along the way.

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Trump promises to fix a VA in ‘very sad shape’

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the American Legion National Convention, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. | American Legion photo


Donald Trump became the second presidential nominee in two days to quote Ronald Reagan, promising “peace through strength” if he were to win the presidency.

The Republican presidential nominee addressed a crowd of thousands of veterans at the American Legion National Convention here on Thursday, speaking a day after Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Also read: Clinton invokes role advising Bin Laden raid in speech to veterans

He told the crowd he planned to negotiate a system for the Veterans Affairs Department that would allow veterans to receive health care in a VA facility or at a private doctor of their choice.

Trump also reiterated his plan to aggressively promote “Americanism,” saying he would make sure American students recited the pledge of allegiance.

Clinton invoked Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” in her Wednesday address, promising to defend American exceptionalism. Trump continued the theme, saying he would enlist the American Legion’s help in promoting American values.

“We will stop apologizing for America and we will start celebrating America,” he said. “We will be united by our common culture, values and principles, becoming one American nation. One country under one constitution, saluting one American flag.”

Trump’s speech, which at 15 minutes was about half as long as Clinton’s, limited discussion of veterans’ policy to his plan to reform the VA.

While VA Secretary Robert McDonald told the American Legion on Wednesday that the department hoped to turn a corner in organizational reform this year, Trump said it was in “very sad shape,” adding that he had spoken with a number of veterans who had received unsatisfactory care.

Trump said he plans to carry out his VA overhaul by appointing a new secretary and firing anyone who failed to meet standards.

“I’m going to use every lawful authority to remove anyone who fails our veterans and breaches the public trust,” he said.

Trump also said he would make sure female veterans got the best possible access to medical care.

“We’re going to get you fantastic service. It’s going to happen, believe me,” he said. “Never again will we allow any veteran to suffer or die waiting for care.”

The Republican candidate, who on the previous day delivered a speech in Mexico promising to crack down on illegal immigration, drew applause when he reiterated promises to defend American borders.

In what appeared to be a pivot from 2015 comments in which he made disparaging many Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and criminals, Trump praised Mexican Americans for their service in the U.S. military.

“I just came back from a wonderful meeting with the president of Mexico where I expressed my deep respect for the people of his country and for the tremendous contribution of Mexican Americans in our country,” he said. “Many are in our armed services. You know how good they are. I want to thank him for his gracious hospitality and express my belief that we can work together and accomplish great things for both our countries.”

Trump also received applause when he promised to stop Syrian refugees, many of whom he has characterized as terrorists and extremists, from entering the United States, citing plans to build a safe zone overseas to house them.

“Our country has enough problems,” he said.

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This is the French aircraft carrier headed to Syria for payback

As French citizens deal with the emotions that surround the Paris attacks that killed 129 people and left many more wounded, the French military has come out swinging against ISIS. Land-based aircraft already deployed on anti-ISIS missions struck targets Sunday night across Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital. Ten jets dropped 20 bombs, striking a command center, a recruitment center, a munitions depot, and a training camp, according to the BBC.


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The Charles de Gaulle sails beside the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea in 2012. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper

But France’s 10 planes in the region can only do so much. Resultantly, France was already sending an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the region. It can host 40 aircraft and is expected to have 20 strike aircraft onboard when it arrives in the Gulf.

During a Feb. to Apr. 2015 deployment against ISIS in Iraq, the de Gaulle launched 10-15 combat sorties per day for months.

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A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell

The carrier’s most advanced aircraft are its Dassault Rafales, multirole fighter aircraft that can fire a variety of precision bombs and rocket-boosted munitions at targets. They also carry 30mm cannons with 2,500 rounds for gun runs against enemy personnel and light vehicles.

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A French Super Etendard launches from the USS John C. Stennis during joint naval training. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell

In addition to its Rafales, the de Gaulle is bringing Super Etendard strike fighters. The Super Etendard brings two 30mm cannons, more GPS guided bombs, and laser-guided missiles to the fight.

