The US Air Force is ordering more hypersonic weapons as the competition with Russia and China heats up.
The service awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Monday to develop the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic weapon prototype expected to cost no more than $480 million to design, according to an Air Force press release.
“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an official statement.
The request is the second such request for hypersonic weapons from the Air Force in 2018.
The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) in April 2018, just a few weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about some of the hypersonic systems Russia is presently developing, such as the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle expected to be mounted on the country’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.
The latest request from the US Air Force comes about one week after China tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a high-speed strike platform that some expert observers say could evade air and missile defenses to obliterate enemy targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.
The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly travel at six times the speed of sound (Mach 6). The waverider is a type of hypersonic aircraft that rides the shock waves generated during hypersonic flight.
The speed, as well as the unpredictable flight trajectories, of these vehicles make them particularly difficult for existing defense systems to intercept. Chinese military experts suspect that the system is still three to five years away from being weaponized.
Senior leadership from the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army all signed a memorandum of agreement in late June to strengthen American hypersonic capabilities.
“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in an official statement. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”
While the Air Force is pursuing hypersonic weapons of its own, US Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency are trying to figure out how to bolster American defenses to protect the homeland against the growing hypersonic threat.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it,” Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said in March 2018. “We have globally deployed sensors today, but — just look at the globe — there are gaps. What we are looking towards is to move the sensor architecture to space and use that advantage of space, in coordination with our ground assets, to remove the gaps.”
“Why is that important? The hypersonic threat,” he asked and answered.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.
It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.
Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.
No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.
Why hasn’t this problem been solved?
There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.
These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.
According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.
Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.
In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.
These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax
This is the call to action!
Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.
The US Air Force was forced to terminate an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile July 31, 2018, in response to an unsafe “anomaly” that emerged during a test, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ordered the destruction of the $7 million ICBM early July 31, 2018, eliminating it over the Pacific Ocean. Global Strike Command refused to comment as the incident is under investigation.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, described the test as “perfect,” at least until “somewhere in flight, we saw an anomaly.”
“The anomaly was going to create an unsafe flight condition, so we destroyed the rocket before it reached its destination,” he said at the 2018 STRATCOM Symposium on Aug. 1, 2018, according to Military.com. “It was the smart thing to do.”
Tests occur regularly, but failures are much more infrequent. Hyten told his audience that the last failure happened in 2011, with the one before that occurring in 2009.
Explaining that this is a “rare thing that is in the missile business,” Hyten said that “now we have to go figure out what happened.”
An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Aubree Milks)
One possibility, and potentially the most likely given the STRATCOM’s chief’s characterization of the incident as the emergence of an “unsafe flight condition,” is that the missile veered off course, forcing a Mission Flight Control Officer’s hand. The motto among the MFCOs is reportedly “track ’em or crack ’em,” according to Popular Mechanics, which sent reporters to observe one of these tests firsthand.
In the initial phase of flight, the MFCO may have only a matter of seconds to make the critical decision to terminate a missile, making that individual the sole decision maker for the weapon’s fate. In the later phases, the officer might act on the consent of his/her superiors.
If the officer detects that the missile will cross any predetermined safety lines, that individual will reportedly “send a function,” causing the missile to crack and spiral into the ocean.
While July 31, 2018’s decision to destroy the ICBM was purportedly “smart,” not every executed self-destruct sequence is intentional.
Human error, specifically the pressing of the wrong button, caused a test of a US missile defense system to end in failure July 2017. A tactical datalink controller on the destroyer USS John Paul Jones accidentally identified an incoming ballistic missile as a friendly system, resulting in the initiation of a self-destruct sequence for the SM-3 interceptor, Defense News reported at the time.
The initial report from the US Missile Defense Agency said that the interceptor missed the target, revealing that the “planned intercept was not achieved.” During a later test in January 2018, an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor fired from an Aegis Ashore missile defense facility in Hawaii also failed to achieve the desired intercept.
Hyten said that July 31, 2018’s test failure is exactly why the US tests its systems. “We have to make sure that things work. We learn more from failures than we do successes,” he said, adding that the unsuccessful test does not weaken America’s offensive capabilities.
“I have a full complement of ICBMs on alert,” he explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy just commissioned its newest littoral combat ship, the USS Detroit, with a ceremony in the city that bears its name.
