5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Paracord, commonly known as “550-cord,” is a simple, nylon, kernmantle rope that was originally used by paratroopers in World War II for suspension lines. The tiny bit of fabric is designed to have a minimum breaking strength of 550 lbs — hence the unofficial name.

But the usefulness of paracord has extended far beyond Airborne units. Throughout the decades that’ve followed its introduction, troops have found many creative and ingenious uses for the cord. Here’s what makes it such a versatile tool:


5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Just ask — they’ve got more than they know what to do with.
(Photo by Senior Airman Nathan Clark)

 

Paracord is abundant in nearly every supply room

The main reason why so troops use paracord for virtually everything is that supply rooms have spools of it laying around. If you ask nicely, they can toss you a bunch off the hand receipts.

On a post-9/11 deployment, the cord (and ponchos that are rarely used in the desert) is used to zone tents, marking off the area “owned” by each troop.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
It can technically hold your weight, but that’s on you…
(Photo by Spc. Abigail R. Graham)

 

Paracord can secure anything

The cord can support up to 550 pounds before you run the risk of snapping it. For most tasks, this is more than enough. Because of its strength, it’s the go-to tie-down strap for many military operations.

It’s used for everything, from acting as a stand-in shoelace or belt to securing sensitive equipment, like NVGs and rifle optics. The U.S. Army trusts paracord.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Never underestimate the power of bored troops.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)

 

It’s perfect for arts and crafts

On a deployment, you’ll have plenty of downtime. Troops get pretty ingenious when coming up with ways to pass that extra time. It’s not uncommon to see troops learning how to make key chains, rosaries, and survivalist bracelets out of 550-cord.

The idea here is that if a troop ever needs some cord, they can snap off the plastic that holds their little doll together and unwind several feet of it for good use. When a troop doesn’t need some cord, they have a toy. Joy!

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
You know a veteran was up there when they came up with this idea.
(NASA Courtesy Photo)

 

Paracord can be used everywhere

The cord is remarkably durable. The strength comes from the interwoven braids and the outer cord protects those braids from withering in the elements, making it water and sand resistant. 550-cord can easily hold together a radio antennae through a hot Afghan summer.

But it really has been used everywhere. In a 1993 repair of the Hubble Space Telescope, senior engineer Mark Neuman fixed things up with thermal blankets with 35 feet of paracord. This means that the -billion-dollar astrological marvel was fixed using about of paracord.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
So, why not just keep a key chain or bracelet made of paracord? It’s also a great way of identifying other veterans in the civilian world.
(Photo by Jean Paul Gibert)

 

It can become a makeshift anything

If you’re in a bind and all you have is your trusty paracord bracelet, you’re in luck because this stuff can be made into anything. The cord’s guts can be great for sewing, fishing, and starting a fire while the outside can make a great shoe lace or trap.

Some have even saved lives by using it as an impromptu tourniquet.

Intel

The Navy Is Trying To Turn Water Into Fuel

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply


A hazardous work environment, a less than stellar relationship with the Middle East, and soaring gas prices has created a requirement to make fuel out of water. Take a look into the Navy’s answer for refueling at sea in the future.

From the Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory:

NRL has developed a two-step process in the laboratory to convert the CO2 and H2 gathered from the seawater to liquid hydrocarbons. In the first step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production from 97 percent to 25 percent in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins).

Check out the full explanation here

NOW: 7 Jobs That No Longer Exist In The Modern Navy

OR: 13 Hilarious Suggestions For The US Navy’s New Slogan

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch the action as this guy fires a fully automatic machine pistol

The SHOT Show convention never fails to unveil the latest incredible tactical gear and this year was no exception. Case in point is the extremely rare CZ-75 fully automatic machine pistol.


Related: 11 facts about the legendary Uzi submachine gun

The original CZ-75 pistol (non-machine version) was designed during the 1970s by the Kouchy brothers for the Czechoslovakian—now Czech Republic—owned Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) arms company. When the Communist nation dissolved, the company looked at two of its best-selling products—the CZ-75 and the Skorpion VZ-61 submachine gun—to come up with the fully automatic machine pistol.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Vickers Tactical, YouTube

You won’t find this weapon on the market; it’s nearly impossible to obtain one. CZ stopped offering the machine pistol after 2010. But it’s still popular in movies and video games, such as Call of Duty, according to Guns.com.

While it’s not the most accurate weapon due to its violent recoil, Larry Vickers mitigates the pistol’s action with short two to three round bursts in the video below.

