This Orca is the Navy's new extra large underwater drone - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The orca, also called the killer whale, is a large deadly marine mammal that hunts for prey. Whales can hold their breath underwater for over an hour – and since killer whales can swim as fast as 30 knots, they can go a long way in a stealthy fashion before they turn up somewhere, catching their prey by surprise.

In one sense, it is appropriate to name the Navy’s plan for a new long-range extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV) after the orca. After all, it is intended to stay underwater for a long period of time and cover a fair bit of distance.


However, information obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland indicates that this Orca is more like a utility player on a major-league baseball team’s bench than a cold-blooded killer.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The Marlin unmanned underwater vehicle is ten feet long, has 18 hours of endurance, and can go at a top speed of four knots.

(Photo by Lockheed)

The Orca is intended to handle a variety of “multiple critical missions,” while leveraging existing technology. It will provide range and persistence, while operating autonomously. Lockheed’s website notes that among the missions it could carry out are intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (in essence, acting as a scout in areas a full-sized submarine cannot go, and which you don’t care if it doesn’t come back), mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare training (when you don’t have a sub around), and “indication and warning notification” (in essence, acting as an underwater picket that you don’t care about not picking up).

The Orca will also be a modular system, so that future missions can be added to the platform. This means we will likely see the system around for a long time. The impression shows that it bears a strong resemblance to a Mk 48 torpedo. This would allow it to be launched from the torpedo tubes of American subs.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Orca could fill the gap caused by the early retirement of some Los Angeles-class submarines like USS Baltimore (SSN 704).

(U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy considers Orca to be a “Joint Emerging Operational Need.” It’s not hard to understand why. Thirty years ago, the Navy had 100 attack submarines. In September 2016, that number had fallen to 52. Many subs that were considered top of the line in the 1980s, like early Los Angeles-class attack subs, were retired instead of being re-fitted.

Thus, the Orca may help fill the gap to an extent. But maybe it would be better to get more subs, as well.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A massive Nazi wolfpack slaughtered a convoy for 7 days

Atlantic convoy operations could be terrifying for any Merchant Mariners and Navy sailors assigned to cross the treacherous waters, but the desperation of SC 107 in 1942 is on a whole other order of magnitude. The 42 ships were spotted Oct. 30, 1942, and spent the next week struggling to survive as half their number were consumed by 16 U-boats.


This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The HMS Edinburgh survives extreme torpedo damage from a German sub attack.

(Imperial War Museum)

SC 107 was filled with ships sailing from the Canadian city of Sydney in Nova Scotia to the United Kingdom. It was a slow convoy, filled with ships thought capable of sustaining 7 knots but incapable of holding the 9 knots of faster convoys on the same route.

These would normally be heavily guarded, but Canada and America had shifted as many ships as possible to North Africa to support landings there. So the convoy was lightly guarded with just a destroyer and three corvettes assigned to travel all the way across with it. On October 30, U-boat pack Violet, Veilchen, spotted the juicy, underdefended target.

The pack was deployed in a patrol line with 13 boats ready for combat, and those boats were able to summon three more that would join the hunt from the west. These 16 German combatants prepared to slaughter their way through the Allied convoy.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Allied bombers helped sink two German U-boats at the start of the fight over SC 107, but the convoy soon moved out of their range.

(U.S. Air Force)

The German radio traffic tipped off the convoy that it was about to come under attack, and its escort deployed to protect it. Luckily, this first contact came within range of the Western Local Escort, ships assigned to protect convoys near the Canadian and American coasts as the convoys were still forming and starting east.

So the thin escort was buttressed by the British destroyer HMS Walker and Canadian destroyer HMS Columbia. This made for three destroyers and a few smaller escorts. They worked together with land-based planes and bombers to smack the submarines down, hard. Two German U-boats were sunk, and another sub attack was interrupted. On October 31, two submarines were driven off.

