NEWS

The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

The time has come! Long anticipated, missile-blasting, hole-frying, zip-zapping laser weapon technology is upon us. Yep, the U.S. Army officially has a 60-kilowatt-class blaster thanks to Robert Afzal, who leads Lockheed Martin's advanced laser systems program, and his team.


"Laser." (Image via giphy)

Straight out of an H.G. Wells novel, the blaster is the most powerful laser weapon on the planet; its targeting dome, laser generator, and power and control hardware are reliable and light-weight enough to be mounted on tactical vehicles. This means the Heat-Ray – I mean blaster – is built for war.

Heat-Ray in action, but you already knew that, you lover of classical literature, you! (Artwork for a 1906 Belgian edition by the Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corréa of the book The War of the Worlds.)

Afzul spent a large part of his career leading the development and integration of lasers into space probes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center before beginning to work with Lockheed in 2008. Among his many contributions, he notably developed the flight lasers for the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on the ICESat Mission and designed the laser on Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER mission — and, perhaps most importantly, he helped develop the Alexandrite laser for tattoo removal (thank the Gods!).

Laser tattoo removal: It won't cure a hangover, but it can help...

Needless to say, it is no surprise that Azful is the man to finally bring all of our science fiction fantasies to life.

The first laser was created in the 1960s by Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, by using a cylinder of synthetic ruby with silver coated ends and a high power-power flash lamp. Since then, laser technology has made leaps and bounds. We can now scan, print, cut, weld, and illuminate our way through life via laser technology but it wasn't until recently that an actual "Death Ray" style weapon was disclosed to the public invented.

Thwarted efforts have primarily been due to three itty-bitty details: the need for very large solid-state batteries, impractical assembly dimensions, and light diffusion — beam quality is the difference between bright lights and explosions. #Science.

Also read: Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

The difficulty in turning lights into weapons is making sure that the laser's level of horsepower can melt metal at a relevant distance. Even though chemical lasers could do the trick, they call for cumbersome and awkward mixtures. Meanwhile electrically powered solid-state lasers don't have enough power.

At least, they didn't until some telecommunications industry engineers found that fiber-optic cables could enhance the light beam's energy. Expanding on this, Afzal discovered that by grouping numerous fiber-optic lasers, enough energy and beam quality could be created to get the job done – ta-da!

The door to the future of laser technology has been blasted (you know... like with a blaster...) wide open; I'm just glad our Army is the one who owns it!

Tim Malloy

Great pilot jobs: one more reason the Air Force has a pilot shortage

Becoming a commercial or airline pilot is a natural transition for any veteran who had experience flying aircraft during their time in service. Pilot jobs pay very well, and while technology is making aircraft more autonomous, the need for pilots is still going to continue to rise in the future.

Here's what you need to know about becoming a pilot.

What commercial and airline pilots do

Put simply, pilots are the men and women who fly aircraft and navigate the air space. But there are also other duties some pilots must perform. These might include:

  • Checking the condition of an aircraft before and after flights
  • Ensuring that the aircraft is within weight limits
  • Ensuring that the aircraft is properly fueled based on flight length and weight
  • Preparing flight plans
  • Communications with air traffic control
  • Monitoring engines, fuel consumption, and other aircraft systems during flight
  • Respond to changing conditions, such as weather events and emergencies (for example, a mechanical malfunction)

Pilots must be able to effectively communicate with their co-pilot and flight engineer, especially during takeoff and landing of the aircraft. Depending on what kind of pilot you become you may be responsible for any of the above duties. There are several different kinds of civilian pilots.

(Photo by Kristopher Allison)

Airline pilots

Airline pilots work for airlines that transport both passengers and goods on fixed schedules. The pilot in command is typically the most experienced pilot working on the flight crew. They are responsible for the activities of the crew. The second pilot in command, or the co-pilot, will share in the in-flight duties with the captain. Some older aircraft require a flight engineer, who monitors equipment and flight instruments. Technology has reduced the need for flight engineers.

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Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

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GEAR & TECH
Dave Smith

This video of a drone with a flamethrower will haunt your dreams

Watch the video in the tweet below. Are you experiencing both amazement and fear? You're not alone.

This video has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, but it was actually filmed a little over a year ago. According to Gizmodo, an electric-power maintenance company in Xiangyang, China, had been using these flame-throwing drones to burn off garbage and debris from electrical wires.

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Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

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This nonprofit really goes to bat for veterans

Transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life can be pretty overwhelming — and no one should have to brave this rocky terrain alone.

DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a nonprofit charity that is committed to keeping the promise made to our nation's heroes: Their sacrifices would be met with gratitude and support.

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Entertainment
Blake Harper

Ranking ‘Jurassic Park’ movies by the best Velociraptor scenes

Tyrannosaurus Rexes may get all the hype but velociraptors are every bit as essential to the success of the Jurassic film franchise. These vicious, brilliant carnivores are always around to cause a little mischief and eat an unsuspecting human using some advanced hunting tactics. But which of the films make the best use of these infamous dinosaurs? Here is our official ranking of the Jurassic Park films, purely based on their velociraptor scenes.

4. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

There is a fairly obvious reason the first sequel places last on the list: Velociraptors are mostly missing from this movie. The raptors are unsurprisingly badass and slightly terrifying in the film despite their limited presence – fucking up the InGen team of mercenaries – but the bar for this list is simply too high for this maligned sequel to land any higher.

3. TIE: Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

If Jurassic Park III set the stage for the raptor redemption, the Jurassic World films are where they completed their transformation from villain to hero. And that transformation was mostly… fine. In the first Jurassic World, Owen Grady had been able to develop a rapport with a pack of raptors, to the point where they are able to follow his orders.

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GEAR & TECH

Why classic planes stay around so long in Latin America

If you've been on the internet, you probably at some point have seen pitches for retirement in Latin America. Believe it or not, those advertisements probably would have been just as applicable to many classic war planes in addition to people.

The P-51 Mustang, for instance, was in front-line service with the Dominican Republic almost four decades after it took control of the skies from Nazi Germany and Japan. The North American F-86F Saber was defending the skies over Bolivia until 1993 – 40 years after the end of the Korean War where it made a name for itself. The F-5A that first flew in 1959 stayed in service with Venezuela well after 2000.

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NEWS
Alex Lockie

North Korea's massive Air Force is a joke

North Korea has a massive air force that outnumbers the South Korean and US jets it's meant to counter mostly with Russian-made fighters and bombers, but in reality the force is basically a joke.

According to a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report on North Korea's conventional military, the air force has 110,000 officers and enlisted personnel taking care of approximately 1,650 aircraft. That force includes about 820 combat aircraft, 30 reconnaissance aircraft, and 330 transport aircraft.

"During wartime, the force likely has the capability to conduct a limited, short-term strategic and tactical bombing offensive and to launch a surprise attack," IISS assesses.

Because the jets are spread out across a wide swath of the country, North Korea is most likely able to "conduct strike missions against command and-control facilities, air-defence assets, and industrial facilities without rearranging or relocating its aircraft," the report says.

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