Charles de Gaulle also carries a number of support planes to enable the strike aircraft.

The carrier is capable of launching a plane every thirty seconds. Since the carrier has strong catapults to assist the launch, the planes can take off with full fuel and weapons loads so they can strike plenty of targets.

U.S. and French intelligence sharing and military cooperation will be important as France steps up its campaign in Syria. The U.S. provided some of the intelligence that enabled Sunday’s strikes in Raqqa, and that partnership will surely lead to more French strike missions in the coming months. Luckily, the Charles de Gaulle already knows how to work with the U.S.

The French Navy in general and the Charles de Gaulle in particular have experience working with the U.S. The Charles de Gaulle supported America’s invasion of Afghanistan, was a hub for the strikes in Libya that ousted Muammer Qaddafi, and previously struck ISIS targets in Iraq.

Vive la France, et salute!

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Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

A U.S. Army tanker who lost his arm to an IED attack in Iraq was able to manipulate a prosthetic arm for the first time since his 2007 injury.


Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland worked with Army Spc. Jerral Hancock to develop the Modular Prosthetic Limb, a robotic arm being built by JHU’s Applied Physics Lab. The goal of the program is to create a robotic prosthetic with all the capabilities of the human arm.

Hancock has struggled in the years since his injury to live a fully-functioning life after the attack left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. His right arm has limited mobility, making it difficult to do even one-handed tasks.

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Army Spc. Jerral Hancock and a researcher from John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab discusses the calibration procedures for the Modular Prosthetic Limb. (Photo: YouTube/Freethink)

The MPL features hundreds of sensors that help it accurately gauge the angles, speed, and power the arm is using. Other sensors strapped to Hancock’s body read the signals being passed through his skin to his missing limb. The device’s software then tries to replicate the movements that Hancock is imagining, syncing his commands to the robotic arm.

In one heart-breaking moment, Hancock tells the researchers that he doesn’t imagine a left hand with full mobility, but one that has the same physical limitations of his injured right hand.

In the video, Hancock teaches the software his signals for opening and closing his hand and bending his elbow. Once the software is calibrated, he can then use the arm to grab a drink from the fridge and to fire a foam dart with his daughter.

See Hancock with the arm and his family in the full video below:

Video: YouTube/Freethink

 

Hancock won’t get to use the arm just yet, but his work with researchers to refine the technology will hopefully allow people who need prosthetics to get a more functional option in the next few years. JHU currently has six MPLs that are being used for research purposes and four more in development, according to the project’s website.

The U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers helped link Hancock and JHU together. The USABOT is a nonprofit organization that promotes knowledge of tanker culture, history, and capabilities.

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Welcome to space, Air Force — the Marines have been here for years

President Trump’s Space Force came as a shock and surprise to many, even if the U.S. Air Force isn’t quite sure how to move forward with it. NASA’s chief executive wants it. America’s pop culture astrophysicist Neil deGrasse-Tyson says it isn’t a weird move. Even the Trump-critical Washington Post says now is the time.

The Marines thought it was time more than a dozen years ago.

Only back then the thinking was using space to bridge the time it took to get Marine boots on the ground. Earth’s ground. Writing for Popular Science, David Axe described this new way of getting troops to a fight as a delivery system of “breathtaking efficiency.”

Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or SUSTAIN (as the Corps’ idea wizards called it) was designed to be a suborbital transport vehicle that flew into the atmosphere at high speed 50 miles off the Earth’s surface, just short of orbiting the Earth. There, in the Mesosphere, gravity waves drive global circulation but gravity exerts a force just as strong as on the surface. It’s also the coldest part of the the atmosphere and there is little protection from the sun’s ultraviolet light. These are just a few considerations Marines would need to take.

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The Space Shuttle Endeavor breaching the Mesosphere.
(NASA)

This is also much higher than the record for aircraft. Even balloons have only reached some 32 miles above the Earth, so this pocket of Earth’s sky is an under-researched area that not much is known about. What the Marine Corps knows for sure is that going that high up means it doesn’t have to worry about violating another country’s airspace, and it can drop Marines on the bad guys within two hours.