But, by November 1, the Western Local ships were at the edge of their range and had to turn back. The convoy was, so far, unharmed. But it was 42 ships protected by only five ships, only one of which was a destroyer. And 13 German boats were out for blood.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

German submarines were equipped with deck guns that allowed them to slaughter undefended convoys, but they used their massive torpedoes to kill convoys when surface combatants were in the water.

(Imperial War Museums)

The escorts spent the first hours performing desperate passes around the convoy to keep the U-boats at bay, but after midnight the subs made their move. They attacked the escort ships. One U-boat made it past the escorts and hit a ship with a torpedo. First blood opened the floodgates. After the first ship was finished off, another seven were hit and destroyed by simultaneous attacks from multiple U-boats.

Four submarines succeeded in sinking enemy ships that first night, and three others had taken shots. The next day, November 2, a new escort corvette joined the convoy, but it couldn’t stop the sinking of a ninth convoy ship. Another destroyer was added to the bleeding convoy.

On November 3, 10 submarines made attempted attacks, resulting in the sinking of one tanker. As night fell, the subs hit four more ships and sank them, including the “commodore ship,” where the top merchant mariner of the fleet sailed and commanded.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The USS Schenck was one of the destroyers sent to protect SC 107 from further attacks on November 4.

(U.S. Navy)

One of the ships hit was a large ammo ship filled with munitions. Approximately 30 minutes after it was attacked, the fires resulted in a massive explosion that shook the waters, damaged nearby ships, and likely sank the German boat U-132.

Now near Iceland, ships laden with rescued survivors broke north for Iceland to disembark those still alive while the rest of the convoy continued east. The U.S. Navy dispatched two destroyers to guard the convoy, but SC 107 would lose one more ship in the closing hours of November 4.

The next day, November 5, the convoy reached the range of anti-submarine planes and those, combined with the increased naval escort, finally drove off the German vessels. But 15 ships were already sunk and more damaged. Even counting the probable loss of U-132, Germany sacrificed three submarines in this pursuit.

The tables were, slowly, shifting in the Atlantic, though. The technological and industrial might of the U.S. was allowing more and more vessels to hit the waters with radar and sonar that would find the U-boats wherever they hid. Six months after SC 107, the naval clashes of Black May would signal the fall of the wolfpacks.

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Fortnite’ announces ‘The End’ as final season powers down

The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”

It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.


If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.

Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.

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

Articles

5 times ‘outdated’ weapons saved the day

Soldiers and commanders are usually stuck with whatever equipment the procurement officers and civilian leaders are willing to buy for them, sometimes forcing troops to go into combat with outdated and inferior equipment.


But sometimes, those “outdated” weapons are actually just perfect for the fight. Here are five times that a supposedly obsolete weapon system saved the lives of its users:

1. Bayonets in Afghanistan and Iraq

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
A British soldier with fixed bayonet. (Photo: U.K. Ministry of Defence)

Bayonets, most often associated with fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, actually played a key role in battles during the modern Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The most famous probably came in 2004 when 20 British troops were trying to push insurgents from a series of trenches. The fire from the U.K. vehicles was doing little and ammunition was running low, so the commander ordered his men to dismount and fix bayonets.

The British killed approximately 20 of the enemy with their bayonets at a cost of three men injured. Overall, the enemy lost 28 men in the fight.

2. Mortars in World War I

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
Mortars are still a thing, as are hand grenades. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Timothy Jackson).

It may sound insane today since mortars are still common weapons, but naysayers in the first years of World War I thought that the mortar was relatively unimportant and was no longer necessary. It was already hundreds of years old and had seen reduced deployments in western militaries in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

But Germany had seen mortars and grenades used in the Russo-Japanese War and stockpiled them before the war as a way to break French defenses. The Allies had to play catch up, developing their own mortars as the war continued. A British design, the Stokes trench mortar, was highly portable and lethal and gave rise to the modern mortar system.

