Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, conducted a successful test drop of an unpowered LauncherOne rocket on July 10, 2019, over California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air & Space Port. The test is the latest step in Virgin Orbit’s goal to offer an affordable, small payload orbital launch capability to both commercial and government contract customers.

The unpowered air-launch drop test was the last major step toward the next phase of testing for LauncherOne, a future powered flight following a drop from the Boeing 747-400 named “cosmic Girl”. July 10, 2019’s test drop was initiated from an altitude of 35,000 feet using an unpowered LauncherOne vehicle filled with antifreeze and water as ballast to simulate a payload. Following the test drop the LauncherOne test vehicle fell seven miles to earth and its destruction following impact with the desert.


Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

The LauncherOne test vehicle under the wing of the drop aircraft moments before July 10, 2019’s successful test drop.

(Virgin Orbit)

The Boeing 747-400 drop-test mothership aircraft was flown by noted test pilot and Air Force Academy graduate Kelly Latimer, a combat pilot and also a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School. Latimer is a veteran of the Virgin Galactic program and has also flown the WhiteKnightTwo specialty built aerial launch vehicle.

Virgin Orbit LauncherOne Drop Test

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In a blog post on VirginOrbit.com published July 9, 2019, the company said, “We’ll be monitoring and rehearsing a million things, but this test is really all about those few seconds just after release, as we ensure the rocket and aircraft separate cleanly and observe how the rocket free-falls through the air.”

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

The course flown by the Boeing 747-400 drop aircraft for July 10, 2019’s successful test drop. The aircraft could be tracked on Flightradar24.com.

(Flightradar24.com via Virgin Orbit Twitter)

The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne project is one of many recent commercial space launch projects, not all of which have succeeded. Following the dramatic first flight of late billionaire Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch aircraft on April 19, 2019, the Reuters News agency ran a story on May 31, 2019, saying the Stratolaunch flight program would be shut down until a buyer for the ambitious project came forward. A June 14, 2019 report on CNBC.com by reporter Michael Sheetz said, “Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch at 0 million, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.”
Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne may be a more practical approach to short lead-time, low cost orbital launches. LauncherOne is claimed to have a payload capacity of 300 kilograms (660 lbs.), although Space.com reports the payloads can be up to “1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms)”. Extremely short launch lead times can be only 24 hours from mission preparation to orbit, a feature that may make this launch technology attractive to military customers.

Branson’s greatest achievement with LauncherOne may be even more practical; cost. Boosting a payload into orbit using Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne may cost as little as M USD per mission. This compares to M USD to launch a larger 50,000 lb. payload into orbit using Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. On a pound-per-dollar basis, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is less expensive, but LauncherOne can specialize in smaller, shorter lead-time orbital payloads.

Virgin Orbit has not said when the next phase of testing, to include launching a powered LauncherOne into orbit from the 747-400 launch plane, will take place, but reports suggest it will happen soon. Virgin Orbit has confirmed the operational rocket for the first powered air launch has “already undergone extensive testing”.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

A Navy warship is getting a laser five times stronger than the one the service has tested in the past, and officials say it could lead the way for more vessels to head to sea with similar weapons.

The amphibious transport dock ship Portland is being outfitted with a 150-kilowatt laser system. That’s a big power leap from the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that the service field-tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce about five years ago.

“Big things” are expected from the Portland’s new laser, Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said here at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.


“They’re just putting it on the ship now,” he said. “… And this may be the beginning of seeing a lot more lasers coming onto different ships.”

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.

The laser will give the Portland the firepower to take out drones and small boats, Rivers said. It’s also equipped with a camera that brings new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he added.

When the LaWS was tested in 2012, a Navy video showed how it could target small aircraft or boats without using bullets.

A video of a demonstration of the 30-kilowatt system being tested on the guided-missile destroyer Dewey showed the laser closing in on an unmanned aircraft off the coast of San Diego. That drone quickly caught fire and slammed into the ocean.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Sailors and Marines could find themselves needing to fight their way to shore in the Pacific and other theaters. Crews aboard amphibious ships that carry Marines could also need to fight as they sustain forces on the ground and as they head back out to sea, said Frank DiGiovanni, deputy director of expeditionary warfare.

