This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

Unmanned air vehicles, better known as drones, have been operating for a long time. And those drones have been used in some high-ranking terrorist kills, like the one that took out Anwar al-Awlaki of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.


Other unmanned vehicles are on the ground and are being tested by the Army and Marine Corps.

And the Navy’s gotten into the unmanned game as well. In 2014 the service tested small, unmanned boats as a way to prevent a repeat of the 2000 attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). But Rolls Royce is now proposing something that could put the Navy’s plans to shame.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
A look at an artist’s impression of an unmanned ship. (Rolls Royce graphic)

According to a company release, Rolls Royce is developing a 700-ton vessel capable of operating for 100 days unmanned, and it could be a game-changer for navies around the world. This vessel would be about the size of the Nanuchka-class corvette. It would have a range of 3,500 miles and a top speed of more than 25 knots.

What might this vessel be used for? The big mission Rolls Royce is pitching is “coastal patrol and surveillance,” logistical support, or even as a means to protect other vessels. This ship would still be very capable for its size, largely because, “[m]any of the habitation systems and accommodation compartments are removed, bringing immediate cost savings and making the vessel smaller.”

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
Artist’s impression of an unmanned ship in action. (Rolls Royce graphic)

“The autonomous platforms are likely to cover a range of single role missions, e.g. patrol and surveillance, mine detection or fleet screening, while the larger manned ships will cover the multi-role missions,” Rolls Royce adds.

In addition to having on-board sensors, the unmanned vessel could also carry a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. In essence, it is a robotic aircraft carrier for drones. This could make things very interesting at sea.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SOCOM is looking to upgrade its Little Bird choppers

The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking to upgrade its fleet of AH/MH-6 Little Bird helicopters.

Operated by the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), also known as the “Night Stalkers,” the AH-6 (attack) and MH-6 (assault/transport) Little Bird helicopters have been a staple special operations rotary-winged platform since the 1980s. Working closely with the special mission units of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Night Stalkers have flown Little Birds into combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, among other places.

But the consecutive deployments of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have taken a toll on the AH/MH-6 Little Bird fleet. And now SOCOM wants to polish it.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
(U.S. Army photo)

According to a government’s acquisition site, SOCOM is looking for offers to replace the special operations helicopters’ Light Weight Plank Systems (LWPS). The contract will fall under the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity category—meaning that the number of LWPS is up in the air—and can last to up to eight years.

This is the latest update for the Little Bird fleet. A couple of years ago, SOCOM awarded a contract to Boeing for an indefinite number of Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) kits for both versions of the Little Bird. The MELB kits include an improved six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor, enhanced tail boom and rotor drive system, upgraded tail stinger, chambered vertical fin, landing gear, and doors.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
Chief Greg Coker alongside one of the newer versions of the AH-6 Little Bird. Coker has written a superb account about the AH-6 in battle and the Night Stalkers. You can purchase the book here. (Courtesy picture).

The 160th SOAR is comprised of four battalions and operates three rotary-wing platforms, for a total of around 140 aircraft.

The AH/MH-6 Little Birds provide attack, assault, and transport options. These are the helicopters that will drop a Delta Force team on top of a target building or provide close air support on target to a SEAL Team 6 group.

The MH-60 Black Hawk offers medium-lift capabilities. These are the helicopters that will carry. An updated stealth version of the MH-60 Black Hawk participated in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-60 Direct Attack Penetration (DAP) Black Hawk, a gun platform that packs some serious firepower and can take heavily fortified targets on its own.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
CH-47 (top) and MH-60 (bottom) (U.S. Army photo)

Finally, the MH-47 Chinook presents heavy-life capabilities. This special operations version of the venerable Chinook is the workhorse of the Night Stalkers. It’s mainly used for long-range insertions of special operations elements, such as a Ranger platoon or a Special Forces operational detachment and its partner force.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Sig Sauer’s submission for the Army’s new machine gun

The Army’s M249 light machine gun has been in service since 1984. The M240 machine gun has been in service since 1977. Under the Next Generation Squad Weapons program, the Army aims to replace the M4 carbine, the M249 light machine gun, and potentially the M240 machine gun. Requiring a chambering of 6.8mm for both the rifle and automatic rifle systems, SIG Sauer hopes to replace the M249 with their LMG-6.8.

At first glance, the new machine gun looks very similar to most machine guns currently in military use. To be fair, that was part of the design philosophy when SIG Sauer planned the LMG-6.8. Their intent is to maintain the familiarity of infantry weapon systems while increasing the soldier’s lethality with their new machine gun.

Perhaps the most important improvement featured in the LMG-6.8 is the bullet that it fires. The Army only stipulated the bullet’s diameter for the NGSW program. How the manufacturers cased the round was up to them. While Textron opted for a futuristic plastic telescope-cased design, SIG made improvements where they could while retaining proven reliability.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
SIG’s 6.8x51mm hybrid ammo. Note the stainless steel base (SIG Sauer)

SIG’s 6.8x51mm hybrid ammunition uses a traditional brass case that features a stainless steel base. This increases the strength of the case’s primer pocket and allows for a higher pressure loading. Simultaneously, it maintains the tried and tested reliability of brass-cased ammo in sealing the weapon’s chamber. The new round not only exceeds the performance of the M249’s 5.56x45mm NATO round, but also the M240’s 7.62x51mm NATO round.

