Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A pleasant drive through a farming community a little south of Phoenix, Arizona, leads to a dirt driveway with a sign that reads, “Wuertz Farm.” As cars file in past the miniature donkeys and horse corrals, a gentleman directs drivers where to park. A cameraman with a pack that appears to be tethered to a 100-ft extension cord works to get a live feed on a large flat screen TV. What may sound like a trip to the state fair is the opening scene to the Wuertz Machine Works 2019 Hammer In.


Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Travis Wuertz welcomes the crowd at the start of the 2019 Hammer In.

The Hammer In is a gathering of bladesmiths from around the country, who come to share and exchange knowledge of their ancient craft. As one might expect, there is no shortage of beards on site, but not everyone is shrouded in Viking-style facial hair. A quiet young lady with a secret passion for bladesmithing stands alone, trying to warm herself in the morning sun, while a fifteen-year-old bladesmith of two years shows off some of his amazing work to his adult colleagues. Regardless of age, gender, experience, or skill, it is immediately apparent that this is a brotherhood like no other — a brotherhood of steel.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

The beautiful work of 15-year-old bladesmith Zander Nichols.

Not so primitive

While the perception of some may be that bladesmithing is a primitive craft, the reality is quite different. There is an old Japanese proverb, “On-ko Chi-shin,” which literally translates, “Study the old, know the new.” The idea is that by studying the old ways, one can better understand the new ways. This very concept can be seen in practice by the astute observer within seconds of setting foot into the Wuertz Hammer In.

A hundred-year-old power hammer that has been retrofitted with an electric motor sits just feet always from a self-regulating, ribbon-burner forge, built by Travis Wuertz himself. As an engineer who is constantly looking to refine his bladesmithing, Travis designed a forge that not only distributes heat consistently throughout using a ribbon burner design, but also automatically adjusts to maintain a consistent temperature, and monitors the gas/oxygen mixture for efficient fueling. The design ensures very precise control during the forging process, where overheating can result in damaged steel.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A not-so-primitive self-regulating, ribbon burner forge in action.


Mareko Maumasi, a Forged in Fire champion from Connecticut, and a wizard of Damascus steel, can be seen splayed over a large white easel pad working out a complex mathematical equation. When asked about it, he explains that it is an equation for predicting Damascus patterning. Apparently, there is more to it that just mixing hard and mild steels.

Old dogs and new tricks

Throughout the two-day gathering, both young and seasoned bladesmiths deliver periods of instruction on topics in which they are highly skilled. Michael Quesenberry, who specializes in daggers, bowies, and forged integrals, kicked off the event with a demonstration of how he forges his integral knives. An integral knife is one in which the blade, bolsters, tang, and pommel are forged from a single steel billet. With finesse and precision, Quesenberry hammers a round billet into an integral knife in less than an hour.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Michael Quesenberry demonstrates how he forges his integral knives.

William Brigham awed attendees with a detailed explanation of Mokume-gane, a Japanese metalworking process used to bond a mixture of metals to produce a distinctive layered pattern, similar to wood grain. Mokume-gane loosely translates to “wood grain metal.” This process was originally used in Japanese sword-making to produce highly aesthetic accoutrements like the Tsuba (guard) and now serves modern bladesmiths in like manner.

A gathering such as this could not take place without plenty of talk about Damascus steel. Mike Tyre and Eric Fleming gave an informative lecture about feather Damascus. This technique involves stacking many layers of steel several inches tall and using a dull wedge to split through and stretch the layers. A feather-like pattern is the result when the sections are rejoined and flattened out. Mareko Maumasi also gave a mathematically-charged lecture on mosaic Damascus, and shared the cold coffee etching recipe that he uses to create the deep color contrast his blades are known for.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Mareko Maumasi lectures the crowd on Mosaic Damascus.

At one point during the second day, one of the ABS Master Bladesmiths attending the event turned to this author and said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t seen or don’t know how to do when it comes to making knives, but these new guys are taking things to a whole new level.”

