The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.
Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.
“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicle in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.
The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters; this is about twice the range of existing .50-cal guns. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.
Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.
As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.
“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins,” Bassett said.
The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.
“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said. “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.
The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.
While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and overrun the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.
It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.
For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more on the immediate future.
NATO allies and a handful of partner countries are gearing up for the alliance’s largest joint military exercises in decades.
Ahead of the Trident Juncture exercises, which are expected to include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway in fall 2018, the alliance is stressing strength and transparency, and just invited Russian observers so they can get the message up close.
The US Navy admiral commanding the exercise hopes Russia will take them up on the offer.
“I fully expect that they’ll want to come. It’s in their interests to come and see what we do,” Admiral James Foggo told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 5, 2018, “They’ll learn things. I want them to be there so they can see how well [NATO allies and partners] work together.”
“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” he said. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”
Soldiers load an M777 howitzer during live-fire training at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Sept. 10, 2018, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 18.
(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
So far, Russia has yet to accept the offer.
The drills, Article 5 (collective defense) exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious assets training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state. The admiral refused to comment on whether or not the exercise would include a nuclear element, as an earlier Russian drill did.
Although it was previously reported that these exercises are the largest NATO drills since the Cold War, they are actually the biggest since 2002, Foggo clarified at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing. The allied drills come on the heels of massive war games in eastern Russia involving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Russian and Chinese troops preparing for large-scale military operations against an unspecified third country.
The purpose of Trident Juncture, according to handouts presented at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing, is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.
Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.
The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.
No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.
“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.
To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.
“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.
Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.
U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.
Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.
Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.
However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.
Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.
Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said. “On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”
It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.
“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”
The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.
As part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. to launch offensive cyber attacks in retaliation against Russia or any other country that tries to “significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government.”
The language appeared in the committee’s newly released conference report of the “John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019” a week after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized President Donald Trump for not taking a hard stance on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The NDAA “authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran in cyberspace.”
“Defense committees have long expressed concern with the lack of an effective strategy and policy for the information domain, including cyberspace and electronic warfare,” the document states.
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
To assist the Defense Department in this challenge, the NDAA “establishes a policy that the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” the document states.
Lawmakers became increasingly vocal in their concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections after Trump appeared to question his own intelligence agencies’ findings on the issue and take Putin’s word at the Helsinki summit that Russia had no part in interfering with the 2016 election.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, according to The Associated Press.
“He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be,’ ” Trump said.
He later clarified his comments, saying he told Putin the U.S. won’t tolerate any election interference in the future.
“I let him know we can’t have this,” Trump said, according to an AP report. “We’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
In addition to the new language, Senate lawmakers increased research and development spending on cyber, and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy, by more than 0 million, the document states.
If signed by Trump, “the FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world,” according to a recent Senate Armed Services Committee press release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
You couldn’t turn on your television in the mid-2000s without seeing one of the adrenaline-pumping recruitment ads created by the United States Navy. Keith David’s majestic yet empowering voice tells you that being a civilian is overrated and that life in the Navy is freakin’ badass — a message delivered atop a crushing guitar riff from Godsmack’s Awake.
Keith David signed on because, despite having never served, he’s an avid supporter of the military and veteran community. In fact, many of his most well-known roles are of him portraying troops across many different branches.
Godsmack, on the other hand, got on board because someone asked politely.
At the turn of the century, the Navy was having trouble connecting with younger generations. Previous recruiting campaigns were falling flat, so the Navy worked with Campbell-Ewald, the advertising firm that came up with Ford’s “Like a Rock,” to develop something inspiring to young adults who sought high-tech adventure.
They came up with, “Accelerate Your Life.”
The Navy recruitment office signed Keith David on to what would become a sixteen-year spokesman deal and things were almost set. The only remaining piece to the puzzle was music.
As the story goes, a young sailor at the recruitment office simply got in contact with Sully Erna of Godsmack. The conversation was as simple as the sailor asking, “do you mind if we use Awake?” The band was cool with it and that was that. The band was very supportive of the troops and the fact that one of their fans was a sailor resonated with them.
From the Navy’s perspective, it was an easy win. The band’s main demographic, males between 18 and 30, overlapped perfectly with the demographic targeted by the Navy. The band received plenty of praise from the military community in return. Godsmack would go on to perform on countless military installations (having an obvious fanbase within the Navy). They even headlined the Rockin’ The Corps concert held at Camp Pendleton and perform at countless USO shows.
But those outside the military community weren’t so happy. Godsmack front-man Sully Erna received plenty of flack for signing two separate contracts, each allowing one of their songs to be used in recruitment ads. Awake was authorized between 2001 to 2004 and the contract was again renewed to allow for use of their latest song, Sick of Life, between 2004 and 2007.
The band has officially remained politically neutral, but that didn’t stop them from being outspoken supporters of the troops. Erna was confronted about this in an interview with Arthur magazine. The interviewer, Jay Babcock, was very confrontational in suggesting the band played a role in the Global War on Terror by helping recruit young adults into a war.
