Here’s a thing you may not know: Many modern militaries still operate planes similar to the ones used during World War II. Surprised? Don’t be. Just like how babies aren’t born with the natural ability to run marathons, new pilots can’t just hop into a F-16 or F-22 and fly it well from the get-go.
Austin Daniel, an Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing, flies with the Raiders Demonstration Team in his Yak-52 demonstration aircraft over the the beaches of Atlantic City, N.J.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
The first step on the long road to becoming a Sierra-Hotel fighter pilot is to learn on a trainer. Specifically, on a single-engine, propeller-driven plane. For this, America currently uses the T-6 Texan II.
The Russians have a primary trainer, too. After all, Russian pilots can’t just hop into a Su-27 and reflexively do a Pugachev Cobra. No, instead, they start on a trainer that’s been around for years: the Yakovlev Yak-52.
Four Yak-52s carry out some formation aerobatic maneuvers during the 104th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ismael E. Ortega)
The Yak-52 doesn’t have a NATO code name like the MiG-29 “Fulcrum” or the Su-27 “Flanker.” What it does have, however, is a crew of two — a student and an instructor. It has a top speed of 177 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 342 miles. The highest this plane can go is just over 13,000 feet. That might not sound like much, but when you have a guy just out of ground school, you don’t need the plane to go Mach 2 near the edge of space.
The Yak-52 actually was about four decades ahead of the T-6 in one respect: there’s been an armed version, the Yak-52B, from the get-go. Its weapon suite is all of two rocket pods, each holding 32 57mm rockets.
The AT-6 Wolverine, the modern version of the T-6 that is competing in the OA-X program, packs a much more varied punch, including laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Learn more about Russia’s trainer in the video below.
Russia’s new heavy attack drone, called the Okhotnik (Russian for “hunter”), just made its visual debut as a flying wing stealth platform intended to fight Moscow’s enemies from the air and inform the next generation of jet fighters.
The picture of the Okhotnik, posted on a Russian aviation blog and first reported at Aviation Week, shows a drone on a snowy runway with a flat flying wing design like the B-2 Spirit bomber of the US Air Force.
The B-2 represents the US’s stealthiest plane despite being originally built in the early 1980s, which owes to the flying wing design.
Fighter jets which hit supersonic speeds and maneuver tightly need vertical fins, meaning Russia’s Okhotnik likely places stealth above turning and air-to-air combat.
In July 2018, Russian media quoted a defense industry source as saying the Okhotnik could perform “any combat task in an autonomous regime,” but that the drone would require a human pilot to pull the trigger.
US drones only perform in an air-to-ground role, as they’re subsonic aircraft that would be sitting ducks to enemy fighters.
But the defense industry source claimed the “Okhotnik will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” further suggesting some air-to-air role.
Again, this seems to suggest a connection between the combat drone and air superiority fighters, though Russia’s own media describes the drone as having a takeoff weight of 20 tons and an airspeed in the high subsonic range.
Russia frequently makes unverified and dubious claims about its combat aircraft. Russia dubbed the Su-57, meant to fight F-22 and F-35 fighter s or beat top-end air defenses, “combat proven” after a few days of dropping bombs on militants in Syria who had no anti-air capabilities.
But the sixth generation of fighter aircraft, or even the true purpose of the current, fifth generation of fighter aircraft, remains an open question. Many top military strategists and planners have floated the possibility of pairing advanced manned fighter jets with swarms of drones or legacy aircraft to act as bomb trucks or decoys.
The United States has been very proud to call itself a constitutional republic that is led by citizen-elected representatives. America is and has been, historically, very much opposed to monarchies. That is, until 1859, when a legitimately crazy guy wrote into a newspaper, proclaiming himself the “Emperor of these United States.”
Of course, he had absolutely no legal authority and no one truly believed his claim. In fact, “Emperor” Joshua Norton was actually a homeless man dressed in nice clothes. He ended up being a major tourist attraction for the city, however, so the locals just gave him a collective, “sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”
And so, an empire was born.
