From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

In the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, there were a few things you could count on: poodle skirts, sock hops, rock ’n’ roll … and the ever-present specter of nuclear Armageddon. The technological innovation of the rocket age brought the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into being, nukes that could conceivably end modern civilization in about an hour.

At the other end of the spectrum was a nearly farcical desire to bring nuclear weapons and nuclear power as the solution to every problem. Need a canal? A nuke will save millions of man-hours of digging. Need to improve your miles-per-gallon in your car? Trade your shitbox in for a nuclear-powered lead sled, and you’ll be able to drive around the world on a few ounces of uranium. 

While the more outlandish ideas never really got that far in the civilian sector, the military had no such constraints. In fact, when your evaluations are written based on how many bad guys your weapons can kill, it’s practically guaranteed to generate some truly exceptional flights of fancy. You can practically hear the meeting where someone asked, “But what if we made it nuclear?”

From the early days of the Cold War, NATO was confronted with overwhelming numbers from the Warsaw Pact. In 1961, for example, the Soviet Union had roughly a 2-to-1 numerical advantage in troops. While the West has always valued quality over quantity, quantity has a quality all its own. Accordingly, while strategic nukes threatened mutually assured destruction (MAD) upon the populations of the US and USSR, there was a whole family of tactical nukes designed merely for battlefield use. 

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Part of Operation Upshot-Knothole was a 15-kiloton shell test-fired from a 280 mm cannon on May 25, 1953, at the Nevada Proving Grounds on Frenchman’s Flat. Hundreds of high-ranking armed forces officers and members of Congress were present. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear artillery

Tactical nuclear missiles and bombs make intuitive sense, but as weapons were delegated to lower echelons, nuclear artillery gave new meaning to the term “danger close.” Starting with the 230 mm M65 “Atomic Annie” in 1953, “fire for effect” would have had a whole new meaning had the Cold War ever gone hot. Atomic Annie only ever fired one nuclear round in testing. It left service after the 203 mm M110 was fielded in 1963. But 155 mm nuclear shells stayed in the US arsenal until 1996.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
The Davy Crockett system required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.

Nuclear bazookas

If nuclear artillery isn’t exciting enough, try firing a nuclear weapon from a recoilless rifle, aka bazooka. The Davy Crockett came in both 120 mm (awesome) and 155 mm (more awesome) sizes and could be fired from either a tripod or the back of a jeep. Packing the equivalent of 15 to 20 tons of TNT, the Davy Crockett was intended to be a mainstay of the Army’s “Pentomic” divisions, which were designed around the presumably nuclear battlefield of a war in Europe. Thankfully, the Army decided that perhaps letting corporals roll around in jeeps with nukes wasn’t the best plan and retired the M28 and M29 in 1971. 

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Special Forces were once equipped with “backpack nukes,” which weighed about 90 pounds. Sandia National Laboratories archive photo.

Nuclear satchel charges

Being able to plant a time bomb and GTFO just in time has been a thing since before ’80s rocker Pat Benatar blew up Nazis in “Shadows of the Night.” Certain Special Forces detachments during the Cold War were equipped with the B54 atomic demolition munition, or “backpack nukes.” The B54 was designed to destroy critical infrastructure, either that of the enemy or to keep friendly assets from falling into enemy hands. With a 1-kiloton yield, the B54 wasn’t the most devastating weapon in the US arsenal, but tell that to the guy whose job it was to hump his way out of the blast radius.

Nuclear land mines

Leave it to the British to go full reductio ad absurdum and create the nuclear land mine. Unfortunately, it was not the sort of land mine where some poor Russian grunt takes a step and hears a click, followed by the biggest “oh shit” moment in history. The nuclear land mine was something more akin to a hand grenade placed underneath a corpse. As Soviet troops advanced, the mines would detonate behind their lines by command detonation or timer. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately) only two prototypes were built. 