The Detroit is a Freedom-class LCS and is designed to operate near the coast with different modules that can essentially plugged into the ship depending on the mission.
The LCS ships can focus on anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-mine missions depending on which mission module is installed. The ship always carries defensive missiles to shoot down incoming enemy munitions, and all modules support either an MH-60 helicopter or two Fire Scout unmanned helicopters.
“This ship represents so much. It represents the city of Detroit, the motor city. It represents the highly-skilled American workers of our nation’s industrial base, the men and women who built this great warship; and it represents the American spirit of hard work, patriotism and perseverance,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Detroit’s commissioning ceremony.
“The USS Detroit will carry these values around the world for decades to come as the newest ship in our nation’s growing fleet.”
The Detroit’s anti-submarine mission package and its ability to operate in shallow waters make it especially capable of hunting diesel submarines, a major part of both Russia and China’s area-denial arsenal. Diesel submarines are quieter than nuclear subs and are therefore much harder to detect.
Barbara Levin, the wife of the retired Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, sponsored the USS Detroit.
Want to win a war game? Plan carefully, work hard, and get lucky. Want to win a war? You need to get good (or, “Git Gud,“ as you Fortnite players might say). That was the challenge facing military leaders at the start of the Civil War. Industry and daily life had changed year by year over the preceding decades, and if military leaders didn’t evolve and rise to the challenges brought on by the new conflict, they and their men would be lucky to get shallow graves.
A railway gun used during the U.S. Civil War during the Siege of Petersburg, June 1864–April 1865.
(Library of Congress)
The Industrial Revolution took a while to get started and into full swing, but by the 1850s, it was raging across North America with wooden (and, quickly, steel) railroads crisscrossing the country while horses and engines, were pressed into service to pull the train cars. Steam-powered shovels dug canals, and ships crossed the oceans in record time with coal-heated boilers pushing them along.
Improvements in metallurgy and machining had allowed for more powerful pistons for steam engines, but if you used the same techniques to create cannons, you could safely pack more powder per shot and create more cannons in total. And, the massive improvements in the understanding of iron mining and smelting meant fewer weapons made of brass.
And since machining and interchangeable parts had also improved, it had become possible to manufacture rifled cannons in large numbers. Rifled cannons were more accurate, more destructive, and could deliver explosives into stone masonry.
30-pounder Parrot rifle at Port Hudson, Louisiana.
These changes had, obviously, begun before the war actually broke out. For instance, the Parrot rifle was created in 1860. It was designed by a former Army captain who had left the service in 1836. It was actually a cannon and relied on a cast-iron barrel, a then-recent development in cannon design, but far from revolutionary.
Cast-iron barrels have better accuracy than those made of wrought iron, but cast iron is brittle and has less tensile strength, essential for surviving repeated firings. Parrot wrapped the cast-iron barrel in wrought iron with a focus on the breech where the worst pressures were experienced. The addition of rifling helped improve accuracy and range.
But the 1861 outbreak of war drastically increased the market for the Parrot rifle and similar weapons. And, it also created a market for new artillery munitions.
A display with different rounds for the Parrot rifle.
(Dr.Stew82, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Explosive shells, chained shot, heated shot, all had been around for a while, but the industrial war had created industrial demand. Again, new manufacturing techniques allowed for many more rounds to be created. But, even better, when well-made explosive shells were fired from rifled cannons, they could pierce walls, drilling feet into the surface before exploding.
This destroyed stone walls and timber fortifications with ease. While Parrot rifles and other long-range artillery, were able to fire up to 1.5 miles or more, wrought-iron, rifled cannons firing smaller shells could reach out over 2 miles.
For defenders, that was a guaranteed catastrophe. Traditionally, forts counted on altitude to outrange their opponents. If opposing artillery had similar weapons, the fort’s defenders gained a considerable range advantage because they were firing from 15-feet above the ground or potentially higher.
But if the attacker showed up with wrought-iron, rifled cannons with reinforced breeches, they’d likely have a huge range advantage. With a cast-iron barrel reinforced by wrought iron, they lose a little range but pick up some serious accuracy.
Parrot rifle and carriage.
(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
And when the attacker’s shells buried into the walls before exploding, they could shred straight through the defenses while staying outside the range of the fort’s smoothbores.