Following the modern design methodology of modularity, the LMG-6.8 can also be chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor. The former is an especially useful feature for the Army if the SIG Sauer entry is selected. As units acquire the new machine gun, they will also have to acquire the new 6.8x51mm ammo. Designing the NGSW-AR to be configured to fire 7.62x51mm NATO allows soldiers to train with and expend existing stockpiles of ammo while stockpiles of new ammo are built up. It also allows continued interoperability with NATO partners who don’t make the switch to the new round.

Looking to the future, another requirement for the NGSW program is a powered rail. Utilizing a battery box integrated into the top of the stock, the LMG-6.8 powers its 22-inch top rail for the use of enablers like scopes, cameras, and other electronic equipment that the Army may integrate in the future. The machine gun also features an adjustable stock and a familiar M4/M16-style fire selector switch. It’s worth noting that the semi-automatic and automatic positions are switched from the traditional M4/M16 pattern.

Slightly unique for a belt-fed machine gun is the LMG-6.8’s charging handle. To start, it’s a left-side charge. Even more unusual is its folding design. This keeps it out of the way and allows the weapon system to be more streamlined and reduce the chance of snagging. The feed tray is also a side-opening design. Not only does this make it easier to manipulate, but it also allows the end user to mount additional attachments like clip-on thermals with minimal interference.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
The MCX-Spear (left) is SIG’s submission for the NGSW rifle (SIG Sauer)

Another quality of life improvement is the loading process. The LMG-6.8 can be loaded on safe or fire, feed tray open or closed, with or without the loading spoon, and with the bolt forward or back. It also features a mountable magwell for the attachment of its box magazine. This makes reloading on the move a more familiar and much easier task. It also allows the system to be adapted to new mounting methods that might be developed in the future.

A bipod is a necessity for a machine gun and the LMG-6.8 has quite a nice one. Integrated into the front end of the weapon, the bipod can be deployed with just one hand. Moreover, it can be folded and stowed either to the front or back of the weapon depending on the user’s needs.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
The SIG LMG-6.8 offers huge improvements over the M249 (U.S. Army)

Another part of the LMG-6.8 system is the suppressor. Where other firearms generally need an increase in gas pressure to cycle properly with a suppressor, SIG’s design can run just fine with or without a suppressor on its normal gas setting. It does have an adverse gas setting in the event that it is used in a truly trying environment like extreme cold, sandy deserts, or swampy jungles. The suppressor itself also minimizes the amount of gas blowback to the shooter and reduces their exposure to toxins.

SIG Sauer has stated that the NGSW submissions are still working prototypes. “We’re continually evolving them for the program,” said Jason St. John, Director of Government Products at SIG Sauer. Whichever manufacturer the Army selects, the desired end-state is a more adaptable, accurate, and lethal soldier for tomorrow’s fight.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
(SIG Sauer)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Artificial intelligence wasted a veteran fighter pilot in a bunch of simulated dogfights

Scientists have claimed that computers would replace humans in the cockpit for some time, but artificial intelligence simply hadn’t reached the point where it could compete successfully against a human opponent.


But now, at least in simulators, it has. ALPHA, the AI, bested a retired Air Force fighter pilot repeatedly while running on a tiny, cheap Rasberry Pi computer that is often used to teach children coding basics.

Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee helped guide ALPHA’s programming and flew against ALPHA in a series of air battles in a computer simulator, battles that he lost every time when flying against the mature version of ALPHA.

At first, ALPHA was being used as a tool to create better simulators for training pilots and testing tactics. ALPHA took control of “Red” fighters flying against a “Blue” force. Red typically held a numerical advantage while Blue typically had a technological advantage with longer range missiles, a larger payload, and an AWACS flying in support.

The AWACS is a radar system that gave Blue forces better situational awareness and targeting data.

In the initial matchups, ALPHA’s Red team won more than it lost but took heavy losses. Then Lee and the programmers at Psibernetix, the company that created ALPHA, began making adjustments to its programming and ALPHA begin to win. Soon, it won every engagement.

So, Lee decided to take control of a Blue fighter personally to try and give the other team an advantage. He flew engagement after engagement against ALPHA.

 

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
Retired Air Force Col. Geno Lee flies against ALPHA in a simulator. Photo: UC Creative Services Lisa Ventre

 

ALPHA won every fight and, whenever Lee stayed in the air for a protracted period, Lee was shot down.

Lee told the researchers that ALPHA was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI (he’s) seen-to-date.”

Lee later told UC Magazine reporter M.B. Reilly that, after flying missions against ALPHA, “I go home feeling washed out. I’m tired, drained and mentally exhausted. This may be artificial intelligence, but it represents a real challenge.”

Now, ALPHA does have some advantages of its own. First, it utilizes a “Genetic Fuzzy Tree” system. GFT systems work closer to the way a human brain works than most computers. Rather than try to calculate every variable when computing a solution, it keeps track of key bits of data and forms generalities.

But it can form decisions based on those generalities 250 times faster than a human can blink. When controlling four aircraft, it can take in all available sensor data, create a new plan of action, and adjust each jet’s controls to implement that plan every 6.5 milliseconds.

 

This allows ALPHA to constantly choreograph the jets’ movements to cover one another. If one pair of Red planes are forced to evade and are in danger, ALPHA can direct a second pair to move into position on the attackers instantly.

Researchers believe that if ALPHA was split among two computers, one handling sensor data and the other computing actions, ALPHA could adjust its plans and adjust flight paths 1,100 times per second.