That’s enough to drive anyone flippin’ crazy…
Before his nosedive straight into the deep-end of crazy town, Joshua Norton was a highly successful businessman. He bought real estate outside of goldmines just before the Gold Rush really boomed. He would sell all of his holdings to invest in rice in 1852. The Chinese rice industry had been struck with a famine that barred the export of rice, which drastically raised the price of rice in San Francisco to 25 cents per pound.
Norton, being the savvy businessman that he was, found a source for Peruvian rice, which was being sold for 12 cents per pound. His idea was to spend all of his money on rice from Peru and resell it in the U.S. at the swelled rate of Chinese rice. As soon as the sale was finalized, however, the per-pound price of Peruvian rice dropped to 3 cents and would be sold at near cost. In short, Norton blew everything he had on rice he couldn’t sell.
By 1858, the once-powerful businessman was bankrupt, penniless, forced into a boarding home, and forgotten by his elite former peers.
He would also declare himself a pope, but that was more or less for the funeral for a stray dog.
Not much is known about his downward spiral into insanity but it was during that transition that he decided he couldn’t have been the son of regular English parents, but was rather a child of the House of Bourbon (despite the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette twenty five years before he was born.) This was confirmed in his mind by the fact that his first name was ‘Joshua’ — his logic was that his parents gave him a common name to hide his royal lineage.
He took his ramblings to the San Francisco Bulletin on September 18th, 1859. It’s remains unclear why the newspaper allowed it to run, but the audiences found it hilarious. In his editorial, he declared himself Emperor of these United States, decreed that Congress be abolished, and called for his “subjects” to gather at the city’s Musical Hall the following February 1st.
Congress was not abolished due to the whims of some random homeless guy — obviously. He ordered General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Union Armies, to clear the halls, but didn’t — obviously. Readers of the Bulletin did gather in droves at his call — likely because they figured it’d be funny. The doors were locked, but the crowds embraced the joke nonetheless.
He even printed out worthless “Norton-bucks” that San Franciscans embraced and used because that’s exactly how fiat money works.
By 1861, the legend of “Emperor” Norton I had spread around the country and was fully embraced by San Franciscans. Among his many decrees, he demanded that…
…the unpopular California State Supreme Court would be abolished.
…anyone using the word ‘Frisco’ in reference to San Francisco would be exiled.
…and that Governor Henry Wise of Virginia be fired for hanging the abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame.
These were all things locals agreed with before the Civil War.
“Emperor” Norton I became so popular that even politicians and business owners would placate him in order to not upset the townsfolk. Officers at the U.S. Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco offered him an elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulets to keep the joke going, because you know, it was still kind of funny.
In 1876, the actual Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II, would visit San Francisco on an official trip — only to be greeted by Norton I. They met for an hour at the Palace Hotel and enjoyed what we can only assumed was an awkward conversation.
“Emperor” Norton I passed on January 8th, 1880. His funeral saw the attendance of 10,000 people who mourned their local celebrity. Many years after his death, the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge was completed and many called for it to be renamed “The Emperor’s Bridge” in honor of the goofy homeless guy who jokingly became an emperor.
Remember, if you fall on hard times and feel your sanity start slipping… lean hard into that crazy and you could just wind up becoming a legend.
When I was a kid we used to blow on Nintendo games if they didn’t work and I’ve always wondered if this actually did anything?
Once upon a time a seemingly universally known trick to get a Nintendo game cartridge to work was to simply pull it out, blow on it, then re-insert. If this didn’t give the desired result, this process was generally repeated until the magic happened. For the truly desperate among us, blowing inside the console opening itself was common practice in hopes that this would finally get the game to work. The general rational for why this worked was that it gave a better connection via blowing dust off the many pins. This all brings us to the question of the hour — did blowing your cartridge actually do anything?
To begin with, it is true that the root of the problem in question was almost always a bad connection between the internal connector and the pins on the game cartridge’s internal board. This was a notorious issue on the NES particularly which used a so called “zero insertion force” (ZIF) 72 pin connector. The particular insertion design for the NES was inspired by VCR’s — the idea being to differentiate the NES from top loading consoles of the day, give kids a loading method they were already familiar with, and potentially reduce the chances of kids breaking something when over forcing things as occasionally happened with top loader designs.
