Sweden asserted its neutrality during the Cold War. Still, Stockholm was not going to let the country stand helpless in face of potential threats.
That’s why the Swedish Air Force had some fighters that were very capable – and perhaps the first of three that would be every bit as good as their contemporaries serving in NATO was the Saab J 35 Draken.
The Draken was a Mach 2-capable fighter equipped with a “double-delta” wing — a design rarely used in modern fighter construction. One of the only other planes to use it was the F-16XL, a prototype version of the F-16 that lost out in a competition with what became the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Sweden used the Draken as an interceptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the plane was armed with two 30mm Aden cannon and four Sidewinders (known to the Swedes as the Rb 24), the Draken ended up being exported to Denmark, Finland, and Austria. Improved versions of the Draken would eventually be able to carry up to six missiles, and add the capability to fire the AIM-4 Falcon and AIM-26 Falcon.
Ironically, the Danes used the Draken as a strike plane. The plane’s hardpoints were modified to allow them to drop 1,000 pound bombs. Six of the Danish Drakens found their way to the National Test Pilot School in the United States, where they served until 2009.
The Draken did emerge as a bit of a Hollywood star in at least one movie. The 1990 action flick “Fire Birds” saw at least two Drakens serve as fighters under the control of a drug cartel. One was shot down by an Apache flown by Brad Little (played by eventual Academy Award-winner Tommy Lee Jones), the other was shot down by a hand-held FIM-92 Stinger used by Billie Lee Guthrie (played by Sean Young).
In real life, the Royal Swedish Air Force flew the Draken for nearly four decades, retiring it in 1999 due to maintenance costs. The plane had only been partially replaced by the AS 37 and JA 37 versions of the Saab Viggen, and the replacement was completed with the JAS 39 Gripen, also from Saab. Not a bad career for a plane.
US Army soldiers will soon be deploying with game-changing new night vision goggles as the service wraps up the final round of testing this week.
Troops will be putting the Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B), recognized as one of the most advanced night vision optics available, to the test at Fort Drum in New York at the last of ten limited user events. Once the testing is complete, the ENVG-B will enter full-rate production with fielding scheduled for this fall, PEO Soldier announced April 22, 2019.
An armored brigade combat team set to deploy to South Korea this fall is expected to be the first unit to deploy with the new system, according to Army Times.
Highlights of the new night vision goggles include dual-tubed binoculars for improved depth perception and increased situational awareness, white phosphorous tubes (a higher-resolution improvement over the traditional green glow), and improved thermal capabilities that allow soldiers to see through dust, fog, smoke, and just about anything else that might impair a soldier’s vision on the battlefield.
But, the really impressive capability is the ability to wirelessly connect the new goggles to the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) for Rapid Target Acquisition. With the picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can fire accurately from the hip or point their weapon around a corner to observe or fire on targets effectively while remaining hidden.
This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” the Army explained.
“Now, if a soldier’s on a patrol, weapon’s down at his hip, all of a sudden a threat pops, instead of having to flip up a goggle, shoulder his weapon, reacquire, he has that aim point in his field of view, and he can actually shoot from the hip,” a BAE Systems spokesman previously told Business Insider. The FWS-I, along with the highly-capable monocular ENVG IIIs, were developed by BAE. The new ENVG-Bs were developed by L3.
Army officials have spoken highly of the new goggles and their improved capabilities.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress, according to Army Times. He said there had been been a marked improvement in marksmanship, explaining that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Referring to the Rapid Target Acquisition capability, Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality cross-functional team, told reporters last fall that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The new goggles are also suitable for augmented reality, an option that allows the Army, and later the Marines, to turn the optics into a virtual reality platform for synthetic training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Special operations forces are the most highly disciplined, mission-capable, and formidable units in the world. They go through rigorous selection processes and training in order to conduct unconventional warfare tasks that are beyond the means of standard military forces.
The truth is, the world may never know exactly what these teams have accomplished, but their public records contain enough to earn global respect. In no particular order, these are ten lethal special operations units from around the world.
Formerly known as the Snow Wolf Commando Unit, named for the tenacity of arctic wolves and their ability to survive in harsh conditions, this is a specops unit of the People’s Republic of China. At their inception, they spent five years training in secret to conduct counter-terrorism, riot control, anti-hijacking, and bomb disposal for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
They’ve trained alongside Russian special task force units during joint anti-terror exercises with the primary mission of maintaining peace and stability.
