Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

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

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

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


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

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.

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

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

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

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles

Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

President Donald Trump again teased the prospect of placing a “big order” of F/A-18 Super Hornets to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Friday.


“We are looking seriously at a big order” of F-18s said Trump to applause from the crowd at Boeing, the company that builds the F/A-18.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced in January that the military would “review” the F-35 program and possibly opt for more “advanced Super Hornets” instead of the F-35C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that continues to struggle.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

Trump continues to seriously explore the idea despite backers of the F-35 program have protested the notion that an updated F-18 can do the F-35’s job.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/Released

The advanced Super Hornet package offered by Boeing builds on the company’s reputation for delivering upgrades to the F-18, first built in the 1970s, on time and on cost.

This contrasts heavily with the Navy’s F-35C, made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin, which has faced significant difficulties achieving readiness in the military.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Whatever happened to the military’s ‘grease gun’

Few weapons are more closely associated with World War II than the M3 Submachine Gun – also known as the “Grease Gun” for its distinctive shape. The Grease Gun actually saw service for decades after the war, becoming the standard-issue weapon for crews manning the M-48 through M-60 battle tanks. It was the longest-serving SMG, from 1942 to 1992.

Its World War II use of the .45 round, already in use by the Thompson submachine gun and the M1911 pistol, made it a weapon that could be easily adapted for more situations and more troops. Sadly, it was also the weapon’s ultimate undoing.


Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

A U.S. soldier from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division fires an M3 submachine gun during a training exercise.

By many accounts, the M3 was still in use by the 1990s. Unlike many of its contemporary weapons, the Grease Gun did not have adjustable sights and was mainly intended for tank crews to use in close quarters so they could get back in the tank and continue firing the big gun. The stopping power of a spray of .45-caliber rounds will go a long way toward making that possible.

Its main competitor was the Thompson submachine gun, but the Thompson had problems of its own. It was heavy and expensive to build. The U.S. wanted a more lightweight model for tankers and paratroopers, but didn’t want to spend all the money per item. The M3 was the answer, despite a few shortcomings.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

A U.S. troop in Vietnam carrying the M3 SMG.


The short barrel, while making it possible for crews to carry around the cramped quarters of a tank, also added to its inaccuracy. The real trouble comes after a tanker has to expend all of his pre-loaded magazines. The M3 submachine gun has a magazine that appears to be longer than its barrel. A large magazine is a great thing for a fully-automatic weapon like the Grease Gun, but as anyone who’s sprayed an automatic before knows, the bullets run out really fast.

Tankers were issued four magazine for the tank’s two grease guns. Once they were out, the magazines would have to be reloaded. Now imagine trying to fully reload an M3 submachine gun magazine, especially when it’s almost full.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

The M3 cost around .00 to produce in 1942, equal to about 0.00 today.

Eventually, the M3 was phased out by more efficient weapons for anyone who might need a personal weapon on the battlefield as the .45 round gave way to the 5.56 and 9mm standards.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the M3 began to disappear from the U.S. Military altogether after some 50 years in service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

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

Articles

French special forces emerge from the shadows in this stunning video

France has been looking for some new recruits for its Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, and it’s turning to YouTube to drum up some interest.


Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
Members of France’s special forces fire their HK416 rifles. (Youtube screenshot)

According to a report by the London Daily Mail, the video is titled, “A very special video” (gee, did they draw their inspiration from promos for the TV show “Blossom” when they were talking titles?), and shows French commandos in the type of scenes you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster.

This includes insertions by parachute, minisub, and with scuba gear.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
A Eurocopter Tigre escorts a transport helicopter. (Youtube Screenshot)

The French Commandement des Opérations Spéciales was founded in 1992 to control the special operations forces across the entire French military. This includes the 1st Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine and the 13th Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes from the French army, the Force Maritime des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos from the French navy, and the Division des Opérations Spéciales from the French air force.

The famous Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale — known for a number of hostage rescues and counter-terrorism missions — can be called on by the COS for reinforcement, along with other units across all the French armed forces.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
A C-160 Transall comes in for a landing. (Youtube Screenshot)

One notable piece of gear that is featured in the video is the Transall C-160, a Franco-German twin-engine cargo plane that can hold up to 88 paratroopers and which has a top speed of 368 miles per hour and a range of 1,151 miles. France had 75 of these planes in service.