The ZIF connector here used pins made of nickel, bent slightly to give a spring effect. When the cartridge was inserted they’d bend slightly, and then spring back when the cartridge was removed. There are a few problems with this mechanism. To begin with, given very frequent insertions in an application like the NES, these pins were prone to losing their spring effect relatively quickly. Further, to achieve close to the stated claim of “zero insertion force” the pins on the ZIF connector weren’t that strongly springy to begin with.
On top of this, the pins on the cartridges were usually made of copper, making them already prone to eventually developing a nice layer of patina (think the green on the Statue of Liberty) whether you blew them or not, further making a good connection less reliable over time.
Moving on to the seemingly universally known trick of blowing on the pins both inside the case and in the cartridges themselves, this would impart moisture onto the metal, significantly increasing the development of forms of corrosion as well as potentially resulted in dust and other particles sticking to the pins. This can also very quickly result in the growth of things on the pins, like some sort of gamer inspired Petri dish.
On this note, while you might not think the moisture from your breath would make things that much worse, gaming guru and host of TheDPPodcast Frankie Viturello gave a good example of just the effect this could have. Viturello took two copies of the game Gyromite, one to be blown, the other to sit around on a shelf in the same room as the other. He then blew on the one copy ten times in quick succession each day, essentially in the same basic way gamers the world over do when trying to fix the game so it works.
Certainly a much bigger sample size and much more detailed data would be needed for more definitive results. (For example, it would be interesting to track the number of failures after insertion of a game, along with the number of blows, the humidity levels over time, etc. compared to a control group of games and consoles and then with a sample of years and many games and consoles tabulate all that and write a fascinating paper on the subject.) However, this much more basic experiment did very clearly demonstrate the significant effect blowing on the pins has, with the blown on pins developing a clearly visible layer of something over the course of the month and the 300 blows. Viturello’s conclusion here was nicely summed up, “Could this… be cleaned up post test and returned to 100% working condition? Sure. Probably. But right now it’s fucking gross.”
It should also be noted here while the pins on the games could have been relatively easily cleaned, the pins on the ZIF connector inside the console are note quite as easily restored to their former shiny selves without taking the console apart, making blowing inside the console itself an even worse idea. Although, thankfully these days a replacement ZIF connector is both cheap (around ) and easy to install if one does have to resort to taking the console apart anyway.
It is perhaps no surprise from all of this that when this blowing method of “fixing” cartridges that weren’t working in a given instance became popular, Nintendo themselves started explicitly stating in their NES Game Pak Troubleshooting: “Do not blow into your Game Paks or systems. The moisture in your breath can corrode and contaminate the pin connectors.”
A Nintendo Entertainment System video game console with controller attached.
And while bad connections did become less of a problem with the release of future consoles like the Super Nintendo and the N64, occasional blowing before insertion was still a thing, resulting in Nintendo actually putting a message on the back of every N64 game cartridge again saying not to blow on the pins.
In the end, unless there was a significant and very visible layer of dust or other debris on the pins, blowing on them wouldn’t have accomplished anything useful outside of a bit of moisture from your breath maybe helping get a slightly higher probability of a good connection on insertion. But even this potential extremely minor, if any, benefit would be significantly outweighed by the long term downsides of blowing on the pins. The real benefit of this blowing method was seemingly just that you were removing the cartridge and putting it back in, thus, re-seating it and giving the potential for a proper connection.
Finally, funny enough, while the blowing method was seemingly universally known despite it not really doing anything other than making the problem worse long term, there was one other drastically lesser known trick for fixing the issue that actually did work in some cases. This was wedging something (like another game pak) in the console between the game and the top of the slot. This put added pressure on the loaded cartridge which could, if done right, add pressure between the ZIF connector pins and the pins on the game board, thus making a better connection.