The unit prides itself on the speed and accuracy of their marksmanship, their strength and stamina, and their spirit of self-sacrifice. Each recruit must serve in the People’s Armed Police for 1-2 years before undergoing physical and psychological tests. Perhaps where they excel the most is in martial arts and close quarter battles, but their sniper squadron shouldn’t be discounted.
The SBS is the UK’s equivalent of the US Navy SEALs. The selection process for the elite team has a 90% failure rate and includes a grueling 4-week endurance test that grows increasingly more challenging and concludes with a 40 kilometer march — that’s 24.8 miles for my fellow Yankees — which must be completed in under 20 hours.
Graduates will master weapons handling, jungle training, complex fighting, and combat survival before they are officially inducted into the elite unit.
Born out of World War II, today, the SBS remains one of the most well-respected units in the world. Since 9/11, the Special Boat Service has been deployed against Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban, as well as on rescue missions around the globe, including in Sierra Leone and Libya.
Soldier in the Polish Naval Special Forces Unit GROM during NATO exercise Trident Juncture 15.
GROM is an acronym that loosely translates to the Group for Operational Maneuvering Response.
More poignantly, however, grom means “thunder” in Polish. It’s a unit that can trace its lineage to the exiled Polish paratroopers of World War II known as “the Silent Unseen.” 315 men — and one woman — trained for months in Great Britain before jumping into occupied Poland to oppose the Nazi hold there.
In 1990, the GROM unit was organized after Operation Bridge, a mission to help Soviet Jews enter Israel. Intelligence reports indicated a significant Hezbollah threat in the area of operations, so the elite counter-terrorist force was approved. It remained a secret from the public until 1994, when they deployed to Haiti for Operation Restore Democracy.
GROM performs rescue operations, including hostage recovery, as well as counter-insurgency missions. They have extensive weapons and medical expertise and have mastered a variety of military disciplines, including parachuting, amphibious insertion, diving, pyrotechnics, and vehicle handling.
Whether fighting terrorists or war criminals, GROM more than lives up to its name.
Business Insider reported that training for the Pakistani Special Services Group requires a 36-mile march done in 12 hours and a five-mile run in full kit in 20 minutes — if that’s true… then holy s***.
Created to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism, SSG training consists of grueling physical conditioning, airborne school, a 25-week commando course, and hand-to-hand combat training. Reportedly, only 5% of recruits complete the rigorous training.
Due to their location, they are kept actively engaged in counter-terror missions. From hotspots along the India-Pakistan border to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint military offensive targeting terrorist organizations, the SSG goes where the fire is hot.
Delta Force and soldiers pictured deep behind Iraqi lines during the 1991 Gulf War
6. Delta Force
Delta Force is the U.S. Army’s elite counter-terrorism unit, with Army Rangers and Green Berets among its numbers, but it also has operators from the Navy and Air Force. It’s been called many things — Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the Combat Applications Group, and now the Army Compartmented Elements, but throughout its short history, it has maintained its superior ability to capture or kill high value targets, dismantle terrorist cells, and conduct covert missions in any area of operations.
Most of the missions executed by Delta Force remain classified — and it’s rare to find an official document that even acknowledges the unit — but one of its most notable accomplishments includes Operation Red Dawn, the capture of Saddam Hussein.
A leaked recruiting video gave a glimpse at different training methods for Delta Force, including tactical driving, vehicle takedowns, and assaulter team tactics. A testament to their precision, one of their final exams includes breaching operations with fellow team members playing the hostage as his brothers live fire against targets nearby. The operation builds trust within the team and provides the shooter a sober reminder not to hit the hostage.
Their training program is notoriously brutal and lasts fourteen months — if recruits can make it that long. One documentary team followed a group of potential recruits and saw 120 of them whittled down to 18 in two weeks. It includes one of the best marksmanship schools in the world, weapons handling, airborne courses including HALO jumps, hand-to-hand combat, diving, survival training, and explosive ordnance disposal.
These guys are lethal, but they value fire discipline. Rumor has it that they’re just issued a 6-shot .357 revolver as their official sidearm — with only 6 rounds, you bet they’re going to make each one count.
Also known as “Unit 269,” Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is a highly secretive special-operations brigade with almost legendary status. Since its inception in 1957, Sayeret Matkal has gained a reputation for its deep reconnaissance capabilities and counter-terrorism and hostage recovery missions.
They rely on secrecy, attacking in small numbers and in disguise, then fading away before the enemy realizes what happened.
