How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters - We Are The Mighty
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How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Technology around the world is constantly improving, which influences the Air Force to keep up with these new developments by innovating and finding ways to effectively train airmen.

At Dyess Air Force Base, these updates can be seen in various virtual reality training systems. Now, the 7th Security Forces Squadron is implementing the newly-improved Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives training simulator as part of their regular training curriculum.

“The MILO is a 300-degree training simulator which fully immerses our trainees in many different scenarios they may encounter,” said Staff Sgt. Jordan Valentine, 7th SFS instructor. “This new system forces the airmen that go through it to really be aware of their surroundings and create muscle memory, unlike our older system which has them stationary in front of one screen.”


The MILO consists of five screens, with trainees placed in the center. During each encounter, airmen are able to train on the most efficient positions to stand or walk while being recorded from above to review how they handled themselves.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Airman 1st Class Lisa Villarreal, 7th Force Support Squadron career development journeyman, speaks to a disgruntled individual during a noise complaint simulation in the Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives training simulator at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)

The simulator can create a variety of encounters including active shooters, noise complaints, trespassers and calls regarding individuals who may be in danger.

Each scenario has the ability to be manipulated by an instructor based on the trainee’s responses to conversations or actions. This allows the airmen to have a more realistic perspective of the different outcomes their actions can cause.

“The airmen are not only able to train with firearms for the system, but with non-lethal methods like a baton,” said Richard Cook, 7th SFS instructor. “This helps to show them that they are able to use non-lethal ways to stop confrontations in certain situations.”

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Staff. Sgt. Jordan Valentine, 7th Security Forces Squadron instructor, left, watches Airman 1st Class Jarod Nalls, 7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, middle, and Airman 1st Class Lisa Villarreal, 7th Force Support Squadron career development journeyman, right, as they encounter a simulated active school shooter with the Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives training simulator at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mercedes Porter)

For both, the instructors and trainees, MILO helps to effectively lower man hours needed for the training. One instructor is able to control the scenes and debrief the airmen, rather than requiring multiple participants to create a situation for the trainees to react to.

“It was an interesting and new experience when we walked into the new system,” said airman 1st Class Lisa Villarreal, 7th Force Support Squadron career development journeyman, who was training for her security forces’ augmentee duty. “You become immersed and it made you really think on your surroundings to keep an eye on any potential threats.”

The MILO software also allows security forces members to share scenarios with defenders on other Air Force installations across the U.S.

As the technological world continues to grow, the Air Force will continue to improve airmen’s training to fly, fight and win.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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See why the Cold War-era B-1B Lancer is still a threat to America’s foes

As tensions with North Korea escalate in the wake of that country’s sixth nuclear test, the United States is also flexing its military muscle.


One of the primary systems being spun up is the B-1B Lancer.

This Cold War-era bomber is a very powerful system – it carries 84 500-pound bombs internally, and also could carry another 44 externally. Should Russia try to take the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Lancer is very likely to take out their ground forces with weapons like the CBU-97.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That sort of deadly precision can also apply to Kim Jong Un’s massed artillery. The preferred weapon in this case would be more along the lines of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. Each B-1 can carry up to 24 of these weapons, enabling it to knock out hardened artillery bunkers. The B-1B can also use smaller GBU-38 JDAMs, based on the Mk 82 bomb, to hit other positions.

According to airforce-technology.com, the B-1B is equipped with powerful jammers and the Federation of American Scientists web site notes that the plane was designed as a low-altitude high-speed penetrator.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A B-1B bomber deploys a LRASM. | Public Domain photo

The B-1B has recently been demonstrating its capabilities over South Korea. North Korea has denounced those test flights, claiming that the United States is preparing for nuclear war (although most reports indicate that the B-1B no longer carries nukes).

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986. It has a top speed of Mach 1.2 at sea level, and “intercontinental” range. Among the other weapons it can carry are the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. A Navy release noted that the B-1B recently tested an anti-ship version of the JASSM.

You can see the B-1B carry out one of its recent training missions over Korea in the video below. Note the heavy F-15 escort. These are valuable bombers – and only 66 are in the active Air Force inventory.