The success of ALPHA is impressive, but the system isn’t exactly ready for combat. While ALPHA receives sensor data with “noise” incorporated, errors and missing data that would occur in a real fight, it hasn’t flown in a situation where the signals between planes were jammed. This would make its coordination between planes more challenging.

In their paper in the Journal of Defense Management describing ALPHA’s success, the creators note that ALPHA would make a great wingman for human pilots. So, human pilots would fly lead and command the mission while sending AI controlled jets into the knife fight against enemy jets. This would match plans the Air Force has for the future.

The full paper on ALPHA, which goes into much greater detail about how ALPHA was created, how it works, and what its limitations are, is available in the Journal of Defense Management.

(h/t Popular Science)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Stephen Hawking is one of humanity’s designated survivors

You may be familiar with the term “designated survivor” from the ABC television series, Designated Survivor, in which — and this is a real thing — one member of the President’s Cabinet is required to be physically far away from a gathering of the President, VP, and Cabinet leaders during certain events in case of some unforeseen catastrophe.


You may not have known that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was the designated survivor during President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address. You also may not have known that the human race has its own designated survivor program.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

In 2008, game developer Richard Garriot developed the “Immortality Drive,” a sort of digital time capsule on the International Space Station that contains the DNA and genetic codes of a handful of humans. Think of it as a kind of backup disk in case of worldwide calamity. If humans were to be wiped out, this drive exists as a source code for rebooting humanity.

“The Immortality Drive is a digital archive of mankind’s greatest achievements and a snapshot of humanity itself,” Garriot says. “This archive will be stored on the International Space Station to serve as a remote “offsite backup” of humanity, should we suffer a disastrous fate.”

Now, obviously, Stephen Hawking isn’t going to be held on the International Space Station forever. But just because he died doesn’t mean he can’t be a blueprint for the next iteration of life on Earth. His genetic code will live forever, along with a few others, as one of humanity’s designated survivors.

Comedian Stephen Colbert, legendary television writer Melvyn B. Sherer, Businessmen Kevin Rose and Tim Draper, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, athlete Lance Armstrong, and Playboy model Jo Garcia join a lot of sci-fi/fantasy and TV writers in the Immortality Drive.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
If there are any objections, go make your own Immortality Drive.

At this point, you might be worried that Hawking will be overlooked by potential alien reboots in favor of making a species of WWE Superstars, adult models, or Dungeons and Dragons writers.

But, for a few reasons, there’s no cause for concern. First and foremost, you’ll be dead. Secondly, if superintelligent aliens do come to Earth, find the Immortality Drive, and reboot the human race, Hawking himself believed their first instinct would be to simply enslave us.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones
But would they even know about the nerd heaven they could be making?

And finally, as the series Life After People predicts, the International Space Station will come crashing into Earth within three years of the end of life on Earth. So, either hope the DNA lands in some kind of primordial ooze or that aliens make our fantasy-fun-world full of TV writers as soon as possible.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon’s alleged ‘Killer Robots’ are just a fantasy

The U.S. Department of Defense just outlined its strategy to reap the benefits of artificial intelligence and the result is less Terminator and more Alexa. Rather than deploying a weapon that knows how to target and kill America’s enemies, the Pentagon’s AI strategy wants to focus on more mundane things here at home rather than blowing up exotic locations abroad.


This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

That still requires a human at the stick.

The autonomous weapons that the Pentagon would very much like to develop one day aren’t going to be all that autonomous anyway. Even the latest artificial intelligence directives state that commanders will exercise the appropriate amount of human judgment in the military’s use of force.

According to the DoD’s report, there are five key points the Pentagon wants to address, each more boring than the last:

  1. Delivering AI-enabled capabilities that address key missions.
  2. Scaling AI’s impact across DOD through a common foundation that enables decentralized development and experimentation.
  3. Cultivating a leading AI workforce.
  4. Engaging with commercial, academic, and international allies and partners.
  5. Leading in military ethics and AI safety.
This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

It’s only a matter of time before “Bagram Batman” addresses artificial intelligence.

Since China and Russia are making “significant investments” in artificial intelligence for military applications, the report begins, the U.S. must also make investments to maintain our global military supremacy. The only difference will be our shared responsibility for protecting human rights and international norms as we develop our robotic weapons for security, peace, and stability in the long run.

The goal of American artificial intelligence is to streamline data-intensive processes and decision making, save money from labor and maintenance inefficiencies while reducing operational costs, and increase the effectiveness of military planning while reducing civilian casualties – everything from intelligence gathering to aircraft maintenance could be predicted by AI.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

“Hold on guys, the computer sees the problem.”

This latest move on artificial intelligence comes as Russia and the United States jointly blocked a United Nations ban on autonomous weapons, ones that can kill without the judgment of a human behind a trigger somewhere. The UN’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was set to place autonomous weapons alongside blinding laser beams and napalming civilian targets, according to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an NGO who is moving to muster support for banning the weapons.

Russia is already testing autonomous tanks in Syria, China has already developed an unmanned submarine, and the United Kingdom wants a squadron of drones to fight in the skies above Britain – and the UN hasn’t even been able to bring autonomous weapons to a vote – a vote that would require unanimous agreement for a ban.

In order to get from drone strikes to “Killer Robots,” however, American AI technology has a long way to go. Even the biggest of the U.S.’ tech companies aren’t stepping up to help develop the tech required. Until then, AI diagnostics will have to do.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Corps wants to make 12 Marines more lethal than 13

The Commandant of the Marine Corps plans to reduce the configuration of Marine Rifle Squads from 13 down to 12 by increasing firepower and adding drone technology.