And this was decidedly in the Union’s favor because it had the factories and money to manufacture these technological marvels.
When artillerymen got into duels with the new weapons, it was an interesting if lethal exchange. But for infantrymen sent against these new guns, meant they could have to march under fire for over a mile to get into range of their attackers. It took 15 to 20 minutes for infantry to cross the distance while each gun’s crew was pushing out two rounds per minute.
Between that and breakthroughs in rifle technology (similar story to artillery, improved manufacturing techniques combined with improved range and rate of fire) made an infantry attacker’s job nearly impossible. The worst was Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg where 15,000 Confederates tried to cross .75 miles of open field under artillery and rifle fire. Nearly 6,000 men died, and the rest retreated.
Think of all the parts of the U.S. government that can and should have a plan to keep working after a nuclear attack. The Department of Defense? Sure. Congress? Yup. FBI, NSA, and CIA? Yeah, they seem necessary in the aftermath. But there are two groups you may not have thought of who plan to dig in and get the job done: The IRS and the USPS.
Yeah, you’re almost certain to keep getting taxed after a nuclear attack, and you might even be getting notices through the mail (though, not if you were in the city that got hit).
But the IRS and USPS weren’t focused on that, and they were actually working with the Parks Service for a good reason: Those three agencies were key to a rebuilding plan.
If your city is hit by a hurricane or crippled by an earthquake, you’re evacuated to cities outside of the danger zone. But if multiple cities or dozens are hit with nuclear bombs, then there likely won’t be suitable infrastructure to support all the refugees in nearby cities. So, the plan was to move them to the national parks.
A role player pretends to be injured during Exercise Scarlet Response at Guardian Center, Georgia.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Bowyer)
But what then? Hundreds of thousands of lives would be gone, and billions of dollars in buildings and infrastructure destroyed. Even in the midst of the grief, the government would have a job to do. There would be millions of people living in the parks, and it would fall to the USPS to process who had remained in the city, who had escaped, and who had died.
And that could include delivering notices of new tax plans. If only one or two cities were lost then, as crazy as it sounds, that would mean the IRS could get back to business as usual with few major changes. It would be horrible, but the American economy would shake itself off and get back up.
But a more extensive attack would’ve changed the way the U.S. worked for generations. There would be no guarantee that income and corporate taxes could cover the insane costs necessary to rebuild lost cities, decontaminate hundreds of square miles of terrain, and support the war being waged against the attacker.
So the Treasury Department had a plan to restart the economy and to help the IRS develop a new collection plan within 30 days of an attack. The new tax plan could be something as simple as a flat sales tax (congratulations, libertarians!) That would greatly simplify the IRS’s job, something that would be pretty necessary if their offices in Washington D.C. were hit.
And it would be necessary in a cash-based economy. Yes, cash-based. The plan was to slowly release stockpiled billion in cash until they could get back to printing money. In an odd twist of fate, that was mostly two-dollar bills. A 1970s printing run of the currency had failed to impress the public, so the government just used the unpopular bills to create their stockpile.
The wreckage of a World War II US Navy aircraft carrier was found on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean more than 76 years after it sank.
The USS Hornet sank during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on Oct. 26, 1942, killing about 140 of its 2,200 sailors and crew members. It lay on the seabed until January 2019, when it was discovered more than 17,000 feet (5,000 meters) below the ocean’s surface.
An F4F Wildcat aircraft with its wings folded was discovered with the wreckage of the USS Hornet.
(Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
Robert Kraft, Vulcan’s director of subsea operations, said in a statement that the mission to find the Hornet was in honor of Allen.
“Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers, so this was a discovery that honors his memory,” Kraft said.
He added: “We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles.”
The RV Petrel deployed its autonomous underwater vehicle in the search for the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
The Hornet was commissioned in October 1941, launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and played a key role in the US victory in the Battle of Midway with Japan in 1942, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers.
But the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, one year after it was commissioned, was its last fight. On the first day, it was hit by four bombs and two torpedoes in 10 minutes. Most crew members were transferred to another ship, while others tried to repair the damage.
It was attacked again with a torpedo and two bombs, and the rest of the crew abandoned it. It sank the next morning.
