The legendary M1911 pistol has been around a long time. In fact, millions were produced since the gun was adopted by the US military in 1911.
The gun remains in service today with the Marines as the M45 MEU(SOC) pistol. Well, guess what else got produced in prodigious quantities? If you said the ammo, you’re right.
The M1911s have proven reliable over the years. In fact, many of the original MEU(SOC) pistols were rebuilt on frames dating from 1945! But how does the ammo stack up to the pistol in terms of longevity?
Between the M1911, the Tommy gun, and the M3 grease gun in World War II, lots of ammo was needed. But even in World War I — when you not only had the M1911, but the M1917 revolver — they needed millions upon millions of rounds of ammo. And that didn’t even include the civilian market in the United States.
The standard round fired for the M1911 is a 230-grain full-metal jacket round — also known as “ball” ammo. It usually has a muzzle velocity in the range of 830 feet per second, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The thing is, while the gun can last a long time, so can the ammo. In 2016, explosive ordnance disposal technicians had to handle cannonballs from the Civil War that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew.
But what about this pistol ammo’s ability to function? The video below from 2014 involves a test from two boxes of .45 ACP ammo manufactured by Remington in 1918. So, how well did the 96-year-old ammo do? Watch and find out.
Dr. John Paul Stapp earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” when he rode the Sonic Wind I rocket-propelled sled at the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds.
He sustained the greatest recorded G-forces endured by man, decelerating in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had previously undergone.
When he was pulled from the sled, Stapp’s eyes flooded with blood from bursting almost all their capillaries. Stapp was rushed to the hospital, worried that one or both of his retinas had detached and would leave him blind. By the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released, though his eyesight would never be the same.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
More than 50 years later, the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman still exists, but its riders have changed. Stapp was the last human to ride the track and now egress missions use highly instrumented mannequins to look at what loads are and then determine whether or not aircrew survivability was achieved.
“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
The data is collected with a variety of onboard data acquisition systems or telemetered for post-test analysis. Additionally, technical imagery, including high-speed digital images, is available for scientists to examine the status of their payloads. Track personnel use the same imagery to determine the status of the sled vehicle during tests. All data can be post-processed and merged using a common time reference to verify the accuracy of the data, and to produce a unified data product.
“We’re always pushing to open up new capability fronts. Thinking differently,” he said. “It’s built into our culture to think about those next steps. What do we need to do? How do we refine things? How do we look at problems differently based upon what we learn out of a mission outcome? So it’s a constant learning process here.”
At 10 miles, the track is also now the world’s longest and it is used to test high-speed vehicles such as aircraft ejection seats.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“The Holloman High Speed Test Track hearkens back to the 1950’s,” Vap said. “The mission has changed over time and the track has grown over time, from 3,500 feet to now 50,000 feet of rail.”
With the current track, the 846th TS has reached velocities in excess of 9,000 feet per second. That is around Mach 8.6 when calculating for altitude. However, the goal speed of Mach 10 has yet to be reached.
“We’re going for success, but there’s still a lot of territory to be explored and to learn from,” Vap said.
Test missions on the track last a few seconds; however, there are weeks, if not months, put into the design effort, fabrication and getting prepped for a test. There are a litany of cameras along the track to make sure that everything is captured in a six-, 10- or 30-second test mission.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“We design the sleds, we fabricate them and we load them on the rail,” Vap said. “Prior to that work, we look at the velocity profiles … We look at our rocket motor inventory and we put together the payload necessary to reach the velocities that are needed to carry out the test mission.”
“But don’t kid yourself. It’s not a small measure,” he added. “It takes a great deal of engineering staff and a lot of hard work to carry out these missions, on the order of weeks to months to prep for a 10 second shot.”
The goal of these tests is to wring out some of the potential problems that could exist in an airborne environment.
“We don’t just slap something on a jet and hope it works,” Vap said. “Those are things that just aren’t done from an operational standpoint. You have to verify that it’s going work.”
This means failure is inevitable. Not everything is going to be a success and what Vap tells everyone is that you learn more out of your failures than your successes.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Holmes, Egress Craftsman, 846th TS. “Our system isn’t used as frequently as most, which is a very positive thing. Being able to come out in this environment and actually test [an ejection seat] and see it operate is pretty exciting.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
Vap said there is no bigger “cool factor” in the Air Force than what the HHSTT does on a day-to-day basis. There is no other place in the Air Force that is essentially strapping rocket motors to a sled, pushing payloads down the track at flight relevant velocities and excess.
