The Stryker family of vehicles has helped the Army in the War on Terror in both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, for the Marine Corps, the Stryker was nothing new – heck, the Marines had a version going back to the 1980s.
It’s called the LAV, or Light Armored Vehicle, and it can be described as what would happen nine months after a Stryker and a Bradley met in a bar and hooked up, even though it entered service in 1983. That’s right – 18 years before the Army got the Stryker in service, the Marines had been using something similar.
Each Marine division has a battalion of LAVs, and they’re usually a mix of versions.
The LAV-25 is the most common, an 8×8 wheeled vehicle with a turret that has a M242 Bushmaster cannon. This is the same weapon that’s used on many Navy ships, and on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting vehicles. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the LAV-25 has a crew of three and holds six infantrymen and 720 rounds of 25mm ammo.
There are other versions of the LAV, though. In essence, it is a family of vehicles, just like the Stryker. There is a mortar carrier with an 81mm mortar, known as LAV-M. The LAV-AD has a 25mm GAU-12 “Equalizer” gun (the same as on the Harrier) along with Stinger missiles. There is a recovery vehicle, known as LAV-R, a command and control vehicle known as LAV-C2, a cargo transport called LAV-L, and a LAV-MEWSS which carries out electronic warfare missions. The Marines also have a LAV-AT, which carries the same turret as the M901 Improved Tow Vehicle.
The LAV family has seen lots of action with the Marines, including during Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the War on Terror. It’s also going to be around for almost two more decades. In any case, it will be hard for the Marines to top this vehicle.
What do snipers think about before they pull the trigger? There are dozens of possible considerations that go into a sniper’s shot, everything from wind to an escape plan should things suddenly go sideways, current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider.
A sniper must be able to put accurate and effective fire on targets that may be moving at distances far beyond the range of regular infantry, which are trained to shoot at targets out to a few hundred meters. Snipers are trained to shoot targets possibly thousands of meters away.
To shoot at those greater distances, which sometimes requires pushing a weapon beyond its limits, snipers have to consider things like target selection and priority, size, distance to target, whether or not the bullet is lethal at that range, and, if the target is moving, target speed and direction.
‘We know what a bullet does’
There are also the ballistics — anything that affects the flight path of the bullet that could cause the sniper to miss.
Extensive ballistics knowledge is one of several key differentiators between snipers — expert marksmen — and other troops who are simply good shots, according to a former instructor.
There are both internal and external ballistics, he said.
Internal is everything happening inside the rifle and includes things like bullet size and weight, which affect to what degree a bullet will be impacted by the various external factors, and the barrel twist, which affects the spin drift of the round at greater distances.
External ballistics are everything happening to the bullet once it exits the barrel. Among the external factors that can affect the bullet’s flight path are atmospherics like wind, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and air density.
Wind speed and direction, which can change suddenly and inexplicably, are particularly important because they account for most missed shots, US Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter told Insider.
Snipers need to know wind at not only their position, but also at various points along the bullet’s path and at the target. To get a wind reading for the distant points, the sniper looks for makeshift wind indicators like trash, clothes on a clothesline, smoke, or really anything that might be blowing in the wind.
Snipers have to take most, if not all, of these factors into account and correct before they fire a shot to hit a distant target — with the knowledge that their first shot is likely to be their best chance at striking it.
There are electronic tools that snipers can use to simplify the process to determine things like range, gather atmospheric data, and generate a firing solution. Snipers try not to rely on these though, but if they do use them, they verify the data.
The much more important tool snipers have is their collection data on previous engagements, which contains detailed information on how the sniper, the rifle, and the bullet performed in certain conditions in the real, not digital, world.
“At the end of the day, the bullet is not going to lie to you,” US Army sniper instructor Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Jones told Insider.
“We really don’t need a lot of technology to be able to operate,” he said, explaining that “given a weapon system with an optic and data on previous engagements, we are pretty effective at doing our job as far as engaging targets goes.”