The disguised task force was airlifted in with Land Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz. They managed to infiltrate the local army, kill the terrorists, and rescue all but four of the hostages. Only one Israeli soldier was killed in the attack.
That’s the thing with Sayeret Matkal — once you know it’s there, you’re already out of time.
Spanish Special Operations Forces (SOF) soldiers partner with a U.S. Marine during a mock non-compliant boarding as part of exercise Sea Saber 2004.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeffrey Lehrberg)
3. Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force
Spain’s Special Naval Warfare Force was created in 2009 when the country merged different units of the Spanish Navy into one combatastic entity. The “Fuerza” is comprised of the Special Combat Divers Unit, Special Explosive Diffusers Unit, and the Special Operations Unit — its main tactical predecessor.
The Special Operations Unit was responsible for maritime counter-terrorism, combat diving, air and amphibious insertion, combat search and rescue, and ship-boarding — today’s elite unit carries on the fight.
They have a strong history of utilizing those tactics in hostage rescue and pirate confrontation. In 2002, the hombres rana supported Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean when they stormed a North Korean vessel transporting SCUD missiles to Yemen. Then, in 2011, they rescued a French hostage from Somali pirates.
And that’s just what’s known to the public — like the other elite units on this list, most of their missions remain classified.
Russia’s badass Spetsnaz is shrouded in mystery, but it dates back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, a paramilitary force organized during the height of the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century. Most of its members are comparable to U.S. Army Rangers, but an elite few train like Delta Force.
Recently, Russia has been increasingly modeling its Spetsnaz off American counterparts.
To a casual observer, they can appear difficult to distinguish from one another, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason Russia is trying to keep up with the United States.
Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a SEAL Team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. November 1967.
1. U.S. Navy SEALs
I lied. I saved this one for last. Because, come on.
United States Navy SEALs are perhaps the finest special operations forces in the world. The competitive standard to even be considered for BUD/S training is to swim 500 yards in 10:30, 79 push-ups, 79 sit-ups, 11 pull-ups, and a 10:20 1.5 mile run. That’s just to get in.
Preparation to become a SEAL consists of Basic Underwater Demolition, Parachute Jump school, and SEAL Qualification Training — which have all been described lightly as “brutal” — then they do another 18 months of pre-deployment training.
SEALs deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging tactical capabilities including direct action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign internal defense.
From the Korean War and the Vietnam War to Somalia to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, to Operation Inherent Resolve, and, of course, the death of international terrorist Osama bin Laden, Navy SEALs have made their mark.
When you hear the word Jaguar in conjunction with England, your first reaction might be to think about the brand of luxury cars. Can’t blame you, they do look very nice. However, there is a Jaguar that took to the skies, and the British designed and built it (with a little help from the French).
To understand how this flying Jaguar came about, we need to go back to the time when the Beatles were spearheading the British invasion. According to militaryfactory.com, the British and French both needed new planes. The British were trying to replace the Folland Gnat, while the French needed to replace T-33 and Magister training jets, as well as the Dassault Mystere fighters.
The two countries decided to team up, and in 1966 formed the Société Européenne de Production de l’avion Ecole de Combat et d’Appui Tactique, or SEPECAT. The first prototypes took to the air three years later, and in 1972, the Jaguar entered French service as a strike aircraft and trainer, while the British GR.1 version entered service in 1974.
The Jaguar specialized in low-level operations, presaging those of the multi-national Tornado in the 1980s and 1990s. It was also fast, capable of a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour. It could carry up to 10,000 pounds of bombs, and British Jaguars could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on unique over-wing rails. Ecuador, Nigeria, and Oman all bought export versions of the Jaguar, but one export customer really outdid the original.
The Indian Air Force bought the Jaguar to supplement its MiG-27 Flogger ground attack planes. Just as India did with the Flogger, the Jaguar, which India calls Shamsher, was improved beyond the original specs. According to bharat-rakshak.com, when India was offered a degraded internal navigation system, they came up with one superior to the original model. India’s Jaguars also feature more powerful engines and are capable of firing the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile.
Fittingly, while all other users of this aircraft have retired this plane, Globalsecurity.org reports that India’s Jaguars are expected to remain in service for another 20 years with continued upgrades. You can see a video about this plane below.
The chief debate among people searching for a cold-weather sleeping bag is the choice between down and synthetic fill. As a rule, down fill is lighter and more compressible than synthetic fill. However, down clumps when it gets wet and loses much of its insulation, while synthetic fill tolerates the dampness better.