Fit & finish

Any bladesmith worth their salt will tell you the clean finish and precise fitting of a blade to the handle and accessories is what truly distinguishes the master craftsman. This requires the ability to work around a grinder to cut, shape, refine, and polish the blade, handle, and fittings. Mike Quesenberry demonstrated his mastery of fit and finish with a handle shaping demonstration and a blade grinding demonstration. There are few blade designs that challenge a bladesmith’s symmetrical grinding ability like a dagger, and Quesenberry showed us why he is one of the best at making daggers.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A well-used TW-90 grinder, the invention of Travis Wuertz himself.

Of course, the Wuertz Hammer In would not be complete without a demo from Travis Wuertz himself. Travis has designed the most coveted knife making grinder on the planet, the TW-90, so he finished up the two-day event with some of his tips and tricks for precise grinding and finishing using his grinder and the myriad of attachments he has designed to make the knife maker’s life a whole lot easier.

Shenanigans

At rare events like this, where bladesmiths and knife enthusiasts gather from all over the country, there’s not much desire to go back to the hotel at the end of the day, rather the real fun begins when the day is “over.” The hammers come out, the forges are lit, and sparks begin flying in the darkness of night as the intimate exchange of information takes place and the good times roll.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing after-hours activity was the knife throwing class taught by Jason Johnson, an expert knife thrower and Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Season 1 finalist. Johnson instructed participants in his instinctive and powerful knife-throwing technique prior to turning them loose on the firing line, so they could try their hands at sticking some knives. It was an impressive sight to see even the young kids sticking knives into the wooden targets at various ranges after only a few minutes of instruction from Johnson.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Knife Throwing expert Jason Johnson schools us on his personal method.

Wrapping it up

At the end of this two-day venture, new friendships have made, old friendships have been rekindled, and this brotherhood of steel is alive evermore. These bladesmiths are bonded by the blood, sweat, and tears that flow through down the anvil and the spirit of fire that burns through the forge. They part ways with the kinds of hugs and handshakes that only those of a kindred spirit can share. Until they meet again.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A coffee-etched kitchen knife created by Don Nguyen of Tucson, AZ.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How fighter jets can ‘headbutt’ enemy planes

When fighter jets are scrambled to intercept enemy or unidentified planes, they have a range of options, from immediate lethal fires to trying to contact the rogue plane via radio, depending on the situation. One of the options is to use their plane to conduct the “headbutt” of the other plane.

The maneuver is sweet, but not nearly as metal as it sounds.


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A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet, like the ones that headbutted and then attacked and destroyed Syrian ground attack aircraft in June, 2017.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)

There are a number of maneuvers which have been described under the umbrella of the term, “headbutt,” but none of them include physical contact between the two planes.

Last year, the ‘headbutt’ maneuver got press coverage after F-18Es intercepted hostile ground attack jets over Syria in June. There, the U.S. fighters conducted one of the most aggressive forms of the maneuver. Two American jets flew close to one another, with one trailing behind. The jets’ wakes combine and become even stronger, and the two jets fly in front of the targeted jet in order to destabilize it with the violent wake. They also dropped flares.

Basically, the two American jets use the “winds” from their own passage to rock the targeted jet. When that failed to dissuade the Syrian Su-22 from bombing U.S. backed forces, the F/A-18E shot down the Syrian jet.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

(AirWolfHound, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another version of the headbutt, usually seen when the Air Force is trying to get the attention of a friendly or civilian aircraft, has the headbutting jet fly well underneath the target aircraft, then fly up nearly vertical about 500 feet ahead of the friendly plane’s nose, nearly guaranteeing that the pilot will see the U.S. fighter without forcing the pilot to fly though a violent or dangerous wake.

This is only done if ground controllers and the fighter pilots have been unable to establish radio communications with the aircraft, and the aircraft is flying into restricted airspace.

A third version of the maneuver is very similar to the first, but has only one jet flying ahead of the targeted aircraft. This has two advantages. First, less wake is created, meaning that the targeted aircraft is less likely to encounter trouble in flight as a result of the maneuver. Second, it allows the wingman of the headbutting aircraft to loiter either hidden or in a good attack position, ready to move in for a kill if necessary.