3. OV-10 Bronco

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
An OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The OV-10 Bronco is an observation and ground attack plane that first flew in 1965 and served in the U.S. military from Vietnam through Desert Storm before accepting a quiet retirement in 1995. Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, touts its historical performance in counter-insurgency, forward air control, and armed reconnaissance missions.

Well, the OV-10 Bronco flew out of history and into the fight against ISIS when CENTCOM deployed two of them in anti-insurgency reconnaissance and ground attack missions. The planes performed 132 sorties in 2015 with a whopping 99 percent completion rate, including 120 combat missions.

4. Pretty much anywhere the A-10 has ever fought

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer)

The A-10 Warthog (or the Thunderbolt, if you’re into that) has been “outdated” since 1973 when the Yom Kippur War saw low and slow close air support platforms like the A-4 Skyhawk slaughtered while fast and high-flying planes like the F-4 Phantom largely survived.

But the A-10, a low and slow platform, made its operational debut in 1976, three years after the Yom Kippur War supposedly closed the books on them. Despite that, the A-10 has fought and survived in a number of contested environments, most notably Iraq where it has twice been a key part of American forces breaking the back of armored and anti-aircraft ground forces.

In Afghanistan alone, A-10 pilots saved a Special Forces team from five ground assaults against them; conducted forward air control and numerous attack missions to ensure the success of an 8-hour, no notice mission to capture a senior enemy officer; and prevented an accidental fratricide event before annihilating Taliban forces at Jugroom Fort.

5. The Night Witches and their plywood biplanes

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
The Po-2 bomber was woefully outdated in World War II, but the women of the 588th made it work. (Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

The women of Soviet Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Regiment, the Night Witches, flew in plywood and canvas biplanes through the best defenses that Nazi Germany had to offer, conducting multiple bombing missions per night to break up attacks against Soviet ground forces.

Their planes, the Polikarpov U-2 biplane, were underpowered and outgunned compared to the Luftwaffe’s modern air force. But the Night Witches used the biplanes to fly over German defenses nearly silently and drop bombs — they could only carry two at a time per plane — on Nazi positions.

They conducted 30,000 missions during World War II and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs.

MIGHTY MOVIES

VET Tv’s ‘A Grunt’s Life’ will be a cult-classic among troops and vets

It’s hard to find a good military film that truly encapsulates the spirit of the military. There’s a huge pile of duds. You know the ones I’m referring to. Then you have your epics like Saving Private Ryan, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Bridge over the River Kwai. They’re expertly crafted, but they still lack that personal flair. Platoon comes close, and it earned all four of its Oscars because director Oliver Stone served in Vietnam – but it’s toned down for a wider audience.

Then you have VET Tv’s Kickstarter-funded film A Grunt’s Life. What it lacks in not having a widespread cinema release, it easily makes up in authenticity. And holy f*ck… It’s really f*cking good.


With that authenticity, it paints a more accurate picture of the post 9/11 wars than any other film. Warts and all. That being said…

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

There’s also plenty of fantasies about killing the buddy-f*cking commanding officer. You’ll learn to empathize with the platoon leader throughout the film.

(VetTV)

First thing’s first. A Grunt’s Life is not intended for family-friendly movie night. In fact, it’s a film that you kind of have to explain to your civilian friends/family before it shatters any previously held misconceptions about the military. Keep very much in mind that this film is basically what would happen if all of the deployment smoke pit conversations came to life and played out like we joked they would.

The film opens on the protagonist, Lt. Vince Murphy jacking off in the middle of a firefight and debating whether to join in or finish. A feeling anyone who’s ever been stuck on a Patrol Base could tell you is all too real. Even keeping an eye out on the background extras throughout the film, you’ll also almost always see them jerking it on guard duty. You’ll see plenty of dicks, but that’s kind of how deployments are…

There are also plenty of moments in the film that would be war crimes if committed in real life. Obviously, the filmmakers are not advocating them and even address them as being horrific with the characters entertaining the idea being called out as being horrific pieces of sh*t. But, well, that comes with the dark comedy that troops in the same grueling conditions adapt to.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

This film was done so well that you can’t even tell A Grunt’s Life was actually 185 times cheaper to make than Jarhead 2.