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
An F-106 Delta Dart aircraft after firing a training version of the Genie over a range. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Nuclear air-to-air missiles

Usually, aerial combat is the epitome of precision killing: knights of the air, dueling mano a mano. Or, if you were a pilot in the 1950s and ’60s, you could just shoot the enemy with a nuclear-tipped missile. In the early days of the Cold War, NORAD still envisioned massive bomber raids, much like those the US inflicted on Japan. With that in mind, the unguided Genie missile packed a 1.5-kiloton warhead.  

It may have been the first fire-and-forget air-to-air missile, in that pilots had to execute quick turns away from their targets after firing or they could forget about coming back. The Falcon missile later added semiactive radar homing to at least get the nuke within a reasonable distance of the target. You might wonder whether shooting nuclear weapons over the US to protect it against nuclear attack is counterproductive. Don’t worry; they tested the Genie by blowing one up directly over the heads of five Air Force officers as proof of concept. 

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
A 1962 nuclear depth charge test. Wikimedia Commons image.

Nuclear torpedoes

Don’t leave the Navy out of the mix. They found that nuclear depth charges could effectively destroy submarines, albeit perhaps along with the ship dropping them. So, of course the solution was to put a rocket on the back of the depth charge to get it far enough away from the ship to keep the engagement from being a very localized version of mutually assured destruction. Submarines went on patrol with Mk45 nuclear torpedoes from 1959 all the way until 1976. Given how many close calls happened between US and Soviet subs during that time, that might not have been such a great idea.

While “if you can’t hit it, nuke it” is a valid design philosophy, it wasn’t a great military one. It makes one wonder if today’s military is similarly clueless as to the true utility of the cutting edge today, be that artificial intelligence or space travel. Regardless, I hope I’m still around in 2060 to make fun of them.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.

General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.


General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.

During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.

Interview Topic Navigator

1. What is the PEAT?
2. Physiological Episode Symptoms
3. Physiological Data
4. Pilot Physicians
5. Big Data
6. RPA and Cyber Communities
7. Message to airmen

Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.

PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..

What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.

In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.

(Photo by Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team.
We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.

Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.

Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.

We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.

Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.

Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.

My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.

The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.

The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.

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From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.

(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.

If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.

It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.

Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.

One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.

It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.

Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.

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Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?

You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.

This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?

I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.

We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.

That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.

We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.

(Wyss Institute photo)

Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?

If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.

So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.

Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors.
Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.

I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.

Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.

Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.

Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.

We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.

Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.

Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.

Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.

But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.

Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.

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From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.

We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.

In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.

They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.

The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.

(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.

It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.

There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.

He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.

He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.

Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.

That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.

We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.

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From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Could research into making Big Data more easily utilized by the warfighter have an application in investigating and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.

Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.

I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.

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Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.

Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.

As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.

Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.

They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.

So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.

Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.

Airman Magazine: This may seem like an odd question, but do PEs occur within the RPA or cyber communities where the ops tempo is so extreme?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.

The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.

What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.

I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?

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From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.

Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.

In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.

It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.

I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.

Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.

I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.

I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.

So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.

Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.

In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.

The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.

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This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret to receive Medal of Honor for actions in Battle of Shok Valley

More than a decade ago, Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams earned the Silver Star Medal for saving several of his Special Forces comrades during an hours-long mountainside firefight in Afghanistan.

This week, the Green Beret will see that decoration upgraded to the highest level — the Medal of Honor.

Williams was born Oct. 3, 1981, and spent most of his childhood in the small town of Boerne, Texas. He initially wanted to be a detective or work for the FBI when he grew up, so he got his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.


But after 9/11, Williams started rethinking how he could serve his country. He did some research into Special Forces programs and, in September 2005, joined the Army. Two years later, he became a weapons sergeant — someone who knows U.S. and foreign weaponry well and often goes behind enemy lines to help friendly forces train and recruit.

On April 6, 2008, then-Sgt. Williams was on his first deployment with several other Special Forces operators for Operation Commando Wrath, a mission to capture or kill high-value targets in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley.

His team and about 100 Afghan commandos were dropped into the mountainous area by helicopter. As the leading edge of the group began moving up a jagged mountainside, insurgents started attacking from above.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once,” Williams later explained in an interview. “[The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters, and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

A map pinpoints the Operation Commando Wrath insertion point in Shok Valley, April 6, 2008.

