The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.
It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.
The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.
The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.
Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.
From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:
Behind the scenes in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq areMarine intelligence analysts who work around the clock to produce what are called, in military euphemism, “target development products” — essentially, information about enemy equipment and personnel to be destroyed.
As Iraqi security forces, supported by a U.S.-led coalition, fight ISIS militants with hopes to retake Mosul in the north by year’s end, troops with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command provide “intelligence surge support,” developing from one to six or more targets in a given week, task force commander Col. Kenneth Kassner told Military.com this week.
Speaking via phone from a location in the Middle East, Kassner said operational tempo had maintained its intensity since the unit rotated into the region in April.
Deploying in six-month rotations, the unit was created in 2014 as a contingency force for the region, based in six countries and on standby for operations in 20.
But since the 2,300-man task force stood up, operations in support of the fight against the Islamic State have dominated its responsibilities.
Four months into this rotation, Marine F/A-18D Hornets with the unit have conducted more than 1,500 sorties to take out enemy targets in Iraq and Syria.
Task force Marines also provide security at the Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Iraq, enabling training of Iraqi troops and advisory support at key locations near the fight.
And while the unit’s Marines are not in combat on the ground, they quietly perform a number of background roles in the warfighting machine against ISIS.
“We have a very robust intelligence capability here in the [Marine air-ground task force] and what that enables us to do is, my intelligence analysts are able to better assess targets in support of the Iraqis’ ground maneuver,” Kassner said. “And once we develop that target, we’re looking for different types of patterns of analysis associated with that target.”
The intel, derived through air reconnaissance and other methods Kassner declined to describe, is submitted through coalition channels and used to inform the fight.
“Whether or not it is identified for a particular strike, that doesn’t reside with this MAGTF,” he said. “What we are providing is really a supporting effort to that larger target development process.”
U.S. airstrikes have wiped out more than 26,000 individual ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since the fight began, according to U.S. Central Command data compiled by Time Magazine. On the ground, Iraqi troops have celebrated several high-stakes victories; in June, they reclaimed Fallujah after nearly two years in the hands of enemy forces.
Kassner said the MAGTF also continues to keep its squadron of MV-22 Ospreys at the ready for tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP) missions in support of the ISIS fight.
Amid constant and complex drills and training, both at home and downrange, he said, Marines had been able to “dramatically improve” TRAP response time, shaving minutes off every step of the mission, from equipment preparation to runway taxi.
While the task force has not been called to recover downed coalition aircraft or personnel since Ospreys deployed to recover an Air ForceMQ-1 Predatordrone in southern Iraq last June, Kassner said, the unit has forward-positioned aircraft at the ready in support of coalition strikes multiple times.
“Every minute is precious when conducting a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel,” he said.
The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.
The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.
“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.
The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.
“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.
Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)
Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.
In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.
The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.
The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.
“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”
The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.
“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”
M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.
Analyses supports sustainability
Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.
The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.
During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.
“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.
The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.
“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”
However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.
“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”
Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.
“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”
The original CZ-75 pistol (non-machine version) was designed during the 1970s by the Kouchy brothers for the Czechoslovakian—now Czech Republic—owned Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) arms company. When the Communist nation dissolved, the company looked at two of its best-selling products—the CZ-75 and the Skorpion VZ-61 submachine gun—to come up with the fully automatic machine pistol.
You won’t find this weapon on the market; it’s nearly impossible to obtain one. CZ stopped offering the machine pistol after 2010. But it’s still popular in movies and video games, such as Call of Duty, according to Guns.com.
While it’s not the most accurate weapon due to its violent recoil, Larry Vickers mitigates the pistol’s action with short two to three round bursts in the video below.
In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.
Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome
Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.
Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.
The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.
Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.
In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications
(U.S. Army photo)
To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.
“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”
Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer
Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.
The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.
The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.
According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.
Applications and Future Testing
Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.
Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been around for a long time. It’s become a mainstay of the United States Army, although it hasn’t had quite as much export success as the M1 Abrams. Still, the Bradley is much beloved by the military community.