Erna response was unapologetic:
It’s energetic music. It’s very athletic. People feel that they get an adrenaline rush out of it or whatever, so, it goes with whatever’s an extreme situation. But I doubt very seriously that a kid is going to join the Marines or the U.S. Navy because he heard Godsmack as the underlying bed music in the commercial. They’re gonna go and join the Navy because they want to jump out of helicopters and f*ckin’ shoot people! Or protect the country and look at the cool infra-red goggles.
Either way, the Navy’s recruitment ads were a hit.
Legendary Canadian actor Christopher Plummer was arguably one of the greatest actors post-WWII. Beginning his career in 1946, Plummer remained an active thespian throughout his life. He is best known for his role as Captain George von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Plummer was also a go-to actor to play historical figures like Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington in Waterloo, Emperor Commodus in The Fall of the Roman Empire, and Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception. On February 5, 2021, Plummer died at the age of 91.
Born in Toronto, Ontario on December 13, 1929, Plummer was a direct descendant of Sir John Abbott, Canada’s third Prime Minister. He was inspired to take up acting after watching Laurence Olivier’s Henry V and became an apprentice at the Montreal Repertory Theatre where William Shatner also acted. In 1946, Plummer performed his first role as Mr. Darcy in a school production of Pride and Prejudice.
In 1953, he appeared on television, both Canadian and American, and Broadway. Plummer acted mainly on stage and did not appear on screen for six years after 1958. His return to film was as Emperor Commodus in 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. The next year, Plummer would see his film career soar to new heights with The Sound of Music.
Despite it being his best-known role, Plummer once described The Sound of Music as “so awful and sentimental and gooey.” Aside from working with Julie Andrews, Plummer recounted that he found all aspects of making the film to be unpleasant, going so far as to nickname it “The Sound of Mucus.” Still, he acknowledged the film’s importance in retrospect. “But it was a very well-made movie,” he said in a 2009 interview , “and it’s a family movie and we haven’t seen a family movie, I don’t think, on that scale for ages.”
Classic military film enthusiasts will be most familiar with Plummer for his roles in the war epics Battle of Britain from 1969 and Waterloo the following year. In Battle of Britain, Plummer plays Canadian pilot Squadron Leader Colin Harvey, one of the first allied characters audiences are introduced to. In Waterloo, he takes on the role of the legendary British hero, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley who ended the Napoleonic Wars by defeating the French Emperor in the titular battle.
Christopher Plummer went on to act through the century and right up to his death. One of his last on-screen appearances was in a 2020 episode of Jeopardy! as a clue presenter. His final movie role is as a voice actor in the yet-to-be-released animated film Heroes of the Golden Masks.
Plummer died peacefully in his home with his wife by his side from complications following a fall. “The world has lost a consummate actor today and I have lost a cherished friend,” said The Sound of Music costar Julie Andrews. “I treasure the memories of our work together and all the humor and fun we shared through the years.” Plummer’s legacy is immortalized on screen in over 100 films and in the hearts and minds of his fans around the world.
In 1462, the prince of a small area called Wallachia went to war with arguably the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, led by one of the greatest military minds of the time. The one thing that the prince knew for certain was he would need an extraordinary plan to stay alive and keep his principality from being conquered.
That prince was Vlad III, the Impaler and he was going up against Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire, fresh from his resounding victory over the Byzantines, relegating the once-great Roman Empire to the history books, once and for all.
In just 53 days, Mehmed II earned the title “Fatih” – or Conqueror – by doing what no Ottoman Sultan before him could: bringing down the vaunted walls of Constantinople and an end to the Byzantine Empire. Now all of Europe was open to the Ottoman Turks, and one of the closest principalities to the new Ottoman Empire was Romania and its small provincial fiefdoms. The Turks would exert their influence by first charging the un-Islamic a jizya, the tax for not being a follower of Mohammed. When Prince Vlad III of Wallachia refused to pay, Mehmed set out to teach him a lesson.
But Vlad Tepes wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the Ottoman Sultan’s tens of thousands of men to come lay waste to his small lands.
After a long cat and mouse game, the sultan decided to send an envoy as bait for an ambush. But Vlad got wind of the plot and ambushed the ambush in one of the first European uses of handguns. He took the Turkish uniforms, disguised himself, and moved to the nearest Turkish fortress and simply ordered them to open the gates in Turkish. When they did, Vlad slaughtered the defenders and destroyed the fortress. Then he went on a rampage.
Vlad invaded neighboring Bulgaria and began to split his army up to cover more ground. They systematically rounded up Turkish sympathizers and captured troops in a 500-mile area and slaughtered them. Vlad reckoned killing more than 23,000, not counting those he burned in their own homes. He then routed an Ottoman invasion force 18,000 strong under Mehmed’s Grand Vizier. Only 8,000 walked away from the battle. Mehmed was pissed and decided to go take care of Vlad personally.
The sultan assembled an army so large, historians repeatedly lost count trying to keep it all together. Mehmed requested an army of at least 150,000 men but what he got was anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 and a naval force to sail up the Danube with them. With this force arrayed against him, Vlad freaked out. He asked the King of Hungary for help, and when none came, he conscripted women and children to fight for him. In the end, he amassed an army about one-tenth the size of the Ottoman invaders. Vlad needed some way to level the playing field and scare the sultan back to Constantinople. When the Ottoman Army closed in on him, he got his chance.