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Whether it’s used in space or in Afghanistan, the Makarov pistol is out of this world

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A Russian Makarov PM pistol with its 9×18 mm ammunition, a common sidearm anywhere in the world where the Soviet Union had influence. Public domain photo.


If you are a Russian cosmonaut, you’ve got more than a space suit to protect you.

The Russians have been packing heat in low Earth orbit for decades.

Along with fishing gear and a first aid kit, the Granat-6 survival kit in every Soyuz spacecraft has a Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Presumably available to hunt game or provide a self-defense option, the pistol is just one more tool for the space-faring Russian to use if things go wrong.

But the Makarov PM – for Пистолет Макарова, or pistolet Makarova in honor of its chief designer Nikolay Makarov – has plenty of down-to-Earth uses.

Concealable and compact, it fires the Russian 9 x 18mm Makarov round, which is slightly shorter and fatter than the 9-mm NATO pistol round used throughout the rest of the world. It has a double-action mechanism – if a round is already chambered the pistol can be fired by pulling the trigger without manually cocking the hammer.

Even though it is heavy for its size and has a stiff trigger pull, it’s a natural for police work and covert operations. The designer even copied features from the Walther PP (police pistol) designed in 1929, including its size and the shape of the pistol’s frame.

Not surprisingly, since its introduction in 1951 the Makarov was frequently the handgun brandished by state security agents in the U.S.S.R. or the old Eastern Bloc when they said, “Comrade, come with us.”

Even in the age of polymer-frame pistols, the Makarov has its adherents.

Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) team members often carried the Makarov as their sidearm, particularly team commanders, deputy commanders, and radiomen. They sometimes carried a suppressed version of the weapon for so-called “wet works” – kidnappings and assassinations where stealth, surprise, and silence were necessary for mission success as well as personal survival.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many Makarovs flooded the market and eventually ended up in the hands of shooters in the United States.

“The Makarov is more reliable than most of the more expensive small pistols, is well made of good material, and is surprisingly accurate,” writes Matthew Campbell, author of 21st-Century Stopping Power: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. “This makes the Makarov a superior choice to most of the double action first-shot .380 ACP pistols in this size and weight class.”

Despite the fact it was officially phased out in 2003 by the Russian Ministry of Defense, thousands of the pistols remain in service with police officers, soldiers, and intelligence personnel. It is frequently in the hands of combatants fighting the Russia-Ukraine War, serving as the sidearm for both sides.

And like many weapons, the Makarov has a “bad boy reputation.”

Noted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez  (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) carried a Makarov. During the Vietnam War, many senior ranking North Vietnamese Army officers and Communist Party officials carried the pistol – special operators from the U.S. military or the CIA often found the weapon when they searched live prisoners or dead bodies.

To this day, Makarovs frequently appear on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – a testament to the staying power of a rugged, Soviet-era pistol with few frills but incredible reliability.

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9 seriously strange designs showcased at drone conference

It’s no secret the military is committed to drones, and manufacturers from around the world are coming up with crazy designs to capture defense dollars. To wit, at this year’s Atlanta Unmanned Systems conference, drones that resembled everything from miniature death stars to flying saucers were showcased. Check out this video to see some of them in action:


And see the designs and full story at Defense One.

NOW: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

OR: Take the quiz: How well do you know the predator?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Germany could buy the Marines’ new helicopter

The CH-53K King Stallion is intended to be the new heavy-lift helicopter for the United States Marine Corps, replacing the CH-53E Super Stallion, which entered service in the 1980s. It’s currently being tested, and looks pretty impressive, to say the least. But the Marines may not be the only buyers.


Believe it or not, the German Luftwaffe (yes, the current German Air Force is still called the Luftwaffe, according to its official website) may end up a customer for this helicopter. Surprised? Don’t be. Germany actually operates a version of the CH-53, the CH-53G, a modified version of the CH-53D – a predecessor to the E models the Marine use. Sikorsky, a division of Lockheed, recently announced a strategic teaming agreement with Rheinmetall, a company Americans may know as the maker of the gun used on the M1A1 and M1A2 versions of the Abrams main battle tank.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
The Luftwaffe has 81 CH-53Gs on inventory, each capable of hauling two Wiesel tankettes. (Bundeswehr photo)

A representative for Lockheed told WATM that the agreement means that “German suppliers will do the sustainment and maintenance of the aircraft.  We will become a teammate to the German Armed Forces, to deliver what the customer wants – on time and parts assets they can rely on.” Lockheed also says that other partners may be added as the CH-53K competes with the CH-47F to replace the Luftwaffe’s fleet of CH-53Gs, which FlightGlobal.com notes totals 81 airframes.