‘That is when you want to fire the weapon’
There are also marksmanship fundamentals like shooting position, trigger control, and breathing that the sniper has to take into consideration. Through training, many of these things will become second nature for a sniper.
“Out in the real world, you’re shooting over a Humvee, shooting out of a window, on a rooftop, on a knee, standing, standing while moving,” he said. “There are so many alternate shooting techniques we run through because of the realities of the battlefield.”
A proper shooting position improves recoil management, preventing the explosion that violently forces the bullet out of the rifle from disturbing the sight picture and complicating follow-on shots.
For similar reasons, it is also important that snipers have good control of the trigger, applying pressure smoothly when firing, and have relaxed, natural breathing.
“You want to breathe as natural as possible,” Jones said, explaining that snipers wait for a “natural pause” in ther breathing. “That is when you want to fire the weapon,” he said.
Snipers also have to think about mission-specific considerations such as muzzle flash, lens glare on the scope if the sniper is shooting into the sun, and barrel blast that can blow out vegetation or kick up dust. Any of these things can affect concealment and give away a shooter’s position.
Stealth and concealment, though they are crucial sniper skills, are not necessarily required for every mission, but when they are, snipers have to be prepared for the possibility that their position is compromised by their shot.
It is critical that snipers have an escape plan, “a tenable egress route and sourced contingency assets and fire support agencies in the event their position is compromised post-shot,” Coulter said.
‘Somebody that can get the job done’
“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” an Army sniper previously told Insider. That said, when it comes to the shot process, “everybody is going to have their checklist” that they run through, Jones said.
And in many, but not necessarily all, cases, there is also planning before the mission.
Coulter said that ideally a sniper’s “ability to conduct a mission analysis prior to crossing the line of departure or taking the shot will allow them to occupy a brief position of advantage when relatively compared to the enemy, the terrain and current weather.”
Doing so increases “the odds of mission success,” he said.
And with practice comes experience, reducing the time it takes to run through the process. A trained sniper can put accurate fire on at least 10 targets in about 10 minutes. It is actually something Army snipers have to do to graduate from the program.
For the extreme long-range shots, the shot process can still take some time, as well as some math. A Marine Corps sniper previously told Insider about a shot he took in training that involved putting a bullet in a target 2,300 meters away. It took him roughly 20 to 25 minutes to plan the shot.
Although shooting is a very important part of what snipers do, it is only a part. Snipers also gather intelligence and provide overwatch on the battlefield. The role requires professionalism, reliability, capability, and maturity.
“Just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you can be a sniper,” Walding said, adding that “You’ve got to have somebody that can get the job done, and not every marksman can.”
Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.
So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.
The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.
At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.
Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.
The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.
It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.
Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.
The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.
You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.
Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.
So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.
When you look at the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, this is a plane that looks like it could be a rocket from some sci-fi movie or show from the old days. In some ways, it was. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-104 had a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour. This was about 173 percent of the speed of sound. But there was one minor hiccup. The F-104 needed a lot of runway to take off, mostly because its wings were small. Okay, on the puny side.
This causes a quandry. One big concern was that the Soviet Union would be able to get control of the air by hitting the runways on the airbases. The United States began testing Zero-Length Launches (ZeLL) with the F-100 Super Sabre. According to The Aviationist, West Germany also was looking into this concept. They had a good reason to do so. They were likely to be on the front lines, and airfields were not only threatened by bombers, but also by fighters and missiles.
ZeLL was accomplished by use of a big, powerful rocket that was installed on the plane. The F-104 was a natural as it was intended to be a point-defense interceptor. West Germany had bought a lot of these planes as multi-role fighters (which resulted in a big investigation as the F-104’s manufacturer had… well, let’s just say some money changed hands).
