X-20 Dyna-Soar: America's hypersonic space bomber - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

Decades before America’s Space Shuttle would roar into the sky, the United States already had plans to field a reusable spaceplane. Born out of Germany’s World War II efforts to create a bomber that could attack New York and continue on to the Pacific, Boeing’s X-20 Dyna-Soar was to be a single-seat craft boosted into the sky atop American rockets.

It would soar in the sky in the blurred line between earth’s atmosphere and the vacuum of space, bouncing along the heavens before releasing its payload over Soviet targets miles below. The X-20 was a 1950s science fiction fever dream born of the nuclear age and the earliest days of the Cold War… And according to some experts, it very likely would have worked.

Operation Paperclip and the burgeoning Cold War

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Kurt H. Debus, a former V-2 rocket scientist who became a NASA director, sitting between U.S. President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. WikiMedia Commons)

As World War II came to a close, the United States and Soviet Union’s relationship with one another was already beginning to sour. Nazi Germany’s war machine had torn through the continent, often on the backs of Germany’s state-of-the-art military technology, but geopolitics is a game of theater and pragmatism in equal measure. While the world ached for justice, defense officials in both America and the Soviet Union already saw the Cold War looming large on the horizon. Justice mattered in the minds of these leaders, but not quite as much as surviving the next great conflict to come.

Nazi technology had given Germany an advantage on multiple military fronts, and both America and the Soviet Union knew the scientists responsible for these technological leaps would soon be looking for a means to escape prosecution for their roles in the conflict. Both nations, recognizing the strategic advantage their knowledge could offer, quickly set about capturing as many Nazi scientists and researchers as they could. In the United States, this effort to leverage Germany’s scientists came to be known as Operation Paperclip.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
V-2 rocket launching, Peenemünde, on the north-east Baltic German coast. (1943)

In all, Operation Paperclip, which was organized by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and largely executed by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, brought some 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians to the United States following the war, where they were given roles in America’s ongoing military and technological efforts. NASA’s famed Wernher von Braun, the man who developed the Saturn V rocket that brought America to the moon, was perhaps the most high profile German scientist to come through Paperclip, but among the others were Walter Dornberger and Krafft Ehricke.

In their newfound roles at Bell Aircraft, an American aircraft manufacturing firm, Dornberger and Ehricke first proposed the concept of a sort of vertical-launched bomber and missile in one. In Germany, they had called this theoretical platform the Silbervogel, or Silver Fish. Today, the plan seems quite logical: The vehicle would be sent aloft atop a rocket booster and propelled all the way into a sub-orbital but exoatmospheric altitude where it would briefly enter space, before gliding down toward the atmosphere and being “bounced” back up thanks to the vehicle’s wings.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Diagram of the planned X-20 Dyna-Soar (WikiMedia Commons)

Today, the idea of launching a reusable spaceplane into a suborbital altitude practically sounds run of the mill, thanks to similar concepts being leveraged by everything from nuclear ICBMs to the most advanced, cutting-edge hypersonic weapons, but Dornberger and Ehricke’s proposal was submitted in 1952 — five years before the Soviet Union would launch the world’s first man-made satellite into orbit. Operation Paperclip was devised specifically to leverage Germany’s scientists to help kick-start America’s own exotic military programs, and in hindsight, it’s hard to argue that the effort wasn’t a success, regardless of the ethical implications.

Working in the shadow of Sputnik

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Replica of Sputnik 1 (NASA)

On October 1, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first man-made satellite. It was a small, metal sphere, measuring only about 23 inches in diameter, with four external radio antennas trailing behind it broadcasting signal pulses back to Soviet scientists, as well as the rest of the world. What followed has come to be known as the “Sputnik Crisis” in the Western world.

America had been the de facto world leader in terms of both military and economic might following the end of the Second World War, but the success of Sputnik placed America’s supremacy into question. The Soviets had matched America’s nuclear weapons with a test of their own in 1949, and again with the hydrogen bomb in 1953. Now, instead of matching America’s success, the Soviets were starting to take an intimidating lead.