Ever wonder how the gun in the original Duck Hunt game knew if you actually hit something on the screen? Well, wonder no more. The Duck Hunt gun primarily just consists of a button (the trigger) and a photodiode (light sensor). When you pull the trigger, this causes the game to make the TV screen go completely black for one frame. At this point, the game uses the light sensor to sample the black color it’s reading from your TV to give it a reference point for the given ambient light at the time. In the next frame, the game causes the target area to turn white, with the rest remaining black. If the game detects a shift from black to white from the gun’s photodiode in that split second, it knows you were aiming correctly at the target and so doesn’t specifically need to know anything about where on the screen the target is. For games with multiple targets at any given time, the same type of method is used except multiple target frames are shown. So the game will flash the black reference screen; then will flash one of the targets, leaving the rest of the screen black; then flashes the next target, again leaving the rest of the screen black; and so on. The game knows which target is hit, if any, by which frame is currently being shown when a light shift is detected.
Interestingly, if you read over the patent for the NES Zapper Gun, one of the main features they point out which separates their gun from previously patented light detecting guns is that in the “preferred embodiment” of their system, it has the ability to distinguish between multiple targets in one frame. However, that’s not actually what they did in the NES system as noted.
In contrast, in a “one frame” system, it uses a signal from the TV itself. This signal is in the form of pulses which signify the start of the horizontal and vertical retracing. The computer hooked up to the TV can use these pulses to more or less tell what area is currently being traced on the TV; it can then time this with a shift in light detected by the photodiode. Thus, with precise enough timing, it is able to detect which target is being hit in just one frame.
With this method, the flash can happen fast enough that it’s nearly imperceptible to most people, unlike in the actual NES system where when multiple targets are shown, most people can perceive the flash. The NES system did use the vertical retrace signal to be able to detect the start of each frame though, but didn’t use it to detect anything about the position of the target as in the “preferred embodiment” described in the patent.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Rip-Its are a comforting old friend to American Post-9/11 veterans. Most American probably don’t even know they exist, unless you happen to be a regular at your local Dollar General store. In war zones, Rip-Its are widely available for sale and, in some cases, are free. Move over, coffee, this is the unofficial beverage of the Global War on Terror.
The problem with this is overindulgence may actually be hurting troops as they transition back home.
Rip-It, the military’s favorite brand of energy drink (when deployed), is sold to the military by National Beverage Corp., the same team of drink magicians who brought us Faygo and La Croix. It’s sold in much smaller cans than the ones available in the U.S., but anyone naive enough to believe that keeps U.S. troops from drinking too much is sadly mistaken.
No one gets enough sleep in a war zone as it is. And when soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are awake, they need to stay vigilant about their work, any external threats, and, in some places, internal threats as well. This is one reason coffee has been a mainstay of the U.S. military for so long.
The rise in popularity of energy drinks like Rip-It happened to coincide with a huge number of young people, the primary consumers of energy drinks, heading off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The love affair’s timing is a perfect storm. It became a little slice of home and comfort while pulling double duty keeping people awake when they needed to be.
Even people who never drank an energy drink before were likely to try at least one while deployed.
Eventually, these same troops returned home from their combat deployments. The study found 75 percent of soldiers were still drinking them after coming home. Of those,16 percent were drinking two or more per day, an amount the study defined as “excessive.”
Those found to be drinking more were more likely to exhibit signs of mental distress or other mental issues, especially aggressive behaviors, sleeplessness, alcohol misuse, and excessive fatigue after being home for seven months after their combat deployment. Not only that, those drinking to excess “are associated with being less responsive to evidence-based treatments for PTSD,” the authors of the study wrote.
Troops who consumed fewer than two drinks reported a lower rate of these symptoms.
The study didn’t address Rip-It specifically, though it did ask what size study participants were prone to using. The use of drinks by this Army sample was five times higher than in a previous study of airmen and civilians in the general population.
Military leaders aren’t likely to call for an end to the widespread use of energy drinks, but many have already called on their troops to cut down on consumption.