This version of the maneuver is often accompanied by the release of flares in order to drive home the point that the U.S. jet is trying to communicate with the targeted aircraft.

While these maneuvers have certainly existed for a long time, the American emphasis on them has grown since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Suddenly, an Air Force that had always been aimed at foreign enemies had to be prepared to assess threats in the domestic airspace much more often.

Like all U.S. military forces, especially when operating with and near civilians, the U.S. pilots wanted a clear escalation of force procedure with ways to assess whether a civilian aircraft was a threat before they were forced to shoot it down.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

F-16s like this one can fly well over the speed of sound, but have to be prepared to slow down enough to communicate with civilian planes visually, whether its by headbutting them, rocking their wings, or flashing their lights.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kathryn R. C. Reaves)

This required the pilots to develop new skills, like additional levels of warning an aircraft that it was entering restricted airspace. It also led to pilots of fighter jets that could break the sound barrier suddenly being worried about how they could slow down enough to read a Cessna’s tail number.

If that doesn’t sound challenging, realize that many of the single-engine planes flying around U.S. skies are considered fast if they can clear 175 knots, roughly equal to 200 mph. Meanwhile, F-16s can fly 1,600 mph. If a fighter is checking on a slow-moving, single-engine plane, they may need to fly (at least) 100 mph faster than their target simply to prevent a stall.

Now imagine trying to get a phone number off of a yard sign while your friend is driving 100 mph.

Takes practice.

But if they can’t get into radio contact with a plane and can’t properly identify it from its tail number, they still need options to get its attention without shooting it down. Headbutting, making radio contact, flashing their landing lights, and dropping flares are among such techniques, but they’re not the only ones. In fact, in at least one tense situation over restricted airspace, a Coast Guard helicopter flew ahead of a civilian plane with a whiteboard telling it to change to a specific radio frequency.

Thanks to all these efforts, the U.S. Air Force has never had to shoot down a civilian plane, and they’ve gained experience using a valuable tool for deterring enemy planes near U.S. forces abroad. But, like the events in June 2017 demonstrated, the “headbutt” won’t always scare the enemy away — and American pilots still might have to get their hands dirty.

Lists

6 strange military disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle

The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.


Natural explanations usually range from compass problems, to changes in the Gulf Stream, or violent weather, the presence of methane hydrates, and to a large coincidence of human error. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a strange amount of disappearances that let the conspiracy theories gain some traction.

From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith
(Photo via Wikimedia)

One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.

The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.

This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith
Right: U.S.S. Proteus. Left: U.S.S. Nereus (Photos via Wikimedia)

Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.

Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.

According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.

3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith
(Photo via Wikimedia)

The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”

Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”

After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”

4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954

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(Photo via navsource.org)

The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.

Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.

5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965

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Same model as the aircraft lost over the Triangle (photo via Wikimedia)

The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.

A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).

The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”

Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.

The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.

 

YouTube, BuzzfeedBlue

popular

6 things in video games that work nothing like real combat

Obviously, video games are nothing like the real world. No one is going to give you 100 gold coins to go clear a bunch of rats out of a dungeon and no one is impressed by your ability to roll on the ground to get places faster.

Where this division between real life and gaming hits the hardest is in the military. Think about it — not once has a recruiter tried to tell you about the “quest reward” that is the GI Bill. On the bright side, there are a lot less people screaming that they’ve done unspeakable acts to others’ mothers — so there’s that.

These are six video game tropes that are completely detached from reality.


Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Usually, waiting for your vision to stop going red indicates a concussion…

First-aid kits

Most games have one of two types of healing: Either you just hide behind a rock for a few seconds and you’re perfect or you run over a first-aid kit and it immediately feel better You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t how it works on an actual battlefield.

There are entire occupations in the military dedicated to delivering aid to wounded troops. The cold reality is that just throwing a first aid kit at someone isn’t going to get them back to 100%.

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It’s probably for the best. A laser could get set off by anyone: friend, foe, or civilian bystander.