The SUSTAIN craft would need to be made of an advanced lightweight metal that could be used in the liftoff phase but also handle the heat of reentry into the atmosphere. Each lander pod would hold 13 Marines and be attached to a carrier laden with scramjet engines and rocket engines to get above the 50-mile airspace limit.

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The layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

Objects moving in Low-Earth Orbit (admittedly at least twice as high as the SUSTAIN system was intended) move at speeds of eight meters per second, fast enough to circumnavigate the globe every 90 minutes. But the project had a number of hurdles, including the development of hypersonic missiles, a composite metal that fit the bill, and the size of a ship required to carry the armed troops and their equipment.

At the time the project wasn’t feasible unless ample time to develop the technology needed to overcome those hurdles was given to researchers. But if the SUSTAIN project was given the green light in 2008, maybe we’d have a Space Corps instead of a Space Force.

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‘The Green Knight’ brings medieval chivalry to the big screen in a big way

The legends of the mythical King Arthur’s court weren’t all round tables and holy grails. One of the king’s most able and seasoned knights, Sir Gawain, once had to fight a demon of immense power, known as “Bredbeddle” to the reader, but more popularly known as the Green Knight.  

A new film starring Dev Patel and Joel Edgerton recounts this epic poem, hitting the big screen with some serious warrior ethos. Sir Gawain gets schooled by the creatures of the underworld as he fights to save Arthur’s kingdom and vanquish his deadly foe. 

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In the original story of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the green-clad warrior shows up to crash one of King Arthur’s Christmas parties. He offers the court a challenge: one of them will be allowed to hit the Green Knight with his best shot, but in return, he gets to crash Christmas again next year and return the blow with one of his own. 

Who else but the king would accept? Arthur stands to deliver his strike, but Sir Gawain, reckless and headstrong, in defense of the king, cuts off the Green Knight’s head in a single blow. The knight picks up his head and puts it back on, bidding the round table adieu until next year. 

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(Photo courtesy of A24)

But Gawain doesn’t wait for the Green Knight to come deliver his possible death sentence. He goes to the castle of the Lord of Hautedesert, who he believes is the Green Knight. Hautedesert sends Sir Gawain through a series of tests and trials, including resisting the lord’s own wife, who he sends to seduce Gawain. 

After Gawain’s test, Arthur’s loyal servant takes a knee to receive the blow promised to the Green Knight. Because keeping your word is part of the code of chivalry. What happens next is anyone’s guess (unless you’ve read the story). But no spoilers here — in Hollywood, anything can happen. 

The trailer for the Green Knight movie is epic in and of itself. Dev Patel looks every bit the way one would expect from a knight of King Arthur’s court. The Green Knight looks less like a warrior simply dressed in green and more like a cross between a biblical demon and one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents. Add on talking foxes, magic and one badass-looking giant and you’ve got a movie that will keep you unconsciously shoveling popcorn down your throat until you’re ready to bend a knee to Arthur himself.

The story of the Green Knight is so huge, so epic, we’re frankly surprised it took this long to get to the silver screen. He is said to have appeared in the legends surrounding the real-life Arab leader Saladin, who was so impressed with the knight’s performance in battle that the general tried to make him part of his personal guard. 

A green knight also was said to have fought in the Crusades. When Saladin conquered Jerusalem after the Second Crusade and restored the Islamic holy sites of the city, one of the Christian knights, a Spaniard wildly dressed in green and sporting antlers from his helmet during the 1187 siege of the holy city earned the nickname from his Muslim enemies. His legend is even featured in the Koran, where he sends Moses through three trials to teach him that good and evil aren’t always as clear-cut as believed. 

With a character this big looming so large over a story as (literally) epic as those surrounding the Knights of the Round Table, The Green Knight is a must-watch for anyone fascinated by the epic stories and poetry handed down from warrior to warrior.  

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