Check it out:

Vickers Tactical, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s classic A4 Skyhawk still flies to this day

Critics have long given the B-52 plaudits for its longevity as a combat aircraft. Can’t blame them — 65 years is one hell of a run. But there is another plane that has done almost as well, and it’s still providing some countries with defense.


That plane is the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. Perhaps its most famous pilot is now-Senator John S. McCain III, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War after his Skyhawk was shot down. But the plane had been in service for over a decade before McCain was downed.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A-4C Skyhawks fly over the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge (CVS 33) during the Vietnam War. (US Navy photo)

The A-4 was designed and built by the Douglas Aircraft Company, makers of the SBD Dauntless, the plane best known for fatally damaging three Japanese aircraft carriers in five minutes during the Battle of Midway.

The A-4 came to be known as “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” after its designer, Ed Heinemann. It was easy to see why. The Skyhawk had a top speed of 645 miles per hour and an impressive range of up to 2,001 miles. It could haul nearly 10,000 pounds of bombs and could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. An additional two 20mm cannons gave it the ability to handle air or ground targets.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Three Republic of Singapore Air Force A-4SU Skyhawk aircraft taxi on the flight line at Korat AB, Thailand, during Exercise COPE TIGER ’02. (USAF photo)

The Skyhawk saw lengthy service with the Navy and Marines, and the Marines liked their baseline models so much that they designed the A-4M instead of buying the A-7 Corsair.

The Skyhawk was a truly international affair. Singapore developed the A-4SU, which equipped the jet with two 30mm Aden cannon and added a F404 engine. Argentina, on the other hand, put F-16 avionics on some second-hand A-4Ms, creating the A-4AR Fightinghawk.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Argentina put F-16 avionics in an A-4, and this was the result: The A-4AR Fightinghawk. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Today, Argentina’s Skyhawks are still on the front line. Most others have retired, but some fly for Draken International and other private companies. Learn more about Heinemann’s Hot Rod in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2SK1UrfZ6E
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s stealthy new combat drone just took its first flight

Russia’s stealthy new Su-70 Okhotnik-B heavy combat drone has taken flight for the first time, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

The first flight, which occurred at a military airfield over the weekend, lasted 20 minutes, TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, reported, citing a defense ministry press statement. “The aerial vehicle flown by the operator made several circles around the airfield at an altitude of 600 meters and then successfully landed,” the ministry said.

It is unclear where the testing occurred, but satellite images from May 2019 showed the drone sitting along the flight line when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in the Astrakhan region on May 14, 2019.


Russian state media announced plans for the aircraft’s maiden flight back in May 2019, revealing that it would occur sometime in July or August 2019. A source in the aircraft manufacturing industry told TASS that the first flight would take place at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant.

The drone, a Sukhoi Design Bureau product with a flying wing shape, is quite large, but it has a low radar signature, according to Russian state media. “The drone is equipped with equipment for optical-electronic, radio engineering and other types of reconnaissance activities,” TASS reports.

Some observers have expressed doubts about the Russian drone’s stealth capabilities, suggesting that while its shape offers some advantages, the aircraft might be detectable from behind due to its exposed engine nozzle, perhaps a prototype flaw that will be corrected as Russia moves forward with this project. Russia reportedly lags the US in stealth technology, including coated materials designed to reduce an aircraft’s radar returns.

The first photos of the Okhotnik, also known as the Hunter, appeared online in January, when pictures emerged showing the unmanned combat aerial vehicle being towed at what The War Zone suspects was likely Sukhoi’s Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Plant.

The flight line photos that emerged in May 2019 led observers to conclude that the Okhotnik has a wingspan of about 50 feet, making it about as large as China’s Tian Ying drone or America’s experimental X-47B drone, The National Interest reports.

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

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

So, we are back with another complete hater’s guide to one of the Air Force’s aircraft. Last time, we discussed the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10

Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Why you should hate the A-10

Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Because that low, slow, flight profile means it is a big target. Because you’d rather claim that a relative died in a motorcycle accident than admit they fly that ugly plane.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Because that plane always seems to stick around when the Air Force wants to retire it. Because it is useless in a dogfight.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Representative Martha McSally, pictured in her office during her Air Force career, preparing to distribute BRRRRRT. Helps explain why the A-10 will be around indefinitely. (Photo credit unknown)

Why you should love the A-10

Because this plane can bring its pilot home when the bad guys hit it — just ask “Killer Chick.” Because it also has a proven combat record in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the War on Terror.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