In the early 80s, however, when the Bradley was a spry, new armored fighting vehicle, it had more than its fair share of critics.
By now, many of us are very familiar with this vehicle. There’s the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV). Both systems come with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, an M240 7.62mm machine gun, and the ability to launch the BGM-71 TOW missile.
These two M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting vehicles combined for 3,000 rounds of 25mm ammo, 24 TOW missiles, and four cavalry scouts.
(US Army photo by SGT Randall M. Yackiel)
The big difference between the IFV and the CFV is how much ammo they carry. The M2 Bradley IFV carries 900 rounds for the Bushmaster and a total of seven TOW missiles. The M3, however, carries 1,500 rounds for the chain gun and 12 TOWs. The trade-off here is in the number of grunts each vehicle can carry in addition to its three-man crew. The IFV carries up to eight additional troops while the CFV has room for two cavalry scouts.
Despite its impressive firepower, in the 1980s, the Bradley got trashed in the media. US News and World Report listed it among the “worst weapons” in the American arsenal. Others pronounced the Bradley as a coffin, “ready to burn.” Many wanted the Army to stick with the simple M113. Now, the M113 wasn’t a bad vehicle, but it lacked firepower.
The latest Bradley IFVs feature many improvements, but still pack a 25mm Bushmaster and the TOW missile.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers)
As we all know, Desert Storm proved the Bradley had the stuff for the troops. It performed well, which quieted critics and, since then, it’s seen a number of improvements. Despite these upgrades, however, the Army has plans for a replacement.
But before the Army introduces a new vehicle, check out how the Bradley was introduced to the United States and our troops in the video below!
In 1984, the CIA issued a burn notice on a former Iranian secret police officer and arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar once worked for the Shah of Iran’s SAVAK internal security service and was the primary agent between the United States, Israel, and the Iranians in the early days of the Iran-Contra Affair.
Few people involved trusted Ghorbanifar, but Americans were being held hostage by Iran and the shady arms dealer was their best bet. They were right not to trust him, as even Col. Oliver North once said of him “I knew him to be a liar.” After one of the arms shipments went bad and Ghorbanifar collected his money anyway, the CIA issued his burn notice.
A burn notice from an intelligence agency doesn’t require that an intelligence asset be killed in some covert operation. Manucher Ghorbanifar is not only still alive, he even arranged a meeting between Americans and Iranians in the days before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
What it does mean is that any information provided by the person in the burn notice is useless, probably fabricated, and that the asset will do anything for money. Essentially, it’s not the person getting burned, it’s all their useless information. Think of it as CIA officers are expected to burn whatever material was provided by the failed asset.
Even though no one really trusted him, Ghorbanifar was considered a necessary evil. In the early 1980s, multinational peacekeeping forces and diplomatic cadres in Lebanon saw a series of kidnappings of high-profile people. Military officers, diplomats, and journalists were all fair game. It wasn’t just the United States as a victim; no one was immune. The Soviet Union, France, and other nations had citizens taken as hostages.
In the case of Manucher Ghorbanifar, he was a go-between for Israel, the U.S., and Iran. Iran was in the middle of a devastating war with Iraq and needed arms. The Islamic Republic also controlled many of the militias in Lebanon. The U.S. agreed to allow Israel to give arms to Iran if Iran would free the American hostages. The Americans would then replenish the Israeli stockpiles.
The deal Ghorbanifar brokered between Iran, Israel, and the United States began to unravel very quickly. The Iranians were not releasing the hostages requested, the U.S. began sending more missiles than laid out in the deal, and Ghorbanifar’s explanation was not adding up. After failing three lie detector tests, the CIA issued his burn notice.
That was in 1984. Ghorbanifar continued to peddle his information to intelligence agencies, and even though the CIA’s burn notice went out to friendly foreign intelligence agencies, Ghorbanifar still found buyers. He was soon discovered to be a double agent, working for Mossad.