Richard Nowatzki, a gunner on the ship who survived the battle, told CBS News that when enemy planes left, “we were dead in the water.”
“They used armor-piercing bombs,” he said. “Now when they come down, you hear ’em going through the decks … plink, plink, plink, plink … and then when they explode the whole ship shakes.”
Damage on the hull of the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
Featured image: Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Dealing with computer problems and other technical failures is just one of the many joys of being in communications. Being trained to work with computers and radios often means that the commo guy becomes the go-to person for any and all computer-related problems, even outside of work.
Of all the problems that a commo guy will deal with, most stem from the continual pain-in-the-ass that is time. There are many ways to reduce the strain put on consumer goods, but Father Time remains undefeated. Eventually, there will be a point in the lifetime of any device where they become obsolete — and we’re not saying that something’s useless compared to the “newer, bigger, better” models out there — things just degrade. It happens.
Some companies (we’re not naming names) are known for their products losing juice over time. That’s how they sell yearly releases of the same product.
(Photo by Marco Verch)
Now, to avoid losing people to technical jargon, we’re going to break things down to their simplest forms — Barney style — when explaining technology. Just know that there’s almost always (read: almost) a valid, technical reason for a product aging into degradation.
The biggest tech aspect affected by Father Time is power supply. Back in the day, larger power supplies and batteries could seemingly last an eternity (by today’s standards). The Nokia 3310, for example, could run for weeks on a single charge, so you’d expect technology would just improve on that, right?
Well, no. Consumer demand drove companies to adopt faster and slimmer batteries to power phones that have more capabilities than ever. While most companies do try to include the most powerful available battery in a product, lithium-ion batteries have an average life cycle of 1200 full charges. Once they’ve been depleted and charged up around 400 times, the maximum charge is roughly 80% of the original capacity. From there, it gets exponentially worse if you allow your batteries to drain to 0% on a constant basis.
One of the many benefits of owning a desktop over a laptop computer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Caleb Vance)
Another aspect is performance. To sum it up broadly, this is what’s really happening when a not-so-tech-savvy person says their computer is “running slower.” Think of your computer as a pack mule: The more you use it (like installing programs, downloading files, visiting websites), the more stress you put on it.
Your once-beautiful darling that could once stream videos at lightning speeds now has all of that baggage weighing it down. This is also broken down into two different categories of problem: either you don’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) to juggle all the tasks you’re giving it (active or passively) or you don’t have enough hard-drive space for all the crap you’re asking it to carry.
Thankfully, both of those have really easy-to-solve solutions: upgrading parts. If your computer can be cracked open, it’s far cheaper to slap in a new stick of RAM than it is to buy an entirely new computer. Adding new hard-drives is even easier.
All that tech and some people still just use it for the games.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)
But it’s not always a result of overuse. If you were to take a fresh computer that has been sealed since 1999 out of the box — never downloaded anything, battery has never been drained, or hooked up to the internet — it still wouldn’t perform to today’s standards.
In 1999, the tech world was blown away by the IBM Microdrive when it was announced that it came with a whopping 340 MB of storage. This was around the same time it took the entire night of downloading just to watch a two-minute trailer of Star Wars: Episode I using dial-up internet.
It should go without saying that technology has become exponentially better over time. Now, you can just pick up that 512GB microSD card (that’s about the size of a toenail) and watch the entire Star Wars series from your smartphone from almost anywhere in the world, streaming video in real-time. What was groundbreaking then isn’t even comparable to just a few years later — your device isn’t just getting worse slowly, everything else is also getting better.
You don’t need to buy something that will last forever. Just for a while.
Sure, it sounds grim, but you can still do many different things to maximize your computer and phone’s lifespan. If you care for your technology and aren’t constantly using it, it’ll see a few more years of use. But there will be a point where your tech just isn’t good enough to get by.
When you’re planning your next tech purchase, keep lifespan in mind. The cheaper option may end up costing you more money over time. Why buy a 0 “meh, it’ll do” laptop and watch it careen into obsolescence in 12 months when a 00 beast of a desktop could last you several years?
So, if your computer or cell phone that’s been doing its duty just fine for the last six years starts hobbling on its last legs, don’t be shocked when your computer friend tells you it’s time to put it out to pasture.
Europe is wilting under record heat that has already sparked deadly fires and looks unlikely to relent any time soon.