WATM readers will note that the German CH-53Gs appeared in a recent article on the Wiesel, a small armored vehicle capable of packing the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile. CH-53Gs can carry two of these tankettes internally, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Germany is one of the few countries to buy the CH-53 from the United States – Israel and Iran also bought export models. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Jwnabd)

Israel is another export customer that uses earlier versions of the CH-53, and the Lockheed representative noted that it had expressed interest in the CH-53K. The United States Navy also operates 28 MH-53E airframes in the aerial minesweeping mission and for cargo delivery. Learn more about the Lockheed/Rhinemetall team-up and Germany’s possible purchase of CH-53Ks in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd5tG-AqFD4
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The M1014 – Inside the USMC’s combat shotgun

The story of the M1014 is fascinating. The Marine Corps rarely gets to be the lead on a joint service project. The small size and limited resources of the Marine Corps often make them second to the Army when it comes to searching out new small arms. However, in 1998 the USMC got their opportunity, and as the Marine Corps tends to do, they charged forward, ready to deliver the best possible option. 

The U.S. Army Armaments Research, Developments, and Engineering Center, aka ARDEC, put out the solicitation for a new semi-automatic combat shotgun. The Marine Corps was tapped to lead the project and quickly developed a set of requirements. Benelli, an Italian shotgun firm well known for its shotguns, submitted their newly developed M4 shotgun. 

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

The USMC put the gun through the wringer, and the M4 proved successful. The M1014 killed it and won the competition. Subsequently, the Marines order 20,000 of them.  

Enter The M1014 

The Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. Shotguns in the military were traditionally manually operated designs. With these other shotguns, troops have to manually operate a pump-action between shots. The Benelli M1014 changed the game by being a semi-auto design. 

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Like the rifles issued to troops, the weapon fired once per trigger pull and did not require a manual action between shots. The M1014 did not fully replace pump-action shotguns in military inventories but augmented it. A pump-action shotgun can handle less-lethal loads due to the manual operation. These less lethal shells are not powerful enough to cycle the semi-automatic M1014. 

The M1014 is a pure combat shotgun designed for fighting in close quarter’s situations. Benelli built the M1014 from the ground up to meet the Marine Corps requirements. Marines wanted a shotgun that could reliably function and work with various optics and attachments. Benelli’s previous shotguns, the M1, M2, and M3, were inertia-operated. 

Inertia-based guns are fascinating and are very capable weapons. Inertia-based guns fail when users start adding weight in the form of optics, accessories, and so forth and so on. Gas-based guns, like the M1014, are not affected by the addition of weight. 

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Between the Handguard and the barrel sits the ARGO gas system.

Gas-based shotguns existed before the M1014, but and Benelli did things differently. Benelli invented the ARGO gas system for the M4 series guns. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas system. As the name implies, the ARGO system automatically adjusts to varying power levels and lengths. 

Gas drives two stainless steel pistons to operate the action. These pistons drive the bolt rearward and eject the fired shell, cock the hammer, and loads the next round. 

Trial By Fire 

The M1014 hit the fleet in 1999, and two short years later, the Global War on Terror kicked off. Marines deployed with a wide variety of weapons, and the M1014 was one of them. Pictures from the GWOT started showing the M1014 in action. Shotguns rule close-range fighting, so they are somewhat niche. 

Troops often carry a rifle and shotgun, something I did when issued a Mossberg 590A1. In the Battle of Fallujah, shotguns cleared rooms, breached doors, and worked checkpoints.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

The United States isn’t the only user of the M4 shotgun. The SAS also issue the weapon, and famously the gun eliminated five ISIS insurgents in mere seconds. The SAS partnered with MI6, and Iraqi Special Operation pulled off an early morning raid on a bomb-making factory. The pointman entered and quickly took down five armed insurgents. 

