Perhaps the most famous Little John in history was Robin Hood’s sidekick. You know, the guy responsible for driving the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John crazy. But the United States Army had a “Little John” of their own that was designed to give airborne units, like the 82nd and the 101st, one heck of a punch.
During the 1950s, the Army had used the Pentomic structure for a number of its infantry divisions — a structure designed to fight in nuclear war. A problem remained within light units, however: They needed nuclear firepower to hold off hordes of Soviet tanks, but the nukes of the time were bulky things.
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division load a MGR-3 “Little John” rocket on to a CH-47 Chinook. (U.S. Army photo)
By 1959, though, the answer had emerged: the M51, which the Army called “Little John.” It wasn’t based on the Robin Hood legend, though. The name was chosen since the Army had a self-propelled nuclear rocket launcher called the Honest John, and the Little John, as you might guess, was a smaller rocket system.
The Little John was eventually re-designated MGR-3. It had a range of about 11 miles and was unguided. Well, when a missile is packing a W45 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 10 kilotons (a kiloton is equal to the explosive force of 1,000 tons of TNT) and has a speed of Mach 1.5, you don’t really need guidance to take out a target.
The MGR-3 stuck around for about a decade, but in 1969, they were quickly retired. The rockets had successfully held the line, but when an even smaller, lighter tactical nuclear weapon was developed — one that could fit inside the shell fired by a typical 155mm howitzer — Little John became redundant. That replacement was the W48 warhead.
See how the Army described the Little John as it entered service in the video below:
The M1126 and M1127 Strykers have provided good service to the Army in the wars since 9/11, where they provided an excellent balance of mobility, protection, and firepower for troops.
However, when you’re potentially facing a fight with Russia, you need a bigger gun. They now will have one.
The United States Army rolled out the “Dragoon” in response to feedback from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently based in Europe, and likely to be on the front lines if the Russian hordes come. According to an Army release, the Dragoon is officially the XM1296 Infantry Combat Vehicle, and features a Mk 44 Bushmaster II, a 30mm version of the M242 25mm chain gun used on the M2/M3 Bradley, the LAV-25, and a number of United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
The baseline M1126 Stryker usually had either a M2 .50-caliber machine gun or a 40mm Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. Both systems are great for dealing with light enemy forces whose best vehicles may be the “technical” — a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun mounted on it. Against a BMP or BTR – never mind a T-80 main battle tank — the firepower comes up short, placing the nine Joes in the back and the Stryker’s two-man crew in more danger.
Some Strykers have more firepower, like the M1128 Mobile Gun System (which uses a 105mm gun) and the M1134 Anti-Tank Vehicle (armed with the BGM-71 TOW missile). The grunts inside the Stryker can also carry and use the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.
The Army plans to give the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment 81 of the XM1296s. Other purchases may likely follow, as there are potential conflicts across the globe. While those units could face long odds in some of those conflicts, those odds won’t be so long with the XM1296 backing the troops up.
While the British Military has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, the country is still responsible for many great weapons systems. In fact, the towed artillery pieces the United States Military uses, the M119 105mm howitzer and the M777 155mm howitzer, are both British designs. However, the Brits also have an excellent self-propelled howitzer.
It’s called the AS-90, and it replaced two self-propelled guns in British service: The M109, an American design, and the Abbot, an indigenous design that packed a 105mm gun. The AS-90 uses a 155mm gun based on the FH70 towed howitzer. The AS-90 has an effective range of up to 18 miles, depending on the ammo used.
British Army AS-90 howitzers let loose during training in Iraq.
(Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq Photo by Pfc. Rhonda Roth-Cameron)
The system entered service in 1993, too late for Operation Desert Storm. Cutbacks after the fall of the Soviet Union meant that it also did not see a lengthy production run. It has a top speed of 34 miles per hour, which allows it to keep up with the Challenger 2, Britain’s main battle tank, which has a top speed of 37 miles per hour.
This 50-ton vehicle saw action during Operation Iraqi Freedom and in NATO peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, where it provided fire support. An improved version, the AS-90 “Braveheart,” was expected to feature a 33% longer barrel, but was cancelled after issues with the propellant emerged.