Because it not only has a powerful tank-killing gun, it can carry lots of bombs and missiles to put the hurt on the bad guys.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. (Air Force Photo)

Because while it is designed for close-air support, it also proved to be very good at covering the combat search-and-rescue choppers.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for refueling Sept. 12, 2013, over southern Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

Because, when it comes right down to it, the A-10, for all its faults, has saved a lot of grunts over the years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The true, bloody story of Delta Force’s ironman

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

My Delta Selection class gifted the Unit with ten U.S. Army Rangers. K2 was one of the ten. He spoke very little, but his Ranger brothers spoke for him:

“Yeah, well, there’s strong and then there’s K2 strong,” was a catchphrase among the men. I guess so… or, I mean I just didn’t get it. He was medium in every way as I saw it; medium build, personality, intelligence, spirit… I just didn’t see where the super strength part came into play.

Perhaps I would eventually.


In my day, the Unit was a very evenly split down center with 50% of the operators from the Rangers and the other half, including me, from the Green Beret groups. To us, the Rangers were rigid meatheads; to them, we were lazy cheaters. I resented but agreed with the Rangers’ assessment of us Green Beanies — in fact, it is the very reason why I left the groups to seek out Delta.

K2 and I rarely spoke at first. I remember the first time during our Selection and Assessment course. It was the night before our final test of strength and endurance. We were given a chance to sleep for almost three hours.

Twenty men hit the ground in their bags to saw logs. Another man from the groups and I sat and chatted up a host of disparate nonsense.

K2 sat up looking like a mummy in his bag, unzipped, and revealed a disenchanted expression:

You guys mind shutting the phuq up? We’re trying to sleep here.”

He zipped and lay back down.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Army Green Berets are respected for their flexibility, broad reach, and extraordinary

ability to improvise.

“That’s the first thing he’s said to me this whole month!” I whispered to my bro. “Same here!” my bud whispered back… ah, but we whispered! You see, us lazy cheaters still caught on to the fact that we were asses for talking while the men tried to sleep, and we both felt a distinct aura coming from the man whose strength wrought an aphoristic statement from his brethren: the night is as long as K2 is strong.

We graduated and moved on to the next training phase in Delta, the advanced skill training course, one that would last for some six months. The heavy lift subject for us was Close Quarters Combat (CQB), a subject for which Delta has no known peer. It’s a subject that I claim total immersion for myself. I ran through CQB scenarios in my mind even as I walked to the restroom at Taco Bell; I didn’t just enter the restroom, I cleared it first.

Countless days and the thousands of bullets whizzing by inches from everyman rendered a couple of holes through pant legs. That was cringeworthy… but so far nobody was getting hit. That is, up until the day K2 got hit squarely in the leg from a 9 x 19mm round from a Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun. The stray round had rabbited along a wall and punched through K2’s leg.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

9x19mm Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun.

“I’m hit,” he stated as flatly as he stated his name the first day of training.

K2 was hit with a flyer shot that missed its target. It was a good thing it happened in training, as a “thrown round” once assigned to a Sabre Squadron could get a man getting reassigned from the Unit. K2 looked instantly worried, not about his injury… rather his ability to remain with the class.

We returned to training K2-less, as he was taken to the compound clinic for treatment in-house. To take him to the main post hospital would raise unnecessary attention. His wound was a through-and-through one; no bone was broken, though the bullet did spank a long bone good as it passed.

Word was that K2 would remain in training for as long as he felt he could continue. That was great news — except for the bad news, which was we had a ten mile run scheduled for that Friday. It would not be possible for K2 to finish that. The collective question from the class was couldn’t K2 skip, or at least defer that run?

The answer was he had to complete all events with the class.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Bullet wound as seen from the compound clinic.

(Courtesy of MSG Carlos Sanchez)

Friday was a gloomy morning where we collected to start the run.

“How’s it going, K2?” I asked.

“Not so good, Geo… those twinkies and raisin vinegar I had for breakfast this morning are really talking to me,” the K2 responded. I laughed and slapped him on the back.

We ran, and K2 ran. He ran in the middle of the pack with his head up; he had an almost-indiscernible limp. We whispered back and forth that K2 looked great and how great it was that he looked so great…

At perhaps the six mile mark, K2 slipped to the back of the pack slowly. His head was bowed low and he was no longer paying attention to his surroundings. He ran the next couple of miles in an intermittent skip, as if he were trying to hop on his good leg. We stressed for him.

Eight miles in, K2 fell back behind the pack. Falling back is not falling out, we postured; he’s still in the run. Two men fell back to run with K2 to encourage or even pull him along.