The heat is exacerbating another problem that European countries have long dealt with: Still-potent weaponry left over from World War II.
At the end of July 2018, firefighters grappling with a forest fire southwest of Berlin were further challenged by unexploded World War II ammunition still buried there.
Firefighters had trouble getting inside a pine forest near Fichtenwalde, which is about 22 miles from the German capital, because of safety concerns. There were signs that some explosives had already gone off because of the fire.
The fire came within about a half-mile of the village of Fichtenwald before firefighters were able to halt the flames. Because of the leftover ammunition, they employed an extinguishing tank — a tracked vehicle used by emergency responders in dangerous situations. Such tanks are sometimes built on the frame of a battle tank.
The fire, which may have been sparked by a discarded cigarette, also caused road congestion and closures, but firefighters were able to contain it after four days, withdrawing on July 30, 2018.
Residents of Fichtenwalde and the firefighters who battled the flames there are not only ones who’ve been exposed to leftover munitions because of the heat.
The heatwave in Germany has driven water levels so low along the Elbe River that weapons and ammunition from World War II have started to emerge. At the city of Magdeburg, the water level is just a few centimeters above the historic low measured in 1934.
In Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany, police have warned people not to touch the grenades, mines, or other weapons that have started to appear. Munitions were found five places at the end of July 2018, and over the past few weeks there have been 24 such finds , compared to 12 during all of 2017. Specialists are working overtime to deal with the munitions — sometimes defusing them where they’re found.
A police spokeswoman from the region said most of the munitions were discovered by people walking through areas usually covered by water, but some people had gone out in search of leftover explosives. “This is forbidden and dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Even after decades underwater, the weapons can still be active — in some cases, sediment can build up and obscure rusted exteriors and the dangerous components inside. “Found ammunition is always dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Dense smoke over Lithi village during a wildfire on Chios island, Greece.
Little relief on the horizon
Temperatures in Saxony-Anhalt hit a high for the year so far on July 31, 2018, and the month of July 2018 is expected to be one of the hottest months on record for Germany. Temperatures are expected to remain high in the coming days, though below record levels.
The heatwave being felt in Germany has hit much of the continent, creating all sorts of problems.
Authorities in Poland banned swimming on some beaches along the Baltic during the final days of July 2018, as unusually warm weather had stoked the growth of toxic bacteria in the water. The Rhine and Elbe rivers have also soaked up so much heat that fish living in them have started to suffocate .
In Zurich, Switzerland, police dogs were issued special shoes to keep them from burning their paws on sweltering pavement. Swiss authorities have also canceled fireworks displays out of concern they could spark forest fires. Norwegian officials have warned drivers to watch out for reindeer and sheep trying to escape the heat in tunnels.
Mediterranean countries are issuing warnings for temperatures expected to top 104 degrees Fahrenheit in early August 2018.
Italy has given a red alert — the highest of its three warning levels — for the country’s center and north.
In Portugal — where blazes killed 114 people in 2017 — officials are warning that record heat in the coming days will create a high risk of forest fires. Nearly 11,000 firefighters and 56 aircraft are standing by.
The worst of the hit in Iberia is expected to hit Spain, where at least 27 of 50 provinces have been declared under “extreme risk” from high temperatures.
Wildfires in Greece killed 91 people in June 2018.
Sweden has also seen some of its worst wildfires in decades, including some blazes above the Arctic Circle (though recent rains have improved the situation). The fires overwhelmed responders and prompted some unusual measures.
What do you take to the shooting range? The most thought generally goes into firearm and ammunition selection, and the contents of your range bag will include most of the other essentials: eye protection, ear protection, and various tools. But in addition to the gun and the projectile, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to think about what you’re shooting at. While it’s easy to let targets be a part of the “range bag” — a standard piece of equipment that you need but don’t put much thought into — they should be considered for each range session based on your goals.
Targets are important, especially when it comes to defensive handgun training. The target you utilize in this type of training is going to be one of your best learning tools. Not only are they fun and mentally engaging, they also present a great opportunity to incorporate real-world scenarios. Although there are many target companies out there, RE Factor Tactical makes some of the best targets. They have a variety of real-world training targets that have long been used in the professional tactical realm and are available to civilians as well.
