X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Way back in 1999, Lockheed Martin had a plan to field a delta-shaped stealth fighter that skipped the need for a conventional tail section, in the F-22-based X-44 Manta.

Instead of using a conventional tail section with both vertical and horizontal control surfaces, the Manta aimed to leverage thrust vector control, or directing the flow of the engine’s thrust to give the aircraft the acrobatic capabilities it would need in a high-end dogfight. Today, more than two decades later, that same concept appears to be found consistently across nearly all official renderings of the Air Force’s next air superiority fighter being developed under the NGAD, or Next Generation Air Dominance, program, begging the question… could elements of the X-44 Manta have found their way to America’s next top-of-the-line fighter?

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
NGAD Artist’s rendering (USAF)

Last year, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and tested a prototype aircraft out of their Next Generation Air Dominance program. This new jet promises to be more advanced than any fighter to ever come before it, designed to not only do battle with the advanced 5th generation fighters being churned out by America’s opponents in Russia and China, but to dominate them for decades to come.

At right around the same time, the Air Force also unveiled a birthday-celebrating image seemingly showing a wedge-shaped aircraft with no conventional tail section, prompting some to wonder if the artist’s handiwork had anything to do with the NGAD announcement that came alongside it. Since then, other official images out of the Air Force, along with renderings from prominent aviation firms like Lockheed Martin, have all shown similar wedge-shaped aircraft.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
(USAF)

Some, including me, have pointed toward Northrop’s highly capable but ultimately passed-over YF-23 Black Widow II as the stealthy precedent for this tailless design, but Northrop isn’t the only show in town that knows how to build a stealth fighter without a tail.

In fact, based on some of these artist’s renderings and the practical limitations of developing a new fighter on a short fuse, the X-44 Manta may represent an early iteration of what has or will become at least part of America’s next prizefighter in the sky.

X-44 MANTA… or the Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The X-44’s name, or more appropriately, its acronym, gets straight to the intent behind the concept. After decades of rapid fighter development, some things had simply come to be considered standard fare for a capable tactical aircraft: things like a conventional tail section with vertical and horizontal control surfaces. While both the F-22 and later, the F-35, adopted slightly different tails than you’d find on a non-stealth 4th-generation fighter like the F-16, the X-44 Manta aimed to pull off the same sort of maneuverability without the need for all those tail surfaces. With no tail section, the aircraft’s radar return would be dramatically reduced, creating an even stealthier fighter than America’s highly capable F-22.

So, logically enough, Lockheed Martin partnered up with NASA to talk about how to bring this concept to fruition. Successfully making an acrobatic fighter that could forgo using its tail for handling would mean relying heavily on using thrust vector controls to change the direction of the fighter’s flight path. NASA had already had a great deal of success using thrust vector controls on a high-performance fighter in the F-15 ACTIVE, which was a modified F-15 Eagle that used front wing canards (taken from the tail section of an F/A-18 Hornet) and thrust vectoring jet nozzles to produce a fighter that could outperform the legendary Eagle in almost every appreciable way.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
F-15 ACTIVE (Courtesy of NASA)

Put in its simplest terms, thrust vector control offers the ability to aim or point the nozzle of the jet engine. In some platforms, like the F-22 Raptor, that nozzle aiming is done on a single plain (up or down), while in other jets like Russia’s 4th-generation Su-35, the nozzle can move in 360 degrees, offering even more dramatic options when it comes to rapidly shifting directions.

In a head-on engagement, the F-22 Raptor’s thrust vectoring can allow the pilot to point the nose and weapons of the fighter down at an enemy jet as it passes by, all while continuing to push in the same original direction. In a close-up scrap between two fighters who are trying to successfully turn tighter than the other to get weapons lock, that same thrust vectoring capability allows jets like the F-22 and Su-35 to change directions far more aggressively than any advanced jet without thrust vector controls can.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
(NASA)

While the F-22 leverages thrust vector control alongside its more conventional tail section, Lockheed Martin proposed using the F-22 design as a starting point for this new technology demonstrator that could prove just as capabley as the fighter designs we’ve come to see as conventional in recent decades.