The United States had taken to developing Dornberger and Ehricke’s concept in three separate programs: a rocket bomber (RoBo), a long-range reconnaissance vehicle (Brass Bell), and hypersonic weapons research. Just days after Sputnik 1 launched, the U.S. re-organized their efforts, combing all three programs into the new single Weapons System 464L program, also known as Dyna-Soar.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Artist’s rendering of the X-20 Dyna-Soar (NASA)

The new Dyna-Soar effort was to mature in three stages. Dyna-Soar 1 would be a research vehicle. Dyan-Soar 2 would add reconnaissance, and Dyna-Soar 3 would incorporate bombing capabilities. America intended to work fast, planning to test the first iteration by 1963 in glide trials, with powered trials to follow the next year. By then, the Dyna-Soar 2 was expected to exceed Mach 18 in powered flight. A missile based on the Dyna-Soar program was expected to enter service by 1968, with the spaceplane itself operational by 1974.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
(U.S. Air Force image)

In order to meet these deadlines, proposals were fielded by both Bell Aircraft and Boeing. Despite Bell’s head start, Boeing ultimately secured the contract and set about work on developing what was to be the X-20 Dyna-Soar.

Building a Dyna-Soar

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
(Boeing photo)

By 1960, the spaceplanes overall design was largely settled, leveraging a delta-shape and small winglets for control in place of a traditional tail. In order to manage the incredible heat of reentry, the X-20 would use super alloys like the heat-resistant René 41 in its frame, and molybdenum, graphite, and zirconia rods all used for heat shielding on the underside of the craft.

“It was a hot-temperature structure using a nickel super alloy,” said Dr. Richard Hallion, former Air Force chief historian.

“The leading edges of the wing would be made of an even more exotic alloy. There was provision for active cooling.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
(Air Force artist rendering of the X-20 Dyna-Soar)

That same year, astronauts were chosen to fly America’s new space bomber. Among them was a thirty-year-old Navy test pilot and aeronautical engineer named Neil Armstrong, who would go on to leave the program in 1962.

By the end of that same year, the program was given the designation X-20 and it was unveiled to the public in a ceremony held in Las Vegas. America’s mighty B-52 Stratofortress was chosen to air-drop the X-20 for in-atmosphere flight tests, and the first firing of the rocket booster intended for higher altitude drop-tests was also a success. The project was incredibly ahead of its time, while somehow also being entirely feasible with the technology of the day. In the early 1960s, it seemed all but assured that America would soon be flying space bombers.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Once built, the X-20 Dyna-Soar’s first mock-up measured 35 and a half feet long with a 20.4-foot wingspan. It used three retractable struts for landing. Although it would have its own A-4 or A-9 rocket engine to help it reach an exoatmospheric trajectory, it would effectively glide throughout most of its mission, dipping down into the atmosphere just far enough to create lift, which it would use to bounce back up, skipping across the air enveloping the earth like a stone over a pond. It would continue to skip until it had lost enough velocity to prevent another bounce back up, at which point the pilot would glide the craft back down to earth just like the Space Shuttle.

The X-20 Dyna-Soar goes extinct

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
(U.S. Air Force)

Although the X-20 concept was quite literally out of this world, it was still technically feasible, and early tests suggested that the Dyna-Soar may indeed work as advertised. However, the program was also incredibly expensive, and with the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration moving forward with its Gemini program, America’s civilian leaders were becoming more interested in fielding an actual spacecraft they could use to compete with the Soviets, rather than a weapon that offered little in the way of international prestige.

“If we had pursued it as a black-world program like the U-2, it might have gone ahead,” explained Hallion. “I never saw any technical issue that would have been a show stopper.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Artist’s rendering of an X-20 during a glide (WikiMedia Commons)

On December 10, 1963, the X-20 program was canceled. The United States had invested $410 million in its development, or more than $3.5 billion in 2021 dollars, but the Dyna-Soar was still a long way off from being the space bomber it was intended to become. Even per Hallion’s positive recollection of the effort, the X-20 was still at least two-and-a-half years away from working and would have required at least another $370 million to complete. A space bomber would indeed offer global range, but in 1957, the U.S. Air Force had demonstrated that the B-52, the same bomber tasked with helping test the X-20, could circle the globe all on its own, without any need for pricey rockets.

Upon canceling the X-20 program, the U.S. government diverted its remaining funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory effort that used Gemini spacecraft to demonstrate the value of a crewed military presence in Earth’s orbit.