That’s what has some Navy officials talking about arming amphibious ships with offensive capabilities, Rivers said. Typically, the focus has been on defensive capabilities and survivability.

But looking at ways to arm them in the future “is not off the table,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army tests its first-ever tactical vehicle for electronic warfare

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf” soldiers fielded the Army’s new electronic warfare tactical vehicle recently.

The new vehicle was developed to give Army electronic warfare teams the ability to sense and jam enemy communications and networks from an operationally relevant range at the brigade combat team level.

“This effort will allow the ability for EW soldiers to influence future vehicle improvements and grow their knowledge,” Army Lt. Col. Scott Schumacher, chief of the Rapid Equipping Force solutions team, said in a release. “This is an advanced EW technology that can provide the Army new offensive and defensive capabilities.”


The Greywolf team attended two weeks of training on the vehicle in Yuma, Arizona. The electronic warfare kit is installed on a four-wheel drive MaxxPro Dash, one of the multiple types of mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles.

“It has never been used at the brigade level, so we have to really put it through its paces and see what its capabilities and limitations are,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alexander Torres, the brigade’s electronic warfare technician. “We have to develop best-practices and [tactics, techniques and procedures] that will help future units as well as continue the development of a dedicated EW platform.”

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team stand in front of an Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle at Yuma Proving Ground.

(US Army photo)

Highly programmable

Since the inception of brigade-level electronic warfare, electronic jamming had not been available. The new system is highly programmable, which allows the EW team to develop a program targeting the enemy’s frequencies.

“This is a huge benefit, because now we have it on our time instead of relying on our sister services to provide us with jamming capabilities and hoping it is available when we need it,” Torres said.

The new vehicle was developed as part of the Army’s Rapid Equipment Fielding program, which identifies gaps that need to be filled and cannot wait on the traditional contracting route. This is just the first step in building a platform that will benefit the brigade, Torres said.

“We had nothing, and now we have something, and I hope we continue to keep building on it,” he added. “We need to make sure it is effective. If we go out there and just let it sit and collect dust and don’t use it — and [if we don’t] make sure that it also enables the commander to maneuver his forces and gain the advantage in the electronic spectrum — then really it is wasting a valuable resource.”

The Greywolf team will integrate the vehicle during its upcoming brigade evaluation.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is testing a new Storm Trooper-like helmet for all its troops

Helmets worn by troops in the U.S. military are getting lighter and stronger every year. Since the 1980s when the Pentagon ditched the old steel pot designs in favor of hardened Kevlar laminate lids, service members have been getting a major boost to the protection of their noggin’.


Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
The Integrated Head Protection System is made up of several components that can be tailored for a variety of missions. (US Army photo)

In the last few years, armor makers have been working with new materials that are even lighter and stronger and can be shaped in a variety of ways to fit certain missions. The technology has evolved enough that now the Army is set to field an entirely new head protection system that’s a lot more than just a helmet.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
1st Lt. Christopher Lillie, assistant jumpmaster with the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, wears the new Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) helmet with mandible, while shouting commands to position the number one jumper in the door of a C-17 aircraft. (Photo Credit: Barry Fischer, Audio Visual Production Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

Dubbed the Integrated Head Protection System, the new helmet has a variety of components that can be tailored for different operations. Whether you’re a door-kicker or a tank driver, the new IHPS has armor that can keep the frags at bay.

“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
Soldiers with 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat team, 7th Infantry Division prepare a M1126 Stryker for a mission on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, August 8, 2017 during an operational test of the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) and Tactical Communication and Protective System Lite (TCAPS-L) hearing protection. Soldiers put the IHPS and TCAPS-L to the test and gave feedback to data collectors. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Youtoy Martin, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

From face-protecting “mandibles” to integrated radio headset attachments to NVG bases, the IHPS is way higher tech than the K-pots of old.