An F-22 Raptor without the tail

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll)

Because the concept wasn’t being pursued as a clean sheet fighter development program, but rather as a technology demonstrator effort, starting from scratch on an aircraft design didn’t seem practical. Instead, Lockheed Martin volunteered the F-22 Raptor. While not the most recent stealth fighter out of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works (the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter began test flights three years prior), the F-22 was–and is—America’s best and most capable fighter when it comes to engaging enemy jets. It also already boasts thrust vector control, making it a logical choice for an experiment so focused on that specific capability.

The X-44 Manta wasn’t the only F-22 based concept rolling around at the Pentagon at the time. As the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the first fighter to christen the new “5th-generation” of jets, and arguably the most potent air superiority aircraft ever to fly in service for any nation, it makes sense that the United States would have considered leaning into the F-22 program for other, more specialized roles. While the X-44 concept aimed to saw off its tail and make the F-22 even sneakier, the Sea Raptor effort would have placed F-22s aboard America’s fleet of supercarriers–offering a jet that could fly faster, further while carrying more ordnance than the F-35C’s now destined for Uncle Sam’s flat tops.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The F-22 Raptor had already set itself apart from the rest of the fighter world thanks to its creators leveraging stealth as a part of the fighter’s very design. While previous and highly-capable air superiority fighters like the F-15 relied on sheer performance to win scraps in the air and only later incorporated things like radar-absorbent coating to slow detection, the F-22’s very design was intended to postpone or defeat detection entirely. From there, its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F119 engines could still push the stealthy fighter to speeds as high as Mach 2.25, and its thrust vector controls allowed it to pirouette away from any inbound missiles that may have managed to secure a hard-to-come-by lock. Today, the F-22 remains the most highly capable air superiority fighter on the planet, and in 1999, its lead over the competition was even more pronounced.

But even the incredible F-22 could be even better if it could be even stealthier, and that’s where a tailless delta design could have produced real results. If the X-44 Manta could have offered similar performance to the F-22 while also being even harder to detect, it may have been enough to push this aircraft concept off of Lockheed’s notebook pages and into their production facilities. But it wasn’t just stealth the X-44 did better. It also carried a whole lot more hate.

Some of the strengths of the F-16XL

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
The F-16XL flying under NASA (NASA photo)

While the tailless wedge shape of the X-44 Manta would benefit its stealth profile, it also came with some other significant advantages over America’s existing stealth fighters, like payload capacity and range. America’s F-22 Raptor can carry a maximum of six air-to-air weapons internally and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is limited to just four–but the broad fuselage of the wedged-shaped X-44 would almost certainly have allowed for far more ordnance, both in terms of carrying space inside the aircraft and overall payload capability as a measure of lift and fuel economy.

First developed as the F-16 SCAMP and later matured into the F-16XL that would compete with (now) Boeing’s F-15E Strike Eagle in the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, the F-16XL also leveraged a broad, wedge-shaped fuselage that granted it superior lift, range, fuel capacity, and payload over the standard F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16XL wasn’t worried about stealth, so it carried its weapons on external hardpoints, but thanks to the increased surface area of its wedged-wing design, the F-16XL had hard points for an astonishing 27 weapons, as compared to the F-16’s standard nine.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
An air-to-air left underside view of an F-16XL aircraft. The aircraft is armed with two wing tip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder and four fuselage mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles along with 12 500-pound bombs.

It’s unclear just what a sort of boost to payload or range the X-44 Manta may have offered over the F-22, but it would have benefitted not only from the increased internal payload space, but also the increased lift provided by the broader lifting body. That lift could help support more weight while also offering greater efficiency in fuel use.

Could the X-44 Manta be involved in the NGAD program?