While the track’s passengers are no longer flesh and blood, they are still pioneers – of speed, science and safety. And their contributions to the high speed test track are making the goal of Mach 10 more and more a reality.
Since the mid-1950s, the US Air Force’s U-2 Dragon Lady has been cruising the upper reaches of the atmosphere, snooping almost totally unnoticed.
While the mission is pretty much the same, the aircraft doing it are much different.
“The ‘U’ in U-2 stands for ‘utility,’ so a lot of people are like, ‘OK, 1955, what are we doing in 2019, when we’re flying F-35s and F-22s … why are we flying the U-2 that was built in 1955?'” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said during an event hosted by the Air Force in May at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.
“Much like the Corvette, which has been around for a long time, there’s been a lot of different versions of [the U-2],” Patterson said. “The U-2s that we fly now, they were all built in about the mid-’80s.”
“The jets are actually pretty new,” U-2 pilot Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said at the event. “They’re a lot newer than people anticipate, even though it’s been flying for more than 60 years.”
The last of the original batch of U-2A aircraft at the US Air Force Museum.
(US Air Force)
‘It’s just the name is old’
The U-2A was the first to fly, when its massive wings accidentally turned a high-speed taxi test into a flight test in August 1955. It was followed by the U-2C, which had a new engine.
To overcome range limitations, the Air Force and the CIA outfitted U-2As and U-2Cs for aerial refueling; they became U-2Es and U-2Fs, according to The Drive.
In the early 1960s, the desire for more range led to the development of carrier-capable variants. Landing on a carrier, proved challenging, though, and several U-2As were modified with stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers to decrease lift. These became the U-2G and U-2H.
The U-2R, which first flew in 1967, was 40% larger than the original and had wing pods to carry more sensors and fuel, allowing for high-altitude stand-off surveillance. (The U-2R was tested for carrier operations, but a naval variant of the U-2 never entered service.)
A U-2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS America.
The last U-2R arrived in 1989, and since 1994 the US has spent id=”listicle-2638876726″.7 billion to modernize the airframe and sensors. After the GE F118-101 engine was added in the late 1990s, all U-2s were redesignated as U-2S, the current variant.
Between 2002 and 2007, Lockheed upgraded the U-2’s 1960s-era cockpit avionics with the Reconnaissance Avionics Maintainability Program, or RAMP, replacing dials and gauges with multifunction displays, an up-front control and display unit, and a secondary flight-display system, according to Military Aerospace Electronics.
The new displays were more user-friendly and offered a better view of the ground to the pilot, who previously had to look into a large tube in the center of the cockpit. RAMP also made the radio controls easier to reach.
The most recent cockpit upgrades were completed in 2013, Lockheed said last year. Other modifications have been floated in the years since, aimed at keeping the U-2’s sensors robust and resilient.
The Air Force currently has about 30 of the single-seat U-2 for missions and four of the two-seat TU-2, which is used for training, based at Beale Air Force Base.
Lt. Col. Lars Hoffman in a new Block 20 U-2S, with a redesigned cockpit, at Osan Air Base in South Korea, June 20, 2006.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Andrea Knudson)
Each U-2 gets a full overhaul every 4,800 flight hours, or about every six to eight years. Because the airframe doesn’t spend a lot of time under high stress, the current lifespan for a U-2 is into the 2040s and 2050s.
The Air Force still has a few of the U-2s built the late 1960s, but those have been converted, Patterson said.
“Everything’s modern — just the airframe itself came out in ’69. The engine, the cockpit’s all new,” he added. “But most of the aircraft that we have, they’re all built in the mid-’80s, about the same time as the B-2 stealth bomber.”
The newer models, Patterson said, “are about 40% larger [and] significantly more powerful than the original lot of U-2s that you saw when Gary Powers was flying over the Soviet Union, when the Cuban missile crisis is occurring, so it’s a totally different aircraft — modern glass cockpit, so we have screens. We have extremely advanced sensors.”
“So it’s not an old aircraft. It’s just the name is old.”
A U-2, with a satellite communications system on its back and antennas on its belly, over California, March 23, 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo)
‘Mr. Potato Head’
By the mid-1960s, US officials were already talking about retiring the U-2, but it survived and has outlasted other reconnaissance aircraft, like the SR-71, which were more expensive to operate.
Unlike satellites, a U-2 can be sent to peer at an area of interest on relatively short notice. It also has advantages over unmanned aerial vehicles, like the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Patterson said.
“When you think about some of the capabilities that our adversaries are able to put into the field pretty quickly and pretty cheaply — GPS jamming and things like that — it definitely pays dividends to have a human being that’s able to react real-time to developing situations.”