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Shotguns in close quarters absolutely dominate. Semi-automatic shotguns dominate close-quarters combat, and while that role is small, it’s important. The Benelli design has proven to be extremely popular and more than capable in that role. 

How It Handles 

As a Marine, I only handled the M1014 as a familiarization exercise. The Corps gave me a Mossberg 590A1, and the M1014 was a pipe dream. However, I’m a free man and a gun nerd, so I did the American thing and purchased one. 

You can read all about a piece of gear, but until you experience it’s tough to grasp. That’s especially true with the Benelli M4/M1014. Once you handle the gun you know why the USMC chose it.  

Firing a shotgun means getting a beating most of the time. However, the gas-operated design reduces recoil significantly. Firing accurate and fast follow-up shots is boringly simple. That’s critical for close quarter’s battle scenarios that rely on speed and decisive action. 

The ARGO system allows for reliable operation that’s not ammo picky and does require constant cleaning. It can take a real beating and not be fouled by dust, carbon, and whatever else the world throws at it. Semi-auto shotguns are ammo picky and often unreliable in harsh conditions. The M1014 changed that perception and became the king of combat shotguns. 

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

The M1014 has been successful now for more than two decades. Deployment of the M1014 is rare, but when it’s needed, there is no better option. The Marines do most things well, and the M1014 exemplifies that. 

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

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The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

After testing revealed problems with how standard-issued magazines load certain ammunition into Marine rifles, the Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use the wildly popular polymer-made Magpul PMAG.


How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
The Marine Corps has just authorized Marine units to purchase the Magpul PMAG GenM3 magazine saying government-issued ones don’t work as well with all Marine weapons.(Photo by WATM)

“The Magpul GenM3 PMag was the only magazine to perform to acceptable levels across all combinations of Marine Corps 5.56mm rifles and ammunition during testing,” the Marine Corps’ top gear buying office told WATM.

In a Corpswide message released in mid December, Marine Corps Systems Command issued guidance ordering Marines to use the Magpul Industries-made PMAG Gen. M3 with M-16, M-4 and M-27 rifles, as well as the M-249 machine gun.

Industry sources say the issue stems from how the Army’s new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round feeds from government issued magazines, causing damage to the internal components of the Marine Corps’ M27 — a version of the Heckler Koch 416 rifle.

“It was damaging the feed ramps and the chamber face of the 416,” an industry source told WATM. “It was presenting the M855A1 round at a lower angle and damaging the upper barrel extension.”

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A soldier packs the popular Magpul PMAG into combat. The Marine Corps has just issued guidance saying all units must use the PMAG since government-issued ones don’t perform well on certain Marine rifles. (Photo by U.S. Army)

In fact, the Army was having its own problems with the standard magazine and the M855A1 round, so it developed a new magazine, dubbed the “Enhanced Performance Magazine” to deal with the issue.

But that one didn’t work for the Corps either.

“The legacy metal 30-round magazines are no longer manufactured and their replacement, the Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), does not perform to acceptable levels with all combinations of the Marine Corps’ 5.56mm rifle platforms and ammunition,” the Corps told WATM.

The Corps — along with the Army — had reportedly banned use of after-market magazines, including the PMAG, in 2012 after troops were having problems with poorly-made knockoffs.

Magpul was one of the first companies to introduce polymer-built magazines for M-16s, and M-4s and the PMAG became increasingly popular among soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new PMAG GenM3 takes advantage of 10 years of experience building magazines for a variety of rifles and calibers, incorporating enhanced geometry, better followers and an optimized round-count window, Magpul officials said.

“We haven’t had a single stoppage in any testing of the PMAG GenM3,” a Magpul official told WATM. “We’re happy to help the Marine Corps in a way that enhances the warfighter.”

The Corps is not buying PMAGs to replace all its current magazines, but is instead giving units the option to buy their own.