A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II accidentally fired off a rocket outside of the designated firing range in Arizona on Sep. 5, 2019.
The attack aircraft, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron from the 355th Wing, “unintentionally” released an M-156 rocket while on a training mission, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said in a statement.
The M-156, according to CBS News, is a white phosphorous projectile used to mark targets. The rocket landed in the Jackal Military Operations Area, located about 60 miles northeast of Tucson, Arizona.
The Air Force says that no injuries, damages, or fires have been reported.
Sep. 5, 2019’s incident, which is currently under investigation, is the second time in a little over two months an A-10 has accidentally opened fire in an area where it wasn’t supposed to do so.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras)
At the start of July 2019, an Air Force A-10 out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped three training bombs over Florida after hitting a bird. The three BDU-33s, non-explosive ordnance designed to simulate M1a-82 bombs, fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida.
While the dummy bombs were inert, they did include a pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous if mishandled.
A bird strike, a problem that has cost the Air Force millions of dollars over the years, was identified as the cause of the accidental weapons release in July. It is currently unclear what caused Thursday’s incident.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Some military traditions make sense to nearly everyone — little things that show mutual respect, like leaders serving food to their subordinates on holidays or NCOs electing to eat after their guys. Other traditions are odd at first blush, like messing with the new guy or passing through an archway after graduating a class or achieving a higher rank, but civilians can generally understand where they come from.
But then there are the ones that require a lot of explaining to your civilian family members. Every time, these story begins with a, “well, you see. It kinda goes back to…” and more often than not, the explanation just makes them tilt their head in confusion.
At one point, the following traditions may have meant something to one person or a group, but today, the original meaning is buried beneath decades of military bearing and tradition. We mostly just do them because, well, if it ain’t broke — and no one’s getting UCMJ’d for it — why bother stopping?
10. Paratroopers and cherry pies
When you finish going through Army Airborne School, your head will be spinning, filled with all of the information you’ll need to not shatter every bone in your body when you make a landing. You’ll have to master the art of hooking up your static line and perform countless parachute landing falls before you’re even able to get the chance to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane.
Finally, the moment of truth arrives — you finally get to jump with your unit in the 82nd. Your superiors will recommend that you fill your cargo pockets with Hostess Cherry Pies first. They’ll often say it’s for some reason like, “in case you get hungry when you land” or whatever. Who are you to argue?
When your big moment finally comes and you take in the sights while falling gracefully, you’ll hopefully have your PLFs burnt into the back of your mind as second nature. Everything will happen so fast that you’ll forget those cherry pies in your pants. When you land, you’ll squish all those pies and leave a nice red stain on your uniform.
9. Actual callsigns
In pop culture, callsigns are the coolest things ever. You’ll often see some badass names, like Iceman, Maverick, or Snake used in TV and movies. They’re always just made up because they sound cool and the storytellers don’t really know how the military works.
In reality, callsigns are usually unit designations followed by a number to signify who they are in said unit. So, for example, the commander of the Alpha company “Black Sheep” would be known as “Black Sheep 6,” and the first sergeant of the same unit is “Black Sheep 7.”
If you’re looking for unique callsigns, those are in the aviation world, and they’re typically less cool and more nonsensical. For example, if you eat a Pop-Tart one time in front of another pilot, your callsign is now forever “Pop-Tart.” Good going, Pop-Tart. That’s your callsign until the end of time.
8. The grog bowl
At civilian parties, if there’s a punch bowl, it’ll be centrally placed and it may or may not have some kind of alcohol in it. Whenever the military throws a unit ball, that punch bowl will most certainly have alcohol in it… plus a whole slew of other random things that would make anyone throw up.
Most of the leadership of the unit gets a chance to add one ingredient to the grog bowl (which is a toilet bowl) and offer some kind of nonsense to explain why their chosen ingredient has some kind of significance to the unit.
You can expect classic grog bowl ingredients, like hot sauce, because of the deserts the unit deploys to, ground coffee, because of the long hours the troops works, a cup of salt, because of the sweat that troops give to the cause, and a dirty sock because… reasons?