I recently tested the Kifaru Slick Bag, which features synthetic Climashield APEX fill. This bag works well even when dam — and that’s an important feature to me since I live in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. This fill also does not need to be kept religiously clean, as down does.
Designed for a wide range of conditions and climates, the Slick Bag is a standout, versatile sleeping bag. It is warm, tough, and light enough to carry.
Kifaru offers this bag rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The 0 degree bag is a solid all-around rating for where I backpack, but users in the Lower 48 may favor the 20 degree bag to save weight.
(Photo courtesy of Kifaru International.)
I’ve yet to test it in temperatures below zero, but the Slick Bag has stood up well to nights in the single digits. Though I tend to sleep cold, the Slick Bag kept me warm, even when wet, mostly thanks to the Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating on the bag’s exterior. The material is Kifaru’s RhinoSkin, a ripstop nylon that’s plenty tough for backcountry use. Kifaru claims it’s tough enough to sleep with boots on in the bag, though I didn’t test that theory.
The 0 degree Slick Bag weighs 3.35 pounds in regular width, making it light but not ultralight. The bag, when compressed, is easy to carry. The 20 degree bag weighs 2.9 pounds, and the negative-20 bag comes in at 4.43 pounds. Kifaru offers all of the bags in wide and long as well, though these features naturally increase the weight and cost.
The bag uses a center zip for ease of access, which has been an issue for heat retention in the past. Kifaru addressed that issue by adding a passive baffle system around the zipper and neck. If any heat bleeds off from the top zipper, it’s unnoticeable. For temperature regulation, users can unzip a lower section of the bag or adjust the hood. The bag has a looser fit than most other mummy-style bags, making movement easy, especially for side sleepers.
Returning to that debate between down and synthetic fill, I have a confession: I generally prefer down. The light weight and low volume when compressed is ideal for a minimalist backpacker or ultralight hiker looking to shave off a couple more ounces from their pack.
But for a hunter, especially someone using vehicular transportation or who may be working out of a base camp where cutting ounces is not critical, a synthetic bag like the Slick Bag is the perfect choice. Not having to worry about water on the sleeping bag provides peace of mind. The bag is also great for anyone who plans on bivouac camping. Without the protection of a tent, the synthetic fill and water-resistant RhinoSkin exterior is a must.
The base price of the Slick Bag is 0 and ranges up to 8 depending on degree rating, length, and width, which is in line with other high-end synthetic bags. Along with tents and rain coats, sleeping bags are an important — albeit often expensive — part of safe camping. It’s worth it to find something that will do what you need it to do. It’s also important to take proper care of your investment — for long term storage, sleeping bags should be hung in a closet and kept dry.
Unlike some gear on the market that looks cool but falls apart quickly, Kifaru’s sleeping bags are built to stand up to hard use for a very long time. The Slick Bag is a well-built sleeping bag that will keep you warm and comfortable in harsh conditions.
EXCLUSIVE: Inside Travis Pastrana’s Record Breaking Jumps
Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research, its startling advances, and its secrecy.
Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel – both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won’t work, and some of it won’t ever see the light of day – but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.
This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!
On Saturday, the Times of Israel reported that President Donald Trump had approved the sale of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, America’s most capable air superiority fighter, to Israel. According to reports, the intent behind this potential sale is to help enable Israel to maintain the military edge within the Middle East, after the United States agreed to sell F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the United Arab Emirates. On paper, this sale can’t (or won’t) happen until after Congress changes a law barring the sale of the F-22 Raptor to other nations, but the truth is, there’s a far more practical roadblock standing between Israel and a new fleet of Raptors: Nobody can make them.
While the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is widely seen as the most technologically advanced fighter in the sky, it was designed as a sort of continuation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s multi-purpose architecture, with an emphasis placed on conducting air-to-ground operations. The older F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement instead for the legendary F-15 Eagle as the nation’s top-of-the-line dogfighter.
While both the F-22 and F-35 are 5th generation jets that leverage stealth to enable mission accomplishment and both are able to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations, they each specialize in a different aspect of air combat and were intended to serve in very different roles. Israel already operates a number of F-35s, and in fact, was the first nation to put the new jet in combat, edging out the U.S. Marine Corps by a matter of months.