But the X-20 was not completely swallowed up by history. Elements of the program could be found in NASA’s Space Shuttle, and of course, the Space Force’s secretive X-37B bears more than a passing resemblance to the X-20. The X-37B is not touted as a space bomber and almost certainly isn’t, but the reusable spaceplane may, in fact, be one of America’s most capable reconnaissance assets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 of the worst weapons projects the US military has in the works

The US military, together with its industry partners, makes some of the finest weapons in the world, but the programs that produce them rarely run as smoothly as intended.

Some of the most problematic of the military’s recent projects belong to the US Navy.

The big problem for the Navy is that the service, just as other branches of the military have in the past, has rushed to develop platforms before the required technologies were ready, Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert, told Business Insider, pointing to the new Zumwalt-class destroyers and the Ford-class supercarriers.

“We still have technology that is not fully mature even though the ship has been delivered,” he said, advising the service to slow things down and mature the technology rather than build an entire platform around an idea.


This issue is not unique to the Navy though. The Army is rethinking innovation at the newly-established Army Futures Command in the wake of past development failures, such as the Comanche helicopter or Crusader self-propelled artillery.

Here are 5 troubled projects the US military is desperately trying to get sorted right now.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

Three F-35Cs.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” then-President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 12, 2016.

US Air Force Lt. Gen Chris Bogdan briefed Trump on the F-35 program a week later. The presentation highlighted the program’s “troubled past,” which includes premature production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges, among other issues, The Drive reported.

The Air Force presentation concluded that it is “difficult to overcome a troubled past, but [the] program is improving.” Still problems persist.

The Pentagon’s latest operational testing and evaluation assessment noted continued reliability and availability issues. And, according to Bloomberg, the lifetime program cost for the world’s most expensive weapons program has grown to id=”listicle-2638634792″.196 trillion.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program as “f—ed up.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)

(US Navy)

2. Zumwalt-class destroyer

The US Navy has invested two decades and tens of billions of dollars into the development of these advanced warships, which lack working guns and a clear mission.

The two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System are incredibly expensive to fire. One Long-Range Land Attack Projectile costs around id=”listicle-2638634792″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.

The guns never provided the desired range anyway, so now the Navy is talking about possibly scrapping the guns entirely.

The Zumwalt has also struggled with engine and electrical problems, as well as a potential loss of stealth capabilities due to the use of cost-saving bolt-on components.

While the Navy had planned to field more than 30 Zumwalt-class destroyers, the service now plans for only three.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

The USS Independence, a Littoral Combat Ship.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

3. Littoral Combat Ship

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), sometimes referred to as the “Little Crappy Ship,” has suffered from uncontrolled cost overruns, delivery delays, and various mechanical problems.

The Navy has pumped around billion over roughly 20 years into this project, which was started to create an inexpensive vessel that was small, fast, and capable of handling a variety of missions in coastal waterways.

The LCS was specifically designed to carry out anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasure, and surface warfare missions in contested littoral waters, but there have been a lot of problems with the modular mission packages designed to be loaded aboard.

There are also concerns that the ships are not survivable in high-intensity conflict and that they are not sufficiently armed to perform their missions, according to the most recent Department of Defense operational testing and evaluation assessment.

While the Navy initially aimed to build a fleet of 55 ships, the LCS order has since been reduced to 35. The Navy, which has struggled to deploy the ships it already has, is currently looking at new missile frigates to replace the LCS.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

USS Gerald R. Ford

(United States Navy)

4. Ford-class aircraft carrier

The billion USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier continues to suffer from a variety of problems even as the Navy moves forward with plans to build more Ford-class supercarriers.

The Ford was expected to be delivered to the fleet this summer, but delivery has been delayed until at least October due to persistent problems with the weapons elevators and the propulsion system.

This is not the first time the powerful ship has been delayed.

This massive flattop has also had problems with the basic requirements of an aircraft carrier, launching and recovering planes. The most recent Department of Defense assessment called attention to the “poor or unknown reliability of systems critical for flight operations.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized, occasionally at inappropriate times, the new electromagnetic catapults, which still don’t work correctly. Just as he was critical of the rising F-35 costs, Trump has also frequently slammed the ballooning costs of the Ford-class carriers.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

An artist rendering of a railgun aboard a US Navy surface vessel.