Claymore mines

For some reason, claymore mines in video games are always set to go off when someone walks in front of the little lasers attached to the front.

In real life, mines like those do exist, but they aren’t used on the battlefield. Laser tripwire mines are highly discouraged by the Geneva convention. Typically, real claymore mines are detonated with a wire and switch.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Even in the apocalypse, any weapon you find works perfectly.

Perfectly working weapons

No matter what wide assortment of weapons and firearms the game presents to the player, every weapon will always work perfectly. You never have to clean them, maintain them, or deal with many of the issues that plague actual weapons.

Cleaning weapons is a daily routine for combat arms troops. But even if the weapon is at peak cleanliness, they may still suffer a failure to feed, load, or eject, which takes a troop out of the fight temporarily. It’d be nice for immersion if the gamer had to perform SPORTS on a disabled rifle, but it definitely wouldn’t be any fun.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Older games tended to be a lot more straightforward with their orders.

Operation Orders

In a sense, there are briefings in video games. While the mission loads up, players are told what to do and then sent off to play. If they don’t like a mission, they can usually just skip it — or disregard orders and play it however they see fit.

Declining a mission from someone who outranks you or putting your own “creative twist” on an objective to it is a surefire way to incur administrative action — especially if your idiotic move has terrible consequences for someone else.

It’s also much harder to do a 360 No-Scope in real life, so don’t try it at home, kids.

“Running and gunning”

In multiplayer games, when a match starts, players set out with a singular objective of outscoring the other guys. This means that everyone plays the fun role of the badass who runs around the map shooting fools in the face.

Actual missions are set up differently and broken down into many different tasks. Your security element is often away from the fight and watching what the enemy is up to, the support element makes sure things go according to plan, and even the assault teams you’d expect to be doing the badass stuff often are given a single task like, “just watch this one particular window.”

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Thankfully, helicopter pilots don’t give a damn if you’ve gone on a 7-kill streak or not.

Fair fights

Video games try to give everyone an equal and competitive chance at winning. Developers spend months fine tuning a game before launching it to make sure every player is given the same chance as the next. In a perfect, competitive environment, the only variable is skill.

There’s no way in Hell that U.S. troops would willingly fight on the same level as their enemy. Sure, there’s always going to be that one tool who complains about the Geneva Convention “holding us back,” but in the grander scheme of things, it really doesn’t. U.S. troops kick an unbelievable amount of ass — and they do so with bigger guns, better technology, and more rigorous training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russian company to launch Stalin inspired sausages

A meat-processing factory in the town of Shelanger in Russia’s Mari El Republic says it will soon start producing sausages named after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Local communist newspaper Golos Pravdy (Voice of the Truth) said on June 3, 2019, that the factory will launch three new sausage brands — Stalin’s Testaments, Stalingrad, and Soviet.

The announcement said that “the new sausages’ names suggest that they will be delicious.” It did not say when the new products will be launched.


The Zvenigovsky meat-processing facility is owned by the first secretary of the Communist Party’s committee in Mari El, Ivan Kazankov, who owns 99 percent of the factory’s shares.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, 1937.

In 2015, a 3-meter high statue of Stalin was unveiled in front of the meat-processing facility in Shelanger.

Millions of people were executed, sent to gulag labor camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan, or starved to death in famines caused by forced collectivization during Stalin’s rule.

During World War II, entire ethnic groups in the Soviet Union were sent to Central Asia as collective punishment for what the Kremlin said was collaboration with Nazi Germany.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The iconic PBR was based on a recreational boat and powered by Jacuzzi jets

Picture the brown-water Navy of the Vietnam War and you probably picture Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard floating upriver on a PBR to “terminate Col. Kurtz’s command…with extreme prejudice.” The Patrol Boat, River was a small rigid-hulled patrol boat used extensively in the Vietnam War to navigate the country’s many waterways. Employed operationally from 1966 until 1971, PBRs were used to conduct patrols, disrupt enemy movement, and most notably, insert and extract Special Forces units like Navy SEALs and the fictional Capt. Willard.