This isn’t the first time Israel has gone after the F-22 Raptor, which was the world’s first operational stealth fighter and remains America’s most capable intercept and air superiority platform. Just prior to leaving office in 2001, President Bill Clinton suggested that he would be in favor of selling the advanced fighter to Israel, but he ultimately left that decision up to his successor, George H.W. Bush. A few short months after taking office, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, shifted President Bush’s attention and priorities to the burgeoning war on terror, seemingly disregarding the potential F-22 sale.
Even if President Bush had wanted to sell the fighter to Israel in 2001, he would have had to address the 1998 “Obey Amendment” passed by Congress that specifically barred the sale of the F-22 to Isreal, citing concerns that such an exchange would result in China gaining access to the fighter. Although Israel and the United States have long enjoyed strong ties, the U.S. has Israel to blame for giving China access to the F-16 Fighting Falcon in the late 1980s, which resulted in China’s fielding their own copy of the fighter in their highly capable Chengdu J-10.
In order to sell Israel the F-22 as a result, Congress would need to pass legislation to allow it… but that challenge pales in comparison to the logistical challenges Lockheed Martin would face in trying to re-start F-22 production.
Today, the F-22 exists in precious few numbers, despite its reputation as the best air superiority fighter on the planet. The Air Force originally intended to purchase 750 F-22s to develop a robust fleet of stealth interceptors, but the program was prematurely canceled with just 186 fighters delivered. As the United States found itself further entrenched in counter-terror and counter-insurgency operations against technologically inferior opponents, the need for advanced dogfighters became less pressing. As a result, the F-22 program came to a close in December of 2011.
Even the United States faces concerns about its own dwindling fleet of F-22 Raptors here in 2020. Only around 130 of the 186 F-22s Lockheed built were ever operational, and today the number of combat-ready F-22s is likely in the double digits. It’s extremely unlikely that the U.S. Air Force would be willing to part with any of their own F-22s to fill an Israeli order, so there would be no choice but to build new F-22s to complete such a sale.
As simple as just building more may sound, the truth is, re-starting the F-22 production line would likely cost the same or potentially even more than simply developing an entirely new and potentially better fighter. Lockheed Martin cannibalized a great deal of the F-22’s production infrastructure to support the ongoing production of the F-35, meaning it wouldn’t be as simple as just re-opening the plants that had previously built Raptors.
In fact, Lockheed Martin would have to approach building new F-22s as though it was an entirely new enterprise, which is precisely why the United States didn’t look into purchasing new F-22s rather than the controversial new (old) F-15EX.
Boeing’s new F-15s are considered fourth-generation fighters that are sorely lacking in stealth when compared to advanced fighters like the F-22 and F-35, but the Air Force has agreed to purchase new F-15s at a per-unit price that even exceeds new F-35 orders. Why? There are a number of reasons, but chief among them are operational costs (the F-15 is far cheaper per flight hour than either the F-35 or the F-22), and immediate production capability. Boeing has already been building advanced F-15s for American allies in nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so standing up a new production line for the United States comes with relatively little cost.
The F-22’s production line, on the other hand, hasn’t existed in nearly a decade. In a report submitted to Congress in 2017, it was estimated that restarting F-22 production would cost the United States $50 billion, just to procure 194 more fighters. That breaks down to between $206 and $216 million per fighter, as compared to the F-35’s current price of around $80 million per airframe and the F-15EX’s per-unit price of approximately $88 million.
Does that mean it’s impossible to build new F-22s? Of course not. With enough money, anything is possible — but as estimated costs rise, the question becomes: Is it practical? And the answer to that question seems to be an emphatic no. The U.S. Air Force has invested a comparatively tiny $9 billion into its own Next Generation Air Dominance fighter program — aimed at developing a replacement for the F-22 — over the span of six years (2019-2025).
If Israel were willing to put up $50 billion to procure new F-22s, it would almost certainly be better off devoting that sum to developing a new air superiority fighter. The F-22, after all, first took flight all the way back in 1997. It may still be the best fighter around, but as the United States and its competitors continue to tease the new 6th generation of fighters, why would anyone want to invest so heavily in a design that would be thirty years old before the first of a new batch of fighters could roll off the assembly line?
If 2020 has taught any lessons, one of them must be that anything’s possible… but there doesn’t seem to be any logical process that leads to new F-22s being built anywhere, let alone any Raptors finding their way into Israeli hangars.
Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?
First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.
The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.
The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.
U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.
That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.
That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.
As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.
Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.
The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.
But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.
And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.
Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.
But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.
So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.
The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.
But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.
U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)
In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.
If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.
But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.
So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.