(US Navy)

5. Electromagnetic naval railgun

The problem with the railgun was that the Navy began pouring time and money into research and development without really considering whether or not the weapon was a worthwhile investment militarily.

The railgun, which the Navy has invested more than a decade and over 0 million in developing, suffers from rate of fire limitations, significant energy demands, and other troubling technological problems that make this weapon a poor replacement for existing guns or missile systems.

“It’s not useful military technology,” Clark previously told Business Insider. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson described the railgun project as a lesson in what not to do during a talk earlier this year. When asked about the program, the best answer he could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.

These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.


“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”

The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).

“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)

The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.

“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”

The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.

More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.

The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How an F-35 pilot landed safely after losing a flight computer in mid-air

From initial pilot training to mission qualification training, US Air Force pilots complete intensive training and preparation to learn critical skills to fly, fight and win, as well as prevent mishaps.

However, F-35 and F-16 trainees in the 56th Fighter Wing also receive cutting edge human performance optimization training across physical, mental, and emotional domains.

In May 2019, Capt. Robert Larson, a 61st Fighter Squadron student pilot, was on a training mission when he found himself faced with an in-flight emergency. Larson called upon his human performance optimization training and saved not only himself but the F-35A Lightning II he was flying from any damage.


“I was pretty high up, about 34,000 feet, and all of a sudden everything got really quiet,” said Larson. “I tried to call my flight lead and realized I couldn’t talk to anybody. I started descending, working through my checklist and rocking my wings to try and let my flight lead know that I didn’t have a radio. As I got further into the checklist I realized I had lost one of the flight computers that was responsible for controlling oxygen, pressurization, and some parts of communication.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II returning to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, after a two-month European deployment, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Larson eventually visually communicated with his flight lead to relay the situation and decided to return to the base. As he worked through multiple checklists with additional failures, he determined that the aircraft’s landing gear could possibly collapse upon landing.

“At that point my plan was to land and if the gear collapsed as I was landing I was going to eject,” said Larson. “Luckily it didn’t and I was able to pull off to the end of the runway and shut down there and wait for maintenance.”

Larson succeeded due to his ability to keep a level head during a high-stakes emergency, and his training helped prepare him for it. Unique to Luke AFB, student pilots receive holistic performance training and support to optimize their physical and mental skills for the stress of flying and coping with an emergency situation.

The Human Performance Team’s Fighter Tactical Strengthening and Sustainment (FiTSS) program is normal part of the F-16 and F-35 Basic Course training, and also available to all Luke AFB instructors and student at all levels.

“We have an academic portion that covers mindfulness, awareness, intensity regulation, focus and attention, self-talk, goal setting, confidence, motivation and team cohesion,” said Dr. John Gassaway, Clinical Sports Psychologist with the Human Performance Team. “Then we meet one-on-one about twice a month to talk about how they are implementing these strategies.”

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber

An F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

In an advanced, fifth-generation fighter like the F-35 serious malfunctions are extremely rare. For Larson, the incident was solved not only by his knowledge of the jet’s systems but his ability to assess the situation with composure.

“I had practiced for all this time and it worked in a way where I was able to stay calm, successfully work through everything, bring the jet back and land safely,” said Larson. “All those mental skills helped so much, and it’s not until you have the time to reflect that you realize how useful and necessary they are.”

Emergencies or life threatening situations are never ideal when flying; however, Larson believes the experience reinforced the importance of his training.

“It’s not what your hands and feet are doing to fly the jet but what you’re doing mentally to process what you’re going through,” said Larson. “How you can improve that whole process has been my biggest take away for it.”

For Gassaway, the incident emphasized the importance of practicing and improving mental skills.

“The thing that was so impressive with Larson, and the thing that I really take the greatest amount of pride in, was the fact that when he was flying, he didn’t think about any of these skills until he landed,” said Gassaway. “That showed me he was aware he had used the skills, but they were automated, ultimately that is the optimization of these skills.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This video provides interesting details about the iconic F-117 jet

As we have explained in posts we have published recently, F-117s continue to zip through the Nevada skies despite being officially retired in 2008. Actually, the iconic stealth jet is doing probably much more than “just flying around”. The most recent sightings have seen the aircraft actively taking part in seemingly complex missions, flying the aggressor role alongside 57th Wing F-16s as The War Zone reported just a few days ago.