(Army graphic)

The part of the group under attack, which included the ground commander, was trapped. Meanwhile, Williams and the rest of the team had trailed behind at the bottom of the mountain, and they were forced to take cover while trying to fight back.

When Williams got word that some in the group ahead of him were injured and close to being overrun, he gathered several of the commandos.

He led them across a 100-meter valley of ice-covered boulders and through a fast-moving, waist-deep river on a rescue mission up the mountain. When they got to the forward group, the Afghan forces kept the insurgents at bay while the Americans figured out their next move.

“I went about halfway down, called a couple more of our guys and asked them to bring more commandos up so we could basically make a chain to pass these casualties down, because they were going to be on litters (stretchers),” Williams said.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams and other team members assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group pose for a photograph as they to be picked up by a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan in late spring 2007.

(Photo by Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

As they were setting up, another soldier was hit by sniper fire. Williams braved the enemy onslaught to give him first aid, get him on his feet, and help him climb down the mountain.

Williams then fought his way back up to the top to bring the rest of the endangered men down.

“I knew we couldn’t go up the same way we’d gone other times because it had been getting pretty heavy fire,” Williams said. “There was a cliff face that went around to a little outcropping. I saw that if we could scale that, we could get onto this outcropping, and we’d be able to come up from behind where those other guys were.”

It was a near-vertical, 60-foot mountain.

When Williams and others made it back to the top, he killed several insurgents and helped get communications back up and running. Then, still under fire, he went back to moving the wounded men down the mountainside to a little house they were using as their casualty collection point.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

But they still weren’t safe; insurgents were threatening that position, too. So, over the next several hours, Williams led the Afghan commandos on another counterattack against more than 200 insurgents, keeping the enemy at bay until helicopters were able to fly in and evacuate the wounded.

“They were taking fire the whole entire time,” Williams said of the helicopter crews. “They were awesome pilots. They saved the day, really.”

Williams helped load the wounded men into the helicopters, then continued to direct fire to quell the enemy attack. That gave the rescue patrol time to move out without any further casualties.

The whole ordeal lasted more than six hours. Thankfully, no American service members were killed.

“That day was one of the worst predicaments of my life,” Williams said. “But the experience from that has helped me through my whole entire career — remain level-headed and focus on what needs to happen as opposed to what is happening.”

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams poses for a photo with his operational detachment’s interpreter in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in the spring of 2007.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Earning accolades

Several months later, for his amazing leadership under fire, Williams and nine of the men with him during that mission each received Silver Stars. Now, his decoration is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He’ll receive the award Oct. 30, 2019, in a ceremony at the White House.

“I think it’s an honor for me to receive this on behalf of the Special Forces regiment, hopefully representing them in a positive manner and helping get the story out about what it is that we’re actually doing and what Green Berets are capable of, ” Williams said.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the nation’s highest honor for this operation. Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II received it a year ago.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams poses with his wife, Kate, just before they attend a friend’s wedding in October 2013.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

After his 2008 deployment, Williams went home and met his wife, Kate. They had a son. Williams has deployed five times since then and has done several extended training rotations in the field.

The family lives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Williams continues his role in the Special Forces. He said he’s hoping to keep that up, even with the notoriety that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Are green laser sights or red laser sights better for US Special Operations?

The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Family of Low Visibility and Concealable Pistols are a diverse array of pistol platforms that were quietly procured by SOCOM for US Special Operations units. Once procured, they were on the hunt for laser sights to attach to these low-vis firearms.

Designed to provide operators the ability to protect themselves in situations where they’re clothed in the local indigenous attire, street clothes or even a standard military uniform, but still needed a concealable weapon for personal defense. 

One of the low visibility platforms included in the procurement was the Glock 19. These pistols were bought in large numbers by various special operations units such as Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) and Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). 

These concealable pistols needed to be effective in both broad daylight and in low light conditions for operations conducted during the night. To do that, they needed to equip these pistols with laser sights, but do they choose red laser sights, green laser sights, IR or a combination of visible and non-visible?