The helmet system even has additional “applique” armor for when the sht really hits the fan.

Recently the Army has been testing the IHPS in a variety of operations, including infantry maneuver and airborne drops.

The new IHPS is due to be deployed with Army troops starting in 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJfE1HqTB5c
Articles

This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

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.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
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.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
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.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
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)
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U.S. Army trains winter camouflage techniques in Poland

Now you see them, and now you don’t. Learning how to conceal 28-ton Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks in any type of terrain takes a high level of skill.


Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
An M1 Abrams tank emerges out of wooded terrain after soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team had concealed it to blend in with the surrounding environment at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20, 2017. The vehicles and soldiers are part of a nine-month deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Whether they are training in a desert environment or — as they are now — in the forested hills of Poland, the soldiers assigned to the 4th Infantry Division‘s 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team trained on camouflaging Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, Jan. 20.

“Today we’re here to prove the concept that, regardless of the color of the vehicle, with enough preparation and dedication, we have the ability to camouflage in any scenery, but specifically here in the forest of western Poland,” said Army Capt. Edward Bachar, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment.

How it’s Done

Army Sgt. Cody Flodin, an infantryman assigned to 1-68, said the initial step of camouflaging a vehicle is to place it in an assault position and cover the vehicle with a camouflage net — a radar- and laser-scattering net that deters detection from the air or the ground.

Then, Flodin said he covers the vehicle using dead foliage from the forest floor to break up the visual outline of the vehicle.

Once the vehicle is concealed, Flodin said, he places snow on the foliage to mimic the natural environment, ensuring that all vehicle functions still work properly.

“We need to have the ability to quickly move into a wooded area and not be able to be observed by any potential enemy,” Bachar said. “It is important that within approximately 15 minutes, this Bradley was able to go from maneuvering in a large open area directly into the wood line and blend in with the local surroundings.”

The unit prepared for this mission during a 30-day training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
A Trooper with B Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, communicates enemy positions to higher headquarters during a June 15, Situational Training Exercise at Fort Irwin, Calif. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Erik A. Thurman)

From Desert to Forest

“Three months ago, we had to do the same thing in the desert with these vehicles and we did it phenomenally,” the captain said. “We have the ability to execute hide sites, [conduct] assembly area operations, [assume] assault positions and remain undetected from the enemy. To be able to do the same thing in a completely different environment really shows the proficiency of the crew themselves to camouflage their Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks.”

The Bradleys and tanks are slated to be painted in green foliage camouflage in a few months, making it a little easier for the “Iron Brigade” soldiers to conceal themselves. In the meantime, Bachar said, they will continue to train and hone their skills.

Also read: This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

“Field craft is a priority, really in anything, from a dismounted squad being able to blend into its surroundings to a Bradley fighting vehicle,” he added. “So we will emphasize field craft camouflage and the ability to blend in to your immediate surroundings in every training exercise. This [Jan. 20 training] is just a proof of concept and the initial training to ensure we have the ability to do it. From here on out, we’re going to continue to get better in our ability to do exactly that.”

The Iron Brigade is here as the first rotation of back-to-back armored brigades in Europe in support of Atlantic ResolveU.S. European Command officials said this rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises, officials added.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New PD-100 black hornet nano-drones can fit in the palm of your hand

The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.


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Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox

(reddit user /u/harriharris)

These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.

This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.

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A previous generation of the “instanteye”

The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.

This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.

Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGAk5gRD-t0
US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…

www.youtube.com

Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.

Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.

As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).

Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.

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The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

When the Playstation 2 was first released to the public, it was said the computer inside was so powerful it could be used to launch nuclear weapons. It was a stunning comparison. In response, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein opted to try and buy up thousands of the gaming consoles – so much so the U.S. government had to impose export restrictions.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

But it seems Saddam gave the Air Force an idea: building a supercomputer from many Playstations.