Germany had used rocket-powered interceptors, like the Me-163 Komet in World War II. The planes hadn’t worked well. Still, the Germans gave the ZeLL-equipped F-104 a shot. By 1966, though, the West Germans, as America had earlier, gave up on the idea. But the United Kingdom would solve the problem by developing the V/STOL jet known as the Harrier. That plane would later prove to be a decisive factor in the British winning the Falklands War. And it all started with using rockets to throw fighters into the air.
You can see more about the ZeLL-equipped F-104 in the video below.
The Coast Guard‘s top officer said on Aug. 1, 2018, that the U.S. can’t afford to delay its presence in the Arctic. But lawmakers are eyeing the cash planned for a new icebreaker to fund the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
With the November 2018 primaries looming, some members of Congress are eager to show their constituents that they support President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall along sections of the southwestern border. That left $750 million for a new heavy polar icebreaker out of a draft of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.
“I’m going to take a guardedly optimistic approach that … there’s still a lot of interest in getting an icebreaker to replace our 40-plus-year-old Polar Star, which is the only heavy icebreaker in the U.S. arsenal,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “… We need that ship now.”
A report released July 27, 2018, by the Congressional Research Service warns that Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic region. The Russians have more than 45 icebreakers, and they’re currently working on building a nuclear version, Schultz said.
China has also declared itself a near-Arctic nation and is working on building a new icebreaker. Diminishing ice levels could lead to an influx of traffic in the Arctic in coming years, and there’s “increasing mission demand for the Coast Guard up there,” Schultz said.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)
That’s as two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreakers — Polar Star and Polar Sea — have exceeded their 30-year services lives, the report states. The Polar Sea is no longer operational, and the need for search-and-rescue and other missions in the region will increase as traffic in the Arctic picks up.
“The reality of the Arctic is on us today,” Schultz said. “My thinking is a six-three-one strategy. We need six icebreakers — three of them need to be heavy icebreakers and we need one today. We need to get going there.”
He said Trump’s 2019 budget request, which includes plans for a new icebreaker, shows that the Coast Guard’s mission in the region is a priority for this administration. The Senate’s appropriations draft for DHS still includes the 0 million for a Coast Guard icebreaker, so it’s still possible that the service could get the funding in 2019.
Eight House Democrats sent a letter to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Kevin Yoder, Homeland Security subcommittee chairman, criticizing the plan to ditch the 0 million icebreaker funding request,Business Insider reported.
The bill wastes “a staggering .9 billion on a border wall and increasing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget by 8 million,” the letter states, while leaving U.S. national security at a disadvantage for years to come.
The Coast Guard is working with the Navy on plans to acquire three heavy icebreakers for about 0 million per ship.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When the term ‘MiG’ is thrown about, some planes come to mind immediately. The MiG-15, which fought the North American F-86 Sabre for control of the skies over Korea, is one of the more famous designs. The MiG-21 Fishbed, which still sees active service, was the best plane used by the Soviet-backed North Vietnamese. The MiG-29 Fulcrum is a front-line fighter for some countries.
But one MiG escapes the limelight: the MiG-19 Farmer. Despite being relatively unknown, this aircraft had its own moments of glory as the backbone of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
As MilitaryFactory.com notes, the MiG-19 was seen by the Soviets as a stopgap to replace the MiG-17 Fresco until the MiG-21 was ready. The Chinese Communists got a production license before the Sino-Soviet split and began building their own copy of the plane, called the J-6 Farmer. The MiG-19 had a top speed of 902 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,367 miles.
The MiG-19 saw action over Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In one moment of glory, MiG-19s shot down the F-4 Phantom, flown by Air Force pilots Robert Lodge and Roger Locher, as it tried to shoot down a MiG-21. While some versions of this aircraft carried missiles, most relied on a battery of three 30mm cannon for air-to-air combat.
The Soviets produced just over 2,700 MiG-19s, many of which went to allies in the Middle East. Communist China produced over 3,000 of the J-6 Famers, some of which went to North Vietnam and flew alongside Soviet-built fighters, like the MiG-17 and MiG-21.