Also seen are helicopters like the AC532 Cougar, the AS332 Super Puma, and the AS330 Puma, Tigre gunships, and assault rifles like the HK416 and FAMAS. You can see the entire trailer below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army looks to ‘LiFi’ for secure future mission command

When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.

This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.

“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”


Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.

The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.

“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access.

(Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)

Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.

Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.

“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”

“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.

EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.

“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”

“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights, and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”

“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.

“All these soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”

Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.

He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.

“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the soldier.”

Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.

“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed, and capability to the frontline soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how veterans can get free flu shots

VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost quadrivalent flu shots to enrolled veterans of the VA health care system. Now through March 31, 2020, enrolled veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 9,600 locations, in addition to their local VA health care facilities.


How do I get my flu shot for free at Walgreens?

No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility, and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA and your immunization record will be updated in your VA electronic health record.

The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.

Can I get my flu shot at no cost at the VA?

Yes! If you are enrolled with VA you may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.


Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Read More: STRYKER combat vehicles roll into Syria

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s Voyager 2 finds mysterious layer outside our solar system

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.

It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.

Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.


The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.

“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.

The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The place where solar and interstellar winds interact

On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.

It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.

But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.

Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.

The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.

“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI))

Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.

The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.

“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.

What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.

“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.

The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.

“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.

(NASA/JPL)

5 more years of Voyager data

NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.

The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.

“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.

Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.

After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.

In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.

“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s new tanker is going to be delayed again

Boeing missed a self-imposed deadline to deliver the first new KC-46 tanker to the Air Force by the end of 2017, and now the Air Force believes the company may miss its expected delivery window in spring 2018, instead presenting the first tanker late 2018, according to Aviation Week.


The Air Force came to that conclusion after a recent joint schedule risk assessment. Boeing is obligated to give the Air Force 18 of the new tankers by October 2018. Missing that deadline will likely bring additional financial penalties.

The firm has already been hit with about $2.9 billion in pretax costs under the tanker contract, which holds the planemaker responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment.

Also read: Why Boeing may stop building fighter planes

Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Aviation Week that the force will continue working with Boeing “to develop schedule mitigations” as needed and to expedite the program. “These potential delays will not result in additional program cost to the taxpayer,” she added.

The tanker program has been hindered by a few persistent problems in recent months.

The most severe — a “category 1 deficiency” — is the tanker’s rigid refueling boom scraping against the plane it is refueling. Such contact can compromise the special stealth coating on aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. And a tanker with a contaminated boom may also have to be grounded.

Air Force and private-sector personnel are reviewing flight data to determine the nature of such incidents and compare them to international norms, Aviation Week previously reported. That investigation will also inform a decision about replacing the remote camera used during the refueling process.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II, July 15, 2016. (Boeing/John D. Parker)

Two other issues, which have been lowered to category II, involve the tanker’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the aircraft broadcast and can cause sparks and fires. The Air Force wants assurances those radios will never broadcast while fuel is flowing and expects a long-term fix from Boeing. The force also expects a Boeing software update in 2018 to address the deficiency in which the refueling boom would extend on its own when disconnecting from a refueling aircraft.

Related: Report blames Boeing mechanics for Air Force One oxygen problems

In December 2017, the FAA granted Boeing an amended type certification for the 767-2C, which is the tanker derivative of the 767 commercial plane. But the firm is yet to receive the supplemental type certification that signs off on all the military and aerial-refueling modifications that turn a 767-2C into a KC-46.

Air Force Materials Command also told Air Force Times that the tanker still needs to get the Air Force’s military type certification, which will signify the safety and airworthiness of those systems and equipment.

Early 2018, a Pentagon testing and evaluation office report indicated the KC-46’s most important systems — including its ability to transfer fuel — had been uninstalled or deactivated during testing under electromagnetic-pulse conditions. It recommended retesting “operationally representative” conditions.

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
A KC-46 Pegasus takes its first flight at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, September 25, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jet Fabara)

However, the Air Force said in February 2018 it was working with the testing and evaluation office to reconcile those concerns but had no plans to change the overall tanker program or its testing timelines.