Just 10 years after Saddam Hussein tried to take over the world using thousands of gaming consoles, the United States Air Force took over the role of mad computer scientist and created the worlds 33rd fastest computer inside its own Air Force Research Laboratory. Only instead of Playstation 2, the Air Force used 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. They called it the “Condor Cluster,” and it was the Department of Defense’s fastest computer.

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Playstation-less children called it “the summer of despair.” (Image by Shlomaster from Pixabay)

The USAF put the computer in Rome, New York near Syracuse and intended to use the computer for radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research for current and future Air Force projects and operations.

Processing imagery is the computer’s primary function, and it performs that function miraculously well. It can analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly, at a rate of billions of pixels per minute. But why use Playstation consoles instead of an actual computer or other proprietary technology? Because a Playstation cost $300 at the time and the latest and greatest tech in imagery processing would have run the USAF a much more hefty cost per unit. Together, the Playstations formed the core of the computer for a cost of roughly $1 million.

The result was a 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster powered by PS3s but connected to subcluster heads of dual-quad Xeons with multiple GPGPUs. The video game consoles consumed 90% less energy than any alternative and building a special machine with more traditional components to create a processing center, the Air Force could have paid upwards of $10 million, and the system would not have been as energy-efficient.

It was the Playstation’s ability to install other operating systems that allowed for this cluster – and is what endangered the program.

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop
If only Saddam had lived to see this…

In 2010, Sony pushed a Playstation firmware update that revoked the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems, like the Linux OS the Air Force used in its supercomputer cluster. The Air Force unboxed hundreds of Playstations and then imaging each unit to run Linux only to have Sony run updates on them a few weeks later. The Air Force, of course, didn’t need the firmware update, nor could Sony force it on those devices. But if one of the USAF’s Playstations went down, it would be the end of the cluster. Any device refurbished or newly purchased would lack the ability to run Linux.

The firmware update was the death knell for the supercomputer and others like it that had been produced by academic institutions. There was never any word on whether Saddam ever created his supercomputer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

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.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

Virgin Orbit executes successful LauncherOne rocket test drop

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

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(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

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(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

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(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

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(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

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(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most insane military tactics people actually used

There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.

Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.


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“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle

When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.

Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.

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Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs

The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.

Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.

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Flying Aircraft Carriers

In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.

After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.

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Prodders

In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.

The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New material could lighten infantry loads by 8 pounds

A revolutionary new material from the company that produces service rifle slings could cut several pounds from the weight Marines carry on their backs.

Blue Force Gear, which designed the combat sling Marines use on their service rifles, created a new lightweight, heavy-duty material that could replace every strap on a Marine rifleman’s kit. In the process, the material swap would shave between 6 and 8 pounds from the total weight of the products.


The material, called ULTRAcomp, is more durable than the nylon typically featured on vests, packs, and pouches, said Stephen Hilliard, Blue Force Gear’s director of product development. It’s made of high-performance laminate that doesn’t tear or absorb as much water as the nylon typically used on those products.

“We see a weight reduction of anywhere from 15 to 20 percent,” Hilliard said at the Modern Day Marine expo here. “If you ask any Marine if they like to ditch 6 pounds of useless webbing and layers of fabric while still maintaining durability, every one of them would take it.”

There are broader impacts to those weight savings beyond the individual Marine, he added.

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A Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

“When you look at the bigger picture and think about transporting 100 Marines on an aircraft and you’re saving, say, 6 pounds for each, that’s 600 pounds less,” Hilliard said. “That’s less fuel getting burned on the aircraft.”

Troops in the special operations community are already using Blue Force Gear’s products as a way to cut weight. The company has items in the Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements, or SPEAR program, he said. And Marine Raiders use their own unit funds to buy the lightweight kits.

“Our hope is that when those units intermingle and have intra-service operations, other Marines will say, ‘Oh wow, look at all this weight we’re saving even though it costs the same,’ ” Hilliard said. “That trickles on down into all the elements of the services.