The US Air Force’s newest air refueling aircraft, the KC-46A Pegasus, is undergoing a variety of tests out of Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Starting on April 29, 2019, the KC-46 conducted the first refueling test with a Travis AFB C-5M Super Galaxy. The testing is a part of a larger test program to certify aerial refueling operations between the KC-46 and 22 different receiver aircraft.
Maj. Drew Bateman, 22nd Airlift Squadron chief of standardization and evaluation and a C-5M pilot, flew the Air Force’s largest aircraft for testing on April 29, 2019. He flew it again May 15, 2019.
“The April 29 sortie was the first where the KC-46 and the C-5M made contact,” Bateman said. “That was awesome to be a part of. You have a few pinch me moments in life and this was one of them for me. Not everyone gets to be a part of something like this. We were able to get two aircraft together for the first time.”
“Every test flight begins with a continuity check so the KC-46 crew ensures they can connect and disconnect safely with our aircraft,” Bateman added. “From there, we continue testing a variety of items at multiple speeds and altitudes throughout the sortie.”
A Boeing KC-46A.
One capability Bateman and his C-5M crew mates tested with the KC-46 was the ability to connect with both aircraft near max gross weight.
“For these tests, we were required to be over 800,000 pounds with cargo and fuel,” Bateman said. “Our 60th Aerial Port Squadron Airmen developed a load plan. The expediters loaded the cargo onto the airplane, and our maintainers ensured the C-5M was flyable. It’s a huge team effort to ensure we are mission ready. I feel like I have the smallest part of it. I just fly the airplane.”
A KC-46A Pegasus during testing with a C-5M Super Galaxy for the first time on April 29, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Christian Turner)
On April 29, 2019, Master Sgt. Willie Morton, 418th Flight Test Squadron flight test boom operator, oversaw operations in the back of the KC-46 during the testing process.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Morton said. “I was a KC-10 Extender boom operator at Travis for about 13 years so going to the KC-46 and being a part of the next step in aerial refueling is pretty awesome. I have the chance to provide input on an aircraft that will be flying missions for many years.”
A United States Air Force KC-10 Extender.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
To complete refueling with the KC-46, boom operators must use a series of cameras that project a 3D image on a screen. These refueling experts then use that image to carefully guide aircraft into position, Morton said.
“We are testing capabilities at low altitudes, high speeds, high altitudes and high speeds, as well as heavy and light gross weights so we know how the aircraft will respond,” he said. “We have to find the optimal speed the C-5M can fly at to support refueling. We are also doing our best to ensure the mechanical compatibility of the KC-46 and C-5M.”
According to Lt. Col. Zack Schaffer, 418th FLTS KC-46 Integrated Test Force director, the testing is a joint effort between the USAF and Boeing.
“The KC-46s being used for this test effort are owned by Boeing and operated by a combined Air Force and contractor crew,” Schaffer said. “All the test planning and execution is being led by the 418th FLTS, part of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards. The flight test program evaluates the mechanical compatibility of the two aircraft at all corners of the boom flight envelope, as well as handling qualities of both the tanker, boom and receiver throughout the required airspeed and altitude envelope at different gross weights and center of gravity combinations.”
The 418th FLTS is also responsible for developmental testing of the C-5M, and is providing a test pilot to support the C-5M side of the certification testing, Schaffer added. The C-5M was crewed primarily by the 22nd AS with augmentation from the 418th.
A United States Air Force C-5 Galaxy in flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)
“Additionally, the military utility, lighting compatibility and fuel transfer functionality is also being evaluated,” Schaffer said. “The testing is expected to take approximately 12 sorties to complete.”
Once the testing is complete, the results will be used to develop the operational clearance necessary to allow KC-46s to refuel the C-5M for missions.
“The C-5M is also one of the receivers required to complete the KC-46 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation program, which is a prerequisite to the KC-46 being declared operationally capable,” Schaffer said. “Completing the testing necessary to expand the operational capabilities of the KC-46 is a critical step in modernizing the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet. The 60th Air Mobility Wing at Travis has provided outstanding support to ensure this testing can get the warfighter expanded capabilities as soon as possible.”
Identifying potential problems is also a focus of the testing, Moore added.
“It’s important, if any issues are identified during the testing, to ensure counter measures are created to overcome those issues,” Moore said. “We want to get the best product to the warfighter to extend global reach and mobility.”
Travis is scheduled to receive its first KC-46 in 2023.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During the Cold War, Sweden charted a course of neutrality in Europe. It wasn’t always easy, and that neutrality wasn’t always respected (see the “Whiskey on the Rocks” incident from 1981). But to preserve it, Sweden often had to design its own weapons.