(VetTV)

One thing that I can’t stress enough about this film is the level of effort and quality that went into it. And it shows!

The production design is just as sh*tty as I remembered Afghanistan, and the little details in the costuming are spot on. The script is solid for a satisfying arc. The acting perfectly portrays real grunts (probably because much of the cast are vets.) The camera work is gorgeous, even if what’s on camera is absolutely disgusting. You can tell that everyone involved in the project poured their hearts into this film.

The film is crude. It’s so f*cking dark at times. I feel like a monster for laughing at moments that would make my family terrified. I f*cking love this film. It’s not going to see much play with a wider audience. Amazon banned it, the Department of Defense isn’t affiliated with it, and the only way to view it is on Vimeo at this link here.

And that’s alright. This film isn’t made for everyone. It’s made by vets, for vets. Time will tell that this film is going to endure and be a beloved classic among troops and veterans for years to come.

I give it 5.56 Stars.

You can watch the trailer below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A North Vietnamese soldier hid in the jungle for 40 years

In 1972, Ho Van Thanh was a soldier stationed near his hometown in North Vietnam. After American bombs hit his home and killed his mother and two sons, he grabbed his one-year-old son and ran off into the jungle. He stayed put there, found by neither side of the war, until 2013.

Thanh was in his early 80s when he was convinced to come back from his self-imposed seclusion. His son was in his 40s.


This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The younger son of Ho Van Thanh, who ran away from Vietnam to live in the jungle 40 years ago.

Their home was a small, roughly seven square foot thatched roof hut at the base of a large tree on A Pon Mountain. Their only visitor was Ho Van Tri, a man Thanh didn’t realize was also his son. For decades, Tri was their only visitor as he carried supplies of salt, kerosene, and knives to his relatives. He implored them to come home, but his father never believed it was safe enough to return. Even as the young baby became a boy and then a man, the two stayed put. Tri was the only visitor they trusted.

Other villagers tried to bring them supplies, but the two men only hid. The supplies they brought were hidden in the hut, never used. For food, the men foraged in the jungles but also planted crops they took from fields on the outlying edges of the jungles. The two wild men also captured small animals for meat, mostly mice, and stored the dried meat in the hut throughout the winter months. They wouldn’t spend the rest of their lives in the jungle, however.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Their original hut in the jungle.

The two men were finally coaxed to return to society in August 2013, some 40 years after Thanh ran into the jungles during the Vietnam War. The government put them in a new home and gave them preferential treatment due to his status as a Vietnam War veteran. Despite the comfort of their new lives, the two never really felt at home in the concrete jungle. They often missed the hut by the tree that afforded them protection for so long.

Thanh would often go to the jungle for hours at a time, no matter what the weather was like. Doctors said he suffered from a mental illness. His son would also visit the forest for hours, even restarting his farm after feeling as though the two men had become a burden to their family. He didn’t know what to do with his newfound free time anyway, so growing rice and cassava seemed like a good use of his time.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The younger man working his fields at his new home.

Eventually, the younger wild man moved out of the new house and back to a hut near his crops. He never got accustomed to the life of a modern Vietnamese man. He thought about starting a family but determined that no woman would want him in the state the forest left him. His father suffers a wide range of health problems aside from his mental illness. He lost an eye in the jungles and suffers from a few age-related diseases.

The younger son now lives in a newer hut, away from the conveniences of modern life. He still grows his own crops and survives off the land, but he doesn’t shun visitors or help – he’s just not the “wild man” he used to be.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even ‘limited’ nuclear war between India and Pakistan could trigger global famine

Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.

A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

On Feb. 14, 2019, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.