And yet, even the CIA continued to work with Ghorbanifar, despite its own files describing him as “an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance.” It was Ghorbanifar who suggested to Col. Oliver North in 1986 that they should fund the Nicaraguan Contras with money from the sale of arms to Iran.
The arms for hostages deal never panned out, and many of the hostages captured by various Lebanese militia groups were either killed or held for years before release. Ghorbanifar, once burned by the CIA, decided to use his influence to get his Iranian contacts to leak the illegal American activity to the press.
News of the Iran-Contra scandal first appeared in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa in 1986. The story’s source was former Iranian cleric Mehdi Hashemi, who opposed the Iranian regime’s dealings with the U.S.
The Coast Guard, unlike the other military branches, is a law enforcement agency — meaning that it gets wrapped up in all sorts of operations that the Department of Defense generally is barred from by law.
One of the operations commonly undertaken by the Coast Guard is catching drug smugglers and their illicit cargos, and the Coast Guard gives special attention to the lucrative cocaine trade which has given them some of the largest maritime drug busts in history.
The US Navy’s new supercarrier is going through shock trials, and that means setting off live explosives near the warship to simulate aspects of actual combat conditions.
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, completed the first explosive event of the ongoing full-ship shock trials on Friday off the US East Coast, where the Navy detonated explosives near the carrier.
The Navy said in a statement the aircraft carrier was “designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship.”
The official Twitter account for USS Gerald R. Ford tweeted Saturday that “the leadership and the crew demonstrated Navy readiness fighting through the shock, proving our warship can ‘take a hit’ and continue our mission on the cutting edge of naval aviation.”
Though the Navy has conducted shock trials with other vessels, the latest trials with the Ford, the service’s newest and most advanced carrier, mark the first time since 1987 the Navy has conducted shock trials with an aircraft carrier.
The last aircraft carrier shock trials involved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Navy.
Shock trials are designed to test how Navy warships hold up against severe vibrations and identify potential shock-related vulnerabilities in a combat vessel.
Nearby explosions, even when vessels were not taking direct hits, would send destructive, high-pressure waves toward them.
During the major global conflict, “it was discovered that although such ‘near miss’ explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the study said.
“This discovery led the Navy to implement a rigorous shock hardening test procedure,” the report said, referring to shock trials.
The Navy said that the trials are being conducted in a way that “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”
The service further stated that it “also has employed extensive protocols throughout [full-ship shock trials] to ensure the safety of military and civilian personnel participating in the testing evolution.”
After completing full-ship shock trials, the aircraft carrier will return to the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding for its first planned incremental availability, a six-month period during which the ship will undergo “modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” the Navy said.
Bonnie Carroll, the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House on November 24. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Carroll founded TAPS after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, TAPS provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of a military family member. The organization’s programs like Good Grief camps and National Military Survivor seminars have brought effective comfort and care to families of the fallen since 1994, most acutely in the years since 9-11.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Carroll told WATM immediately following the ceremony. “It’s a recognition of American respect and reverence for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they loved and left behind.”
Sixteen others were recognized by President Obama during the event including entertainers James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Barbara Streisand, baseball legend Willie Mays, lawmakers Shirley Chisholm and Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, composer Stephen Sondheim, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
“It was wonderful to meet [the other awardees],” Carroll said. “Gloria Estefan lost her dad in the Army, so she’s kind of a TAPS kid. And Steven Spielberg was telling me about a project he’s working on to bring awareness to those dealing post traumatic stress and veteran suicide. So this was a tremendous opportunity to meet those who’ve made a difference in the county and also take our work forward.”
Carroll is also a retired major in the Air Force Reserve. She serves on the Defense Health Board and co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.
“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
For more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go here.
Every branch of the military has a specific ranking system that takes time and effort to move up through. Although each branch has different names for their ranks, the Navy’s system is different in comparison to the Air Force, Army, and the Marine Corps.
You can look at any service member and clearly notice their rank either on their sleeves or collar devices. You can also imagine what experiences they’ve had based on that rank and the ribbons on their rack — but you wouldn’t have a clue on their specific job title.