A human pilot is also better with unfamiliar surroundings, he said. “I can deploy anywhere in the world because I don’t need to program a new airfield. I can just take my airplane and land it … and I can take off within hours.”
U-2 pilot Maj. Ryan before a sortie in Southwest Asia, Feb. 2, 2017.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)
Nauman and Patterson both touted the U-2s versatility.
“The ability for this platform to adapt to the newest imaging technology is a key piece of” its continued relevance, Nauman said. “With the size, weight, and power … we’re talking about 5,000 pounds of payload.”
That’s 2,000 pounds more than the RQ-4’s payload. The U-2’s ceiling is also above 70,000 feet — more than 10,000 feet above the ceiling of the RQ-4.
The U-2 can also test technology at high altitudes before it makes the leap to space. “The ability to actually get the most modern technology before it gets to space is kind of what makes us relevant,” Nauman said.
Other technology and payloads can be swapped onto the U-2, helping “to keep the cost down, accelerate development timelines, get these things in the air, and make sure that we run through all the issues,” Patterson said. “Then we can proliferate those [things] throughout the Air Force.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Charlie Lorenzo loads test film into a camera in preparation for a U-2 mission in Southwest Asia, April 17, 2008.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Levi Riendeau)
“The U-2’s almost like Mr. Potato Head,” Patterson said, describing its adaptability.
“So you can take a pod off here and a nose off here and put a new thing on pretty quickly, just because it’s got big wings, it’s got a big engine, so we’ve got a lot of size, weight, and power advantage over a lot of other high-altitude aircraft.”
The most well-known U-2 sensor is probably its optical bar camera.
“It’s effectively a giant wet-film camera. … It fits up in the belly of the aircraft. It’s got about 10,500 feet of film” that used to be made by Kodak, Patterson said. “In about eight hours, we can take off and we can map the entire state of California.”
The U-2 no longer does overflights of unfriendly territory, Nauman said. But its suite of cameras and sensors allow it to pick up details whether it’s looking straight down or looking hundreds of miles into the distance.
“Let’s say we don’t want to fly that camera in the belly. We can take the nose off, and we can put a giant radar on the nose,” Patterson said.
“With a big radar up in there in the front,” you can gather imagery out to the horizon, he added. “If you think about how far you can see if you’re parked off somebody’s coast with a 300-mile looking glass, it’s pretty phenomenal.”
The U-2 can also be outfitted with what Patterson described as “like a big digital camera” with a lens “about the size of a pizza platter.” With multiple spectral capabilities, “it’s imaging across different pieces of the light spectrum at any given time, so you can actually pull specific data that these intel analysts need to actually identify” the composition of particular materials.
Signals payloads also allow the U-2 to pick up different radars and other communications.
“We have a number of antennas all across the aircraft that we’re able to just pick up what other people are doing,” Patterson said. “We bring all that on board the aircraft, and we pipe it over a data link to a satellite and then down to the ground somewhere else in the world.”
“While we’re sitting by ourselves over a weird part of the world doing that [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] mission, all the information we’re collecting is going back down to multiple teams around the globe.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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!
The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.
Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:
In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.
Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.
You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:
The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.
The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.
Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.
Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.
The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’
There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.
Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.
Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’
China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.
According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.
At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.
The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.
Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)
While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.
“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.
Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”
Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.
An S-400 radar unit.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.
Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”
Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.
But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.
The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”
“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.
In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.
An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.
Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.
The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.
The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.
In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.
But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.
India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.
And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.
“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
There are a lot of valid criticisms of most weapon programs while they’re in development, but some get hit with the dreaded title of “boondoggle,” a massive waste of taxpayer funds that should be canceled. But some boondoggles prove the naysayers wrong and go on to have successful careers protecting U.S. troops and killing enemies. Here are 5 of the weapons that ascended:
But the F-14 ended up proving itself in U.S. service over Libya, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, but it really dominated in Iranian service back when they were a U.S. ally. In all, the F-14 is thought to have a 164-to-1 record of air-to-air kills and losses. The number is a little soft, though, since it takes data from multiple services including Iran.
The B-1 Bomber bucked the trend of bomber design in the late 1960s. Most were focused on faster, higher-flying bombers that could fly over enemy air defenses and outrun fighter taking off for intercepts. But the B-1 was envisioned as a low-flying bomber that would maneuver through air defenses instead. But the costly development was controversial, and the B-1 bomber was canceled in 1977.