7. Blood wings and blood stripes
When civilians get promoted or graduate some school, the accomplishment is usually met with a party or a card that’s signed by everyone in the office. That sounds pleasant. Troops, on the other hand, almost always lose a bit of blood over it.
Blood wings and blood stripes are, essentially, the same thing. You get the wings from a school and the stripes from a promotion. Then, everyone takes turn punching it in. It’s technically considered hazing, but the troop receiving the blood wings/stripes usually agrees to it. There (typically) isn’t any malice or hate involved in the ceremony and troops usually walk away with a bit more pride in whoever bled for their new badge/rank.
6. Challenge coin “duels”
There’s nothing really odd about challenge coins in general. It’s basically the same thing as collecting trading cards as a kid, but instead of aiming for a holographic Charizard, you’re aiming for the coolest-looking coin with the most badass backstory.
Usually, officers will keep the coolest coins on their desk in their office to casually gloat about and enlisted troops keep them in some drawer at home, but sh*t gets real when troops take their coins to the bars. The ensuing game basically goes like this:
Troops unsheathe their coolest coin. If you don’t have your coin on you, you buy the drinks. If everyone has a coin, whoever has the “least valuable coin” buys the drinks. Since the “value” is determined by backstory and design — both of which are subjective — this game almost always ends in a shouting match over who has to pick up the tab.
5. ‘Stache contests
In case you haven’t nailed down the common thread between all of these traditions, the military is engaged in a perpetual pissing contest. Troops are in constant contest to see who can do literally anything better than the next guy; to see who is the most macho of the troops. It should come as no surprise that one of the most macho things out there, facial hair, gets quantified into some sort of challenge.
The problem with this is that the military doesn’t allow most versions of facial hair — that is, with the exception of a very thin mustache. A word of warning: The first two weeks of a mustache-off makes every contestant look pathetic.
Mustache contests usually begin at the start of the deployment (presumably, when troops’ wives have less of a say in the matter) and, after a certain point, someone is declared a winner. Yet, the Air Force has unanimously decided to make March their official contest month. Whichever airman grows the best mustache by the end of March wins a high five or whatever.
4. The West Point pillow battle royale
At some point during the first years of the most intense academy for the U.S. Army’s future officers, students are offered a unique way of handling the stresses of simultaneously earning a college education while enduring four years of constant military training. These future warriors, trained in all things warfare with the intention of becoming the Army’s next generation of great leaders, settle things the exact same way as children at slumber parties — with a pillow fight.
As goofy as this sounds, things got serious. Yes. “got” — very much in the past tense, as this tradition was unceremoniously banned in 2015 in response to numerous injuries. Most cadets donned full kevlars and vests and beat the hell out of each other with pillows. More than thirty plebes that year were sent to the hospital for serious injuries, despite the strict no-hard-objects-in-the-pillows rule.
Thankfully, they had PT belts on or this could have gotten even more out of hand.
3. Blasting up the lieutenant’s patrol cap
In the technical terms, a “blasting cap” is a small, sensitive primary explosive device used to detonate a larger, more powerful and less-sensitive secondary explosive. Soldiers in the artillery world take this term literally whenever they welcome a new platoon leader.
When the platoon first goes out for a live-fire exercise with a brand new lieutenant, they’ll take the officer’s patrol cap (either willingly or otherwise) and tape it to the end of the barrel or backplate of a rocket pod. Then, the first round goes off; it’ll take the cap with it. The officer is then expected to retrieve the nearly-burnt-to-a-crisp cap so they can remain in uniform after the ceremony is done.
No one really knows when or where this began, but every artillery officer since then has had to buy a new cap the following day.
2. The sword butt tap at weddings
Most of the traditions on this list are kept within the realm of the military and don’t often affect civilians directly — with the major exception of military weddings. They are one of the most beautiful ways to introduce a new civilian spouse into our world. The troop’s comrades will attend wearing full dress uniforms, each carrying a sword to signify the protection they’ll offer the new spouse, as he or she is now kin.