In the air, that resulted in a series of outstanding fighters, starting with the Draken. But on land came a very unique tank – one that was designed for a defensive role, to fight alongside improved Centurion main battle tanks.
The Stridsvagn 103, or “S-Tank,” was intended to help defeat a Soviet invasion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, its main armament was a Bofors 105mm gun, for which it carried 50 rounds. However, after looking at combat from World War II and Korea, the Swedes decided to put the 105mm gun into the hull. This removed the vulnerability of the tank to hits in the turret, and it also allowed it to be compact at only seven feet tall.
Russian tanks like the T-72 were almost as short as the S-Tank, but gained their compact size by packing everything in a very small space. This meant that bad things usually happened when the tanks took a hit.
The S-Tank had a crew of three, a top speed of 37 miles per hour, and it could go 186 miles before needing to be refueled. It weighed in at 47 tons.
Like many of Sweden’s weapons, the S-Tank never saw combat before it was retired in 1997, along with the early Cold War-era Centurions.
To replace this unique tank, the Swedes decided to import German Leopard 2 main battle tanks, then proceeded to build a variant of the Leopard 2A5, the Stridsvagn 122.
When aspiring operators are being screened for selection into Delta Force, a collection of the most elite soldiers in the Army, they have to pass a series of rigorous and challenging tests, including a ruck march that they begin with no announced distance, no announced end time, and no encouragement. If they can complete this grueling ruck march, they will face a selection board and possibly join “The Unit.”
If they fall short, they go home.
Delta Force was pitched and built to be an American version of Britain’s Special Air Service by men like Col. Charles A. Beckwith, a Special Forces leader who had previously served as an exchange officer to the 22 SAS. Originally stood up in 1977, Delta was always focused on counter-terrorism.
Unsurprisingly, Beckwith got the nod to lead the unit he had helped pitch. He looked to the SAS itself for methods to winnow out those who might not be resolute at a key moment in battle, and embraced their stress event: a superhuman ruck march.
It wasn’t an insane distance, just 74 kilometers — or 40 miles. That’s certainly further than most soldiers will ever carry a ruck, but not an eye-watering number.
Col. Charles A. Beckwith, the first commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.
(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)
But SAS candidates conducted this training at the end of what were already-grueling weeks of training. And on the day of the final march, they were woken up early to start it.
But the real mind game was not telling the candidates how far they had to go or how far they had already gone. They were just told to ruck march to a set point that could be miles distant. Then, a cadre member at that point would give them a new point, and this would continue until the candidate had marched the full distance.
Beckwith told his superiors that he needed two years to stand up Delta Force, partially because he felt it was necessary to incorporate this and other elements of SAS selection and training into the pipeline, meaning that he would need to recruit hundreds of candidates to get just a few dozen final operators. President Jimmy Carter wanted a new anti-terrorism unit, and senior Army brass were initially loathe to wait two years to give it to him.
According to his book Delta Force: a memoir by the founder of the military’s most secretive special operations, Beckwith had to fight tooth and nail to get enough candidates and time for training, but he still refused to relax the standards. Beckwith successfully argued that, to make a unit as capable or better than the SAS, the Army would have to fill it with men as tough or better.
This couldn’t just be men great at shooting or land navigation or even ruck marching. It had to be those people who would keep pushing, even when it was clearly time to quit.
To make his argument, he pointed to cases where capable men had failed to take appropriate action because, as Beckwith saw it, their resolve had failed. He pointed to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where great German marksmen failed to take out hostage takers early in the terror attack because they simply didn’t pull the trigger.
Beckwith needed guys who could pull the trigger, he knew that the SAS process delivered that, and he didn’t want to risk a change from the SAS mold that might leave Delta with people too reluctant to get the job done during a fight.
And so, the “Long Walk” was born into Army parlance. This is that final ruck march of selection. It’s 40 miles long, it’s conducted on the last day of training when candidates are already physically and mentally completely exhausted, and the rucksacks weigh 70 pounds.
Oh, and there is an unpublished time limit of 20 hours. And candidates can’t march together, each gets their own points and has to walk them alone. And, like in the SAS version, they don’t actually ever know the full course, only their next point.
Members of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta guard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Finally, while the first classes conducted the Long Walk at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, later iterations had to conduct the exercise in the mountains of West Virginia, adding to the pain and exhaustion.