Both countries possess about 140 to 150 nuclear weapons. Though nuclear conflict is unlikely, Pakistani leaders have said their military is preparing for “all eventualities.” The country has also assembled its group responsible for making decisions on nuclear strikes.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

An Indian air force Mirage 2000 fighter jet.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Feb. 27, 2019’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

Why a ‘small’ nuclear war could ravage Earth

When a nuclear weapon explodes, its effects extend beyond the structure-toppling blast wave, blinding fireball, and mushroom cloud. Nuclear detonations close to the ground, for example, can spread radioactive debris called fallout for hundreds of miles.

But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.

“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”

Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.

The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.

The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.

The bombs in the researchers’ scenario are about as powerful as the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, enough to devastate a city. But that’s far weaker than many weapons that exist today. The latest device North Korea tested was estimated to be about 10 times as powerful as Little Boy. The US and Russia each possess weapons 1,000 times as powerful.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.

Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.

How firestorms would wreck the climate

Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.

“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider. “So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”

The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.

This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.

But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.

(Earth’s Future/Michael J. Mills et al.)

The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.

In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.

“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”

The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.

Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

Pakistani Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

The effects might be much worse than previously thought

Robock is working on new models of nuclear-winter scenarios; his team was awarded a nearly million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to do so.

“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.

Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.

“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.

“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.

“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”

Kevin Loria and Alex Lockie contributed to this article.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Passenger planes may soon fly in formation to save fuel

Have you ever noticed how birds fly in a V formation? Well, this isn’t just some fluke of nature, nor is it a defensive deterrent to aerial predators like it was for WWII bombers. Rather, avian scientists have determined that birds fly in V formations, especially on long migratory flights, in order to increase their aerodynamic efficiencies by flying in close formation.

The lead bird creates an updraft that the trail birds can take advantage of in order to reduce their own energy output. It’s similar to the technique of drafting that racing drivers use to overtake each other. By sitting closely behind the driver in front, the overall effect of drag on the driver behind is reduced. This allows the trail driver to save energy by exploiting the lead driver’s slipstream.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

A computer rendering of the updraft that fello’fly is trying to take advantage of (Airbus)

Airbus has begun investigating the principle of wake energy retrieval for airplanes. They call it the Airbus fello’fly demonstrator project. By applying the principle to commercial planes, they aim to reduce CO2 emissions from widebody operations by 3-4 million tons per year. However, flying in formation poses a number of risks and challenges to all parties involved in the proposed passenger formation flights.

For airlines, the first problem that will have to be addressed is determining which planes will fly together on a given day. For air navigation service providers, the challenge will be bringing the planes together in formation in a safe and efficient manner. In order to conduct their study, Airbus has partnered with two airlines, French Bee and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and three ANSPs, the French DSNA, the UK’s NATS, and EUROCONTROL.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

ATC would coordinate the rendezvous of the two planes (Airbus)

The easiest approach to coordinating formations will be to apply the principle to frequently flown routes first. For example, the transatlantic route sees heavy traffic between the East Coast of the United States and Western Europe. In this example, a plane flying from London to New York would be paired with a plane flying from Paris to Washington, D.C. Fello’fly proposes that once both flights are in oceanic airspace, a single ANSP would assume control and bring the two planes together.

According to current regulations, planes in oceanic airspace are required to maintain a distance of 30-50 nautical miles. However, fello’fly suggests that the planes would have to close that distance to just 1.5 nautical miles in order to take advantage of wake energy retrieval. The two flights would be directed by air traffic control to arrive at a designated oceanic clearance point before entering their transatlantic route. ATC would direct both planes to arrive at the point at the same time, but on two different flight levels and separated by 1,000 feet of altitude. The trail aircraft would then be guided into position 1.5 nautical miles behind the lead aircraft and still 1,000 feet below. From here, the pilots would employ flight assistance functions in order to move their aircraft into the wake energy retrieval positions. The trail plane would sit in the updraft of the lead plane and both aircraft would be identified as a single formation flight until they separated to head to their respective destinations.