The new comrades will serve as either groomsmen or bridesmaids and post guard outside of the chapel, or wherever the ceremony is held, and form a beautiful archway with their swords under which the married couple will walk.
Then, whoever is at the very end of the archway on the civilian spouse’s side will give a loving spank with their sword. Not a hard one, mind you, just a nice gentle way of letting them know that they’re now a part of the grander military family.
1. The Court of Neptune
Whenever a Navy vessel crosses a certain point on the globe, all sailors who’ve never done so get to be initiated into an unofficial fraternity of sailors who’ve been there before. The most famous example of these ceremonies is the moment a vessel crosses the Equator at any point in the world.
Officially, it’s called the “Crossing the Line” ceremony, but sailors know it as “the Court of Neptune.” The uninitiated (known as “slimy polliwogs”) must bow before King Neptune (as portrayed by the ship’s captain) and entertain his queen, Davy Jones, the Royal Baby, and his dignitaries (portrayed by other high ranking members of the crew) with a talent show.
Regardless of how the young sailors perform, they’re found guilty of being polliwogs and must answer for their crimes. They’re “punished” by eating an extremely spicy or disgusting breakfast and are forced kiss the Royal Baby’s greasy belly. Only then can they have their slimy polliwoginess washed in seawater to finally become trusty shellbacks.
Follow any of that? Neither did any of us other slimy polliwogs…
An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.
NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.
Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.
The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.
A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.
‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field
This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.
By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.
“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”
The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.
NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?
The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.
Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.
The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.
“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”
The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.
“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.
Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.
The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.
The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.
The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.
“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.
An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.
Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun
Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.
For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.
Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.
“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”
That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.
6 more years and 21 more flybys
More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.
In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.
In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.
Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.
During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.
“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
More than a year after announcing it was experimenting with a rifle for infantrymen, the Marine Corps has said it will distribute the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to more Marines, including those outside of the infantry squad.
The M27 is currently carried by just one member of the fire team, the automatic rifleman. But Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in December that the service plans to field the rifle more widely.
Each member of the rifle squad will receive the $3,000 rifle, as will others outside the squad, though the exact number has not been finalized.
“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller told Military.com, but artillery forward observers, fire-support team members, and engineers might get them. “I’m going to wait and see,” Neller said. “It’s not that much [money].”
The M27 was introduced in 2010, initially meant to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines carried out pre-deployment exercises with the M27 in late 2016 to evaluate it for wider use in infantry units.
Neller — who has said he thinks a “big-ass fight” is on the horizon — suggested in April he was considering providing all riflemen with M27s, which have a slightly longer effective range than the M4 used by other members of the squad.
M27s also have a free-floating barrel, which reduces the effects of rifle movement during firing on accuracy, as well as a proprietary gas-piston system that makes it more reliable and reduces wear. The rifle’s cost and the possibility its higher rate of fire could lead to more ammunition use were two potential drawbacks Marine Corps officials examined in late 2016.
A request for information issued by the Marines in February asked for 11,000 M27s, which would be sufficient to equip every squad. A pre-solicitation issued in August requested up to 50,800 of the rifle — a move by the Marines to make sure that gunmaker Heckler Koch was able to supply an order that big, according to Military.com.
‘I’m ready to say yes’
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the weapons officer for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com that competition and larger orders had helped bring down the price the service would pay for new M27s, making it comparable to what the Corps paid for M4s.
Marines may be getting a plethora of new gear in the near future. A 13-man infantry squad that Wade called the “Über Squad” was outfitted this summer with a range of equipment for an 18- to 20-month experiment, with plans for the squad to take their new kit on a full training and deployment cycle in Europe.
Squad members were given an M27 with a suppressor and Ops-Core helmets with built-in hearing protection systems to muffle loud noises while enhancing other sounds a Marine may need to hear in combat. The squad was also outfitted with 60-round Magpul polymer drum magazines as well as light body armor used by Marine Special Operations Command and advanced night-vision goggles.