As the war in Vietnam escalated, the U.S. military quickly saw the need for a small and agile watercraft that could move quickly on Vietnam’s many rivers. The Navy approached civilian shipbuilder Hatteras Yachts to convert their 41′ fiberglass recreational family boat by shortening it and fitting it with water pump-jets instead of propellers. The pump-jets would allow the boat to operate in extremely shallow water. Willis Slane and Jack Hargrave of Hatteras took on the challenge and delivered the prototype to the Navy for testing in just 7 days.


In 1965, the Navy awarded a contract to Uniflite Boats to build the first 120 PBRs. They were powered by two Detroit 6V53N engines producing 180 hp each (later increased to 216 hp), and two 14YJ water pump-jet drives manufactured by Jacuzzi. With this power, the boats could cruise between 25 and 31 knots. The later Mark II PBR was slightly bigger, increasing from 31′ to 32′ in length and 10′ 7″ to 11′ 7″ beam. Mark II PBRs were also fitted with improved drives to reduce fouling and aluminum gunwales to resist wear.

The PBR was extremely maneuverable, being able to turn within its own length. But the PBRs party piece was its stopping ability. Fitted with thrust buckets, the PBR could reverse its Jacuzzi water pump-jets and go from full speed to a dead stop within a couple of its own length. Because of its fiberglass hull, the boat was also extremely light. This meant that it had a draft of just 2′ when fully loaded and could be slingloaded by a helicopter.

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A CH-54 Tarhe prepares to hoist a PBR (U.S. Army)

PBRs were typically armed with a twin M2HB .50-caliber machine gun turret forward, a single rear-mounted M2HB, one or two M60 7.62mm light machine guns on the port and starboard side, and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. However, PBR captains were known to augment their weapons suites with additional M2HBs and 81mm mortars. Some even swapped out their bow-mounted twin .50-cals for a Mk16 Mod 4 Colt 20mm automatic cannon. In addition to all this, the four-man crew was armed with a full complement of M16 rifles, shotguns, M1911 handguns, and hand grenades.

All this lethality came at the cost of protection. Though the .50-cal machine guns had some ceramic armor shielding and the Coxswain’s flat had quarter-inch thick steel armor plating, the fiberglass-hulled boats had little else in the way of armor. Rather, PBRs relied on their acceleration, maneuverability, and outright speed for their survivability. This made them extremely adept at hit and run attacks and special operations. In the latter, the PBR found great success. Not only did the boat serve as an excellent insertion and extraction platform, its heavy armament meant that it could provide direct fire support for special operations teams if necessary.

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith
A PBR cruises down a river in Vietnam (U.S. Navy)

At the height of production during the Vietnam War, two PBRs were rolling off the assembly line every day. By the war’s end, over 750 had been built. Today, less than three dozen PBRs survive in conditions ranging from stripped hulls to fully operational, of which there are just seven. However, the PBRs legacy is greater than its surviving examples.

The most decorated enlisted sailor in U.S. Navy history, James “Willie” Williams, commanded PBR 105. During a patrol on October 21, 1966, Williams’ and another PBR engaged over 65 enemy boats and numerous well-concealed ground troops in a three-hour running battle. Williams’ actions during the battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His citation notes that he “exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol” and that he “demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle.”

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith
Williams wields an M60 aboard his PBR (U.S. Navy)

To the unknowing tourist looking at a static display, the PBR might just be a greenish grey military boat. A cinephile might recognize it as the boat from Apocalypse Now. But, to the special forces teams that were pulled out of a hot extraction by one, the PBR was a guardian angel. To the sailors that crewed them, a PBR was home.

Articles

This is the most awesome Delta Force recruiting video we’ve ever seen

It’s an oldie but a goodie — and it’s likely the only publicly-available video showing real-deal Delta Force operators.


Leaked during the height of the Iraq war in 2008, this video crept its way onto YouTube and caused quite a splash when it hit the net. The original footage has since been taken down, but it was added to this compilation video of all Special Forces. Rumors around the original video claimed it was put together by the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta to help recruit new members to “The Unit.”