According to Crimson Trace, there’s a widely held misconception that special operations units use green laser sights when engaging threats during nighttime operations, a myth that’s been perpetuated by television and movies. Those laser sights that are clearly visible at night with night vision goggles (NVGs) are actually infrared laser sights and are not visible to the naked eye.

In broad daylight, especially in very bright conditions, the human eye is able to see green light better since the wavelengths emitted by green light trigger both the M-and L-cone receptor cells within the eye. Essentially, green light triggers a higher number of those 6 million cones inside the eye to react. In very bright conditions such as at the range on a clear, sunny day, green laser sights will be more visible on target than a red laser sight.

A team sweeps a room
Clandestine Media Group

A green laser sight, however, offers less of an advantage over a red laser sight in low light conditions. In low light conditions, the cones in the eye are able to pick up both red and green light almost equally well, so while green laser sights are significantly more visible than red light in bright sun, the two colors are both easily discernable in low light conditions. With that said, it almost makes sense for the military to go with green laser sights in order to cover both daytime and nighttime operations. 

There’s nothing wrong with mounting a red laser sight on firearms. They’re great if you want a laser on your pistol, shotgun or rifle. Red laser sights can be cheaper, their battery life lasts longer and they work great in low-light conditions and complete darkness. But they’re not green.

An operator uses a green laser sight
Clandestine Media Group
  1. Green lasers require more power and more power requires a higher electrical current to supply that power. Because of this, a green laser will drain your battery quicker than a red laser. 
  2. Our eyes perceive green laser sights to be brighter than red lasers because green is at the center of the wavelength spectrum of human eyesight. That being said, our eyes are just better at seeing a green laser over a red laser. Because of this, we are able to see a green laser sight in the sunlight much easier than a red laser sight. 

While the market for red laser sights has been a popular one for quite some time, the availability of green laser sights lights worthy of special operations units and the operations they undertake is a lot smaller of a market for the military. It really comes down to each mission set and what the requirements are. While many of these units operate primarily at night and use non-visible IR lasers, there are instances where they may need a laser sight for daytime operations. Mission dictates equipment.
Whether it’s red or green, having a laser sight for a pistol makes the firearm more versatile, accurate and deadly. Green laser sights will, however, enable the shooter to accurately engage threats in ALL light conditions. Shooters don’t have to align the iron sights with your eye to make an accurate shot, even at moderate ranges, enabling them to react quicker and more efficiently. No matter which color laser sight the military chooses, they really can’t go wrong with either in their inventory.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why technology degrades over time, according to your commo guy

Dealing with computer problems and other technical failures is just one of the many joys of being in communications. Being trained to work with computers and radios often means that the commo guy becomes the go-to person for any and all computer-related problems, even outside of work.

Of all the problems that a commo guy will deal with, most stem from the continual pain-in-the-ass that is time. There are many ways to reduce the strain put on consumer goods, but Father Time remains undefeated. Eventually, there will be a point in the lifetime of any device where they become obsolete — and we’re not saying that something’s useless compared to the “newer, bigger, better” models out there — things just degrade. It happens.


From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Some companies (we’re not naming names) are known for their products losing juice over time. That’s how they sell yearly releases of the same product.

(Photo by Marco Verch)

Now, to avoid losing people to technical jargon, we’re going to break things down to their simplest forms — Barney style — when explaining technology. Just know that there’s almost always (read: almost) a valid, technical reason for a product aging into degradation.

www.youtube.com

The biggest tech aspect affected by Father Time is power supply. Back in the day, larger power supplies and batteries could seemingly last an eternity (by today’s standards). The Nokia 3310, for example, could run for weeks on a single charge, so you’d expect technology would just improve on that, right?