If spot a modern era sailor walking around sporting his or her dress blues, look below that perched crow (E-4 to E-9) on their left sleeve, and you’ll be able to tell how they contribute to their country.
The image above showcases a rating badge consisting of three-inverted chevrons, one-inverted rocker, a perched crow, a five-point star (which makes the sailor an E-8), and the well-respected caduceus medical symbol (the specialty mark).
Only Hospital Corpsmen are allowed to wear the caduceus, as it applies to their distinguished military occupation.
In 1886, the Navy authorized sailors to wear these rating badges and created 15-specialty marks to recognize various fields of expertise.
Up until the late 1940s, it was up to the sailor on which sleeve they wore the rating badge on if they had issues deciphering which side was port (left) or starboard (right) as a reminder.
After the time period, the Navy established the rating badge be worn on the left for uniformity purposes. That same tradition is followed today.
Beijing’s navy has grown to outnumber the US as it focuses on locking down the South China Sea with increasingly aggressive deployments of missiles, fighter jets, and even nuclear-capable bombers, but a picture from a recent US military exercise shows that the US still has the edge.
China has turned out new warships at a blinding speed the US can’t currently hope to match as well as a massive arsenal of “carrier killer” missiles with US aircraft carrier’s names all but written on them. Meanwhile, the US fleet has dwindled and aged.
The US military recently pulled together Valiant Shield 18, the US-only follow-up to the multi-national RIMPAC naval drill, which is the biggest in the world. The drill saw the US’s forward-deployed USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, 15 surface ships, and 160 aircraft coordinate joint operations — something China sorely lacks.
China’s navy poses a threat with its massive size and long range missiles, but it’s unclear if China can combine operations seamlessly with its air force, army, or rocket force. The US regularly trains towards that goal and has firmed up those skills in real war fighting.
And while China has cooked up new “carrier killer” missiles that no doubt can deliver a knockout blow to US aircraft carriers, everyone has a plan until they get hit. On paper, China’s missiles outrange US aircraft carriers highest-endurance fighters, but this concept of A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) hasn’t been tested.
“A2/AD is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult,” US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson said in 2016. “Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult.”
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 ships as U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018.
In the above picture, the Reagan leads a carrier strike group full of guided-missile destroyers, supply ships for long hauls, and a B-52 nuclear capable bomber flying overhead.
B-52s with cruise missiles can reach out and touch China from standoff ranges. US F-15 fighter jets in South Korea could launch long-range munitions at missile launch sites before the carriers even got close. US Marine Corps F-35Bs, which made their debut at this year’s exercise, can slip in under the radar and squash any threats.
For the missiles that do make it through the US’s fingers, each US carrier sails with guided-missile destroyers purposely built to take down ballistic missiles.
The US recently completed a missile interception test with Japan, where a Japanese destroyer with US technology shot down a ballistic missile in flight. The US can also count on South Korea, Australia, and increasingly India to take a stand against Beijing.
In a brief but illuminating interview, US Navy Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the then-head of the US Navy’s Surface Forces, told Defense News the difference between a US Navy ship and a Chinese navy ship:
“One of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Charlton Heston offs undead nightstalkers in the ’70s cult film “The Omega Man.” (Warner Bros. screen capture)
In real life, the Smith Wesson M76 submachine gun was a weapon for men who fought in the shadows.
Created as a replacement for an embargoed firearm popular with American clandestine operators and special forces during the 1950s and 1960s, it combined a rapid rate of fire with the ability to attach a suppressor.
But the M76 is also a movie gun that Hollywood has generously splashed all over the silver screen.
Some film historians say it earned the honor of being the first “zombie apocalypse gun.” Charlton Heston packs one in the ’70s cult classic The Omega Man, where his character Col. Robert Neville sprays deranged nightwalkers with automatic fire after bio-warfare wipes out most of the world’s population.