The author used RE Factor Tactical Active Shooter Targets during a recent handgun training course.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die.)
RE Factor offers a great collection of what I consider to be serious training-based targets. These include standards such as the FBI target, FLETC II target, and a Homeland Defense target, as well as some unique targets that have been designed in collaboration with other companies in the firearms and training world.
I put several RE Factor targets to the test during a recent handgun class, and they worked well. From an instructor’s perspective, I appreciated the type of paper that they were printed on. It may sound simple, but many paper targets almost disintegrate like tissue paper in the rain. These help up against the elements, but the paper wasn’t so super thick to make storing and hanging them a pain.
The primary target we used was the Active Shooter Target. This target has a picture of an armed and nefarious individual used for self-defense and close-quarters training. The target has vital zone boxes to help shooters visualize key locations of effective shot placement. I’m partial to this target as it encourages the students to focus on vital shooting points. This target also provides a different mindset as you’re looking at a person to shoot versus a bullseye. Over the weekend class, I incorporated several RE Factor targets and found each one highly beneficial.
Defense Target II, with additional stickers for customization.
(Photos courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)
Another target that stood out to me was the Defense Target II. This target is designed to give shooters an enhanced training experience by offering stickers for customization. The Defense Target II features an individual that can transform from an FBI agent to an office active shooter to a business no-shoot with the simple change of customized stickers. This allows one target to be used in multiple scenarios. Available sticker areas include the left hand, right hand, hip, and chest. Each sticker perfectly matches up with the target’s hands, chest area, or hip to create a new target scenario that appears natural to the shooter.
There are several benefits of altering aspects of the target while maintaining the same main visual element. Instructors can rapidly change the scenarios, and students are forced to look at different places on the target before deciding whether or not the target is a threat. This is a fantastic tool for scenario training. By modifying the target after a class has run a drill, the students don’t become complacent.
A-Zone Splatter Target.
(Photo courtesy of RE Factor Tactical.)
For less defensive-minded shooting, I like the A-Zone Splatter Target. This design allows users to analyze shot placement with vivid orange and black splatter for improving shooting abilities. It is designed for military, law enforcement, International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), and everyday shooters. As an instructor who looks at these targets not only by their content or image, but also by their application, I appreciate how quick and easy it is to evaluate the shots. When we don’t have to break between strings to have students go downrange and check targets, it keeps the class rolling. Logistically, it is a winner.
While targets may not seem as important as the firearm or ammunition you take to the range, proper training targets are absolutely necessary to becoming a well-trained shooter. The targets produced by veteran-led RE Factor Tactical are being utilized by those at the tip of the spear — it’s absolutely worth your time to check them out.
Navy SEAL Explains Why They Are Different From Every Other SOF Unit
The Turkish Armed Forces – or at least elements of them – carried out a coup d’etat in the late-night hours Friday. The intention of the coup was to depose President Recip Tayyip Erdogan. This was quite a shock to most Americans, as Turkey would strike many people to be a very unlikely country for a coup. This is partially due to its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it has in the past petitioned for admission into the European Union. Turkey, though, has had a turbulent domestic history with military involvement.
This should have Americans’ attention. Not only is Turkey next door to the Syrian civil war, as well as on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State, but American forces, notably the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, are deployed in-country. The safety of American troops during this time is one area of concern.
Turkey is not the only NATO country to have seen a military coup. Portugal had one in 1974 that toppled a dictatorship (the “Carnation Revolution”), and Greece saw a coup in 1967 that catapulted a notorious military junta into power for seven years. Spain saw attempted coups in 1981 and 1982, both of which were thwarted by the government. France also famously had a close call with a coup in 1958.
Since Turkey’s admission to NATO in 1952, the country has seen two full-fledged military coups take place (in 1960 and 1980) as well as three other military interventions (“memorandums” issued in 1971, 1997,and 2007) in Turkish domestic politics prior to the one that started Friday. Some circles believe that the Turkish military carried out a “stealth coup” in 1993, citing a number of suspicious deaths, including that of then-President Ozal. In most cases, the coups took place when the government was perceived as going too far in an Islamist direction.