Well, no. Consumer demand drove companies to adopt faster and slimmer batteries to power phones that have more capabilities than ever. While most companies do try to include the most powerful available battery in a product, lithium-ion batteries have an average life cycle of 1200 full charges. Once they’ve been depleted and charged up around 400 times, the maximum charge is roughly 80% of the original capacity. From there, it gets exponentially worse if you allow your batteries to drain to 0% on a constant basis.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

One of the many benefits of owning a desktop over a laptop computer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Caleb Vance)

Another aspect is performance. To sum it up broadly, this is what’s really happening when a not-so-tech-savvy person says their computer is “running slower.” Think of your computer as a pack mule: The more you use it (like installing programs, downloading files, visiting websites), the more stress you put on it.

Your once-beautiful darling that could once stream videos at lightning speeds now has all of that baggage weighing it down. This is also broken down into two different categories of problem: either you don’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) to juggle all the tasks you’re giving it (active or passively) or you don’t have enough hard-drive space for all the crap you’re asking it to carry.

Thankfully, both of those have really easy-to-solve solutions: upgrading parts. If your computer can be cracked open, it’s far cheaper to slap in a new stick of RAM than it is to buy an entirely new computer. Adding new hard-drives is even easier.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

All that tech and some people still just use it for the games.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)

But it’s not always a result of overuse. If you were to take a fresh computer that has been sealed since 1999 out of the box — never downloaded anything, battery has never been drained, or hooked up to the internet — it still wouldn’t perform to today’s standards.

In 1999, the tech world was blown away by the IBM Microdrive when it was announced that it came with a whopping 340 MB of storage. This was around the same time it took the entire night of downloading just to watch a two-minute trailer of Star Wars: Episode I using dial-up internet.

It should go without saying that technology has become exponentially better over time. Now, you can just pick up that 512GB microSD card (that’s about the size of a toenail) and watch the entire Star Wars series from your smartphone from almost anywhere in the world, streaming video in real-time. What was groundbreaking then isn’t even comparable to just a few years later — your device isn’t just getting worse slowly, everything else is also getting better.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

You don’t need to buy something that will last forever. Just for a while.

Sure, it sounds grim, but you can still do many different things to maximize your computer and phone’s lifespan. If you care for your technology and aren’t constantly using it, it’ll see a few more years of use. But there will be a point where your tech just isn’t good enough to get by.

When you’re planning your next tech purchase, keep lifespan in mind. The cheaper option may end up costing you more money over time. Why buy a 0 “meh, it’ll do” laptop and watch it careen into obsolescence in 12 months when a 00 beast of a desktop could last you several years?

So, if your computer or cell phone that’s been doing its duty just fine for the last six years starts hobbling on its last legs, don’t be shocked when your computer friend tells you it’s time to put it out to pasture.

It happens — don’t shoot the messenger.

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How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.

This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.


Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.

Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Public Domain

“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”

But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.

And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Facebook

“I choose Pierre.”

That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.

Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
YouTube screen capture

Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.

The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.

But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Arrested gunmen belonging to the group led by Juhayman Al-Otaibi that stormed Makkah’s Grand Mosque. This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.Twitter.

Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.

After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 advanced Russian weapons (that don’t actually work)

Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.


Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.

Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!

Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.

Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill

youtu.be

Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria

In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.

According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Dude’s practically invisible!

Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot

Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.

Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

About as far as it goes.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment

In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.

But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.

From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.

The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.

Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.


From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The Hubble space telescope in 2002.

(NASA/ESA)

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies, and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding more quickly than scientists imagined.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

In February 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the chaos atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the light of nearby bright stars.

(NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

(NASA/Chris Gunn)

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to peer into the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

The upcoming telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process in Northrop Grumman’s California facilities before its launch date on March 30, 2021.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

NASA engineers unveil the giant golden mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(NASA Goddard)

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.

The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.

(NASA)

Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.

“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

JWST will also search for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) — but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of star light passing through a planet’s atmosphere, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An illustration of what it might look like on the surface of TRAPPIST-1f, a rocky planet 39 light-years away from Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have already identified over 4,000 exoplanets.

But as of yet, they haven’t been able to study most of those planets’ atmospheres to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.

That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Dave Sime works on the WFIRST primary mirror.

(Harris Corporation / TJT Photography)

To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.