When are 12 Marines more lethal than 13? That math is the equation informing the recently reconfigured Marine Rifle Squad.

Said to arrive in FY 2020, the new formation will be smaller, shrinking from 13 positions to 12. Yet these newly-configured squads will add a suite of new technology, including tablets and drones, and a significant increase in firepower, including a fully automatic rifle for each of the 12 squad members — up from the three automatic rifles assigned per squad currently. The result? Increased firepower, because now all 12 Marines in the Rifle Squad will be equipped with automatic weapons.


The sum of these changes equals a squad ever “more lethal, agile, and capable” according to Marine Commandant Robert Neller in video posted to Twitter.

Currently, a Marine Infantry Rifle Squad is run by one squad leader who guides three fire teams of four members each, for a total of 13 positions. The breakdown of the current configuration is that each of these three fire teams at present is led by a fire team leader, who guides one automatic rifleman, one assistant automatic rifleman, and one rifleman.

The decision to change this standard Marine Rifle Squad configuration follows a re-evaluation sparked by two modernization initiatives, Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025, the active experiment program which, according to a Marine statement, is dedicated to “assess changes to the infantry battalion mandated by Marine Corps Force 2025.”

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

(US Marine Corps photo)

“To be clear,” explained Neller, “the mission of the Marine Rifle Squad remains unchanged: to locate close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire, maneuver, and close combat.”

The new arithmetic works like this: there will still be three fire teams in each rifle squad, but each of those three fire teams will lose one position, and going forward each fire team will have only have three members each, no longer four. So, what the are other positions that will bring the new Marine Rifle Squad up to 12?

The answer: changes at the top.

As noted above, instead of a squad leader directing three teams of four, we will soon see a squad leader leading three teams of three. Yet, this Rifle Squad Team Leader position will itself now get significant dedicated support from two other newly-established positions assigned to support the Squad Team Leader — and the mission — in the field: an assistant squad leader, a corporal, who, according to the Marines, assists with “increasingly complex squad operations.” The other new position is a lance corporal who serves as “squad systems operator” integrating and operating new technology, according to a statement from the Marines.

The new Marine Rifle Squad Leader, a sergeant, charged with carrying out the platoon commander’s orders, is now expected to have “five to seven years of experience” and will be given “formal training as a squad leader,” according to a statement from Marine Captain Ryan Alvis.

The lighter footprint of this new 12-position formation reflects an approach long-articulated in training materials — “the Marine Corps philosophy of war fighting is based on an approach to war called maneuver warfare.” This legendary maneuverability continues to inform the focus of Neller’s recent changes and explains why the Marine Corps is changing up the math of its long-established Marine Rifle Squad formation.

This ship from Rolls Royce could one day be a robot aircraft carrier for drones

This “reorganization of the infantry will occur over the next three to five years, although some of the changes are happening now” according to Captain Alvis. This means that in addition to one fewer marine, the changes also bring newer tech. The positions are changing, but so are the assigned equipment and weaponry.

Now each member of the Rifle Squad will be assigned an M320 automatic rifle, designed and built by Heckler Koch, a German company founded in 1949. The M320s will replace the M4 carbine semi-automatic, a legacy weapon developed by the American manufacturer Colt. Heckler Koch also developed and manufactures the M320 grenade launchers that the Marines have determined will be used by each of the three dedicated grenadiers assigned to each newly configured fire team.

Other hardware to be assigned includes a MAAWS, Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, known as the Carl Gustaf. This anti-tank rifle is described by its manufacturer, the Sweden-based Saab corporation, as “light and ruggedized and its multi-purpose capability provides freedom of action. . . in all environments.” The Carl Gustaf has in the past been hailed for its accuracy and portability by tech and design outlet Gizmodo, because the weapon “looks like a Bazooka but shoots like a rifle.”

Each of the new 12-spot rifle squad formations will also get one M38 Designated Marksmanship Rifle. At a range of 600 meters, the M38, a Heckler Koch product, has, in the past, been criticized as not being comparable to the world’s best sniper rifles. Yet it should work well, according to the Marines, as a marksman rifle. The M38, a Marine statement notes, is equipped with a suppressor and also a variable 2.5-8 power optic. Although not intended for sniper use, a Marine statement explains that the “individual employing this weapon (will receive) additional training on range estimation, scope theory, and observation.”

Battles of the future will not be won by firepower alone. General Neller has long been quoted as saying that each infantry squad would one day be assigned its own small unmanned aerial device. That day is coming. A Marine statement confirmed that “each squad will have a . . . quadcopter to increase situational awareness of the squad leaders.”

Another addition to the field? The PRC-117G Radio will be lighter, more portable than the current radio equipment, and will provide more than audio. Encrypted visuals allow “warfighters to communicate beyond the lines of sight,” according to its manufacturer, the Harris Corporation, a publicly traded U.S company that specializes in communications, electronics, and space and intelligence systems.

Also in the mix: a Marine Corps Common Handheld Tablet. As General Neller explains, the mix of technology and weaponry allows the USMC “to move forward and get ready for the next fight. Wherever it is.” A Marine Corps statement notes that the infantry would remain a key focus of Marine Corps strategy because “superior infantry is a Marine Corps asymmetrical advantage.” The statement also quotes Gen. Neller as saying “The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to dominate one.”