“We want every Marine or soldier to get to save the same amount of weight, not just the special guys,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bradleys are now fitted with heat-seeking anti-drone missiles

The Army is arming Bradley Fighting Vehicles with heat-seeking Stinger air defense missiles to give the infantry carriers an improved ability to track and destroy enemy air threats such as drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft.

Most current Bradleys are armed with TOW anti-tank missiles, a land weapon predominantly used for attacking enemy armored vehicles, bunkers or troop formations. Adding Stinger missiles will increase the attack envelope for the vehicles and potentially better enable them to protect maneuvering infantry and mechanized forces in combat.


“As directed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Army is conducting a proof of principle to incorporate Man Portable Air Defense Systems back into the Armored Brigade Combat Teams by modifying two dozen Bradleys to carry Stinger Missiles in lieu of TOW Missiles,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.

As anti-armor weapons, TOW missiles are not typically used to attack enemy air threats.

“Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor, or “any 1990s tank,” at a maximum range of more than 3,000 meters. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch 3 missiles in 90 seconds,” the Federation of American Scientists writes in a paper.

Stinger missiles, by contrast, are infrared-guided surface-to-air weapons with nearly twice the range as TOW missiles.

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U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fire a TOW missile from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during training at Fort Riley, Kansas, May 18, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire)

Adding Stingers to Bradleys is entirely consistent with the Army’s broad strategic aims for the Bradley, which call for a highly-networked infantry carrier increasingly able to maneuver in support of ground infantry using long-range, high-tech sensors to find and hit targets.

“The Army has chosen to increase the cross-country mobility of the Bradley, allowing it to go further into off-road situations to support infantry formations,” Givens said.

An extended range TOW 2B Aero, engineered with a one-way radio link and range enhancing nose-cap, can hit targets more than four kilometers away; a Stinger missile, however, can reportedly hit targets out to eight kilometers.

Army information says a TOW Bunker Buster warhead consists of a blast type warhead designed to penetrate and then detonate inside Military Operations in Urban Terrain targets such as 8-inch double reinforced concrete, brick-over-block, and triple brick walls. The warhead utilizes both a cast titanium body and chisel style nose to allow better penetration capability while reducing ricochet probability.

The latest TOW upgrade uses Target Acquisition Systems that incorporate Far Target Location capability (ITAS-FTL), a technology which incorporates a global positioning satellite-based position attitude determination subsystem, Army officials said.

An Army paper says ITAS is the fire control system for the TOW missile and consists of integrated optical and second-generation forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. It offers improved hit probability by aided target tracking, improved missile flight software algorithms, and an elevation brake to minimize launch transients”

The TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and of the target that he sees in his ITAS sight. It is accurate to a 60-meter CEP (circular error of probability),” an Army report said.

Although described by Givens as a “limited effort,” integrating Stinger onto Bradley is a part of the broader Army Short Range Air Defense Strategy, an effort to strengthen air defense weapons across infantry brigade combat teams.

“This is a limited effort designed to inform the Army on Short Range Air Defense employment techniques and considerations,” she said.

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Pvt. Denzell Darden, a Kansas City native and cavalry scout with Company A, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pushes a simulated tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile into the turret on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)

The Army SHORAD program, already being built into Stryker vehicles, represents a service-wide strategic and tactical need to respond to near-peer type mechanized combat threats. Focused on heavily during the Cold War, when facing a Soviet threat, SHORAD faded a bit during the last 15 years of ongoing ground wars. The Taliban and Iraqi insurgents did not possess much of an air threat.

However, today’s global threat environment is vastly different. Potential adversaries can easily acquire drone attack technology, as it is readily available on the international market. This means enemies could hold Army units at risk from the air in newer, more dangerous ways — and at farther ranges. Furthermore, the advent and proliferation of weaponized drones, enabled by growing levels of autonomy, could use long-range EO/IR to target and attack advancing infantry and armored units in ways previously not possible.

Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.

Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fires, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.

As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker or Bradley SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker or Bradley, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed armored vehicle. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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