Erdogan had faced a number of allegations that he was going in an Islamist direction during his rule. The Turkish government had been reportedly turning a blind eye to fighters joining ISIS. Erdogan’s government also had been arresting members of the military, including some who were purportedly involved in the alleged 1993 coup. Erdogan had also been accused of trying to set up a dictatorship, involvement in electoral fraud, and even imprisoned a former Miss Turkey over comments she made. He may have had this coup coming.
The coup could also have some serious consequences for the Turkish military. The United States has generally issued sanctions against juntas installed via military coup. One notable case was in 2013 when weapons sales were placed on hold in the wake of the coup that deposed Morsi. Egyptian forces facing a fight against terrorists in the Sinai peninsula did not get Apache helicopter gunships that had been provided as military aid.
What effects could this coup have on the Turkish military? Surprisingly, the Turkish military may be better postured than some other countries to weather some sanctions from the United States. Turkey does produce the F-16 Fighting Falcon locally, so its force of over 200 Falcons will still be able to operate. The same is true for its UH-60 Blackhawks, and some other systems.
But the older F-4E and RF-4E Phantoms in the Turkish Ai Force could have readiness issues, as the United States could cut off spare parts for the fighter-bombers and recon planes. The same would also apply for other modern systems Turkey has, including the M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System, the MGM-140 ATACMS, and the eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates that the United States gave to the Turks in the last 1990s. Turkey also could see trouble remaining a partner in the F-35 program for the duration of military rule, and it is an open question whether it would be able to keep its stocks of AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AIM-120 AMRAAMs operational. Furthermore, the Turkish Navy’s force of SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, which operate off frigates and corvettes, could have problems operating.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
It was 1994 when my Delta Troop and I were training in the desert in preparation to deploy to the Mid-Eastern theater where there was much misbehaving going on. We spent a particular day primarily calling in anti-armor attacks from MH-60 Blackhawk (Hawkers) helicopters toting the venerable and extraordinarily deadly Hellfire missile.
We rotated ourselves onto a hilltop as Forward Observers choosing targets and directing the helo strikes. We used a Vietnam-era LASER designator called the MULE. The MULE “painted” the target with a LASER that the helo-mounted Hellfire could track all the way to the target.
ANPAQ-3 Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE)
Some men laughed at the MULE, but theirs was a shallow laugh as none of us could find fault with the noble seeker, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I intentionally picked armor targets as far away as possible, some 8,000 meters and beyond, to challenge the Hellfire capabilities. The challenge was always accepted, and the missiles never missed.
In addition to calling in fire from aircraft, we also launched Hellfires from our six-wheel drive Austrian-made assault vehicles using an improvised launch pedestal welded by our mechanics. Success was enjoyed as well with that highly mobile platform.
Vehicle-mounted Hellfire launch; we often joked that we got sleepy waiting for the Hellfire to reach its distant targets
Toward late afternoon our troop leadership introduced us to an Air Force lieutenant colonel who heard there was a group of Delta men training nearby and just had to come show off his latest Research and Development endeavor — a remote control pilotless aircraft. None of us really cared about him, or his drone but rank still had its privileges so ok…
He stood proudly amongst us and beamed as he bragged on his miniature airplane. He held his Ground Control Unit in his hands explaining that his drone was at the moment several kilometers to our southwest and that it had a ,000 instrument payload that included a pilot’s Situational Awareness (SA) camera focused ahead of the aircraft.
It was a gasoline-powered, propeller-driven drone with a wingspan of about 12′. Just as interest waned, he brought the drone in tight and had it scream a few feet over our heads. That was actually pretty cool, and questions started coming out for the colonel: how fast, how high, what duration, how many pounds payload… all measure of questions about the drone’s capabilities.
This tragic friendly fire incident destroyed this Abrams tank with a Hellfire
“Sir, what’s the learning curve like on piloting that craft?” came my question.
“I’ll tell you what,” the colonel began as he stepped toward me. “I’ll let you see for yourself; give her a spin!” and he reached the ground control unit with its long whip antenna toward me. I immediately recoiled, not wanting to fool with all this expensive enigma.
“Fly it, a$hole!” the brothers started in on me.
“Yeah, get you some-o-that, chicken $hit!”
“Fly the damn plane, jacka$!”
And so it went, with the colonel thrusting the unit in my hands. All flight controls were there; all health inputs for the drone were displayed: speed, altitude, heading, fuel level, and others that I didn’t recognize. In the center of the unit was a screen displaying the done’s SA camera video feed.