Even men like future Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who came to the course after the existence and general distance of the Long Walk were known, talked about how mentally challenging the uncertainty would be. He lost 15 pounds in the tough training that led to the march, and then he struggled on the actual event.
In his book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, Boykin says that he was exhausted by the 8-hour mark. Having started before dawn, he would still have to walk deep into the night with his heavy ruck to be successful, praying that every point was his last.
But the next point wasn’t the last. Nor was the one after that, or the one after that. The cadre assigning the points cannot cheerlead for the candidate, nor can they tell the candidate if they’re doing well or if they’re marching too fast. Either the candidate pushes themself to extreme physical and mental limits and succeeds without help or encouragement, or they don’t.
In Boykin’s class of 109, only about 25 people even made it to the Long Walk, and plenty more washed out during that test. Freezing in the weather and exhausted from the weight, terrain, and distance, Boykin did make it to the end of the course. But, interestingly, even completing the prior training and the Long Walk does not guarantee a slot in Delta. Instead, soldiers still have to pass a selection board, so some people train for months or years, are marched to exhaustion every day for a month during training, have to complete the Long Walk, and then they get turned away by the board, are not admitted, and don’t become capital “O” Operators.
Delta Force has undoubtedly made America more lethal and more flexible when it comes to missions, but there are strict standards that ensure that only the most fit soldiers can compete in this space. And the Long Walk forces everyone but the most tenacious out.
The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.
A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.
1. SAS and SBS
These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).
Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.
2. Sayeret Matkal
Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.
The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.
3. French Special Operations Command
French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.
The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.
5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service
The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.
The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.
The bodies of two old helicopters sit uncovered on Bob Fritzler’s property. They tower over him as he walks by them on his way to his large garage.
He had to use a giant trailer to haul them out to his farm with his truck. He imagined it felt a lot like driving a semi. He doesn’t worry much about what the weather might do to the old birds outside. He’s just using them for parts.
Fritzler’s real treasure sits in that large garage on his land near Keenesburg. He’s working to restore a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34 helicopter, which was flown during Operation SHUFLY, a Marine helicopter operation that primarily ferried troops in Vietnam between 1962 and 1965. Fritzler said it was one of the first helicopters built to drop off troops in combat.
Back then, Fritzler said, helicopters were a huge game changer for Marines. Pilots could drop soldiers off anywhere. Before, they relied on ships, which required a coast.
Fritzler, now 82, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He flew the helicopter when he was a pilot. Several other squadrons flew it, too. He hopes to fix it up and eventually put it into the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fritzler went to a Marine reunion a couple years ago. There, he met Gerald Hail from Oklahoma who restored old planes back to flyable conditions. Hail invited him out to fly and Fritzler accepted. While out there, Fritzler noticed the H-34.
“I saw bullet hole patches,” Fritzler said. “I knew I could count over 100 bullet holes.”
The bird had aged, with much of the Marine Green paint had worn down to the aluminum. Fritzler’s old squadron number had been painted over with a different squadron’s number, but he still recognized the helicopter as the one he flew.
“I had a real love affair with it,” Fritzler said.
He asked Hail if he could buy it from him so he could restore it. Hail said he’d think about it. About a month later, Hail called Fritzler and told him he’d donate the helicopter if Fritzler would fix it up.
Fritzler’s been working on the restoration project here and there for a couple years. He has experience fixing up machines. He grew up on a farm in Windsor and spent much of his life making farm equipment run again. He thinks that made him fairly handy.
But it’s a lengthy process. It takes time to track down parts that are no longer in production. He bought an old blue and white Marine helicopter for the parts. The previous owner had it certified for commercial use and used it to lift large air conditioning units. Fritzler bought an old Army helicopter, too.
“Both of these (helicopters) are pretty complete,” Fritzler said. Now he just has to figure out which parts the H-34 needs and which ones to take from the others.
He’s not a teenager anymore, either, Fritzler said, so his energy has a limit.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I bit off more than I could chew,” Fritzler said. “I’ve had some help from other guys.”
He works on it for a couple hours a day, sometimes more. He’s mostly working on deconstructing old pieces and finding the new ones to replace them.
Sometimes when Fritzler looks back on his life as a pilot, he wonders if he really did all the things he remembers. It was a long time ago. He did two tours in Vietnam and did some airline flying, too. But his last flight in the cockpit was more than 20 years ago.
“I still love to fly,” he said.
He might not be able to pilot planes anymore, but this may be the next best thing.