The Polish Army is also using a version of the AS-90 – well, the turret of the cancelled AS-90 Braveheart – on a K9 Thunder chassis.
(Photo by VoidWanderer)
The AS-90 has received special modifications to enable for better performance during desert operations. These upgrades include tracks designed to operate better on sand and better ways to keep the crew and the engine cool. Currently, a total of six British artillery regiments operate this vehicle.
Although the AS-90 Braveheart is getting up there in age, pieces of it will remain important for years. The turret has been mated with the chassis of a South Korean self-propelled howitzer, the K9 Thunder, to make the AHS Krab. The Polish Army is planning to operate 120 of these.
Learn more about this British cannon in the video below!
Not every new fighter has to be stealthy. There might be some instances where coming in hot works out fine. Just ask the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the non-stealth jet fighter that’s been coming in like a wrecking ball for around 45 years or longer.
How does the Air Force replace a workhorse like the F-16 Viper (which is what the latest iteration of the F-16 is called by the pilots who fly it)? Not very easily, it seems. When the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, mentioned replacing it, the world seemed to go mad.
And then it was introduced to the F-36 Kingsnake.
The F-16 first hit the skies in 1974 and ever since then, it’s been the U.S. Air Force’s (and maybe even America’s) most distinctive military centerpiece since the World War II infantryman. There are very few pieces of military hardware that achieve legendary status, but General Dynamics’ little prodigy completely changed the game.
Since then, the F-16 has served in Desert Storm, NATO intervention in the former Yugoslavia, Operations Northern and Southern Watch, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current operations in the Global War on Terrorism. All that service also means the average age of an F-16 is around 30 years or so.
It also means the F-36 Kingsnake has some big shoes to fill. Luckily it also has plenty of time: it doesn’t exist at all. Luckily, the guys over at Popular Mechanics and the aviation Magazine Hush-Kit put their heads together, used their clout to get an illustrator and two top fighter aircraft experts together to come up with some concept art for the new F-36.
Illustrator Andy Godrey used the specifications listed by Gen. Brown to come up with a preliminary design for the newest non-stealth fifth-generation-ish fighter. Although there’s no reason to rush a plane into production, the experts estimate the Kingsnake could be operational within the end of the decade.
Popular Mechanics mentions the new F-36 fighter could be hurried into the skies to replace the F-16’s operational capabilities by reusing the United States’ newest “old” technology. It uses the F-22 Raptor’s afterburning engines and the current F-16’s advanced array radar and existing targeting sensors.
Its weapon systems would be mounted on its wings’ hard points, but it would also have missiles and guided bombs tucked away in internal bays, like the F-22 and the F-35. Designers also want the F-36 Kingsnake to have a gun, to give it a strafing capability on top of taking over the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s many existing roles.
Although a design was created by Hush Kit, there have been no real designs put forth by manufacturers or real proposals laid out by defense contractors. Hush Kit’s design is more of a dream design from a group of fighter aircraft fanboys.
Hush Kit says the Air Force’s two most advanced fighter aircraft are more luxurious than the Air Force needs in its everyday tasks. On top of all of the bells and whistles, they just cost a lot more to operate per flight hour. To them, the Air Force just needs an affordable, dependable workhorse to replace their current one.
“The F-35 is a Ferrari, the F-22 a Bugatti Chiron – the United States Air Force needs a Nissan 300ZX.”
When it comes to missiles, France’s anti-ship Exocet is one of the most notorious. And this is for good reason.
The Falklands War put this ship-killer on the map after it sank the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor. In 1987, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Stark (FFG 31) survived two Exocet hits from an Iraqi plane.
But while the Exocet is easily France’s most recognizable missile, it is not the most deadly. That honor belongs to a missile known as the M51, which is carried aboard the four Le Triomphant-class ballistic missile submarines serving in the French Navy.
According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, the TN-75 has a yield of 100 kilotons. Using the NUKEMAP from NuclearSecrecy.org, is a TN-75 were detonated 500 feet over the La Brea tar pits, it would kill nearly 150,000 people and injure just under 495,000.