It was very basic. All that was readily recognizable was black for the ground, and white for the sky. The black was toward the bottom of the screen with the majority of the screen white. There was a crosshair that cut across the screen representing an artificial horizon. I had seen similar instruments in the cockpit of an airplane, but as for flying these drones, I was fresh out of any experience whatsoever!
The true horizon on the screen was, of course, the line where the black (ground) met with the white (sky). The true horizon then should be under the aircraft’s artificial horizon for safe, unobstructed flight. To keep level flight like the colonel told me, all I had to do was keep the two horizon lines parallel… and not breathe.
A representative artificial horizon from an aircraft cockpit. Here, brown represents ground and blue represents sky; where the two meet is the true horizon. The yellow horizontal line represents the aircraft’s artificial horizon as it appears with the aircraft parked on the ground.
“Just keep that baby flat and stable; just hold with what you got,” directed the colonel who then stepped back, turned and addressed the men in regard to how any plain-ol’ idiot could fly the thing, just not in those exact words. He really was proud of and loved his job so.
As he babbled to the boys, I imagined somehow that the amount of black seemed to be expanding into the white somewhat… and then I was sure that the black was indeed encroaching more on the white, headed up toward that artificial horizon line… “Hey, Sir…”
“Just keep her flat and stable,” the colonel yawned as he yapped to the yokels. Now the black rose up above the drone’s artificial horizon on the screen. It was time to hit the ejection lever!
“Sir I think you better see this!” I insisted as I stepped up and thrust the control unit in his face.
“Juuuust keep’r flaaaaa… DOH!!”
With that, the colonel snatched the unit from my hands and yanked back on the joystick with Ren and Stimpy bulging eyes. When the colonel had passed off the controls to me, there was flat terrain below. Unfortunately, while he was delivering his dissertation, the drone approached a hill mass that was taller than the drone was high. The video screen blipped out.
“OH MY GOD YOU’VE… YOU’VE… FLOWN IT INTO A MOUNTAIN!”
You see, that right there… that is why I did NOT want any part of the colonel’s toy. That thing was not such a piece of cake to operate as the man would have us believe. Let’s face it, all I was doing was standing with a box in my hand — I was not operating it at all!
A typical modern control unit for a drone; note the SA video feed screen and joy sticks
I was fire-spittin’ mad thinking about that ,000.00 waste. The boys were howling like banshees now which salted the wound. I knew as well as the next man you can’t bleed in the presence of sharks. Visions of myself in the squadron cartoon book filled my head. This event had certainly been most fitting fodder… ah, but as it is with photography, so it is with being the cartoonist: the photographer never has to be in the pictures.
The colonel could see I was mad as hell as he quickly called out:
“Ok, ok… it was absolutely not his fault, not his fault at all… he was just doing exactly what I told him to. It was entirely my fault!” That was true and gracious of him, but I was mad. I was mad at him, at myself, at that stupid airplane… and especially at that Goddamned mountain!
It was two days later my troop leader pulled up in a jeep and approached me carrying… a stick? He reached it out toward me and said:
“Hey, that drone colonel made it out to the crash site and wanted you to have this.”
I held in my hand a two-bladed wooden propeller about 18-inches long. I’m pretty sure that Colonel meant no dig or sarcasm by the gesture, but now I was mad at the world again, and didn’t like his little gift, not one little bit. I walked up to a trash dumpster near our tents. With a swoop of my arm, I cracked that propeller in two on the corner of the dumpster and flung the halves inside.
So twenty-six years ago we scoffed at the colonel’s drone. What was it good for? What was the application? He was some boyish dude out playing with his toy. Little did we know at the time what an impact that research would have on the world, eh? Today the likes of drones are all but taking over in their application in our everyday lives.
Just yesterday my 13-year-old son and I went out to a nearby field to fly a remote Radio Controlled (RC) hobby airplane. After many successful laps my son reached the control my way and asked:
There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.
No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.
Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…
1. Our missions are similar
Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.
Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.
“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. We get each other’s low-brow humor
When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.
Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.
There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. We share the same values
Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.
We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.
And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
4. We understand each other’s pain
Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.
But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.
Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!
5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously
It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.
When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.