Then there is Heath Ledger’s Joker, who wields one against Batman in the 2008 epic The Dark Knight. As the Joker stumbles out of a wrecked van, he fires an M76 and shrieks, “Come on, I want you to do it, I want you to do it. Come on, hit me. Hit me!”
The development of the M76 is a story that is part American ingenuity, part Swedish politics, and all about ensuring special operators could continue to use a choice weapon.
The M76 replaced the Carl Gustav M/45 Kulsprutepistol, a 9 x 19 mm submachine gun with a 36-round magazine manufactured in Sweden that was a favorite of covert forces. The M/45 actually was the main submachine gun of the Swedish Army from 1945 until it phased out in the 1990s, but reserve units carried it until 2007.
The Americans who used the weapon began to call it “the Swedish K.”
Journalist Michael Herr in his memoir Dispatches describes “Ivy League spooks,” CIA agents who carried the Swedish K as their preferred weapon as they drove near the Cambodian border.
Soon, SEALs and Green Berets used the Swedish K because much of their fighting was in the narrow confines of a jungle environment where firepower and maneuverability were more important than range and accuracy.
SEAL team members also liked the fact the Swedish K is an open-bolt weapon, which allowed it to be fired almost immediately after a frogman crossed the beach.
“You could see why it would be preferable to the US Thompson or M-3 Submachine gun,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History and a retired Army officer. “A friend of mine who served with Special Forces in Vietnam relatively early on told me that by using foreign weapons like the Swedish K it also helped to conceal the US presence a bit. I also think that Special Ops men tend to like unusual weapons rather than using standard US issue weapons.”
Light, rugged, capable of firing 550 rounds a minute and unfailingly reliable, Swedish Ks soon became a weapon in the arsenals of covert forces, particularly those operating in Southeast Asia as the United States became more and more involved in what became the Vietnam War.
“I know my friend was proud of using a Swedish K in Vietnam,” Archambault said. “It was one more way the Special Forces were set apart from the typical ‘line doggies.’ It goes along with the Green Beret and other elite designations.”
However, in 1966 the Swedish government adopted the position of officially opposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Pacifist Sweden placed an embargo on military supplies exported to the United States, including the Swedish K.
The decision particularly troubled the U.S. Navy SEALs, who decided to turn to a domestic supplier for a copy of the Swedish K. The Navy approached Smith Wesson and by 1967 the company produced a clone, the M76.
It had all of the good qualities of the Swedish K as well as few refinements including a higher rate of fire (720 rounds per minute). It also could be fitted with the SG9 suppressor.
In addition, Smith Wesson experimented with a version of the M76 that electronically fired caseless ammunition. The gun actually worked well, but the caseless ammo was easily damaged by rough handling so the project was scrapped.
M76s found their way into the hands of SEAL team members and some Green Berets, where they are were used successfully during many covert operations. But as the Vietnam War began to wind down demand for the weapon decreased; more powerful weapons soon replaced it.
By 1974, Smith Wesson ceased production of the M76. However, the weapon remained in use in the Navy, where it was still used in some instances by SEAL teams or it was issued to helicopter pilots for self-defense in case of a crash landing.
Law enforcement agencies also purchased the weapon. In fact, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center destroyed a cache of M76s where New York state law enforcement agencies maintained an arsenal.
There was even an attempt to revive the weapon during the 1980s. In 1983, Mike Ruplinger and Kenneth Dominick started a company called MK Arms after acquiring the rights to the M76 from Smith Wesson. The company manufactured both new weapons and replacement parts for existing M76s that were still in military and law enforcement inventories.
However, the M76 gained new life as a movie weapon where it was featured prominently not only in the films already mentioned but also Magnum Force, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Dog Day Afternoon and Black Sunday.
But perhaps it is in The Omega Man where the M76 gets the most screen time.
Not only does a leisured-suited, eight-track-tape-playing Charlton Heston have one in hand during almost every scene, the weapon used in the film introduces an innovation: the tactical light. In several scenes, the movie’s armorer used C-clamps to attach a flashlight to the gun’s barrel so Heston could hunt the film’s nightwalkers more efficiently.