Learn more about this often-forgotten plane in the video below:
Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office, fist-bumps with one of the first two advanced “LUKE” arms to be delivered from a new production line during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 DoD photo
Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line Dec. 22 — evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise, DARPA officials said.
The ceremony took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“The commercial production and availability of these remarkable arms for patients marks a major milestone in the [DARPA] Revolutionizing Prosthetics program and most importantly an opportunity for our wounded warriors to enjoy a major enhancement in their quality of life,” Sanchez said, “and we are not stopping here.”
The RP program is supporting initial production of the bionic arms and is making progress restoring upper-arm control, he added.
“Ultimately we envision these limbs providing even greater dexterity and highly refined sensory experiences by connecting them directly to users’ peripheral and central nervous systems,” Sanchez said.
As part of the production transition process, DARPA is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss, DARPA says.
The first production versions of “LUKE” arms, a groundbreaking upper-limb prostheses, were on display during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss. DoD photo
LUKE stands for “life under kinetic evolution” but is also a passing reference to the limb that Luke Skywalker wore in Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back.
The limbs are being manufactured by Mobius Bionics LLC, of Manchester, New Hampshire, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp., also of Manchester, under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.
The prosthetic system allows very dexterous arm and hand movement with grip force feedback through a simple intuitive control system, DARPA says.
The modular battery-powered limb is near-natural size and weight. Its hand has six user-chosen grips and an arm that allows for simultaneous control of multiple joints using inputs that include wireless signals generated by innovative sensors worn on a user’s feet.
The technology that powers prosthetic legs has advanced steadily over the past two decades but prosthetic arms and hands are a tougher challenge, in part because of the need for greater degrees of dexterity, DARPA says.
When the LUKE arm first went into development, people who had lost upper limbs had to use a relatively primitive split-hook device that hadn’t changed much since it was introduced in 1912.
DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees. LUKE received FDA approval less than eight years after the effort began, DARPA says.
Under a recently finalized agreement between DARPA and Walter Reed, DARPA will transfer LUKE arms from an initial production run to the medical center for prescription to patients. Mobius Bionics will train the Walter Reed staff to fit, service and support the arms.
In 1967, Israel fought the Six-Day War. Also known as the June War, the Israeli Defense Force was armed with the FN FAL battle rifle against the AK-47s of the Arab coalition. In the desert sand and dust, the Israeli FALs were prone to jamming and malfunctions. Moreover, the rifle was considered long and heavy. Israel needed a new rifle.
In the 1960s, America was replacing France as Israel’s primary ally and weapons supplier. The Israelis were offered the M16A1 to replace the FAL. While the new rifle was lighter and accurate, early M16s (and the accompanying ammunition) were not reliable enough for the IDF.
During the Six-Day War, Israel captured thousands of AKs. The IDF found that the stories of the rifle’s legendary reliability were true, but found its accuracy lacking. What they needed was a weapon that combined the accuracy of the M16 with the reliability of the AK-47.
Uziel Gal, designer and namesake of the iconic Uzi submachine gun, submitted a design for the new rifle. However, it was determined to be too complex and unreliable. Yisrael Galil, a British Army veteran of WWII, entered a competing design.
Galil’s rifle was based on the Finnish Valmet Rk 62. The Valmet uses the same 7.62x39mm cartridge as the AK-47 and is based on the Polish licensed version of the AK. However, Galil modified the Valmet to fire the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge from the M16. Not only was the smaller American round more accurate, but it was readily available to Israel from the United States. The rifle, named Galil after its designer, was declared the winner and Israel’s new primary rifle.
Designed for the specific needs of Israeli soldiers, the standard service rifle version issued to infantry units had some special features. Designated as the Automatic Rifle Machine-gun variant, the Galil ARM was fitted with a bipod. This allowed troops to fire the weapon from a more steady position in the prone. The bipod hinge also functioned as a wire cutter. This reduced the time needed for IDF troops to cut through the wire fences common in rural Israel. Finally, the bipod latch could be used as a bottle opener. Civilian reservists often used the magazine feed lips of the Uzi to open bottles which resulted in damaged magazines. The Galil came with a bottle opener built right in to prevent this.