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Best .44 Magnum Revolvers In 2021

A .44 mag revolver holds a special place among true gun aficionados. It has been the symbol of intimidation, power, and hard-boiled action since the seventies. Anyone who has seen Taxi Driver or Dirty Harry knows what I’m talking about.

And if you want to follow the footsteps of action legends like Clint Eastwood, there’s no better gun to strap on your belt.

So, buckle up. Today we’ll dive into the world of this near-mythical handgun and try to find the best .44 magnum revolver on the market.

Click here to get one for yourself.

Standing The Test Of Time: A Brief History Of .44 Mag

“This is the .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and it can blow your head clean off. So, you got to ask yourself one question – Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

Nothing describes the sheer awesomeness of the revolver quite like this immortal line from Dirty Harry.

Believe me, I’ve held some much more powerful six-shooters, including the .454 Casull. There’s nothing that threw me into the “action hero” mode quite like this one.

The .44 magnum handgun hasn’t made its mark in the Civil War or the Wild West. In fact, it’s still a relatively new revolver by today’s standards, first appearing in 1955.

Elmer Keith, the famous cowboy and writer of the time, developed the first revolver. It didn’t take long for Remington to develop and release the first .44 Remington Magnum and others to follow.

However, despite being the go-to gun of numerous big-screen protagonists, it never found its place in law enforcement. But it gained popularity in hunting and as the most reliable self-defense weapon. It managed to maintain its reputation over decades as well.

The emergence of the more convenient semi-automatic pistols and even more powerful revolvers didn’t overshadow the .44 mag. Many experts I talked to would still choose it over some newer models.

Through all of that, this revolver has achieved a symbolic status. When you think of a revolver, you picture the .44. If a shooter video game allows you to carry a revolver, it will probably be this one.

So, what else makes it so unique? Let’s find out.

The Benefits Of The .44 Magnum

Do you know what the greatest upside of a revolver is? A first-timer can learn to use it in a minute.

You won’t see a cowboy de-cocking their six-shooter and pulling the safety lever. Instead, you can just lift it up and pull the trigger.

What’s better – you can load your gun and keep it for years without damaging the recoil springs or magazine.

Moreover, it’s easy to holster or conceal and easy to carry around your belt at all times. It makes for a perfect self-defense weapon against both four-legged and two-legged beasts. Especially since it has quite the explosive power.

Still not sure about its capability? Maybe you’ll change your mind when I tell you that one guy took down a 12-foot polar bear using only this gun in 1965. Don’t believe me? Look it up!

What About The Downsides?

I can understand those who move away from six-shooters. First of all, you have a small capacity there. Although five or six rounds could be enough, you may still feel a lot safer with a fully loaded Glock.

Another thing that bugs the gun-friendly people is the reload time. Even with innovative speed loaders, it’s still an extensive process. You have to open the cylinder to drop the empty shells before you insert the live rounds again.

But that’s not all. Handling a mag can be quite an unpleasant experience for some. It’s a sturdy gun with a heavy recoil such that it requires a tight grip. I’ve witnessed people busting their teeth at the drawback of the mag.

And lastly, there’s that controversial revolver muzzle flash that’s dividing firearm proponents across the globe. While some enjoy “seeing what they fire,” some claim that they “may get an epileptic seizure” if they fire two rounds in a row.

Who Should Use The .44 Mag?

This is a tricky question.

Is it powerful? Yes, but not the most powerful.

Is it a good concealed-carry gun? It’s doable, but still not the lightest.

But there’s still something about it that makes it unique and extremely popular.

Throughout the years, I’ve realized that this gun may be the best for the following:

  • Hunting game animals of all sizes: Honestly, a good shot can take out a wild boar with a .44 mag
  • Target practicing at more than 100 yards
  • Safely carrying around a revolver that you can draw quickly
  • Going all Travis Bickle in case your life’s in danger
  • Pricing

The top three revolver manufacturers (Taurus, Ruger, Smith & Wesson) have cut back on production in recent years. On the flip side, the demand has risen. This means you can expect a several-month waiting list to get one directly from the manufacturer.

There are plenty of people who are put off by the price of a magnum. You can’t really blame them; a brand new S&W 69 may cost north of $800. However, you can find Taurus models for $600 or less too.

The real issue lies in the prices of the side equipment. Practice ammo costs $25 for a pack of 25 rounds and the serious stuff can go up to $40 (box of 20). On top of that, there’s also maintenance and additional equipment (e.g. speed loader) to consider.

But you need to remember that you’re not buying just a gun. You’re buying a myth. An artifact that shows its teeth to the zeitgeist.

It’s something that you buy because you love everything it represents. And if you’re one of those people, no price can stop you.

Best .44 Magnum Revolvers

Taurus 44 Raging Hunter

I wasn’t surprised when I heard that this gun won the 2019 American Hunter Handgun of the Year award. If someone deserved the Golden Bullseye, it’s them.

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>>Check Price Here<<

The Raging Hunter has a large frame with an above-average barrel of 8.37”. This makes it one of the longest revolvers in its class and therefore, the hardest to conceal.

However, I expected it to be much heavier than it is. In fact, I believe it’s one of the lightest pistols. That’s due to the aluminum alloy shroud and angular barrel design. According to Taurus, they first thread the barrel onto the frame and then they coat the cover over it.

This handgun is a next-generation revolver. First, it breaks the traditional ties as it features a seven-shot cylinder instead of the usual six. It’s mostly a double-action revolver, but you can use it as a single-action as well.