The Impaler poisoned wells and destroyed anything of use that Mehmed might capture. He also sent men infected with the plague and other diseases into the Ottoman ranks to infect as many as possible. But still, the enemy made their way to Târgoviște, where their first night in camp turned out to be an unforgettable one. Vlad and his men infiltrated the camp and wreaked havoc on its sleeping men. As the Wallachians slaughtered the now-confused Turks, Vlad attempted to assassinate the sultan in his tent, missing and hitting the tents of his viziers instead.
But that’s not what drove the sultan out of Wallachia.
Sultan Mehmed’s elite Janissaries pursued the Wallachians and managed to inflict casualties numbering in the thousands. The rest of the army pressed on the Wallachia’s capital, prepared to lay siege to the city and destroy it. But instead of a fortified citadel, the Turks found the gates of the city wide open. Inside, as they rode around, they were treated to a “forest of the impaled” along the roadside. Vlad impaled some 20,000 more enemy soldiers and sympathizers. Historical accounts aren’t clear on the sultan’s reaction, if he was horrified or impressed, but they do agree Mehmed decided to leave Wallachia the very next day.
You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”
It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.
Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.
In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.
By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.
Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.
The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.
None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.
How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.
For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.
Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.
The video is a grainy, far-off view of the battlefield of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan. It came from the ISR feed of a nearby Predator drone monitoring the 2002 operation designed to surround and destroy a large al-Qaeda force in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, called Anaconda. At Takur Ghar, things did not go well for the combined Coalition force of seven Navy SEALs, 20 Army Rangers, and three Air Force Airmen. In what is best described as a pyrrhic win, the battle cost the lives of three Rangers, a SEAL, a pararescueman, a special forces aviator, and a combat controller, Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.
It was after a special ops team was inserted via Chinook that Chapman’s heroism was captured by the drone.
During the initial insertion into the area, one of the Chinooks was hit by a massive barrage of enemy machine gun and RPG fire, forcing it to leave the area immediately. During its expedite escape, Navy SEAL PO1 Neil Roberts fell out of the open hatch of the helicopter, falling 10 feet into the snow below. Razor 04 (one of the Chinook helicopters) returned to the peak with its team of special operators to rescue Roberts. It too was forced away from the area, but not before the operators could get off the helicopter.
In the video above, you can see one of the disembarking troops split off from the main group. That’s Tech. Sgt. Chapman running straight into al-Qaeda machine gun positions in the dark. The operators have split up into two-man bounding teams, and Chapman is wounded while advancing on one of the enemy positions to protect their movement. Chapman is stopped only temporarily and starts fighting again almost immediately.
By this time, the operators have called for a quick reaction force from the 75th Ranger Regiment at Bagram Air Base, and two of the SEALs are also wounded. The teams call for extraction and another Chinook, Razor 01, is inbound before getting lit up again by enemy RPG fire. Chapman attempts to protect the helicopter and his fellow operators but is killed in action. But the story doesn’t end there. The operator force and the two QRF teams of Rangers had their own ordeal in getting to the battlefield (which is another story in itself). All told, the battle lasted until the Americans were extracted at 2000 that evening, some 18 hours after their first contact with the enemy.
Chapman was awarded the Air Force Cross in 2003 for the action depicted in the video, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2018. Whether Chapman was still alive when the SEALs departed the area has come under dispute due to evidence found by investigators during the Medal of Honor investigation. The airman’s mother believes everything on the ridge that night went as Chapman would have wanted – his teammates escaping the line of fire to fight another day, even if it cost him his own life.
The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”
The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.
Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.
But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.
The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.
It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.
Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.
So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.
If you’re thinking about skipping Captain Marveland going straight to Avengers: Endgame, think again. Early reviews of Captain Marvel say that the movie is not only fantastic but that it will be essential viewing for anyone going to see the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s the early consensus, totally free of spoilers for the movie.
Eric Eisenberg, of CinemaBlend, said the movie has “surprises” that audiences won’t see coming.
Steve Weintraub at Collider said the movie made him “So ready for Avengers: Endgame.”
Meanwhile, Anna Klausen of Newsweek, Bustle and The Daily Beastsaid, moviegoers, should “watch closely” for “lots of fun Easter eggs” and links to the “history and other films in the MCU.”
At this point, critics who have seen the movie aren’t able to reveal any spoilers for the film, so what we’re seeing now is general impressions of the film. Elsewhere in the universe, a smattering of trolls who have not seen the film yet are trying to destroy the Rotten Tomatoes Score of Captain Marvel before the movie is released. Several publications have already likened this sexist campaign to what happened around the time The Last Jedi was released. Needless to say, if someone hasn’t seen the movie, and they’re trashing it, we don’t have to spend much time thinking about their opinion.
For the rest of us, it sounds like Captain Marvel might not be a perfect movie, but then again, none of these superhero movies really ever are. And for those of us who have daughters — or just like to see heroes who aren’t dudes — Brie Larson as Carol Danvers can’t come soon enough.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.