“Get back up in formation!” warned the cadre. That was certainly the end of it, as nobody dared to disobey ANYTHING at this point long into training. The two men stayed back with K2. Another man fell back and then I stuttered my step to join the pull for K2.

“If you don’t finish with the formation you will not pass the event!” the cadre cautioned.

K2’s shoe was soaked in blood from where his wound had begun to seep. It made a wet splatting noise with each step. K2 regarded our staying back with him with pain and disbelief… and more pain still. He couldn’t run any faster; he just couldn’t do it, but we weren’t going to leave him.

And then a thing happened.

Ahead of us, the Delta cadre sergeant looped his formation back, back around and brought it up behind the K2 clan at a reduced speed. We, the mighty, ran with our heads up over the finish line. The sergeant disappeared.

In the mingling sea of back-pats and handshakes, K2 grabbed a shake from me, thanking me for what I had done. I “confessed” to him that I was lazy and a cheat and used him as an excuse to fall back and take a gravely-needed rest… a thing that made him grin a powerful K2 grin.

“Good luck in training today, Geo,” K2 bid me as we parted.

“RGR, K2… break a leg!”

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

K2’s run diet: vinegar and twinkies.

George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Intel

We got an inside look at the crazy guns used in ‘Terminator Genisys’

With “Terminator Genisys” coming out July 1st, we had to learn more about the weapons used in the movie. We sent our host Marine Corps veteran Weston Scott to Independent Studio Services in Hollywood (home of WATM) to give us the inside scoop.


“It’s like being a kid in a candy store,” said Scott.

Check it out:

NOW: ‘The Terminator’ franchise in under 5 minutes

OR: DARPA is making a real life Terminator (seriously)

Articles

Sheridan versus Stryker: Which comes out on top in a light tank face off?

The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System has made its mark. You can see why in this video, where a slight hiccup with the main gun is overcome, and the gun goes off. However, does it truly match up with the M551 Sheridan light tank?


Well, technically, the Sheridan was an Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle that was first introduced in 1966. Its main gun was the M81, a 152mm gun that could also fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile.

The Shillelagh had a range of 3,000 meters. It didn’t work that well, and is only combat experience was being used against bunkers during Operation Desert Storm. A Sheridan could carry nine Shillelaghs and twenty “normal” rounds for the M81 gun.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Sheridan did see a lot of combat in Vietnam, where it was both loved and hated. Its gun was very good at providing fire support, but it had a much slower rate of fire than the M48 Patton. Still, the Army bought over 1,600 Sheridans. The Sheridan was also the only armored vehicle that could be dropped in with the 82nd Airborne.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Armor Soldiers assigned to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire their Main Gun Systems (MGS) Stryker’s 105 mm main gun during a live fire range 28 March 2011, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. (US Army photo)

Now, let’s look at the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. Like the rest of the Stryker family, it is an eight-by-eight wheeled vehicle. It fired the same M68 gun used on the M60 Patton and early versions of the M1 Abrams tank. It holds 18 rounds.

The gun is also mounted on an external weapons station with an autoloader. The M1128 can’t be air-dropped, though, but it can be flown in on a C-130.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A M1128 Stryker Mobile gun System awaits transportation to war-fighters in Afghanistan, in an airfield staging area in southwest Asia in 2008. (US Army photo)

Both vehicles have a .50-caliber machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun to handle infantry threats. Neither are capable of resisting anything more powerful than a 14.5mm machine gun, although the Stryker can take additional armor (at the cost of mobility).

Both gave the Army’s lighter forces some extra firepower. But the Sheridan had some clear advantages over the Stryker, while the Stryker offers some improvements over the Sheridan.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
The XM8 Armored Gun System. (US Army photo)

Really, though, the best of both worlds was probably the XM8 Armored Gun System. This was a light tank that had a XM35 105mm gun, and could hold 30 rounds for its main gun (plus the .50-caliber and 7.62mm machine guns). The system was also able to take add-on armor to protect it against a number of battlefield threats. Sadly, it was cancelled in 1997.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.


The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.

 

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A Pan Am Boeing 747 passenger jet reconfigured to be used as an air ambulance during a training and testing scenario for the CRAF in 1986 (Photo US Air Force)

 

If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.

At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.

Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.

 

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A civilian Boeing 747 offloading troops in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield while serving on CRAF duty (Photo US Air Force)

Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.