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
(USAF/NASA)

Like most questions made about NGAD at this point, there’s no real way to definitely say for sure that the X-44 has been a part of the conversation leading up to fielding the F-22’s replacement. However, there are some parallels we can draw between the intent behind the X-44 and the goals in place for NGAD.

The premise behind the X-44 Manta was to build an even better stealth fighter than the F-22 Raptor, and in no uncertain terms, that is precisely the stated aim of the NGAD program. However, it’s also important to note that the X-44 concept was born in 1999, making its design just about as dated as the F-35 and the fighters NGAD will be tasked with killing–the Chinese J-20, and Russian Su-57, both of which also began development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In other words, simply dusting off the X-44 concept and pushing it into production really wouldn’t meet the needs of the NGAD program. Of course, because so much of the X-44 is based on the out-of-production F-22, kicking off that production line would be about as expensive as simply starting from scratch with a new fighter anyway.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
China’s Chengdu J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)

But that’s not to say the X-44’s DNA won’t find its way into the Air Force’s next top dog. As Air Force renderings have repeatedly shown, the branch seems intent on a wedge-shaped, tailless design for the NGAD. Many analysts have indeed pointed to the similarities between this concept and Northrop’s very real YF-23, but it’s important to note that these design images of the X-44 actually bear a stronger resemblance to what the NGAD is proposed to look like. So, if Northrop’s old stealth fighter is in this fight, it seems logical that so are advanced iterations of Lockheed’s more successful one.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
(Modified version of Air Force poster courtesy of the The Aviationist)

The idea of using no conventional tail section and a wedge-shaped design keeps bubbling to the surface in other places as well–like this image from the Air Force Research Lab (part of a video they released a few years ago):

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Or these images from Northrop Grumman:

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Or this image from Boeing:

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

So, at the end of the day, the question might be: Will the Air Force draw its inspiration from wedge-shaped aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s proposed X-44 Manta and Northrop’s YF-23 Black Widow II for it’s next generation fighter? Or perhaps more aptly… has the whole aviation industry already done that?

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This top-secret supersonic drone was found in the Arizona desert

Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.

Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.


But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
Lockheed D-21B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.

After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.

I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
A previously classified photo of the Lockheed D-21 drone at the Skunkworks manufacturing facility.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.

July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.

Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.

“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.

The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.

Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.

Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
An Air Force photo of the D-21 mounted on the M-21 launch aircraft. The M-21 launch aircraft was a special variant of the SR-71 Blackbird. Only two were produced.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.

Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.

Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.

There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.

Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.

Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.

Something goes wrong.

The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.

The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.

Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.

The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.

The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.

After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.

Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.

So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.

1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.

I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s


The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.

(Pima Air Space Museum photo)

The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.

Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.

But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This retina scanner tracks terrorists anywhere in the world

In many spy thrillers, the characters who work for a secret agency typically walk through a series of security checkpoints to get to their classified briefing rooms are offices.


The series of checks usually consists of voice and fingerprint confirmation. But one test movies love to use but may seem a little over-the-top is the retinal scan.

Developed in the 1980s, the basic science behind retinal scanners hasn’t changed much throughout the years. The electronic machines cast out low-energy infrared light tracing a path of the human retina while recording all the structures in a detailed image.

It’s much more accurate than a fingerprint. (Image via Giphy)In fact, ground troops have been using a retina scanning system called “Bat and Hiide,” or Biometric Automated Toolset and Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment to nab potential terrorists.

Related: This is how Marines set up ‘vehicle checkpoints’ in enemy territory

Terrorists are known to disguise their identities and use false documents to try to infiltrate bases and friendly force formations, so security personnel need a way to ID bad guys they can’t fake.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
This soldier uses the Bat and Hiide system to register a local national. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Many countries don’t require licenses to operate a motor vehicle and often bad guys use multiple aliases to clear various checkpoints throughout their country.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
This woman is scanned and registered in the system while waiting for service in an Egyptian Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Source: U.S. Air Force)

Also Read: 6 reasons why it’s not a good idea to attack a Marine FOB

While fingerprints can be shaved down, retinal scans are proving to be an efficient way of documenting and cataloging people and their movement.