Anyway, it’s certain that some F-117s have been retired once for all. In November 2014, we spotted an F-117 fuselage being transported on a truck trailer was seen back on Nov. 14, 2017. More recently, on Aug. 16, 2019 at 4:09 PM aviation expert and photographer Chris McGreevy spotted another fuselage being hauled by a truck along Columbia Way (Ave. M) near the joint military/civilian use Palmdale Regional Airport outside Palmdale, California. While we don’t know where the first F-117 ended, we know everything about the latter one: nicknamed “Unexpected Guest”, the aircraft in question was #803 (82-0803), an F-117 that entered active service in 1984, flew 78 combat missions (the most of any Nighthawk) starting from Panama’s “Just Cause” operation and was retired in 2007 after logging 4,673 Flight Hours.

Peace Through Strength: F-117 Display at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

www.youtube.com

The “Unexpected Guest” was prepared for public display at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, through an operation dubbed Operation Nighthawk Landing. The interesting video was released for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Dec. 7, 2019, during the Reagan Foundation and Institute’s annual Reagan National Defense Forum. It includes footage of the F-117 stealth jets throughout their career, from the era when they flew under the cover of darkness at Tonopah, when an early form of biometric scanner called the Identimat built by Stellar Systems was used, to their last days of official operations before “retirement” (or something like that….). Long live the Stealth Jet!!

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Germany could buy the Marines’ new helicopter

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


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

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
The Luftwaffe has 81 CH-53Gs on inventory, each capable of hauling two Wiesel tankettes. (Bundeswehr photo)

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

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

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Germany is one of the few countries to buy the CH-53 from the United States – Israel and Iran also bought export models. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Jwnabd)

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

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

This was the Soviet version of the C-130 – only less safe

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was looking for transports. They needed these transports to support their numerous airborne divisions. By the Cold War’s end, the Soviets had six airborne divisions but historically, they had as many as 15 active airborne divisions, which makes for a lot to move.


They also had the same need for tactical airlift to supply personnel. While the United States met that need with the C-130 Hercules, the Soviets turned to the Antonov design bureau to address their needs. The plane that emerged was the An-12, nicknamed the “Cub” by NATO.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
An ex-military An-12. Note the tail gun position – minus the two 23mm cannons. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-12 can reach a speed of 480 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 3,540 miles. It can carry up to 60 paratroopers or two BMD airborne armored fighting vehicles. It was in production for sixteen years and 1,248 airframes were produced.

What distinguishes the Soviet-designed plane from the C-130 is that some variations of the An-12 sport a twin 23mm turret. The other big difference is the accident rate. Aviation-Safety.net reports that of the 1,248 Cubs produced, 232 have been lost in accidents. By comparison, that same site notes that 353 C-130-type transports (including the civilian-model L-100) have been lost in accidents out of the more than 2,500 airframes.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
A baseline Y-8 with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

China also has a version of the Cub known as the Y-8, a pirated design that was reverse-engineered after the Sino-Soviet split in the last 1960s. According to FlightGlobal.com, China has over 100 Y-8s in service, including airborne early-warning, maritime reconnaissance, and electronic-warfare variants. China also has the Y-9, a stretched version, with seven airframes in service.

You can see a video about this Russian ripoff of the Hercules below. That said, if you need a tactical transport, an An-12 “Cub” is not the way to go. Just buy a real C-130.

Articles

Fast Attack Vehicles might be exactly what the Army needs to stop ISIS

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
U.S. Navy SEALs operate Desert Patrol Vehicles while preparing for an upcoming mission. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo Abrahamson)


In the 1980s, the U.S. Army needed to be able to rapidly deploy a sizable force to face off against heavy forces. But that requirement created two problems: Most light forces were little more than speed bumps against tanks, and it took a long time to deliver a heavy force – and their supplies – to a likely theater outside of Europe or South Korea. So the Army began to explore ways to create a light force that could hold its own.

Enter the 9th Motorized, a force that proved it’s utility in several big exercises during the mid-1980s, most notably in Border Star 85 when the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment lost badly to the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Motorized. The Army’s strategy seemed to be playing out in a good way.