The fireball would wipe out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, while the blast wave would destroy the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Cedars Sinai Medical Center, one of the most well-known hospitals in the country, would be seriously damaged. That’s just from one warhead. The other five would likely impact other parts of Los Angeles.
In short, a city the size of LA could be wiped off the map by the pattern of French warheads. Each of France’s Le Triomphant-class submarines can carry 16 M51s.
Find out more about this missile in the video below.
The king of battle, in all its thunderous glory, has struck fear into the hearts of enemies for centuries. Throughout the history of warfare, different varieties of artillery weapons have been used on battlefields to great effect and have ranged from ancient and medieval siege weapons to railway guns, naval artillery, and even atomic weapons.
But which artillery pieces stand out from their peers as the most ridiculous and the most awesome? We have a few suggestions.
A 36-inch mortar in use by the US during World War II for test-firing bombs was later converted to be used as a siege mortar, but it was never used in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Little David mortar has a name that can be deceiving because it is considered, along with the British Mallet’s Mortar, to be the largest-caliber gun ever made. As the United States prepared its battle plans to invade Japan during World War II, the US Army began a project to build a weapon capable of annihilating coastal and heavily fortified defenses. Little David had a 36-inch (914mm) caliber mortar and could fire 3,650 pound shells through a 22-foot muzzle at a distance of 6 miles.
Two artillery M26A1 tractors including the “Dragon Wagon” helped transport Little David to its required firing position. The behemoth mortar didn’t see combat action before Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war and the Little David mortar.
Counterweight trebuchets at Château de Castelnaud. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When one thinks of a medieval siege weapon, the trebuchet is at the top of the list. These compound machines use the mechanical leverage of a lever to launch 200-pound stones with a sling, which were capable of destroying the empire’s most prized fortifications. The ancient war machine was believed to be invented in China in 300 BC and was largely used by the French in Europe. These destructive weapons didn’t just hurl stones, darts, or wooden stakes through the air. Casks of burning tar, dead animals, pots of Greek Fire, and disease-infested corpses were some of the other forms of damaging projectiles seen throughout history that made both a psychological and biological impact on the enemy.
Reproductions of ancient Greek artillery, including catapults such as the polybolos (to the left in the foreground) and a large, early crossbow known as the gastraphetes (mounted on the wall in the background). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A ballista was an ancient missile (bolts) and stone throwing weapon system that was effective against guards defending their castles or fortifications during large-scale sieges. The ballista arrived on the battlefield with the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and the Roman Empire evolved the machines to be highly capable against both troops and walls.
With an effective range of 300 meters, the iron-clad darts or sharpened wooden projectiles easily pierced body armor and impaled determined defenders, both killing their fight and psychologically damaging their morale. Procopius, a Byzantine Greek scholar, described how during the 6th century ballistas were sometimes placed in siege towers, which increased their lethality against defenses.
Soldiers used the “Grasshopper Crossbow” while in the trenches during World War I before better advancements made them obsolete. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy
Before French and British forces employed the 2-inch Medium Trench Mortar or the Stokes Mortar upon German infantry during World War I, the allies used a grenade-throwing crossbow with an effective range of 125 meters. Elie André Broca was a French artillery officer, doctor, science professor, and inventor who manufactured his weapon system under the name L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy, more commonly known as Sauterelle, or “The Grasshopper Crossbow.”
Hand grenades exposed the thrower to sniper fire and pot-shots from infantrymen, while the Grasshopper Crossbow enabled allied soldiers to launch French F1 hand grenades and British Mills bombs from behind the cover of their trenches. The crossbow weighed 64 pounds and required one to two operators to use a hand crank similar to how bolts are loaded on modern crossbows. An experienced operator could hurl four bombs per minute.
The Davy Crockett required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.
M28/M29 Davy Crockett
Code named Little Feller I, presidential advisor and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sat surrounded by US Army generals and engineers while 396 spectators watched nearby as the smallest nuclear explosion ever recorded was detonated on July 17, 1962. Kennedy peered through his protective lenses as a dust cloud appeared after the nuclear detonation occurred 2.17 miles in the distance.