The power and accuracy are also top-notch. It’s ideal for anything from home defense to the recreational shooting of tin cans from over 100 yards out.

In the end, the price may put some people off, but there probably isn’t a better mag six-shooter around.

Pros

  • Next-generation design
  • Feature-rich
  • Light-weight yet powerful
  • Perfect precision

Cons

  • The longest and hardest to conceal

Ruger Super Redhawk

This Ruger model is common among big-game hunters for two reasons.

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For one, it contains devastating explosive power, but it also comes with the best possible scope-mounting system among revolvers. Every hunter wants a clean and quick kill that spares the game unnecessary suffering and this gun makes it possible.

The first thing that impressed me with the Super Redhawk is its smooth black rubber grip. Despite having a heavy recoil, this grip allows you to hold tight and avoid any accidents.

The small air pouch between the grip and your hand softens the drawback so even new firearm users can steady the shot. It’s simply one of the more accurate handguns around.

This six-shooter comes in two models: Super Redhawk and Super Redhawk Alaskan.

The former has a bunch of additional features like a hammer-forged barrel and an extended frame for a scope machine. It comes in both 7.5” and 9.5” barrels.

On the other hand, the Alaskan is a smaller model without the extensions. However, it’s popular among those who want to walk around with more confidence. It’s small, convenient, and easy to conceal.

Although it may fall in the best .44 magnum revolver category, this revolver may be expensive for what it brings to the table. 

Pros

  • Capable of taking out the biggest game
  • Available in bigger and smaller models
  • Extended frame model comes with a mountable scope
  • Rubber grip to control accuracy and drawback

Cons

  • Expensive

Taurus Raging Bull

The Raging Bull is one of the bigger handguns around. However, a seasoned hunter will know that you can determine the gun by the way it “sits” in your hand, and this shooter is impeccable when it comes to fit and feel.

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The award-winning design consists of a 6.5” barrel length with an elegant matte stainless-steel finish. A soft black grip keeps the gun steady in your hand and enhances accuracy. But you can fire it in double-action to increase precision even more.

Two things about this gun got to my attention.

First, it comes at a much affordable price than most of its counterparts. And you get a big-game handgun in return.

But above all, I appreciate Taurus’ safety mechanism; all the company’s guns have a security system that allows you to lock/unlock the revolver with a unique key. If you don’t have the key, you can’t fire or cock the gun at all.

On the other hand, the only downside is the monumental size of this revolver. If you prefer carrying it around with you, you’ll have some trouble concealing it. In short, it can defend you from the sharp-toothed beast, but it may prove inconvenient for defending your home (or your life).

Pros

  • Fits in your hand perfectly
  • Great accuracy
  • Affordable
  • Essential security mechanism

Cons

  • Bulky

Smith & Wesson 629 V-Comp Performance Center

The Smith & Wesson is a smaller and more versatile model of the .44 mag. It may not be the best .44 magnum revolver for big game, but it’s definitely one you can conceal.

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It has a 4” barrel with stainless steel construction and a shiny chrome finishing that looks beautiful. Although the grip has a captivating design, I found it a bit slippery during my test runs. I’d recommend being extra careful during the recoil.

On the other hand, I found that this small six-shooter can really pack a punch. It combines the power and accuracy of a lighter gun. Although I haven’t tested it on game animals, I think it’s a perfect choice for self-defense. Especially since it’s easy to tote around.

Overall, it’s a cool-looking gun from one of the most trusted revolver manufacturers.

Pros

  • Small and easy to carry
  • Looks real cool
  • Combination of power and accuracy

Cons

  • The slippery grip could be an accident in waiting

Nighthawk Custom Korth NXR

This revolver powerhouse is a co-development project of two companies: Korth and Nighthawk Custom. And boy, did they deliver …

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When I got my hand on this monster, I thought I was dreaming. The design, the fitting, and the overall feeling were out of this world. A fantastic DLC finish makes the shooter always look brand new, while the Turkish walnut grip adds a sophisticated touch.

I immediately noticed the recoil-reducing and balancing weight under the 6-inch barrel, which is great for beginners. You can remove it, but it adds fine detail to the overall design if you leave it alone.

One thing this revolver is notable for is its smooth double-action performance. Furthermore, it has a fast-changeable front sight along with a removable rear sight, too.

But here’s the bad part … It costs a boat load! Is it worth it? It depends on how badly you want it. It’s probably the best .44 mag revolver, but would you pay a used car’s price to own one? I probably would in this case. Guess I better buy a bus pass. 

Pros

  • Stunning design
  • Smooth double-action performance
  • Recoil-taming features
  • One of the best magnum revolvers

Cons

  • Through-the-roof price

Conclusion 

All things considered; the Taurus 44 Raging Hunter is probably the best and most affordable .44 magnum revolver on the market. It’s an award-winning, next-gen revolver that’s equally suitable for entry-level users and big-game hunters.

Of course, I don’t mean to take anything away from the other guns. As I hold this type of six-shooter close to my heart, I’d tell you that you can’t go wrong with any. However, if we’re talking about the price-to-quality ratio, the Raging Hunter would be my choice as best for the money.

Read more at www.GunMade.com

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How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.

This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.


Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.

Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.

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Public Domain

“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”

But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.

And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.

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Facebook

“I choose Pierre.”

That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.

Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.

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YouTube screen capture

Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.

The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.

But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.

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Arrested gunmen belonging to the group led by Juhayman Al-Otaibi that stormed Makkah’s Grand Mosque. This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.Twitter.

Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.

After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These high-speed cameras ‘basically stop time’

When people ask Chris Insco what he does, his answer is, “I basically stop time.”

Insco, Yuma Proving Ground’s High-speed Section Chief, goes on to explain, “Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second.”

Watching the video captured by the high-speed section is like a scene of the Matrix movie, you can see each and every twist and turn the projectile makes. These cameras are so rapid you can see sound moving through the air, they can capture a sound wave in a photograph.


“We slow things down for the customer to allow them to see what they cannot see with the naked eye” says Insco.

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Capturing the high-speed video for a test at YPG entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Capturing the high-speed video for a test at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) entails a lot more than simply setting up a camera and walking away. The technology behind these ultrahigh-speed video cameras demands an entire network to run their programs and entails detailed planning and setup. Weeks before a test the crew talk the test officer (TO) to better understand the needs of the customer. From there the senior technicians plan the logistics, this includes deciding on the type of camera, working with Geodetics for assistance with camera placement and setting up generators to keep the cameras running.

Then comes the networking of the cameras which are ran on a local area network. High-speed technicians work with Network Enterprise Center (NEC) range communication to confirm if the test location on the Cibola or Kofa side of the range has the network capability required to run their computer systems. Depending on the location the high-speed technicians will set up the network other times NEC will set up the network.

The coverage of video depends of the type of test, some of the camera angles include, behind the gun, muzzle exit, and impact. Insco explains, “Sometimes it is gun coverage, sometimes it is impact coverage. With the impact coverage it depends on what the TO wants. We had one test where they had 10 different scenarios. As soon as they fired one we had to pick up all that equipment and move it to another scenario.” Adding “It’s a lot of logistics that our senior technicians learn through experience and time out here.”

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“Our cameras and the high-speed process we use range from 1,000 frames per second (fps) up to 10,000 fps but these cameras have the ability to take up to one-million fps which is basically a camera taking a million frames in one second” explains High-speed Section Chief, Chris Insco.

(YPG archive highspeed photo)

A test requiring high-speed video coverage can require anywhere from two to nine technicians “One of our largest test, I think we had 20 camera systems on one test.”

One high-speed system popular with the TO is the trajectory tracker, “Those can cover from the end of the muzzle to out to usually it is 100-meters but we have tracked them out to 200-meters at time” explains Insco.

The trajectory tracker uses an algorithm to capture the projectile in motion. The high-speed technician will input coordinates and other information given by the TO into the computer software which controls the tracker and a mirror. When a round is fired, the mirror moves and the camera captures images from the mirror. Using the trajectory tracker is equivalent to using 10 cameras.

Another angle is static and moving impacts, “Target systems sets up a tank that is remote controlled and we actually chase it with pan and tilts that we control from a remote location. We can actually follow the vehicle through that course.”

Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller (lab top) from inside a support test vehicle.

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Behind each camera set up on a test, is a high-speed technician who is monitoring it via a live video feed shown on a camera controller from inside a support test vehicle. Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead (right) and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician (left) are shown monitoring a test site.

(Photo by Ana Henderson)

Sean Mynster, high-speed video test lead and Steven Mowery, high-speed technician were recently on a test. They monitored the test site and communicated with the TO via hand-held radios to ensure they captured the firing of the projectile.

Mowery explains, “This is the software that operates the camera, we can adjust our shutter, our resolution, our frame rate, it is also the software that arms the camera. We arm-up about 10 seconds out. When we do arm them up, they run on a loop recording so we will have pre and post frames. We will have 200 frames before and 200 frames after that way if a mishap happens and we have an early trigger we will capture it.”

Mishaps do happen because YPG is a testing center, and Insco says that’s when their video become most important, “We can shoot thousands of mortars a day, and if everything is good we just archive it. But we will have that one where a fuze will pop-off, or the round malfunctions outside of the tube and we capture it on video that’s when the customers get really excited about what we capture.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY BRANDED

The key qualities of operator footwear

This article was sponsored by Altama.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the field, then you likely understand the importance of having quality gear. It can make your life easier and more comfortable, and that alone is worth its weight in gold. One of the most crucial pieces of gear (and often uncelebrated) is a good pair of boots. Not only do you need a pair that will provide protection, support, and comfort; durability, affordability, moisture management, and longevity are other important traits to consider.

While there are a number of brands and styles to choose from, few companies have a reputation, credibility, and legacy like Altama, who has been providing footwear for the military for over 50 years. In fact, Altama is the largest footwear manufacturer for the Department of Defense. They even employ a team of military and civilian volunteers to put their boots through their paces to ensure they perform in real-life scenarios.


But no matter which boots you strap into, here are a few things you should consider when choosing your next pair.

1. Comfort

While this might seem like the most obvious reason to purchase a good pair of boots, this wasn’t always a primary consideration. In fact, way back in the day, before the Civil War, many boots issued to troops didn’t even have a specific left or right boot. Each troop was expected to break in each pair through extended wear. As you can imagine, this made the shoe less expensive to produce, but also extremely uncomfortable, often resulting in blisters and soreness.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. Now, the top manufacturers make use of lightweight, durable materials, like knit and mesh, to improve comfort. Technical additions, like a full shank (a load bearing insert made of Nylon or other hard material), help the wearer by diminishing the load on his/her calves, arches, and knees. This has been particularly important as our service men and women find themselves carrying heavy loads on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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2. Sole Toughness

A durable, non-slip sole is a must-have for operators. Operating in different topographies, such as deserts, mountains, jungles, forests, and urban environments, demands a versatile sole that can handle all surfaces and situations. Altama footwear has incorporated a high-abrasion, rubber sticky outsole into their Urban Assault shoe, which draws its inspiration from rock climbing shoes. This sole also happens to comply with OSHA standards regarding slip resistance and features a zero-drop sole which is believed to promote more of a midfoot landing, reducing wear and tear on the knees. This feature also promotes increased stability, as it offers greater contact with the floor.