“There are currently no procurements for any of the 5.56 rifle platforms and as we normally only issue magazines with a new weapon fielding, there are no plans to issue Magpul magazines at the service-level,” the Corps said. “Unit procurement through Defense Logistics Agency is expected to be comparable to current commercial cost on the open market.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

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This was the US Navy’s cutting-edge stealth ship

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy


In the early 1980s, Cold War tensions were at their post-Cuban Missile Crisis height, and the US was looking for any strategic advantage it could get against its Soviet adversary.

Although submarine-based missiles were a well-established leg of the nuclear “triad” (along with ballistic missiles and strategic bomber aircraft) the US realized the strategic applicability of stealth for vessels at sea. Specifically, US military researchers wanted to test the viability of making nuclear-armed submarines invisible to sonar.

This effort resulted in Lockheed Martin’s experimental stealth ship, a razor-like surface vessel called the Sea Shadow.

First acquired by the US Navy in 1985, the Sea Shadow remained secret until it was unveiled to the public in 1993. The ship continued to be used for testing purposes until 2006, when it was removed from service.

Built with help from DARPA and funding from the US government, Sea Shadow was designed to test if it was possible to construct ships that could be invisible to Soviet satellite detection systems and X-band radar.

Additionally, the ship was more highly automated than previous vessels, and the Sea Shadow was partly aimed at testing how well surface ships could perform under the command of a very small crew.

First acquired in 1985, the Sea Shadow was never intended to be mission capable.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy

Instead, the ship was built to test stealth and automation technology. The sharp angles on the ship reflect designs that had previously proven successful for Lockheed’s stealth Nighthawk attack aircraft.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy

The Sea Shadow’s raised hull builds upon older technology that is widely used in ferry design for enhancing stability. The Sea Shadow was designed to be able to withstand 18-foot high waves.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy

The Sea Shadow was small and cramped. It was only 160 feet long, could only fit 12 bunks, and only had a small microwave, refrigerator, and table for the crew.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy

Although the Sea Shadow was taken out of service in 2006, it still influenced later classes of ships. Its low radar cross section, for instance, informed the design of subsequent US Navy destroyers.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
Photo: US Navy

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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The M79 isn’t perfect, but we love it anyway

Every soldier wants maximum firepower.


Firepower is something that can make the difference between life and death in a battle. It’s even better if the firepower is readily portable, so a single soldier can deliver death and destruction anywhere needed.

That’s why soldiers love the M79 grenade launcher. First used in Vietnam, the weapon has a well-deserved reputation for putting the power of a mortar in the hands of the individual Joe.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
An M79 grenade launcher with the leaf-type site unfolded. (Photo courtesy of Airman Magazine)

It isn’t a perfect weapon. The 40-mm round the M79 fires sometimes has less-devastating results than a hand-lobbed grenade.

But it is a simple weapon to use.

First deployed in 1961, the M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, break-open, shoulder-fired weapon. It is breech-loading and fires a 40 x 46-mm grenade that is easy to load and easy to fire.

“The M79 broke in the middle like a shotgun and loaded in the same way,” wrote Dean Muehlberg, a Special Forces operator who fought in Vietnam during 1979, in his book War Stories. “They were an awesome and deadly weapon.”

No wonder the M79 earned the nickname “The Thumper.”

The M79 uses a “high-low” propulsion launching system that reduces recoil and increases its effective range to up to 400 yards.

It also extends the “reach” of an infantryman. Designed to bridge the effectiveness between the maximum range of a hand grenade and the minimum range of a mortar, the M79 quickly proved its effectiveness during the Vietnam War.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
An M79 grenade launcher rests atop a Marine bunker beside an M249 squad automated weapon. (Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Laird)

U.S. soldiers and Marines could usually shoot grenades best at targets from 150 yards to 300 yards away. Small infantry units benefited the most from the M79 because it increased the destruction they could inflict on enemy targets such as Viet Cong bunkers and redoubts.

The M79 was not only used throughout the Vietnam War but remains in the arsenal to this day.

During the early years of the Iraq War, there were Marine convoy units that carried the M79 to destroy IEDs at a comfortable distance. An explosive round from the grenade launcher often did the job of keeping a road clear more quickly and safely than calling in bomb disposal units.