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone

The pilots would be guided into position by assistance systems (Airbus)

The first step in making flying formation a reality for commercial flights is to create standard operating procedures and regulations in order to ensure that the practice is safely implemented. Airbus’ fello’fly team is working closely with airlines and ANSPs to generate these guidelines. “In the aviation industry, achieving our emission-reduction targets will require implementing innovative new ways to use aircraft in the skies,” said fello’fly Demonstrator Leader Nick Macdonald. “Our collaboration with our airline partners and ANSPs on fello’fly shows that we’re making good progress towards these goals.” Initial flight tests have already begun as the fello’fly team evaluates pilot assistance technology to ensure optimal conditions for safety when planes fly in formation. Fello’fly aims to conduct flight demonstrations in oceanic airspace in 2021, and involve airlines, ANSPs, and a controlled Entry-Into-Service by 2025. In the near future, commercial planes might fly like formations of birds or B-17 bombers.

Articles

The 5 most decorated troops in American history

Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:


1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
Photo: US Marine Corps

Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.

2. Maj. Audie Murphy

This Orca is the Navy’s new extra large underwater drone
Photo: US Army

Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.

Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.

3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker

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Photos: Wikipedia

When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.

During his military service, he received the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre for single-handedly engaging a flight of seven German planes and downing two. He also received seven Distinguished Service Crosses.

4. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

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Photo: US Marine Corps

Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller holds a record-tying 5 Navy Crosses as well as an Army Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and two Legions of Merit.

The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.

5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams

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Photo: US Navy

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.

In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the ‘helicopter destroyer’ that might have been

The Spruance-class destroyer USS Hayler (DD 997) served for 20 years before she was sunk during a training exercise.


During that time, she was a standard Spruance-class vessel. This meant she had two five-inch guns, an octuple Mk 29 launcher for the RIM Sea Sparrow missile, a Mk 16 Mod 1 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket, two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tube mounts, and space for two SH-2 or SH-60 helicopters (which could swapped out for a single SH-3).

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Japanese Maritime Self Defense Ship JS Haruna (DD 141) arrives at Naval Station Pearl Harbor for this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Haruna had similar armament to baseline Spruance-class destroyers and could carry up to three Sea King anti-submarine helicopters. (US Navy photo)

But the Hayler could have been very different. In fact, when ordered, Congress had actually given the Navy a choice: Hayler would either be built by herself as the 31st and last Spruance-class destroyer, or the Navy could get both Hayler and an unnamed sister ship as the lead vessels of a new class of helicopter destroyers.

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The decommissioned destroyer Hayler (DD 997) takes fire from a 57mm Bofors gun aboard the Canadian Halifax-class multi-role patrol frigate HMCS Ville De Quebec (F 332), during a Sink Exercise conducted 300 miles off the East Coast of the United States. (Photo courtesy Canadian Navy)

At the time Congress gave the Navy the choice, Japan had brought the Haruna-class helicopter destroyers into service. Haruna and Hiei, both named after Kongo-class battlecruisers, had a similar armament suit to the baseline Spruance-class destroyers.  The big difference: The Japanese vessels could carry up to three HSS-2 anti-submarine helicopters, a locally manufactured variant of the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King.

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USS Little Rock (LCS 9), seen here during her December 2017 commissioning, is currently stuck in ice on the Great Lakes. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Litton-Ingalls had done some of the basic design work and had modified the Spruance design to carry up to four SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. However, the Navy chose not to buy the new design and decided to just build the Hayler. With the struggles that the littoral combat ship has faced, including breakdowns and one being stuck in ice, perhaps a modified Spruance-class destroyer with four helicopters would have been an excellent choice for the Navy. We’ll never know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why these two Air Force bombers are on the way out

The Air Force recently announced its plan for when the B-21 Raider enters service, and it is not good news for two of the strategic bombers currently on inventory. While the B-52 will continue to serve until 2050, marking nearly a century of service, the B-1B Lancer and the B-2A Spirit will be retired as the B-21 comes online.