However, in 1973, Israel was caught off guard with the Yom Kippur War. The Arab coalition launched coordinated surprise attacks on the Jewish holiday and the IDF was forced to rapidly mobilize. This war delayed the production and issuance of the Galil. Additionally, most Israeli conscripts preferred the lighter, but less reliable, M16.
By 1975, 60,000 M16A1s from the United States were issued to the IDF. Compared with the high cost of domestically producing the Galil, the M16 was simply a better option to arm the majority of the IDF. The introduction of the even lighter, more versatile, and more reliable M4 and new 5.56x45mm NATO ammo sealed the Galil’s fate and it was phased out of standard-issue by 2000.
Although its use by the IDF was limited, the Galil saw extensive service overseas. Many third world countries adopted the Galil in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x51mm NATO for its rugged reliability and use of NATO ammo. Licensed as the Vektor R4, the Galil is a favorite of the South African military and police. The Galil was even reportedly used by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team in California. The Galil ACE is a modernized version of the rifle that comes in more calibers and configurations than its predecessor. The ACE has been adopted by the Chilean Army and People’s Army of Vietnam. However, it lacks the famous bipod with its wire cutter and bottle opener.
The unmanned tank couldn’t operate as far away from its controllers as expected, had problems firing its 30mm gun, and couldn’t fire while moving, amid other problems, according to Popular Mechanics, citing the Defence Blog.
But in Syria, it could only be operated from about 984 to 1,640 feet from its operators around high-rise buildings, the Defence Blog reported, citing reports from the 10th all-Russian scientific conference “Actual problems of protection and security” in St. Petersburg.
The robot tank’s controller also randomly lost control of it 17 times for up to one minute and two times for up to an hour and a half, Defence Blog reported.
Uran-9 combat unmanned ground vehicle
The Uran-9 is heavily armed with four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missile launchers, six 93 millimeter-caliber rocket-propelled Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers, one 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon, and one 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.
But its 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon delayed six times and even failed once, Defence Blog reported, and it could only acquire targets up to about 1.24 miles away, as opposed to the expected four miles.
Apparently the tank’s optical station was seeing “multiple interferences on the ground and in the airspace in the surveillance sector,” Defence Blog reported.
The unmanned tank even had issues with its chassis and suspension system, and required repairs in the field, Defence Blog reported.
“The Uran-9 seems to have proven to be more about novelty than capability, but that doesn’t mean these tests are without value,” SOFREP reported. “In time (and with funding) a successor to the Uran-9 may one day be a battlefield force to be reckoned with.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While the introduction of a new plane, ship, or tank will often make headlines, these aren’t the only important procurements done by the military. In fact, many crucial upgrades go unnoticed by the media, but they make a huge difference in the lives of troops.
Such was the case with the Air Force’s new firefighting foam. You might think that water is the best tool for putting out fires. Well, in some cases, using water can do more harm than good. That’s why, especially with aircraft, the military likes to use Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF, which has just been replaced with a newer version.
It wasn’t that the old foam was ineffective — far from it. The problem was that the foam came with some serious drawbacks. Most notably, the old foam was quote toxic, both to personnel and to the environment. The old version of AFFF made use of two chemicals, known as PFOS and PFOA. Both of these were unsafe for consumption in even the tiniest amounts (measured in parts per trillion).
Sometimes, it’s a bad idea to put water on a fire — which led to the development of specialized firefighting foam.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
The toxicity of the old foam was such that even after testing in a hangar, the Air Force was spending time and money doing hazardous materials mitigation. In a day and age when each defense dollar is precious, spending time and money on HAZMAT stuff after each practice run is a huge drain.
Tech. Sgt. Brian Virden and Master Sgt. Bryan Riddell, replace legacy firefighting foam at King Salmon Air Station, Alaska, with Phos-Chek 3 percent, a C6-based Aqueous Film Forming Foam. The new foam has far fewer toxins than the older foam.