The tech will input each new encounter into the system and any information on the individual including suspected age, height, weight and other information.

This data gets stored and can be viewed only by selected service members and civilians.

If someone gets detained in the battlefield for questioning, this system will effectively confirm the person’s identity and any history of previous scans.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
A Marine scans a local national in the field. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Depending on the results from the database, the individual in question will either be detained or sent on their way.

With this type of technology, terrorists can run, but they can’t hide. ‘Merica!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s new autonomous refueling drone flies for the first time

The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.

The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.


Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.

(Boeing)

This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.

According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.

MQ-25A Stingray Takes First Flight

www.youtube.com

The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps plans to replace LAV with new ‘transformational ARV’

The Marine Corps plans to begin replacing its legacy Light Armored Vehicle with modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle late in the next decade.

The ARV will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal. The capability will provide, sensors, communication systems and lethality options to overmatch threats that have historically been addressed with more heavily armored systems.

“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.


Since the 1980s, the LAV has supported Marine Air-Ground Task Force missions on the battlefield. While the LAV remains operationally effective, the life cycle of this system is set to expire in the mid-2030s. The Corps aims to replace the vehicle before then.

Marine Corps Systems Command has been tasked with replacing the vehicle with a next-generation, more capable ground combat vehicle system. In June 2016, the Corps established an LAV Way-Ahead, which included the option to initiate an LAV Replacement Program to field a next-generation capability in the 2030s.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle.

Preliminary planning, successful resourcing in the program objectives memorandum and the creation of an Office of Naval Research science and technology program have set the conditions to begin replacing the legacy LAV with the ARV in the late-2020s.

“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”

The Office of Naval Research has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.

The office is amid a science and technology phase that allows them to conduct advanced technology research and development, modeling and simulation, whole system trade studies and a full-scale technology demonstrator fabrication and evaluation.

These efforts will inform the requirements development process, jump-start industry and reduce risk in the acquisition program.

The office is also supporting the Ground Combat Element Division of the Capabilities Development Directorate by performing a trade study through the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center in Michigan. This work will help to ensure ARV requirements are feasible and to highlight the capability trade space.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

U.S. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicles with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division standby to be armed with ammunition to conduct a platoon level gunnery range at Fort Irwin, California, March 22, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Smith)

ONR has partnered with industry to build two technology demonstrator vehicles for evaluation. The first is a base platform that will comprise current, state-of-the-art technologies and standard weapons systems designed around a notional price point. The second is an “at-the-edge” vehicle that demonstrates advanced capabilities.

“The purpose of those vehicles is to understand the technology and the trades,” said Myers.

In support of acquisition activities, PM LAV anticipates the release of an acquisition program Request for Information in May 2019 and an Industry Day later in the year to support a competitive prototyping effort. The Corps expects a Material Development Decision before fiscal year 2020.

“We will take what we’ve learned in competitive prototyping,” said Myers. “Prior to a Milestone B decision, we’ll be working to inform trade space, inform requirements and reduce risk.”

The Corps believes the ARV will support the capability demands of the next generation of armored reconnaissance.

“This vehicle will equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion within the Marine Divisions to perform combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance and security missions in support of the ground combat element,” said Myers. “It’s expected to be a transformational capability for the Marine Corps.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The self-defense umbrella will make you feel like a Kingsman

In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.

Would-be attackers, however, are not.


Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm

youtu.be

The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.

It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.

Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.

The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.

The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.

Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.

While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.


MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘boondoggles’ that actually slaughtered enemy troops

There are a lot of valid criticisms of most weapon programs while they’re in development, but some get hit with the dreaded title of “boondoggle,” a massive waste of taxpayer funds that should be canceled. But some boondoggles prove the naysayers wrong and go on to have successful careers protecting U.S. troops and killing enemies. Here are 5 of the weapons that ascended:


X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
Abrams tanks roll down Norwegian streets

(U.S. Army Sgt. Williams Quinteros)

M1 Abrams tank

The M1 Abrams was famously seen as a failing, expensive program in its early days. It was an heir to two failed tank programs, the MBT-70, and the XM803. Both programs cost billions but failed to produce a suitable weapon, largely because they were too complex and didn’t quite work. So, when the Army pursued a turbine-powered tank with the XM1 program, there were a lot of naysayers.

And the initial prototypes kept the laughter going. The Abrams was massive and heavy and burned through fuel, and many thought it was clear that the Army had made another misstep. But then the Abrams went to its first war game and devastated more conventional tanks. Then Desert Storm came and 2,000 Abrams tanks slammed their way through Iraqi forces with losses of only 18 tanks and zero lost crews.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Kadena F-15C Eagle takes off like the glorious beast she is…

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)

F-15

The F-15 was a response to the Air War over Vietnam where multi-role F-4s were struggling against older MiGs. The Air Force decided they needed a dedicated air superiority fighter once again. But the program was expensive, leading to the press and Congress saying the service was buying too many of an overpriced, overly complex aircraft when they could just buy Navy F-14s instead.

But the F-15 has a legendary combat history with 104 enemy shootdowns for only two combat losses, both to ground fire. No enemy force has been able to prove an air-to-air victory over the F-15 (though some have claimed it).

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

An F-14D Tomcat flies during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. The plane was retired in 2006.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Gaddis)

F-14

But back to the F-14, the Tomcat was designed to defend carrier fleets and beat out other planes during a fly-off before the Navy picked it. But during development, test pilots encountered multiple stalls in the plane and had to eject multiple times. In order to sidestep criticism, especially from then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Navy rushed the fighter into production. It came under fire again in 1989 as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to cut purchases to save other programs.

But the F-14 ended up proving itself in U.S. service over Libya, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, but it really dominated in Iranian service back when they were a U.S. ally. In all, the F-14 is thought to have a 164-to-1 record of air-to-air kills and losses. The number is a little soft, though, since it takes data from multiple services including Iran.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
F/A-18 Cleaning

(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Donell Bryant)

F-18

Yeah, there are a lot of planes on the list. And the F-18 was the Navy’s answer to the high and rising costs of the F-14. Congress told it to find a cheaper plane to fill some slots that would otherwise require the F-14, but then the cost of the F-18 program ballooned from billion to billion despite the F-18 having less range, speed, and ordnance carrying capability.

The F-18 would prove itself though, later leading the Navy to brag that it had broken “all records for tactical aircraft in availability, reliability and maintainability.” During Desert Storm, individual planes could shoot down Iraqi jets and take out ground targets on the same mission. It was the Navy’s primary air combatant for decades.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The B-1B Lancer

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

B-1

The B-1 Bomber bucked the trend of bomber design in the late 1960s. Most were focused on faster, higher-flying bombers that could fly over enemy air defenses and outrun fighter taking off for intercepts. But the B-1 was envisioned as a low-flying bomber that would maneuver through air defenses instead. But the costly development was controversial, and the B-1 bomber was canceled in 1977.

But Reagan revived the program in 1981, and the requirements of the plane were changed, slowing it to Mach 1.2 and increasing the required payload. The production B-1B debuted in 1984 and “holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class,” according to Airman Magazine. It has flown over Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and accounts for 40 percent or more of bombs dropped during some periods of conflict in those countries.

Articles

Inside the USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s most advanced warship

The United States Navy’s newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), is the most advanced ship in the ocean today. So what actually goes into making this ship the hottest of maritime hotrods?