The Pentagon’s plan gives the B-52 an incredible 98 years of service from first flight to a planned retirement. An Air Force fact sheet notes that there are currently 58 B-52H Stratofortress bombers in active service, with another 18 in the Air Force Reserve.

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The Air Force is planning to buy as many as 100 Raiders, which could see initial operating capabilities in the middle of the 2020s. Given the Air Force’s history of bomber purchases, that number could be concerningly low.

The original production run of the B-2 Spirit was slated to reach 132 airframes but was stopped at 21. Currently, the Air Force has 20 B-2s in the active force. The B-1A, a predecessor to the Air Force’s essential B-1B Lancer, was scheduled for a production run of 270 planes at $102 million each to replace the B-52 in the late 1970s. Then-President Jimmy Carter canceled the B-1A in favor of air-launched cruise missiles, but his successor, Ronald Reagan, had 100 B-1Bs built. Currently, the Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in service.

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The Air Force used to have a larger force. “At the end of Desert Storm, in 1991, we had 290 total bombers,” the commander of Global Strike Command, General Robin Rand, said in an Air Force release.

Today, that force has dropped to 157 bombers at five bomb wings and 15 total force bomb squadrons. That’s a 46 percent decrease in our bomber force while we have conducted continuous combat operations, such as Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel, in addition to continuous bomber rotations in the (U.S. Central Command) and (U.S. Pacific Command) areas of responsibility.
MIGHTY MOVIES

Viking raiders gave each other these hilarious nicknames

At some point in our military life, most of us pick up a nickname. Most of the time, that nickname is hilarious…to everyone else. How we came by it is a story for the ages. But that seems to be the way it’s been in any armed force for a long time.


After Vikings raiding villages during the Middle Ages, they would then write their exploits in great sagas that detailed their deeds and combat adventures.

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So hard to relate to.

But the problem with that was they didn’t have name tapes on their raiding gear. And if they did, a LOT of them would read “OLAF.” How do you tell the story of what two (or more) Olafs did on a single Viking raid, when none of them have last names?

Nicknames, of course.

People of all times and periods of history have used nicknames, says Paul Peterson,  a who wrote his University of Minnesota doctoral dissertation on Norse nicknames. Even he wrote that the names Norse men had to choose from was small so nicknames became necessary.

Like military nicknames and callsigns, they came from stories of the person in real life or descriptions of the Viking in question – like “Hálfdan the Generous and the Stingy with Food.”

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I found my new nickname.

But they are a critical piece to the warrior’s story and even influence the plot. For example, “Ǫlvir the Friend of Children” earned his nickname because he wouldn’t catch children on spears, which was a custom of the time.  That could be a critical piece of literary characterization.

Times have definitely changed since “Þórir Leather Neck” earned his nickname. Today, Marines wear that title with pride, but Þórir was being made fun of for the goofy cowhide armor he tried to make.

And then there are the less family-friendly nicknames.

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Like you and your buddy who nicknamed someone “Fartbox” and made it stick, the Vikings of yesteryear were no more mature. Nicknames included Kolbeinn Butter Penis, Herjólfr Shriveled Testicle, Skagi the Ruler of Sh*t, and Hlif the Castrator of Horses.

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Dammit, Hlif.

And then there were the badass nicknames like Ásgeirr the Terror of the Norwegians, Þorfinnr the Splitter of Skulls, and Tjǫrvi the Ridiculer.

The Medievalists tells us that the best source for Viking nicknames comes from the saga that details the colonization of Iceland in the 9th and 10th Centuries.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.


The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.

The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.

SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.

Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.

Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.

The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.

In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.

Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.

Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.

The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.

It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.

SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.

Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.

In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.

As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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