Today, the M16 rifle and M4 carbine are ubiquitous among American troops. These lightweight rifles, which both fire the 5.56mm NATO round, have been around for decades and are mainstays. The civilian version, the AR-15, is owned by at least five million Americans. But the troops hauling it around almost got a similar rifle in the 1950s that fired the 7.62mm NATO round.
It’s not the first classic rifle to be designed to fire one cartridge and enter service firing another. The M1 Garand, when it was first designed, was chambered for the .276 Pedersen round. The reason that round never caught on? The Army had tons of .30-06 ammo in storage, and so the legendary semi-auto rifle was adapted to work with what was available.
The story is much different for the M16. Eugene Stoner’s original design was called the AR-10 (the “AR” stood for “Armalite Rifle” — Armalite was to manufacture the weapon). This early design was a 7.62mm NATO rifle with a 20-round box magazine.
According to the National Rifle Association Museum, this rifle went head to-head with the FN FAL and the T44 to replace the M1 Garand. The T44 won out and was introduced to service as the M14. This doesn’t mean the AR-10 was a complete loss, however. Sudan and Portugal both bought the AR-10 for their troops to use and, from there, the rifle trickled into a few other places as well.
Portugal bought the AR-10 and used it in the Angolan War.
(Photo by Joaquim Coelho)
Armalite, though, wasn’t ready to give up on getting that juicy U.S. military contract, so they began work on scaling down the AR-10 for the 5.56mm cartridge. The Army tried the resulting rifle, the AR-15, out in 1958 and liked what the saw, pointing to a need for a lightweight infantry rifle. It was the Air Force, though, that was the first service to buy the rifle, calling it the M16, which serves American troops today.
The AR-10 made a comeback of sorts during the War on Terror. Here, a Marine general fires the Mk 11 sniper rifle.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Sharon E. Fox)
Despite the immense popularity of the M16, the AR-10 never faded completely into obscurity. During the War on Terror, operation experience called for a heavier-hitting rifle with longer range. In a way, the AR-10 made a comeback — this time as a designated marksman rifle in the form of modified systems, like the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and Mk 11 rifle.
Variants of the AR-10 are on the civilian market, including this AR-10 National Match.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
Over the years, the AR-10 has thrived as a semi-auto-only weapon, available on the civilian market, produced by companies like Rock River Arms and DPMS. In a sense, the AR-10 has come full circle.
On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.
With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.
Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.
As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”
He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.
“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”
There is always work that needs to be done.
Break down the problem
One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.
“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.
“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.
Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice
“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.
Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”
“You get involved in their routine,” he added.
Look for new ways to connect with people
In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.
“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.
“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”
He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.
Think about things you will do when its over
“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.
Remember it is not all about you
Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.
He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”
Beware the head shot. Firing just about any caliber round in this area will pretty much kill someone instantly.
This is called the “T-box” by police and military security forces because of its obvious shape. When these individuals are placed in lethal force encounters, this area is emphasized as a vital target area, second only to the center of the chest.
It is valued so highly because it is the single most lethal part of the body to succumb to violent kinetic pressure and if the round is delivered accurately, it will guarantee the end of any adversary’s aggression. If troops or law enforcement officers can fire within this very small field, it is virtually guaranteed to instantly kill any combatant. That’s why the head shot is such a big deal.
The only reason it isn’t trained to be the first area shooters aim for is that the shot is extremely difficult and in situations where lethal force is required, sometimes just crossing the finish line matters more than the grace and finesse with which one does so.
The Mythical Head Shot
A simple “head shot” may not be enough to completely stop the enemy dead in their tracks. Video games and movies give the idea that, so long as you “tag” the head, a person will drop dead with no questions asked. This movie myth is factually inaccurate.
Numerous cases have shown individuals who have survived being shot in the head, not resulting in death of the intended target. Other cases will show people who have suffered varying levels of brain damage, but not death. Many times no brain damage occurred and the only resulting injury was just cosmetic damage to the face.
There are even some reports of people being shot so closely, and at such an angle, that the bullet was deflected and simply bounced off the skull, leaving literally nothing more a scratch. All of these are survivable and sometimes even result with little loss of quality of life. For that reason, most “head shots” aren’t guaranteed kills. Some won’t even end the threat happening at the moment.
Firing within the T-Box, however, is.
Why the T-Box, the official name for a head shot, is Lethal
The T-box covers the nose and behind the eyes. These sensory organs don’t actually matter themselves, but are simply the target area.
What makes the T-Box different from any other area is the part of the brain which rests directly behind it. Beyond this point is the lower brain, the parts most responsible for the processes that cause us to continue living. It houses the brain stem which is responsible for our organs functioning automatically, namely our heart, lungs, our central nervous system, as well as controlling the rest of our brain itself.