In the midst of the Cold War, the US military frequently tested new capabilities at the Nevada Test Site. One of these mechanisms was the M28/M39 Davy Crockett recoilless rifle weapon system. A three-man crew operated the weapon the same way a typical mortar crew would operate in the field, except instead of a mortar shell, the Davy Crockett fired a nuclear projectile carrying the W54 nuclear warhead, which had the explosive equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. The nuclear capability was carried by small teams on the ground while deployed to Europe and provided a nuclear security blanket in case war with the Soviet Union ever broke out.
History’s first atomic artillery shell fired from the Army’s new 280mm artillery gun. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
M65 Atomic Cannon: “Atomic Annie”
The M65 Atomic Cannon, better known as “Atomic Annie,” was a towed artillery piece that fired the W-9 15-kiloton atomic 280mm Projectile T124. The 47-ton weapon system had a remarkably fast emplacement rate, taking only 12 minutes to ready and fire and 15 minutes to make ready for traveling to the next target. The maximum range of Atomic Annie was between 20 and 35 miles, and it was operational between 1953 and 1963. The only nuclear detonation occurred at the Nevada Proving Ground during Operation Upshot Knothole on May 25, 1953. The device traveled a distance of 7 miles and detonated 524 feet above the ground. The testing was captured on video for archival records. Atomic Annie was never used during combat operations.
The rear 18-inch turret of HMS Furious. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun
The largest and heaviest weapon ever used by the British was the BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun. The initial design was geared toward arming the HMS Furious to make it capable of providing naval support to smaller vessels in the Baltic Narrows during the invasion of Germany in World War I. However, the warship lacked defenses and was considered a liability rather than an asset. During test trials of the 18-inch/40 (45.7 cm) turret gun, the ship couldn’t handle the overpressure when the gun fired. In theory, having a large naval weapon was a necessity, but since it didn’t pass the required tests, the HMS Furious was converted into an aircraft carrier.
The Royal Navy recognized they had a capability but had no sure way to apply it. On Sept. 28, 1918, the HMS General Wolfe changed these perceptions when it fired on a railroad bridge at Snaaskerke at a distance of 36,000 yards — the longest range any Royal Navy vessel has ever engaged enemy personnel up to that point in history.
Giant artillery shell that hit the Adria building on Aug. 18, 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising. Heavy shells like this were fired by siege weapons. Photo courtesy of SPWW1944.
The Karl-Gerät was another siege weapon in the Nazi Germany inventory and was deemed the largest self-propelled gun in the history of warfare. The 273,374-pound super weapon could be moved across Europe during World War II through the use of European rail networks. When the weapon reached its destination, it was detached from its special transportation car and set up facing its target — usually a city or town. The Karl was used during the Battle of Sevastopol and along both the eastern and western fronts. It had its fair share of mechanical and technical problems but still crippled buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Warsaw Uprising. The historic Battle of the Bulge might have turned out different if the Karl wasn’t strafed and damaged by allied aircraft orbiting above.
The Dictator was used during the American Civil War. Photo courtesy of ironbrigader.com.
During the American Civil War, the Union built a makeshift railroad battery of their own that tipped the scales at 17,120 pounds. They called it the “Dictator,” and it was used during the 1864 Siege of Petersburg. The Dictator was secured on a reinforced railway car and could fire 200-pound shells at a 45-degree angle up to 4,235 yards.
“This 13 inch mortar was used principally against what was known as the ‘Chesterfield Battery,’ which from the left bank of [the] river, completely enfiladed our batteries on the right; all our direct fire seemed to have no effect,” according to a 1st Connecticut historian. “From this mortar was the only fire that seemed to hold the battery in check.”