(NASA)

WFIRST will have a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Each of its photos will be worth 100 Hubble images.

That breadth will help scientists probe questions about what the universe is made of and how it works — starting with dark matter.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The foggy haze is astronomer’s interpretation of where dark matter is located in this cluster of 1,000 galaxies.

(NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Artist’s illustration of the WFIRST spacecraft.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WFIRST will get around this issue by measuring the effects of dark matter and its counterpart, an unknown force called dark energy.

The entire universe is comprised of 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy. Everything we can see and observe with scientific instruments accounts for less than 5%.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

A pair of interacting galaxies, spotted by Hubble.

(NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Our current model of the universe.

(NASA)

Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

WFIRST will attempt to map the mysterious workings of dark matter and energy by measuring the universe’s expansion over time.

“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Artist’s concept of the Euclid spacecraft.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is designing the Euclid telescope for similar purposes.

Euclid will peer into deep space to see ancient light and study how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years. It’s slated to launch in 2022.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An illustration of the European Space Agency’s Euclid “dark universe” telescope.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?

Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.

“Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” astrophysicist Chris Fassnacht said in an October press release.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at sunset in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

(LSST Project/NSF/AURA)

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will seek to address this conflict from its location in the mountains of Chile. It will spend 10 years scanning the entire sky.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LSST will measure the universe’s expansion. The telescope will also chart the movements of potentially hazardous asteroids that could fly dangerously close to Earth.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An artist’s depiction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

(ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium)

On another Chilean mountaintop, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky super-Earths.

At 39 meters (128 feet), it will be the largest optical telescope in the world once it’s completed in 2025.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An artist’s rendering of the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at night while observations are in progress.

(ESO/L. Calçada)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

A star’s habitable zone is the orbital range in which a planet’s surface might be the right temperature to support liquid water.

(NASA)

But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.

That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.

“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The LUVOIR telescope design.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Theoretically, the proposed LUVOIR and HabEx telescopes could block out stars’ light enough to examine the Earth-sized planets circling them.

The LUVOIR proposal relies on a design similar to that of the JWST. Estimates suggest it could image 50 Earth-sized exoplanets over four years, studying their atmospheres, seasons, and even surfaces.

If chosen for funding and construction, these telescopes could launch in the 2030s.

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

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Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

When you are talking about the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, it is without a doubt, the best close-air support plane ever devised. One of the biggest reasons is in the plane’s nose.


Yeah, we’re talking the GAU-8, a seven-barrel Gatling gun that fires a 30mm round made from depleted uranium. This gun was designed to kill tanks – make them deader than the zombies on The Walking Dead. You might think a 30mm gun is too small to kill a tank. If you’re taking the tank head-on, it is.

 

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
The entire A-10 platform was designed around the tank-killing cannon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Shooting from above the tank, though, you’re aiming for where the armor is the thinnest. This is because the crew needs to be able to exit the tank through the hatches, which means they have to be able to open them. Oh, and the supplies the tank’s crew needs to function (food, water, ammo) have to come into the tank through those hatches as well.

The A-10 looks as if it was designed around the GAU-8. That’s true. The plane can carry 1,174 rounds for this gun, which fires at 3,900 to 4,200 rounds per minute. That’s anywhere from 16.77 to 18 seconds of firing time. The gun can kill a target up to two and a quarter miles away.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The Air Force is running a competition to see what plane will replace the A-10. There have been four contenders flying off to win the OA-X contract, but none of them have this powerful gun in their arsenal. Perhaps it may be a better idea to re-open the A-10 production line, no?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ONG 870 — The classic National Guard riot gun

Last year was a much better year. Fewer riots, no quarantines, or lockdowns, no elections. Man, 2019 was sweet. So far, the only good thing to come out of 2020 is Tiger King. Last year was also a great year because I purchased what became my very favorite gun, the ONG 870.

ONG stands for Ohio National Guard, and that is where this particular gun served from 1971 until it ended up in my hands. Guns rarely make it out of the military and into civilian hands. It took decades for 1911s to become CMP issued weapons. The ONG 870s hit the ground running by being sold to the Ohio Department of Corrections, and then to civilians.