But a change at the top of the Army detoured the promise of the 9th. The new Army Chief of Staff favored the light infantry division concept over the motorized division. Ultimately, four active light infantry divisions (the 6th, 7th, 10th Mountain, and 25th) were formed, with one more, the 29th, in the National Guard. Later, the 9th, as well as the 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions, were deactivated after the fall of the Berlin Wall as the budget ax fell.

The 9th Infantry Division first made use of Fast Attack Vehicles; basically, souped-up dune buggies that special operations units had used during Desert Storm. The Army later went with the M1114 High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV.

The signature tool used in the front-line battalions was the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. With a range of almost 2500 yards, the Mk 19 could send one grenade a second onto a target. The grenade blasted lethal fragments 50 feet from the point of impact. The Mk 19 was also able to take out light armored vehicles. While it might not have been enough to take out a BMP or T-72, the Mk 19 could wreak havoc on supply convoys or rear-area headquarters units. Depending on the table of organization and equipment, a front-line battalion with the 9th Motorized could have had almost 100 of these powerful weapons.

The 9th Motorized also made heavy use of the BGM-71 TOW missile to deal with the threat posed by tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The TOW had a reputation as a reliable tank-killer, with a range of almost two and half miles and a 13-pound warhead. The TOW provided a heavy punch when the Army decided not to use a ground-launched version of the AGM-114 Hellfire. Infantry assigned to the 9th Motorized also made use of the FGM-77 Dragon anti-tank missile. With a range of just under a mile, the Dragon added to the firepower of the division, despite its drawbacks.

Would something like the 9th Motorized Division’s organization work today? With the FGM-148 Javelin, and the development of lightweight UAVs, it may be worth bringing back the concept – particularly in the fight against ISIS.

MIGHTY GAMING

Breaking down where in nerdom the TALOS exo-suit belongs

Toiling away deep in the U.S. Army’s research and development arm of the Special Operations Command are the scientists crafting the Tactical Assault Light Operations Suit. It looks slick. It looks awesome. It looks like it’s going to change the battlefield in a big way.

The only problem with it is that when military journalists cover it, they see how it looks and immediately attribute it to some sci-fi universe by saying something like, “it’s a real-life Iron Man suit!” So, let’s take a closer look and determine where, exactly, within the broad horizon of nerdom this high-tech exo-suit belongs.


We weren’t exaggerating: Right off the bat, a comparison to Iron Man’s suit is invariably struck by nearly every single news outlet. To a degree, we can see why. The suit, officials have said, will be considered complete when it’s functional, bullet-proof, and weaponized.

Even Jim Geurtz of SOCOM jokingly told NPR that it’s “not at the Iron Man-flying-suit, you know, flying-at-50,000-feet level.” Since he’s developing the suit, he gets a pass on calling it an Iron Man suit — but a more apt comparison is a War Machine suit. Since the suit is not going to be powered by a nuclear fission reactor and fire lasers, it’s a better match with War Machine’s kinetic arsenal.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
If you give it to the Marines, they’ll probably spray paint a Punisher skull on it. Just watch.
(Punisher Vol 1. #218)

Though there’s no proof, we’re pretty sure the name TALOS is a backronym designed to share a name with the ancient Greek legend. In mythology, Talos is a bronze automaton said to have protected Crete from pirates and scoundrels (and is the God of Man in the Elder Scrolls universe, but that’s fantasy and not sci-fi). Coincidentally, Talos’ mythological job would fit it perfectly within the Boba Fett-inspired H&K AR500 suit. Looking at their helmet design, it’s obvious that they know full-well who they want it to look like.

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
Even the NVGs flip down like Fett’s visor thingy. Fun Fact: That’s actually not an antennae on Boba Fett’s helmet.
(Lucasfilms Ltd.)

A comparison that the TALOS suit doesn’t get often enough is to the armor of Halo’s Space Marines. The design is strikingly similar to the armor worn by non-player characters in the series.