Adolf Hitler, second from right, and Albert Speer, far right, in front of the 800mm Gustav railway gun in 1943. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Nazi regime had several advanced weapons within its arsenal, and Adolf Hitler’s own Schwerer Gustav, a super weapon and railway gun, was the largest weapon ever built. The Nazis first used the cannon during the Battle of Sevastopol in 1942. The Schwerer Gustav required a crew of 2,000 people to operate and took four days of maintenance before the enormous railway gun could be used. More than 300 800mm shells decimated the Crimean city and, although it was originally created to destroy the Maginot Line — a defensive fortification deemed impregnable — the Schwerer Gustav was ultimately never needed after a successful Blitzkrieg campaign.
The Navy tends to be very strict when people recover items from sunken wrecks. In fact, when an Enigma machine was taken from the wreck of U-85, the Navy intervened. They even tried to grab a plane they left lying around in a North Carolina swamp for over 40 years.
According to a 2004 AP report, the plane in question was very valuable. It was the only known surviving Brewster F3A “Corsair.” Well, let’s be honest here. The F3A can best be described as a Corsair In Name Only, or CINO. Brewster’s Corsairs had problems — so much so that in July, 1944, the Navy cancelled the contract and Brewster went out of business less than a month after D-Day.
Brewster was also responsible for the F2A Buffalo, a piece of crap that got a lot of Marine pilots killed during the Battle of Midway.
According to that AP report, the story began with a fatal accident on Dec. 19, 1944, which killed Lt. Robin C. Pennington, who was flying a training mission in the F3A. The Navy recovered Pennington’s body and some gear from the Corsair, then left the wreck. Eventually, the plane was recovered by Lex Cralley in 1990, who began trying to restore the plane. A simple case of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” right?
Nope. The Navy sued Cralley in 2004 to get the plane back. After the report appeared, comments were…not exactly favorable towards the Navy at one normally pro-military forum.
Eventually, then-Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) got involved. According to a May 28, 2004 report by Hearst News Service, Jones eventually authored an amendment that settled the lawsuit by having the Navy turn the F3A over to Cralley.
The Navy usually has been very assertive with regards to wrecks. According to admiraltylawguide.com, in 2000, the Navy won a ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal preventing Doug Champlin from salvaging a TBD Devastator that had survived both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.
In this era of massive budget blockbusters and even bigger “shared universe” movie franchises, it’s safe to say that we’re not always looking for realism at the cinema. While films are capable of conveying lots of different sorts of messages, the common thread that binds them is entertainment, and as such, reality often falls to the wayside in favor of plot convenience, storytelling, or sometimes, just a lack of scientific understanding.
Movies that are “based on a true story” tend to bear little resemblance to the “true stories” they’re based on, movies about the military almost invariably fail to capture the culture or even the vernacular of American troops, and the Fast and Furious franchise has a physics all its own… but some movies do a good job of establishing that the rules of their cinematic universes are similar to our own, only to offer up weapons that, at best, don’t make sense, and at worst, would leave their user reduced to little more than a puddle of goo.
Some of these nonsensical weapons play small roles in the movies they inhabit, while others, like these, have become cultural touchstones; serving as symbols of the fictional universes they inhabit and the fandoms they inspire. These weapons are cool, dynamic, exciting… and would totally get you killed in a real fight.
The Klingon Bat’leth
While the Klingons had already been around for some time before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” introduced the Bat’leth, the unique double-sided sword quickly became visually synonymous with the Empire of warrior aliens. There’s just one problem: melee weapons make no sense in a galaxy full of handheld phasers and disruptors, and even if they did — the Bat’leth is one useless melee weapon.
While most bladed weapons offer the user an increase in reach, the Bat’leth’s curved shape makes it more awkward for extended one-handed strikes like a bow or staff might allow, and while held in the traditional two-handed way, it offers little more than a solid defense against other melee weapons. Perhaps this is why the mighty Klingons always find themselves bested in hand to hand combat by humans, Bajorans, and anybody else the plot finds convenient, despite their fierce reputations.
The Jedi/Sith Lightsaber
This one is sure to ruffle feathers, as the Star Wars fandom has devoted a great deal of time and energy to explaining away how these energy weapons must really work. However, as of Disney’s purchase of the franchise, canonical sources have been slashed, and we’re left once again with lightsabers that work without the plot-hole filler that was once allotted.