The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Airmen load gear and personnel aboard a CRAF Pan Am jumbo jet at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for deployment to Saudi Arabia (Photo US Air Force)

In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.

Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how Israel modified F-16s for its unique needs

The Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon has become a legend. It was the star of the 1986 movie, Iron Eagle, in which Doug Masters proved he was a better pilot than Maverick. It serves in many air forces the world over, but one in particular has shown the F-16 a lot of combat action. That’s Israel. All of that combat experience — which includes 47 kills — has lead Israel to make some modifications.


5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Ilan Ramon’s IAF F-16A Netz 243, which took part in the 1981 Osirak raid. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor)

This is not a new phenomenon. In 1981, three years after getting their first F-16s, Israel used some Fighting Falcons to take out the Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The flight of almost 700 miles was supposedly beyond the range of the F-16, yet eight Falcons placed 2,000-pound bombs on the target, setting back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.

So, just how many Falcons does Israel have? Recent counts state that Israel has 224 F-16C/D/I Fighting Falcons on inventory. This is a substantial force — and these are not stock F-16s. Israel’s hacked the F-16 to make it much better than you might expect.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
Israel’s F-16Ds have been modified to serve as precision-strike aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Aldo Bidini)

For instance, while the United States Air Force only uses 370-gallon drop tanks on the F-16, the Israelis use 600-gallon tanks, adding 62 percent more fuel to the external tankage. The Israelis also turned the F-16Ds, normally used as conversion trainers, into precision-strike specialist planes. Israeli planes are also equipped with a lot of Israeli-designed electronic gear, usually for electronic warfare. These hacks have a price – Israeli Vipers are heavier and require modifications to their landing gear.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply
A two-ship of Israeli air force F-16Is from Ramon Air Base, Israel, head out to the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 17 during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite buying a custom version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, called the F-15I, Israel has opted to stick with their own F-16I won, and not just because its capabilities have been forged by combat use. The F-16I is significantly cheaper than the F-15I. Although Israel is among the countries that will acquire the F-35 Lightning, the F-16 will be around for a long time as a key asset for the Israeli Defense Force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marine Corps tested a skateboard unit in the 1990s

Before the days of the Iraq War made training to fight in urban centers a necessity, the Marine Corps was being proactive with the idea that the U.S. Military might have to capture some cities during a war. Urban combat exercises became a focal point after the Battle of Mogadishu, culminating in the large-scale Urban Warrior exercises in 1999.

One of the innovations tested in Urban Warrior was the development of the combat skateboard.


Urban Warrior was a test by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to test the effectiveness of Marines fighting in large urban areas, which the Corps predicted would materialize on the world’s coastlines. The urban area was more than just another terrain for fighting. It came with its own set of obstacles to overcome including lack of shelter, lack of resources and the ease of booby-trapping rooms, trash, and even entire buildings.

The idea was that conventional U.S. Military power would be limited in an urban environment with a large civilian population and the potential for collateral damage. American tanks, munitions, and other go-tos of the arsenal of democracy would be useless in such an environment. On top of that, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance would have to accompany the fighting to prevent the devolution of the city into another Stalingrad.

Since the Corps knew what wouldn’t work, Urban Warrior was a chance to see what would work.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Like these spiffy “new” Urban BDUs.

On top of weapons, strategies, and uniforms, the Marines who landed and took over parts of Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland in 1999 also tested a number of tactical ideas at their makeshift proving grounds, including the combat skateboard.

The Marines used store-bought, off-the-shelf, skateboards during Urban Warrior to detect tripwires in buildings and draw sniper fire, among other uses. What the Marines really took away from its experimentation with combat skateboards is that standard knee and elbow pads were useless for American troops fighting in urban centers and specialized ones would have to be obtained.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Lance Cpl. Chad Codwell, from Baltimore, Maryland, with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines, carries an experimental urban combat skateboard which is being used for manuevering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires and sniper fire. This mission is in direct support of Urban Warrior ’99.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Vallee)

Also tested by Marines in urban combat exercises were paragliders and bulldozers, which Marines dubbed “the bulldozer from hell.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These body armor breakthroughs will change combat

Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.


5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)

Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.

And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.

So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.

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Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.

The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”

That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.

The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.

One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

In “Shock Mitigating and Reinforcing Molecular Nanocomposites,” another team is looking at how shockwaves travel through materials, especially nanocomposites, so that blast and ballistic hits to armor won’t kill the soldier wearing it.

The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.

If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.

5 reasons why paracord is one of the most useful items in supply

3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)

If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.

But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.

But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.

Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.

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