As that Tier 1 Joint Special Operations group was tasked with fighting the top leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, veterans of the unit from the ’90s and 2000s were burning out — and suffering casualties. In fact, “No Easy Day” author and former SEAL Team 6 commando Matt Bissonnette wrote that some DEVGRU SEALS were tasked to run with Delta in Iraq because the squadrons were under manned.

So it stands to reason that Delta needed new blood. And with an assessment that matriculates only a handful who try, combined with a brutal operational tempo at the time that saw squadrons executing sometimes three raids per night for a 90 day deployment, The Unit had to get soldiers in the door.

Tactical driving? Check. Vehicle takedowns from a Little Bird? Check. Lots of breaching and A-10 CAS? Check.

There’s a lot more to the video to note (including the Delta boys tooling around Baghdad in a specially-modified Stryker vehicle Pandur 1 Armored Ground Mobility Vehicle), but this’ll just give you a taste of what’s in store.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just brought 2 NASA astronauts back to Earth in its Crew Dragon spaceship, kicking off ‘the next era in human spaceflight’

SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.

On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.


Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they’d spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth’s atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown.

Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.

“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”

“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.

With Demo-2’s completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA’s ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars.

“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.

“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.

The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.

“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.

He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”

In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut’s return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule).

“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.

“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.

American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil

Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.

During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.

Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million (not including NASA’s .7 billion in funding), according to NASA’s inspector general.

Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).

Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.

With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.

“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”

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In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.

“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

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Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)

Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars

With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.

The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

There’s even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS.

But Musk’s primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet.

NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.

Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.

“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.

‘I doubted us, too’

During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.

“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.

He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”

Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Scientists want to give you artificial, robot muscles

Remember that LS3 Mule robot the Marines tested but then decided against deploying because it was just too noisy for use on the frontlines? That was sort of crazy, right? But Army researchers are doing a large amount of work to make quiet, robotic muscles to reinforce soldiers, exoskeletons, and robots of the future.


LS3 Robotic Pack Mule Field Testing by US Military

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It might sound sort of odd that the servos on a robot could be too noisy for the place where mortars and machine guns are fired. But Marines and soldiers try to stay quiet and stealthy until the fight starts. Then they start firing, and it’s fine to be super noisy. But a new problem pops up, then: you don’t want any systems to run out of power in the middle of a firefight. And firefights are some of the worst times to change out batteries. You need to be efficient.

But those two problems with the Legged Squad Support System, as the robot program was officially known, could be fixed with one—albeit major—breakthrough. Humans can move without any sound of motors and can go for days or even weeks when necessary with little new energy input. All it takes is muscles instead of motors.

And muscles can use chemical fuels much more efficiently than most motors and other machines. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories, enough to propel a fit human 912 miles on the bicycle or 260 miles running.

Muscles are very efficient both in terms of energy consumed and weight. That makes them very attractive to engineers, especially ones that need to make stealthy machines.

And scientists are working on that. So, yeah, welcome to the future.

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A graphic shows how proteins are structured.

(U.S. Army-Shutterstock)

The Army Research Laboratory has recently highlighted two related tracks that scientists are currently moving down. One group of researchers is focusing on a much better understanding of how human muscles work, and other scientists just enjoyed a 10-day visit from a professor who helped them understand how polymer, or plastic, strands can be made to coil and uncoil like a muscle, to function like a muscle.

So, the first group is seeking to reverse engineer biological muscles, and that second group is basically studying ways of making plastic muscles.

BTW, if that first group sounds like a bunch of flunkies, “How do they not know how muscles work? I eat carbohydrates and proteins, and I get bigger muscles. Not complicated,” then realize that none of us know how muscles really work on a micro level, the level needed to really engineer a muscle. One of the researchers put it well. Dean Culver said:

These widely accepted muscle contraction models are akin to a black-box understanding of a car engine. More gas, more power. It weighs this much and takes up this much space. Combustion is involved. But, you can’t design a car engine with that kind of surface-level information. You need to understand how the pistons work, and how finely injection needs to be tuned. That’s a component-level understanding of the engine. We dive into the component-level mechanics of the built-up protein system and show the design and control value of living functionality as well as a clearer understanding of design parameters that would be key to synthetically reproducing such living functionality.