What we’re left with are extremely hot energy weapons that, as others have pointed out, shouldn’t work because the beams have endpoints, but assuming they did — anything that could burn so easily through feet of steel as depicted in the films would also melt the meat off of your hands as you held it. It would take so much heat to do what lightsabers are depicted as doing, it wouldn’t be safe to be in the same room as one, let alone to start swinging it like a baseball bat.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man Suit
The Iron Man suit has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with good reason. The MCU as we know it was born with the first Iron Man movie and in many ways, Stark serves as the Skywalker of the series… but that doesn’t change the fact that the suit that grants him his powers would actually be his undoing.
While the Iron Man armor may protect Tony from impacts and penetration, it can’t stop inertia. Iron Man is regularly shown taking hard, nearly instant turns at jet-fighter like speeds and even hitting the ground at similar velocities (whether intentionally or otherwise). Even if the armor offered protection from impact, the inertia of those movements would turn Tony Stark into chunky stew.
In reality, the first Iron Man movie likely would have ended with Pepper Potts prying the suit open only to let what was left of the titular hero pour out… which is why maybe it’s not always good to be completely realistic with one’s movie weapons.
As foreign air defenses become more and more sophisticated, Air Force planners are working solutions to keep America’s technical edge, an edge that has been narrowing for the past few years. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wants cyber solutions to enemy systems like the Russian Buk, the probable weapon that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s looking for cyber weapons that do things like filling an operator’s screen with false contacts, stopping a missile from launching or, the ultimate solution, allowing a missile to launch before redirecting it to attack its own launcher.
For the full rundown, check out this article at Defense One
The C-17 Globemaster III has proven to be a workhorse in the U.S. Air Force’s airlift arsenal. Utilizing strategic airlift capabilities, the aircraft is able to deliver troops and cargo to bases in contingency environments and forward operating bases in austere locations. The airframe’s versatile platform can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and be configured to conduct aeromedical evacuations when required.
Operated by eight countries and NATO, the C-17 has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s.
In 1979, the Defense Department started the Cargo-Experimental program, as the Air Force was looking for a large air mobility platform with in-flight refueling capabilities for global reach missions. McDonnell Douglas won the contract in 1981 with its proposal to build the C-17.
NASA played a huge role in the development of the C-17 contributing research and technology that had been made available to the industry over four decades. The powered-lift, developed by researchers at the NASA Langley Research Center in the mid-1950s, gave the aircraft close to double the lift coefficient of a conventional transport airframe by positioning the engines and flaps in a way that directed the exhaust downward. The development of this technology gave the C-17 short take-off and landing capabilities allowing it to take off and land on runways as short as 3,500 feet and 90 feet wide. The aircraft is also able to turn around on these narrow runways using a three-point star turn and its reverse capability.
The supercritical wing, winglets, fly-by-wire system, engine performance enhancements, and composite materials used throughout the aircraft were all developed in partnership with NASA.
The C-17 made its maiden flight Sept. 15, 1991. The first production model was delivered to Charleston Air Force Base, now known as Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 14, 1993, and the first C-17 squadron was declared operational Jan. 17, 1995.
The Air Force’s final C-17 was completed by Boeing in Sept. 2013, and delivered to JB Charleston, completing a 20-year run of production.
The C-17 fleet has been involved in many contingency operations, including Joint Endeavor, Operations Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, the humanitarian relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2011 floods in Pakistan. In 1998, eight C-17s completed the longest airdrop in mission history, flying more than 8,000 nautical miles from the U.S. to Central Asia, dropping troops and equipment after more than 19 hours in the air.
Currently, the global-force of C-17s is operated by the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and India.
• Air Mobility Command: 21st Airlift Squadron, Travis AFB, California; 3rd Airlift Squadron, Dover AFB, Delaware; 62nd Airlift Wing, JB Lewis-McChord, Washington; 437th Airlift Wing, JB Charleston; and 305th Air Mobility Wing, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
• Pacific Air Forces: 517th Airlift Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and 535th Airlift Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
• Air Education and Training Command: 58th Airlift Squadron, Altus AFB, Oklahoma.