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3. Moisture Management

Whether you are operating in water, or simply in a hot, sweat-inducing environment, having footwear that’s suited for the task is key. Boots that keep your feet wet for prolonged periods of time can lead to problems with blisters and, in extreme cases, trench foot.

So, how do you know which shoe is right for you? Altama’s Urban Assault shoe, for example, incorporates air mesh linings that help to quickly wick sweat and moisture away from your foot. This, coupled with a chunky knit vent, promotes airflow around your foot. And, most importantly (at least to your battle buddies) it also includes an anti-microbial PU foam insole, which helps manage nasty odor.

Altama’s Maritime Assault shoe, on the other hand, features a fin-friendly fit and free-flow side drainage vents that allow water to exit the shoe for amphibious missions. The fast-dry lining also eliminates the need for a sock that’s susceptible to sogginess.

Altama has been designing footwear for over 50 years with our law enforcement and military members in mind. Check out their full line of tactical boots and shoes. Discounts are available for active duty, veteran, and law enforcement members.

This article was sponsored by Altama.

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This was one of the stealthiest aircraft ever flown by the US military

Imagine an airplane so quiet that it’s virtually impossible to hear it coming and going from the ground. This may seem like science fiction to most, but for the US Army’s YO-3 ‘Quiet Star’ scout aircraft, it was an incredible and unparalleled reality — still unmatched today.


In the late 1960s, the Army put forward a requirement for a small observation aircraft that could fly just above 1,000 feet without being detected by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Navy, Air Force and Marine reconnaissance aircraft were too noisy and easily detectable, allowing for NVA commanders to hide their soldiers well in advance of surveillance flights, rendering such missions useless.

To solve this problem, in 1968 the Department of Defense contracted Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works black projects division to build an aircraft suitable for the job. Skunk Works had, by this time, already developed the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes for the Air Force and CIA, so designing something substantially smaller, slower and cheaper would be a considerably easy task, well within their capabilities.

According to Rene Francillon in his book, “Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913,” the aerospace company had already attempted to build something similar two years earlier using a Schweizer glider fitted with a ‘silenced’ powerplant for quiet flights. Known by the codename PRIZE CREW, this glider was sent to Vietnam for operational testing and was determined successful enough that the concept was worth exploring further.

When the 1968 request appeared, Lockheed was already well-prepared.

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A Schweizer SGS 2-32, the glider which the YO-3 was based on (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

To meet the Army’s needs, Lockheed took another Schweizer glider and modified it heavily, using fiberglass — a fairly novel technology on aircraft at the time — and lightweight metals to reduce weight and increase endurance. The cockpit was redesigned to hold a pilot and an observer/spotter in a tandem configuration under a large bubble canopy for enhanced visibility.

Propeller aircraft aren’t normally known for being very quiet or inconspicuous. The noise of their piston engines and the propeller blades beating the air around it into submission can be heard from a fair distance off. However, Lockheed’s best and brightest made it work.

By connecting a small 6-cylinder engine to the propeller using a belt and pulley system, and by adding fiberglass shielding to the engine compartment, the aircraft became nearly noiseless, even with its engines on at full power. Exhaust from the engine would be ducted and funneled to the rear of the plane using a special muffler, further reducing any potential for sound generation.

 

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A Quiet Star during a test flight in the United States. Nine were deployed to Vietnam (Photo US Army)

Lockheed finished developing this new stealth aircraft in 1969, dubbing it the YO-3 Quiet Star. By 1970, nine Quiet Stars were sent on their maiden combat deployment to Vietnam, beginning a 14-month rotation to the country in support of American troops on the ground.

Before a typical observation mission, a YO-3 would be fueled up and launched, then flown around the airbase it had recently taken off from so that personnel on the ground could listen for any sounds out of the ordinary — note that “ordinary” for the Quiet Star was almost absolute silence.

If any rattles were heard, the aircraft would land immediately, be patched up with duct tape or glue, and be sent out on its mission.

Though the Quiet Star was designed to fly safely at 1,200 feet and above, it was so undetectable that its pilots were able to take it down to treetop level with NVA or VC troops being none the wiser. The effectiveness of night missions was enhanced through the use of a low-light optical system designed by Xerox, the same company known for building copying machines.

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A Quiet Star as seen from a chase aircraft over the US (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

No YO-3 ever took a shot from the bad guys during its deployment to Vietnam, simply because the Communists weren’t able to detect it. With its spindly wings and dark paint scheme, the YO-3 couldn’t be distinguished easily from the darkness of the night, and by the time enemy troops realized something had passed overhead, it was already gone.

Sadly, the Quiet Star arrived in Vietnam far too late to make much of a difference at all. It was pulled out of the country and relegated to testing roles with NASA, though a few of the 11 units produced by Lockheed were acquired by the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game.

The FBI used its Quiet Stars to locate kidnappers, while Louisiana game wardens used theirs to catch poachers.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

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A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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