Both the projects would result in chemically powered muscles. One group would just create the muscle “fibers” out of plastic instead of proteins. Either way, future warriors could use the extra muscles from the scientists.

But the science is still in the nascent stages, so the real muscle suits probably won’t be available until you need them more for getting around the retirement home than the battlefield.

Until then, you can always get a sweet Halloween muscle suit instead.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

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Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

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Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

popular

9 reasons mortarmen are so deadly

Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.


But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:

1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly

 

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Mortars are basically a tube, a site, and a baseplate, so they can be assembled at the front and placed into operation quickly. In some situations, the tube can even be sighted by hand and fired without the baseplate, though both of these things reduce the accuracy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire

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Because mortar rounds move at a lower rate than howitzer rounds, they require less propellant and generate less heat. This allows them to be fired more quickly. For instance, the M120 120mm mortar system can fire 16 rounds in its first minute and can sustain four rounds per minute. The M1911 howitzer can fire 12 rounds in two minutes and sustain three rounds per minute. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Kirby)

3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire

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Mortars generally maneuver forward with the other infantrymen, meaning that they can see where their targets are and where they land. If necessary, the mortar can still fire from out of sight if a forward observer or other soldier provides targeting adjustments. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Petke)

4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation

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Since the mortars are moving with the maneuver element, they can see friendly forces and are often within yelling distance of the battlefield leadership. This allows them to shift fire as friendly troops advance and hit changing target priorities in real time. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations

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A 120mm mortar shell airbursts. Mortars can be set to detonate a certain distance from the ground, after a certain time of flight, upon hitting the surface, or a certain amount of time after hitting the surface. It all depends on what fuzes are equipped and how they are set. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Gustavo Olgiati)

6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat

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These paratroopers are carrying the M121 120mm mortar system. Mortars can be airdropped into combat and the mortar ammunition can be jumped to the battlefield in soldiers’ rucks, as bundles dropped from the plane doors, or as pallets from the rear. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Alejandro Pena)

7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)

 

8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point

 

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If a mortar position comes under direct attack or if the battle shifts in a way that makes mortars less useful than rifles, the mortarmen can move into action as riflemen. After all, mortarmen are infantry. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle)

9. Also, machineguns

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A U.S. Marine Corps mortarman pulls security during a modern operations in urban terrain exercise. Mortarmen can even be equipped with machineguns, though we don’t envy the guy rucking a mortar baseplate and a machinegun. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

MIGHTY TRENDING

What it was like to land behind enemy lines in a glider on D-Day

D-Day, June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious invasion in history. Over 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, but over 15,000 airborne soldiers dropped in behind enemy lines on D-Day. Most parachuted in, but over a thousand landed in Normandy inside gliders made of plywood.

Ninety-seven-year-old Millcreek, Utah, resident John “Jack” Whipple piloted one of the hundreds of gliders to set down in the fields of France on that June morning.


Tow planes delivered Jack and hundreds of other fearless flyers to the air over Northern France. Whipple was behind the controls of an Airspeed Horsa the day of the invasion.

“When we came over Utah Beach we received some ground fire,” said Whipple. “Then we flew over the Germans, and received a lot more fire.”

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Horsa Glider

Allied forces used two gliders in the invasion: the Waco CG-4A and the Airspeed Horsa. These were not the modern sail planes of today, but cargo and troop carriers. The CG-4 carried a pilot and co-pilot, 13 soldiers and their equipment, or a jeep and two or three soldiers.

Whipple’s Horsa carried him and co-pilot, a jeep, an anti-tank gun, four soldiers that morning, but the Horsa could also be configured to carry 30 soldiers and their gear. The total weight of a loaded Horsa hovered around 15,000 pounds.

After the tow planes cut the gliders loose, pilots had just moments to find their landing zone.

“The quicker the better,” said Whipple. “They were shooting at us – probably 3 to 4 minutes.”