• Air Force Materiel Command operates two C-17s at Edwards AFB, California.
• Air Force Reserve Command: 729th Airlift Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, California; 445th Airlift Wing, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio; 301st Airlift Squadron, Travis AFB; 446th Airlift Wing, JB Lewis-McChord; 315th Airlift Wing, JB Charleston; 732nd Airlift Squadron, JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst; and the 326th Airlift Squadron, Dover AFB.
• Air National Guard: 172nd Airlift Wing, Jackson, Mississippi; 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart ANGB, New York; 249th Airlift Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson; 204th Airlift Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam; 155th Airlift Squadron, Memphis, Tennessee; and the 167th Airlift Squadron, Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Did you know?
• A fully loaded C-17 can reverse up a slope while on the ground.
• C-17s have set 33 world records, including payload to altitude time-to-climb and the short takeoff and landing mark.
• In 2015 the worldwide C-17 fleet reached 3 million flying hours. The equivalent of flying around the Earth 55,555 times, 2,948 trips to the moon or a single C-17 flying nonstop for 342 years.
• The C-17 is sometimes referred to as “The Moose” due to its bulky appearance and the sound it makes while refueling.
Primary function: Cargo and troop transport
Contractor: Boeing Company
Power plant: four Pratt and Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines
The U.S. Department of Defense is exploring options that would see drones fitted with lasers that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency tested a “directed-energy airborne laser” that can be fired from a drone, according to a report by the Last Vegas Review-Journal. Theoretically, the new weapon would allow the U.S. to fly drones over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites, allowing them to shoot down any missiles shortly after launch.
“Our vision is to shift the calculus of our potential adversaries by introducing directed energy into the ballistic missile defense architecture,” agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the Review-Journal. “This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors.”
The laser-mounted drones would add another layer of missile defense to U.S. capabilities. The drones offer an advantage over current missile defense systems, which rely on an intricate system of radars and satellites that guide a missile interceptor to a target. The laser drones would be much simpler and possibly just as effective, as they could loiter in a potential launch area and take out an enemy missile before it gets too far in its course. Current systems require an enemy missile to be in mid-course or descent phases before a traditional interceptor can be deployed.
North Korea would be a likely potential deployment for such a system. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has engaged in more than 20 missile tests, the most recent of which occurred Feb. 12. The missile tested was propelled by solid fuel, as opposed to combustible liquid, marking a major advance in missile technology. Solid fuel missiles are more dangerous, as they can be concealed on mobile launchers.
The idea for drones armed with lasers originated with former President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense shield, part of which envisioned using space-based lasers to shoot down incoming Soviet missiles. While Reagan’s contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems used today.
Laser-armed drones as an effective missile deterrent is still in the planning stages. The top major defense contractors — including Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are all currently involved in a $230 million, five year-long demonstration program at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Pentagon will engage in the first official demonstrations of laser-armed drones in 2020 and 2021, according to Johnson.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.
IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.
On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.
A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.
It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.
But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.
Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.
Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.
Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.
Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.
Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.
Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.
Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.
Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.
They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.
If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.
But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.
This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.
The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.
This is a deadly combination.
The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.
Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.
If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.
After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.
Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.
The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.
Researchers from MIT and NASA have developed an airplane wing that can change shape and increase the efficiency of aircraft flight, production, and maintenance, according to MIT News.
On a traditional airplane wing, only parts of the wing, such as flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane’s direction. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety.
The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components which make it lighter and more efficient than traditional airplane wings. Since the wing could adjust to the particular characteristics of each stage of flight (takeoff, landing, steering, etc.), it could perform better than traditional wings, which are not designed to maximize performance during any part of a flight.
Wing assembly under construction.
“We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack,” NASA research engineer Nicholas Cramer told MIT News.
The wing’s parts are arranged in a lattice structure that creates a large amount of empty space and covered in a thin, polymer material. Combined, the wing’s materials and structure make it as firm as a rubber-like polymer (though much less dense) and as light as an aerogel.
MIT graduate student Benjamin Jenett told MIT News that the wing performed better than expected during a test in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.