U.S. special operators also reportedly keep the M79 on hand because it remains a simple and accurate means of destroying an entrenched adversary — even though the M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher was first introduced into the arsenal in 1969.

The M79 also fired flechette rounds, known as Beehive Rounds because of the sound they made when traveling down range, that dispensed 45 small darts in a plastic casing that could shred flesh and bone when they hit the target point first. Unfortunately, many times the flechettes simply bounced off the target.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A coast guardsman loads a non-lethal round into an M79. (U.S. Marine photo by Sergeant Brannen Parrish)

It can also fire buckshot, smoke, and tear gas rounds. In Vietnam, the M576 buckshot round replaced flechettes, producing far more lethal results.

The grenade launcher also has the capability of firing less-than-lethal rounds for crowd control and riot suppression. Used by police forces around the world, the M79 is often used to fire sponge rounds or rubber-coated crowd dispersal rounds to break up mobs and restore order.

Time tested, the M79 is proof that newer isn’t always better.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently it would take 1,000 rockets 20 years to set up city on Mars

Elon Musk has made another grand claim about his plans to colonize the red planet with his space exploration company SpaceX.

Speaking at the US Air Force Space Pitch Day on Nov. 5, 2019, Musk estimated that Starship, SpaceX’s 100-passenger reusable rocket design, will cost $2 million to launch.

In a series of follow up tweets, Musk threw out a few more figures about how many rockets will have to bring the necessary amount of cargo to properly set up base on Mars.


“A thousand ships will be needed to create a sustainable Mars city… As the planets align only once every two years,” he said. This led him to conclude it would take 20 years to transport one million tons of cargo which would “hopefully” allow for building a self-sustaining Mars base.

By Musk’s mathematics, that would mean a total billion spent on launching the rockets — although over 20 years the cost could fluctuate.

Musk has a history of making alarming predictions about his plans to colonize Mars. Notably he has espoused the idea of targeting nuclear weapons to detonate just above the planet’s ice caps, thereby causing the frozen water to evaporate releasing CO2 into the air and warming the planet’s surface — rendering it more habitable for humans.

The theory has little scientific grounding however. A study published in Nature found there is unlikely to be enough CO2 in Mars’ icecaps to engineer the desired greenhouse effect and, even if there were, Mars’ atmosphere is constantly leaking into deep space so the gas would gradually disappear.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

While the M17/M18 pistols are entering service with the United States Army, let’s face it, the M9 will still be around for quite a while. After all, since the M9 entered service in the 1980s, over 600,000 were produced. Also, the dirty little secret is that even though the M1911 was supposed to be replaced by the M9, it still hangs on as the MEU(SOC).


So, what is to be done while the M17 and M18 reach the troops? Beretta has an answer: An improved version of the M9 that the troops are using. According to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., the world’s oldest firearms manufacturer has made a number of improvements to your father’s (or mother’s) M9.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A look at the muzzle end of the M9A3. (Photo from Beretta)

While the M9A3 is still a 9mm pistol, it is very different from the first M9 to enter service. For one thing, its magazine holds 17 rounds as opposed to 15. The pistol also has an earth tone finish, a larger magazine release button, and a over-center safety lever. The biggest bonus: The troops already know how to use this pistol, and thus, no re-training is necessary.

The pistol also provides little burden on logistics, since all of its major components and over three-quarters of all individual parts, are compatible with the legacy M9s. Furthermore, this pistol could come in cheaper than the current M9. The magazine has also been improved to increase its resistance to sand.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
A side view of the M9A3, showing, among other things, the new magazine release and providing a good look at the Flat Dark Earth finish. (Photo from Beretta)

The M9 was featured in an iconic photo of the Iraq War, when First Sergeant Bradley Kasal was gripping it while being assisted out of a building where he’d protected a fellow Marine from insurgents. With the M9A3, the M9 could be sticking around with some units for a long time to come, just like the pistol it replaced in the 1980s.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to protect yourself from Chinese cyber spies

The FBI has a clear message for the US public: Chinese society itself is a threat to the US due to its heavy engagement with espionage and influence campaigns.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said as much at a February 2018 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, during which he said naive academics have allowed “nontraditional collectors” of intelligence to infiltrate the US’s revered “very open research and development environment” in universities.