Officials from Air Force Materials Command told Air Force Times that the EMP testing was intended to evaluate mission-critical systems — like takeoff, flight, landing, aircraft control, voice communications, and use of the refueling boom and centerline drogue system.

More: Boeing’s SR-71 Blackbird replacement totally looks like a UFO

“The systems that were uninstalled or deactivated were not flight-critical or required for aerial refueling operations,” according to the officials. After the EMP tests, they said, those critical or required systems were still operational.

The Air Force has two nuclear-threat-related tests planned for fiscal year 2018, which began in October 2017 and ends in September 2018. One will evaluate the KC-46’s ability to launch and fly a safe distance from a simulated nuclear attack on its base. The other will test the tanker’s “inherent nuclear hardness” to blast, radiation, flash, thermal, and EMP effects. The tests are slated for the second half of the fiscal year.

The Air Force currently plans to buy 179 of the KC-46, which is being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 fleet, the members of which are, on average, 55 years old.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine recruiters go hi-tech with new app

Marine Corps Systems Command has partnered with Marine Corps Recruiting Command to develop a new tool with the goal of making the job of recruiters a little easier. The launch is part of a strategic initiative to modernize the tools and technologies available to the recruiting force.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II, or MCRISS II, is a mobile platform that provides Marines with all of their recruiting needs from the moment they meet an applicant to the time they leave boot camp.


MCRISS II features a customizable platform where recruiters can tailor their dashboards to help them perform their daily tasks. They can also access the platform while offline in airplane mode when connections are unreliable. The application uses cloud technology and can be accessed using government-issued cellphones, laptops, and tablets.

“The dynamics of having Marines work directly with MCSC software developers from the beginning was invaluable because we were able to adequately describe and display exactly what Marine recruiters wanted in the new system,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Mayfield, MCRISS operations officer for MCRC. “As the project progresses, we have a sufficiently staffed cadre of Marines who gather input from users to keep that line of communication open, so it will help us enhance MCRISS II with more capabilities in the future.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command G3 Team develop user stories for the Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II Feb. 8, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia.

Recruiters gather the applicants’ personal information, background history, goals, and other details to assess if they will meet the standards of a Marine and possibly serve for more than four years. The tool also helps recruiters compare applicants.

“MCRISS II offers greater convenience and helps Marine recruiters maintain their availability and responsiveness, so they can be successful recruiting the next generation of Marines,” said Jason Glavich, MCRISS project Manager in Supporting Establishment Systems at MCSC. “Now that we are using the commercial cloud, our system is more secure, fast and reliable.”

Currently, the MCRISS II team is working on minimal viable product releases that will launch in March 2019. Small capabilities will be released every two to four weeks, so recruiters can receive the benefits of updates to the platform without having to wait the standard time it takes for an entire system to be fielded, Glavich said. The entire rollout will most likely take a little more than 12 months.

“We are leveraging industry best practices and their ability to innovate, and we’re taking those innovations and applying them without having to spend program dollars,” said Glavich. “Because this new technology is more secure and it is built on a low-code platform instead of using traditional computer programming, it allows us to provide recruiters with new capabilities at a much faster pace.”

In the future, the team will use artificial intelligence and new technologies to look at data sets and predict an exact outcome based on previous outcomes and future conditions.

“This predictive analysis will give us a better understanding to determine what’s going to happen, which will help us enhance MCRISS II even more in the future,” said Glavich.

Articles

Clinton invokes role advising Bin Laden raid in speech to veterans

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons
Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in New Hampshire. | Wikimedia Commons photo by Marc Nozell


In a script flipped from previous elections, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton styled herself as the candidate defending American exceptionalism, international alliances and the military in a speech to thousands of veterans Wednesday.

Speaking here at the American Legion National Convention, Clinton highlighted her personal and professional military bona fides, describing her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy chief petty officer and invoking her role as an adviser in the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.

“I was deeply honored to be part of that small group advising the president,” she said. “I brought to those discussions my experience as a senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring bin Laden to justice.”

She recalled watching the SEALs adapt and carry on with the mission as one of the Black Hawk helicopters clipped the wall of bin Laden’s compound and was disabled.