The new foam, now completely rolled out, doesn’t have any PFOS and very little PFOA. This means that the costly mitigation process is sidestepped almost entirely. Plus, in the event of a real usage, the airmen will be exposed to a much lower level of toxins — which saves lives down the line.
Not having to do HAZMAT clean-up after tests like this can save time and money – both of which are factors in readiness.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. William Powell)
In short, the introduction of the new AFFF didn’t generate headlines, but it is the type of small, behind-the-scenes move that enhances readiness across the service. A few small savings here, less time consumed there — you’d be surprised at how much a seemingly small change can improve the entire force.
Called the “TEC Torch,” the compact, handheld thermal breaching tool is made up of a handle and cartridge which weigh less than a pound each. The incredibly powerful flame produced by the torch reaches temperatures around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat which can rip through steel in less than a second.
The TEC Torch was developed after Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in war-zone environments requested a compact, lightweight, and hand-held tool which would allow them to cut through locks, bars, and other barriers, according to Air Force.
Unlike the lightsabers used by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, this blade flame burns out after two seconds.
Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.
The Air Force and Boeing have reached agreement on delivery of the long delayed KC-46 Pegasus tanker, with the two sides expecting the first aircraft to arrive in October 2018, according to Bloomberg.
Boeing’s original deadline to deliver 18 planes and additional materials was August 2017, but the $44 billion program has been hit by numerous delays and setbacks, and the Air Force said this spring it expected Boeing to miss its deadline to deliver the planes by October 2018, with the first KC-46 not arriving until the end of 2018 and all 18 planes by spring 2019.
The delivery of the first KC-46 by October 2018 is two months earlier than the Air Force anticipated. Matthew Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg the timeline was “aggressive but achievable.” Under the new schedule, the other 17 planes will arrive by April 2019.
The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the KC-46. Once it begins receiving them, the service will start phasing out its older KC-10 tankers. It will hold on to 300 of its KC-135 tankers, which average 55 years old. That would expand the tanker fleet to 479 KC-135s and KC-46s from the current 455 KC-135s and KC-10s.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
Under their contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. But delays in delivery could mean the Air Force will have to keep 19 KC-135s in service through 2023 at a cost of up to $10 million a plane annually.
The most serious problem facing the tanker has been the risk of its refueling boom scraping the surface of planes receiving fuel, which can damage stealth aircraft and potentially ground the tanker.
Other issues include the operation of the remote vision system, which is used to guide the boom; problems with the unexpected disconnection of its centerline drogue system, which is used to refuel aircraft; and concerns about the plane’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the plane to broadcast. The latter two issues were downgraded to category-two deficiencies early 2018.
Settling on a delivery date may mean that both sides believe Boeing is close to resolving the tanker’s deficiencies. Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg that a software fix for the boom scrapping the receiving aircraft is undergoing flight testing and that flight test verification for the fixes is set for September 2018.
‘It is prudent to explore options’
The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging tankers for years, and military officials have been critical of the recent delays, even as they’ve complimented Boeing on its cooperation.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told acquisition officials in November 2017 that he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.
Early 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee that “one of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these airplanes to the Air Force.”
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)
Her remarks came a few days after Donovan encouraged Boeing to “double down” to “get this program over the goal line” during a visit to the KC-46 production and modification facility in Washington state.
Even as the KC-46 program inches forward, lawmakers are looking beyond the current, manned tankers to adapt to emerging threats.
It its markup of the 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern “about the growing threat to large high-value aircraft in contested environments” and recommended an extra $10 million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation, for a total of $38.4 million.
While the Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.
“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” it added.
Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, part of an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage, an issue that has plagued both civilian and military aviation.
Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is also working on a similar project, partnering with Kronstadt Group to develop an unmanned transport aircraft that could be used to access remote or difficult-to-reach areas.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.