While Chinese citizens have been pouring into US and Western universities and industries, China has seen an explosion in domestic technology, especially in its military and space sectors.

To be fair, all countries with the capability engage in spycraft, but the Chinese Communists don’t gather intelligence like the US does.

China’s society is not like the US’s. In China, everything belongs to the ruling Communist Party, including the military and intelligence services, and its people can be coerced into their service.

Beijing has gone to extreme lengths to police its people on even social interactions, establishing leverage over their citizens, even the ones living abroad. Chinese citizens in the US and Canada have reported threats being made to their families on the mainland when they speak up against the CCP.

The US has accused China of coercing foreign firms into technology transfer. The private sector, as it tries to break into China’s massive market, is filled with off-the-record horror stories of spying and theft of secrets.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
(Photo by howtostartablogonline.net)

Because of the clandestine nature of spycraft, it’s almost impossible to know if you’re the subject of Chinese espionage, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk you face.

Based on insider accounts, here’s how you can protect yourself from suspected outlets of Chinese espionage as a US citizen.

Avoid Chinese tech

Bill Bishop, an author who has lived on and off in China for decades and writes the Sinocism newsletter for Axios, tweeted the following: “Entertaining to talk to Chinese engineers with experience with Huawei about whether or not Huawei installs back doors. Unanimous ‘Of course’ followed by ‘how naive are the foreigners who still doubt that.'”

New court documents filed in the US allege that ZTE, another Chinese phone maker, was set up with the express purpose of conducting international espionage.

With a camera, microphone, and the logins of its owners accounts, accessing the smarphones of US citizens would be a massive intelligence boon for any nation.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters

Public naivety comes up again and again in intelligence circles. In May, the US banned all Chinese-made smartphones from the Pentagon, saying devices from Huawei and ZTE “may pose an unacceptable risk to department’s personnel, information and mission.”

If the Pentagon is taking seriously the risk of espionage via Chinese-made phones, maybe savvy US citizens should follow suit.

Don’t bring tech to China

“If you have a security briefing” before heading to China for a company with sensitive information, “you would be told ‘do not take a laptop,'” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project told Business Insider.

“I once got a security briefing or someone told me ‘do not leave the laptop in your room and take a shower, someone could walk in and download your information and be out,'” said Glaser.

Glaser said it’s common for foreigners staying in a hotel in China to return from the gym or a trip and find “people rummaging around their room.”

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
(Photo by Charles & Hudson)

China has been “aggressive” about intelligence gathering from government and business officials “for years and years and years, and they are really good at it,” said Glaser.

“Any person who is really dealing with proprietary information, nobody takes a laptop, nobody writes an email. People who are really serious about security will take a burner phone, they would never take their own phone,” said Glaser.

Use caution with Chinese nationals

The Chinese Communist Party has extraordinary powers within its borders to detain and reeducate people over something as central and inoffensive as an ethnic or religious identity.

In 2014, the FBI issued a public service announcement warning against being a pawn for Chinese spies. US students are “coming back from an overseas experience saying unusual things happened, offers that didn’t make sense, for money, big favors, positions they really weren’t suited for. And we think a lot of those were pitches or recruitments,” the FBI said.

Naturalized Chinese citizens in the US been indicted countless times, with many being employed by Chinese firms to steal secrets across a broad swath of US industries. The FBI’s Wray warned in February 2018, specifically that Chinese “professors, scientists, students” all participated in intelligence gathering.

China is widely suspected of using cyber crime to steal US plans for the F-35 stealth jet, but other more civilian industries like agriculture and manufacturing are at risk too, according to experts.

How the US Air Force is creating futuristic fighters
F-35 Lightning II
(Lockheed Martin photo)

Wray received considerable backlash for his comments from Asian-American civil rights groups who noted in a letter to Wray that “well-intentioned public policies might nonetheless lead to troubling issues of potential bias, racial profiling, and wrongful prosecution.”

But Wray stood firm in his analysis.

“To be clear, we do not open investigations based on race, or ethnicity, or national origin,” Wray told NBC News. “But when we open investigations into economic espionage, time and time again, they keep leading back to China.”

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

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