To make matters worse, reconnaissance photos given to pilots were months old.

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Jack Whipple, 1944

“The photos had been taken in January or February and the trees had no leaves,” Whipple recalled. When we got there, the trees were in full leaves and we missed our main check point.”

Losing altitude, Whipple picked a field to land in, but quickly realized it wasn’t big enough. He slammed the glider in to the ground, ripping off the landing gear. He then performed an intentional ground loop, digging one wing into the ground, thus slowing the glider and protecting the fuselage. A maneuver, which all these years later, Whipple points out, was authorized.

“We landed, didn’t hurt anybody or the major equipment,” he said.

At this point, his role shifted.

“Glider pilots did the flying, and right after we landed we became infantry men. Most glider pilots were trained as infantry men, but we couldn’t wear the infantry badge because we weren’t in their unit. We were still in the air corps.” Whipple said.

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Troops aboard a Horsa glider

“We landed behind enemy lines. We had about perhaps five or six Horsa gliders. We got together after landing and helped those who were injured. We got attacked that night, but we were able to keep the group together and able to keep the enemy away.”

The airborne assault on German forces was a key part of the allied invasion.

“It made it easier because the Germans then had to fight both sides of a squeeze,” said Whipple, squeezing his hands together. “The people coming on the beach—and the airborne.”

And while hundreds of gliders may not sound like a lot, the gliders provided the airborne units equipment to combat heavy and mechanized infantry, and needed supplies to operate behind enemy lines. Whipple flew two additional combat glider missions—one in Holland and the final one as part of the Rhine Crossing.

After returning from the war, he earned his private pilot license, and flew all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force put some guys in a freezer to test out new survival gear

US airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing tested a new arctic survival kit for the F-35A Lightning II in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

A team of airmen from the 356th Fighter Squadron, F-35 Program Integration Office, 354th Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment and 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 1, used a subzero chamber to replicate the extreme temperatures of interior Alaska.

The test was performed because the current arctic survival kit won’t fit in the allotted space under the seat of an F-35A. The 354th FW is expecting to receive its first F-35A in April of 2019.


“We are testing the kit that Tech. Sgt. John Williams, Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Ferguson and myself have developed over the last year in preparation for the integration of the F-35,” said Tech. Sgt. Garret Wright, 66th TS, Det. 1 Arctic Survival School noncommissioned officer in charge of operations.

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US Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke tests an F-35A Lightning II survival gear kit in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

Four members of the team, to include Lt. Col. James Christensen, commander of the reactivated 356th Fighter Squadron, stepped into two separate chambers, one at minus-20 and the other at minus-40, wearing standard cold-weather gear issued to pilots. Once inside the chambers, the test observers timed how long it took them to don the specialized winter gear from their survival kit.

After the gear was on, the Icemen lived up to their name and stayed in the chamber for six hours. Wright recorded their condition every 30 minutes to ensure the safety and accuracy of the test.

Approximately five hours into the test, Wright noticed the temperature on the digital thermometer didn’t seem accurate in one of the chambers. He found a mercury-based thermometer and discovered the temperature one of the chambers was at minus-65 and the other was minus-51.

“After realizing that the ambient room temperature was at minus-65 at the five-hour mark, I knew that we had accomplished far more than we originally set out to,” Wright said. “Wing leaders wanted a product that would keep pilots alive at minus-40 and although unplanned, the findings were clear that the sleep system could far surpass this goal.”

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Wright holds a thermometer beside Rumke during an F-35A Lightning II survival kit test in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

After six cold hours, the Icemen stepped out of the subzero chamber and spoke with the survival, evasion, reconnaissance, and escape specialists and the AFE team to address discrepancies and better ways to utilize the equipment.

“The gear was great. There were a couple of minor tweaks that I think we could make to it to improve it but overall it was solid,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke, 66th TS, Det. 1, Artic Survival School instructor.

After the debrief, the four Icemen agreed the equipment is more than capable of withstanding the harsh temperatures of the Alaskan landscape and said they would feel safe knowing they had this gear to help them survive in one of the world’s most extreme environments.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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