“I was holding my breath for the entire operation,” she said.

Although the SEALs were racing against the clock to destroy the damaged chopper and depart after taking out bin Laden, Clinton said, they took time to move women and children — bin Laden’s family members — to safety.

“That is what honor looks like,” she said. “Maybe the soldiers of other nations wouldn’t have bothered. Or maybe the’d have taken revenge on those family members of terrorists. But that is not who we are. And anyone who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand what makes our nation great.”

The statement was one of many pointed rebukes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is set to address the convention on Thursday.

Last December, Trump said on a Fox News talk show that U.S. leaders had to “take out [the] families” of terrorists to be effective against them. He later would walk the remark back.

Clinton also took Trump to task for comments disparaging Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who spoke in Clinton’s support at the Democratic National Convention in July, and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, whose heroism Trump has questioned, saying in 2015: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

“I will never disrespect Gold Star families or prisoners of war,” Clinton said. “To insult them is just so wrong, and it says a lot about the person doing the insulting.”

Clinton struck a centrist note, acknowledging she spoke to an audience that tended to lean conservative. And she emphasized her commitment to the ideas of American exceptionalism and military strength.

She called her father, Navy veteran Hugh Rodham, a “rock-ribbed” Republican with whom she had never agreed on politics but had learned to converse with civilly.

“I believe we are still Lincoln’s last best hope of Earth … Still Reagan’s shining city on a hill,” she said. “Part of what makes America an exceptional nation is that we are also an indispensable nation. In fact, we are the indispensable nation. My friends, we are so lucky to be American when so many people want to be Americans too.”

She promised to send troops into harm’s way only as a last resort — a statement that drew applause from the convention — and promised to support and develop U.S. alliances, saying they were unmatched by those of competing global powers Russia and China.

“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends and acting like a loose cannon,” she said, subtly rebuking Trump, who has been critical of U.S. allies and NATO for not paying their share of defense costs. “You do it by putting in the slow, hard work of building relationships.”

On veterans’ issues, Clinton emphasized her support for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, rather than privatizing the system, and pledged to fight to end the national “epidemic” of veterans’ suicide.

Clinton said she would support expanded tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and would promote policies that allow veterans to get credit for military job skills as they transition into the civilian workforce.

She also promised a crackdown on for-profit schools and organizations that prey on veterans and military families. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” she said.

Clinton touted the endorsements she has received from retired military leaders and Republican national security experts, and promised to cross the aisle to work out a sustainable defense budget plan, denouncing the sequestration cuts, enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act, that placed arbitrary caps on defense spending.

“The last thing we need is a president who brings more name-calling and temper tantrums to Washington,” she said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warship headed to Sea of Japan to challenge Russia

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer Dec. 5, 2018, to challenge Russia in the Sea of Japan.

The USS McCambell “sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other nations,” US Pacific Fleet spokesperson US Navy Lt. Rachel McMarr told CNN.

The Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet is headquartered in the eastern port city of Vladivostok, located in Peter the Great Bay, the largest gulf in the East Sea/Sea of Japan.


Pacific Fleet stressed to CNN that Dec. 5, 2018’s freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) was “not about any one country, nor are they about current events,” adding, “These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the Sea of Japan, as in other places around the globe.”

The US Navy regularly conducts FONOPS in the South China Sea, much to China’s displeasure. The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancelorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”

Navy ship leads the way for more powerful laser weapons

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach)

Two days later, the US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos — through the Taiwan Strait. Both the South China Sea FONOP and the Taiwan Strait transit, which occurred just days before a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, drew criticism from Beijing.

China has also repeatedly criticized US Air Force bomber overflights in the region.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise in the wake of apparent Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov, where Russian vessels rammed and fired on Ukrainian vessels before capturing the ships and their crews, and US plans to withdraw from the Cold War Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a response to Russian violations.

NATO has accused Russia of developing weapons in violation of the treaty, and the State Department has warned Russia that it has 60 days to return to compliance or the treaty is finished.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 5, 2018, that if the US withdraws from the 1987 treaty, Russia will begin developing the very nuclear weapons prohibited by it.

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

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