This means that losing it guarantees a complete and instantaneous loss of consciousness and life. If you’re facing an enemy and don’t have a clean shot towards their chest, a head shot is your next best option.
The truth is, the T-Box can actually be much larger depending on the caliber of the round. This is because ballistic effects on soft targets have cumulative effects which help to guarantee a complete loss of lower brain function.
A bullet doesn’t just pass through a medium. Another movie myth would suggest that a bullet just punctures at a given point of entry then bores a bullet sized hole all the way through. Reality is much more graphic than that.
Like any kinetic object, a moving object will release its energy into the medium with which it travels. My examples will be with a standard issue 9mm Beretta pistol, commonly issued throughout the military and law enforcement, as well as widely available to the common buyer. The energy of that weapon can be measured as an 8 gram mass moving at around 381 meters per second generating about 3 Newtons of force.
Those three or so Newtons of energy will be released into a target proportionally to the resistance it gives the bullet as it travels. A good analog for what 3 Newtons is would be the force of 3 apples falling. This doesn’t sound extremely powerful, but it must also be emphasized that this is a massive amount of force being emanated from a very narrow channel, the cavity created by the bullet. This transition of force results in the bullet slowing down as the cavity it created expands explosively.
This is what explosive expansion looks like on ballistics gel, the best analog for human bodily tissue. Ballistics experts even measure this property, referred to as “cavitation” or the measurement of the cavity produced by ballistics. This gel showcases the effects within the human body. This is an especially potent event in the brain.
It can’t be communicated enough that most of a bullet’s damage doesn’t center on the direct path it takes through the body, but through the absorption of energy. The most important factor to consider is that that cavity you see above shouldn’t just be smaller; it shouldn’t exist. We are talking about cells which once touched being violently propelled from one another. Within the brain, that represents cells and neurons that exist and operate within nanometers, momentarily separated by a space of several inches, and never able to return to their original structure.
Placing this event anywhere near the lower brain, namely the brain stem, will result in the violent and immediate fragmentation of all necessary working processes providing both awareness to the victim, as well as control of all bodily functions. That means they are instantly dead.
But will you know a head shot is coming?
So we have shown that any bullet placed within this area will result in death, absolutely and non-negotiably, but are we sure we wouldn’t be able to realize we had been shot, or even shot at, first?
Now we are asking a question about the comparison of the speed of a bullet in flight and the cognitive capabilities of the human perceptive system. Our 9mm Beretta fires a round which has a muzzle velocity, the speed it travels through the air when it leaves the weapon, of around 1,250 ft/s or 381 m/s.
Reaction time for people is something like 0.2 seconds if you are skilled and practiced at very certain tasks which you are prepared for and expect to occur. That isn’t the case here. Under normal conditions, you could expect to be able to react to something, given about 1.5 seconds notice.
Using our metrics from the Beretta, at the velocity the bullet is moving, you would have to be capable of watching it moving for over 570 meters, or over a third of a mile, just to have time to react to it. Considering the size and speed of the round in question, I am going to consider that, for all intents and purposes, impossible.
You also won’t be able to hear the bullet fire either. The speed of sound is 1,126 feet per second, or 343.205 m/s. Looking back at our old numbers, the 9mm Beretta clocks in at 1,250 ft/s or 381 m/s, we see that the bullet itself is supersonic. For that reason, you would never hear it coming until long after it has done its job.
For argument’s sake, in the case of the slowest bullets out there travel at 339.7504 m/s. This means they are actually only 4 m/s slower than mach 1. Given that this difference makes the slowest rounds only .01% slower than sound and the fact we still require another 1.5 seconds to process that sound, this bullet would still have had to have traveled over a fifth of a mile before you could possibly hear it in time to recognize and process.
Being that no handgun firing such a slow round is even effective at that range, and also that there is no way to know if you are diving to a safer location than you already occupy, we could say that it too is rhetorical. There is no chance that you will ever hear a round with your name on it.
The Gruesome Truth
Having said all this, you can safely know that any unfortunate victim of being shot with any caliber round aimed directly to the imaginary T-box area of the face will be dead. In fact, they will die so thoroughly and immediately, that the last cognizant thing their mind registers will be the sight of the barrel of the weapon which was about to kill them… before their brain explodes.
That was twisted. I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to support me, please visit my Patreon support page. For more content like this, visit my blog –Jon’s Deep Thoughts. Thanks for reading, you morbidly-curious individual.
The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.
The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.
If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.
At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.
Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.
Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.
The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.
In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.
Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.