X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) sails under the Pell Bridge. (US Navy photo)

According to All Hands magazine, the 15,656-ton vessel is equipped with many new advances. The most visible is the 155mm Advanced Gun System. Now, the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile program was cancelled, but this gun has other ammo options. The Zumwalt also features 20 Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, each with four cells, capable of launching a variety of weapons, including the BGM-109 Tomahawk and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) emerges past a point. (US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt has more than just new firepower. The wave-piercing tumblehome design and the composite superstructure help reduce the ship’s radar cross-section, and the ship is also one of the quietest vessels in the world.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
The 1,000-ton deckhouse of the future destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is craned toward the deck of the ship to be integrated with the ship’s hull at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. The ship launch and christening are planned in 2013. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The ship also has the new Integrated Power System, a highly-survivable system that allows the power output from the ship’s LM2500 gas turbines to be used for anything from propulsion – taking the ship to a top speed of over 30 knots — to charging a crewman’s Kindle to powering the AN/SPY-3 radar.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
The future USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is underway for the first time conducting at-sea tests and trials on the Kennebeck River. The multi-mission ship will provide independent forward presence and deterrence, support special operations forces, and operate as an integral part of joint and combined expeditionary forces. (U.S. Navy photo /Released)

The ship can also carry two MH-60R multi-role helicopters and has a crew of 158.

Below, take a look at a pair of videos of this American maritime hotrod.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See how A-10s are practicing to fight Russia in Europe

Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.

That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.

This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.


X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.

(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)

One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.

The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.

(USAF)

The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.

Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A green beret with terminal cancer fights to sue military doctors

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal went to medical one day in June 2017, complaining of breathing issues. The Army doctors at Fort Bragg told him it was a case of pneumonia. Just a few months later, still having trouble breathing, he went to a civilian doctor – who found what the Army called “pneumonia” was actually a tumor, which had doubled in size and spread to other parts of his body.


Stayskal’s cancer was now stage four. He was terminal, and the father of two was given just a year or so to live. Stayskal’s lawyers say the mistake was critical, and Stayskal’s outcome would have been different if Army doctors had not missed what an “inexperienced resident would have seen.”

The Special Forces operator is well aware of just how fragile life can be. In Iraq’s Anbar Province, he was hit by a sniper in 2004. The bullet pierced one of his lungs and nearly killed him then. Stayskal, now 37 years old, kept the bullet to remember how close anyone can come to the edge. He would have done whatever it took to fight his cancer before it reached this stage.

Stayskal wants to sue the Army for medical malpractice – but he can’t. A 1950 Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States, prohibits lawsuits from active-duty troops when they are injured or killed due to medical mistakes in military hospitals. He’s been lobbying Congressional representatives and even President Trump ever since. His campaign is finally starting to pick up some steam.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal testifying in Congress.

The Feres Doctrine, as it has come to be called, is a Supreme Court decision based on three cases of negligence from the Army. Feres himself died in a barracks fire in New York State, and his estate wanted to sue the Army for not providing an adequate fire watch and for housing troops in a building known to have a defective furnace. Two other complaints accompanied Feres, including that of a plaintiff named Jefferson. Jefferson had undergone surgery in an Army hospital and later underwent surgery again – this time to remove a 30-inch towel marked “Medical Department U.S. Army” from his abdomen.

The Supreme Court found that even though the Army was negligent in the cases that made up Feres, it maintained that Active Duty troops were not protected by the Tort Claims Act because the incidents were related to their service and that families of the deceased are compensated under terms of their service without litigation.

The Supreme Court has already refused to hear a challenge to Feres in 2019, so it’s up to Congress to change the law.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

The new law is called the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, and it has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, but the Pentagon is warning Congress against the Act. Military spouses, family members, and retirees are already able to sue the military, and did so to the tune of million in fiscal year 2018. The Defense Department estimates that opening up the Pentagon to lawsuits from troops could cost as much as 0 million over the next decade.

“It’s not going to cost that much money. If we get competent medical providers, I guess it wouldn’t be a problem,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, an Armed Services subcommittee chairwoman and lead sponsor of the bill.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Security Airmen getting new special ops-like helmets

The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.

Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.


This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.

Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.

The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.

An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.

The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.

“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”

These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.

The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.

Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”

Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Czechs made the best of the awful T-72 tank

The T-72 main battle tank has been the butt of a lot of jokes. The reason behind most of those jokes is obvious: In Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom it had “performance issues,” to put it lightly. We’re talking firing at an Abrams from 400 yards and having the round bounce off. Or to put it bluntly, the T-72 sucked.


Nonetheless, the Soviet Union foisted the T-72 on many European client states who were coerced into joining the Warsaw Pact. It also was purchased by a lot of folks, predominately in the Middle East, before the design’s issues became as obvious as a turret being blown high into the air in 1991. As a result, many who had them needed to find a way to make the best of the junk they had.

 

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base. Pretty much sums up the T-72’s combat record. (DOD photo)

The Czech Republic was one of those who had the unenviable task of dealing with these rolling disasters. Thankfully, then-Czechoslovakia was smart enough to get a license to build the T-72 themselves and not depend on Russian manufacturing.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Czech Republic began looking at upgrading their T-72s. Ultimately, the Czechs adapated an Italian fire-control system to enable the tank to fire on the move and hit its target, an American transmission, and a British power pack. The Czechs called this the T-72M4.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s
A Czech Army T-72M4. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

The problem was that the Czech Republic soon had little budgetary room. All in all, out of plans to originally modernize 340 T-72 tanks, only 35 got the upgrade — barely enough for a battalion. Still, the Czechs do deserve credit for making one of the biggest pieces of crap in the world of battle tanks somewhat functional.

Learn more about this makeshift tank by watching the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The CIA secretly created an undetectable ‘heart attack gun’

The Cold War must have been an amazing time to be a weapons manufacturer for the U.S. government. Like some kind of early Tony Stark (I guess that would be Howard Stark), if you could dream it, you could build it, and chances were very good the CIA would fund it. From funding LSD tests using prostitutes and their johns to a secret underground ice base in Greenland to trying to build an actual flying saucer, there was literally no end to what the CIA would try.

What they ended up actually building and then using was much less fun and much more terrifying. We only found out about it because Senator Frank Church decided to do a little investigating.


Among other things, he found a gun that caused heart attacks, a weapon that had been used against the U.S. political enemies and beyond.

Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s article in The New York Times in December 1974, the United States Congress decided to look into just what its internal and external intelligence agencies were doing in the name of the American people using their tax dollars. What they found was a trove of legal and illegal methods used by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and even the IRS. Among the abuses of power discovered by the Church Commission was the opening of domestic mail without a warrant and without the Postal Service’s knowledge, the widespread access intelligence had to domestic telecommunications providers and adding Americans to watch lists.

Even the Army was spying on American civilians.

The most shocking of the Church Commission’s findings was the targeted assassination operations the CIA used against foreign leaders. Allegedly, Fidel Castro wasn’t the only name on the CIA hit list. Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, and Gen. René Schneider of Chile were all targets for CIA-sanctioned killings.

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Castro alone survived 600 assassination attempts.

The clandestine service had its people researching all sorts of various ways to kill its targets. The CIA soon latched on to poisons, ones that were undetectable and appeared to mimic a heart attack. They found it in a specially-designed poison, engineered for the CIA. Only a skilled pathologist who knew what to look for would ever discover the victim’s heart attack wasn’t from natural causes. To deliver the poison, the injection was frozen and packed into a dart.

Darts from the new secret assassination gun would penetrate clothing but leave only a small red dot on the skin’s surface. Once inside the body, the dart disintegrated and the frozen poison inside would begin to melt, entering the bloodstream and causing the cardiac episode. Shortly after, the deadly agent denatured quickly and became virtually undetectable. They even brought the gun to show Congress.

The Church Commission and its findings caused a massive frenzy in the United States. People became hungry for more and began to get hysterical in the wake of any news about the CIA. In the aftermath of the Church Commission, President Ford (and later, Reagan) had to issue executive orders banning the tactics of targeted assassinations by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

What became of the poison dart gun is anyone’s guess.

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