From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The ONG 870 – History Alive

The ONG 870 saw service during the Katrina hurricanes, in quenching prison riots, and in many more events. The ONG 870 guns are pure riot guns. The term riot gun has largely fallen out of fashion. A riot gun is typically a short shotgun, made for combat roles. Riot guns hold anywhere from five to eight rounds.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

The Riot Gun

The ONG 870 comes equipped with a clasp-like device at the end of its barrel. The device is a multiuse tool that keeps the magazine tube from bending, contains your sling keeper, and hosts a bayonet — bayonets being the sharp, pointy things that typically dissuade crowds of people without a shot having to be fired. An actual military shotgun with that device attached to it is very hard to find and is one of the factors that make the Ohio National Guard 870 so rare and unique.

Another rare fact is that this is a factory Wingmaster tactical shotgun. Most Remington 870 tactical shotguns are Express models with the cheaper finish and furniture and a tactical variant of the Wingmaster isn’t a stock item these days. Wingmaster models are more refined, with a rich blue finish; they have higher-quality control but are typically high-end sporting shotguns.

The metal finish is fantastic. The bluing is spot on and looks gorgeous. The wood furniture is pure American hardwood and also looks fantastic. This is an old gun with scratches and scrapes, but that gives it some real character.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Handling the ONG 870

The ONG 870 handles as good as it looks. This is an old school Remington action, which means it’s slick and tight. The pump glides rearward and functions without an issue. It also has integrated texturing that allows your hand to dig in and grip the gun with authority. Thus, you can manipulate the pump with speed without your grip slipping.

The gun is outfitted with nothing more than a simple bead sight. Beads on shotguns aren’t perfect, but when it comes to buckshot use, it’s all you need. The bead works perfectly at close range, and close is where the riot gun shines. It’s bright and eye-catching and allows you to quickly get lead on target. With a good tight load, the ONG 870 will allow you to engage threats out to 50 yards or so. Beyond that, the bead gets tougher to use, especially with slugs.

One thing to note is that these old 870s have 2.75-inch chambers and not 3-inch chambers, which although common these days, were not so much 50 years ago. For tactical and home defense applications, the 2.75-inch load is perfect and the preferred load for most shooters. The ONG 870 can hold seven rounds of 2.75-inch buckshot in the extended tube, giving you a proper loadout.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Like a Mule

This is a heavy gun. It’s an old school fighting shotgun devoid of lightweight plastics and polymers. The ONG 870 is a disciple of the church of wood and steel. That’s not a bad thing, especially when you consider that the weapon can be equipped with a bayonet. Heavier weapons make better melee fighting instruments. That extra ass that the ONG 870 carries around also reduces recoil.

Lots of people with relatively low body strength complain about the recoil a shotgun has. The heavy ONG 870 might help them if they can hold this beast up long enough to matter. But the length of pull (LOP), not the weight, is more important for control. The ONG 870 has a 13-inch length of pull.

Lots of shotguns these days are sporting the long 14+ inch LOPs, and they suck. The shorter 13-inch LOP gives you more control over the gun and its recoil. Longer LOPs push the gun further from you; this reduces control. Remington got it right in 1971. For some reason, modern gun makers think gorillas are wielding their shotguns.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up

Finishing it Up

The ONG 870 is also marked with a unique O.N.G. marking with the state of Ohio outlined on the receiver. This marking is unique only to these guns and marks them as legit ONG 870s. When these guns popped online, they sold out incredibly quickly. The original price was around 9; they are now are going for 10 times that cost on auction sites. If you see a good deal, these guns are worth scooping up.

I don’t think they are worth 2,000 bucks, but for 0 and under, they are a steal. They are collector’s items, but also living history and functional fighting guns. You can’t get better than that.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


Articles

This is what each lifesaving item does in a Marine’s first aid kit

The purpose of combat is to deny the enemy control an area by inflicting the largest loss of life possible. When a friendly troop is wounded on the battlefield, the first step in first aid is to remove the enemy through violence or repel them long enough to retrieve the Marine and bring them to safety. This is the primary reason why Corpsmen have a rifle – to protect their patient during Tactical Field Care. The best thing a Marine can do to immediately help a casualty is kill the aggressor.