The suit was also once projected to be able to relay vital information to the wearer via a heads-up display. Command information could also be relayed to the user through their fancy set of glasses. The early designs weren’t too far off from the in-game version, but that was also back when they thought Google Glass was going to change the battlefield…

X-20 Dyna-Soar: America’s hypersonic space bomber
The guy in the prototype suit is showcasing it to au00a0dude drinking Mountain Dewu00a0u2014 seems fitting for some reason.
(Bungie Studios)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

16 awesome photos of the Apache helicopter

Apache attack helicopters are like flying dinosaurs. They’re ugly, misshapen, and deadly as hell. Here are 16 photos of this awesome airframe in action:


1. Armed Apaches conduct a reconnaissance flight to look for RPGs and mortars in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007.

 

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Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

2. Troops preparing for deployment conduct an exercise with the helicopter at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Glenn M. Anderson

3. A U.S. Army Apache flies over the desert near Mosul, Iraq.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

4. A U.S. Army captain rides on the outside of an AH-64 during an extraction exercise. (This method is used to rescue downed aircrews.)

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor

5. The first AH-64E deployed to Hawaii is given a traditional Hawaiian blessing before the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2014.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Crista Mary Mack

6. An Apache flies from the HMS Ocean, an amphibious assault ship of the British Navy.

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Photo: Crown Copyright/Guy Pool

7. A British Army Air Corps AH-64D helicopter fires on insurgents in Afghanistan in 2007.

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Photo: Crown Copyright/Staff Sgt. Mike Harvey

8. An Apache attack helicopter takes off from Balad Air Base, Iraq for a mission.

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Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.

9. British Royal Marines ride out of an insurgent-held compound on the helicopter after rescuing a wounded marine trapped there.

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Photo: Youtube/eliteukforces

READ MORE: That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

10. An Apache flies escort as soldiers move on Fallujah, Iraq.

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Photo: US Army 1st Lt. Kimberly Snow

10. A helicopter undergoes maintenance on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan as the sun sets.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Edward A. Garibay

11. An Apache fires during an exercise with a Georgia National Guard infantry brigade.

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Photo: US National Guard Capt. Michael Thompson

12. At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, an AH-64D hovers over friendly troops.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Randis Monroe

13. One of the attack helicopters prepares to depart a base in Afghanistan for a security and reconnaissance mission.

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Photo: US Army Capt. Peter Smedberg

14. An aircrew engages targets during an exercise at Fort Irwin, California’s National Training Center.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Randis Monroe

15. An AH-64D flies in front of the sun at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.

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Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

16. An Apache at rest will remain at rest until it’s time to kill something.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Jose D. Ramirez

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new Leatherman multi-tool at SHOT Show is KILLER

Leatherman’s new magnetic architecture is changing the game for multi-tools. Sure, they’ve had one-handed technology for a few years now, but it’s insane how easy it is to access everything in the tool with just one hand.

And their new P4 model is accessible for left- or right-hand dominate use.


NEW Leatherman MultiTools | SHOT Show 2019

www.youtube.com

Watch: Blade HQ checks out the Leatherman booth

“What makes these tools really special is how you don’t have to use your fingernails to access anything,” said Jeremy, the rep at the Leatherman booth at SHOT Show 2019. This year they are releasing six of best multi-tools they’ve ever had — which is saying something. Leatherman has been the lead in multi-tool technology for 25 years.

They’re calling it their new FREE line, and if you can’t get your hands on one yet, check out the video above to see how effortlessly each implement is accessed. They’ve got new locks, non-metallic springs, and magnet technology that, according to Blade HQ, “just changed the game bigtime, buddy.”

Also read: Our 7 most favorite issued items ever

“FREE is absolutely the future of multipurpose. It’s something totally different.”

In April, the FREE line will be available, and in June their new T-series pocket tools will launch. They’ll run on the same magnetic architecture but will be very light weight.

Check out the video above for some very satisfying tool porn (pun intended, I guess — it just felt inevitable).

Articles

The Atomic Cannon was a thing during the Cold War

On May 25, 1953, the U.S. military tested a 280 mm atomic artillery shell over Nevada it codenamed Grable. The round was fired from the Atomic Cannon—one of the largest ever produced by the U.S.—to a target seven-miles away.


The U.S. made 20 of these cannons during the Cold War in case it came to blows with the Soviets. The round detonated in the air and completely obliterated the cars, buildings, and bridges below.

MrNightSky

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit

Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.

On Nov. 11, 2019, SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.


They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.

The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.

After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.

Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported in October 2019 that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.

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

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