An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is to be used on yourself, not for others. Therefore, every troop is issued an IFAK and must wear them consistent with their battalion’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). First Aid and Combat Life Saver drills are regularly trained in the infantry to the point where they can be done in the dark. Additional items can be added but these essentials cannot be taken out.

Marines across all ranks are trained in the use of these items, considerations and prevention of common mistakes when employing these medical devices. Certified training and practical application are supervised to prevent injury from improper use in training. So, if you are a civilian, do not just grab an IFAK and start practicing on your family.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
U.S. Marine Corps photo

Tourniquet

This typically applies to life threatening bleeding from an extremity. Amputations, severe lacerations, gunshot wounds can all be treated quickly and effectively using a tourniquet. This is the only medical treatment performed if there is still a threat present. If there is no threat present, junctional wounds can be packed with gauze or a hemostatic agent to control bleeding.

Craig Hall, Penn Tactical Solutions

According to the Combat Life Saving B151196 Student Handout at The Basic School, A tourniquet is applied two to four inches above the wound between the wound and the heart. When the constricting band applies pressure to the limb it will control the bleeding. Marines are trained to not tighten it to the point where it causes excessive damage to the limb. They will then mark the patient’s forehead with a “T,” time and date for each tourniquet applied.

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Soldier applying a tourniquet in training (U.S. Army)

Gloves

To help keep the wound clean and minimize contamination, gloves are provided in all IFAKs to be used by the person treating the owner of the IFAK.

Alcohol Pads

For sterilization and cleaning of an area.

Band-Aids

To treat minor wounds.

Tape

Used to secure other items provided in an IFAK.

Combat Gauze

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
U.S. Marine Corps photo

When applied to a wound, causes the wound to develop a clot that will stop the flow of blood and will remain within the wound until removed by medical personnel…Combat Gauze is a 3×4 inch roll of sterile gauze that is impregnated with kaolin, which helps promote blood clotting…The combination of sterile gauze and proprietary inorganic material allows Combat Gauze to be non-allergenic.

Field Medical Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA, Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care Student Handout

Back in 2009 when I first entered the fleet, IFAKs contained Quickclot, which was used to heat seal open wounds in conjunction with bandages. I remember my Corpsman saying that it caused additional problems during surgery for the casualty. The controversial use of Quickclot also brought up chemical concerns. By 2010, Quickclot was phased out and Combat Gauze was used to stop the bleeding by packing a wound with as many as needed to create a clot. Combat Gauze can also be used to make a pressure dressing.

Triangular Bandage

A Triangular Bandage can be used as a sling or improvised as a tourniquet. It can be adapted to be used as the Combat Life Saver Handout states “The only limitations are on the CLS’s (Combat Life Saver) imagination.”

Water ‘Jel’

Used to treat burn injuries

‘H’ Bandage

The H bandage is used to treat bleeding wounds and abdominal wounds. It has a bigger pad and a longer dressing to be able to wrap around the patient. It has a H shaped clasp to allow better cinching to provide pressure, thus the name.

Iodine

Used for cleaning and water purification.

Additional supplies not provided in an IFAK:

Tampons

You read that right. Corpsman are known to carry around tampons because they are really good at absorbing blood. The first time a Marine sees a Corpsman pull one out there is usually a giggle. That is, until the Corpsman tells said Marine it’s for bullet wounds. No more giggles.

Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps/ Sgt. Justin Huffy

Articles

This is what your next MOPP suit could look like

From bazooka nukes to backpack A-bombs — 6 wild warheads the Cold War cooked up
Soldiers train in classic MOPP gear just before Desert Storm in 1991. (Photo: U.S. Army)


For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:

  1. Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
  2. Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
  3. Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
  4. Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
  5. Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
  6. Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
  7. Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
  8. Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
  9. Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
  10. A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.

MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.

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