Late last year, Marines were spotted doing live-fire drills with the M38 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, which carried a more advanced scope than the M27 as well as a suppressor. The Corps plans to designate one infantry squad member as “marksman” and equip them with the M38, allowing them to engage targets at 300 to 600 meters.
The Marines have tested new ammo for the M27, looking to switch from M855 5.56 mm rounds to the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round used by the Army.
Marine officials have said the M855A1 round causes reliability and durability issues with the M27, but lawmakers have complained that maintaining two types of rifle round leads to waste.
The Marine Corps has also been looking at outfitting entire infantry battalions — from M4s to .50-caliber machine guns — with suppressors.
Wade said in late 2016 that three companies were using suppressors on all their rifles, including their M27s. Bravo company of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines was the first of those units to deploy, arriving in Norway in May 2017. That unit’s members heralded the new ease of communications allowed by the suppressors.
The Corps is also considering testing a new kind of optic. Wade told Military.com he hopes to test different scopes with different infantry squads to build a case for more powerful gear. The Marines are planning to outfit infantry squads with new rifle-mounted laser range-finders, allowing squad leaders to call in airstrikes and artillery.
All the gear being tested may not end up with Marine units, and more equipment may be rolled out in the future. And Neller downplayed the expense, indicating he could sign off on new gear soon.
“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”
The most expensive weapons system in history, the US’s F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.
US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said “I mean, sometimes.”
The F-35 has long been plagued by reports of that it can’t dogfight as well as older, much cheaper jets, despite being in development for nearly two decades and claiming to revolutionize air combat.
In 2015, War is Boring published a report from a test pilot that said the F-35 couldn’t turn or climb fast enough to keep up with older jets, and F-16s lugging heavy fuel tanks under wing still routinely trounced it.
But a lot has changed since 2015. The F-35 has had its software upgraded and the tactics refined.
Why the Cold War jets can still pull a win out — for now
Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke previously told Business Insider that the older jets benefited from decades of development and training, whereby new pilots today have established best practices. As the F-35 is still in its early days, Berke said the best is yet to come.
“The biggest limitation for the F-35 is that pilots are not familiar with how to fly it. They try to fly the F-35 like their old airplane,” Berke said.
But the pilots at Kadena dogfighting against F-15s may be a cut above, according to Berke, who said that because they have never flown a legacy jet before, they won’t bring the bad habits with them, and will instead learn how to fly the F-35 like the unique plane it is. “They’re going to be your best, most effective tacticians,” Berke said.
F-35s at a major disadvantage to any legacy jet in a dogfight
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“The F-35 cannot out dogfight a Typhoon (or a Su-35), never in a million years,” Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider.
The reason why, according to Bronk and other experts on the F-35, is that the F-35 just isn’t a dogfighter. The F-35’s stealth design put heavy demands on the shape of the aircraft, which restricted it in some dimensions. As a result, it’s not the most dynamic jet the US could have possibly built, but it doesn’t have to be.
Berke, an alumnus of the US Navy’s famous Top Gun school, echoed Alpert’s assessment, but warned that the common perception of dogfighting was “way off,” and something US jets haven’t done in 40 years. Berke disagreed with Bronk’s “never in a million years” assertion, but maintained that the dogfighting issue was basically irrelevant.
The bottom line is that in training, all jets lose “sometimes.” That the F-35 can hold its own and beat a jet refined over four decades to excel exclusively at air-to-air combat — when the F-35 has been designed to fight, bomb, spy, and sneak — shows its tremendous range and potential.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military and law enforcement working dogs are vital. They not only add capabilities for the units they serve with, like finding the enemy faster due to their powerful sense of smell; they also save their lives in the process. These dogs willingly sacrifice themselves in the process of saving their team. Atos was one of them.
Randy Roy served four years in the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Army in the 1980’s and went on to become a law enforcement officer in Iowa. He began working with the K9 unit and training dogs. In 2007 he was approached by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to become a Contract Trainer for their military working dogs. Roy and his family left their home in the Midwest and settled outside of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina shortly after that.
Atos was the first military working dog he trained.
Roy shared that USASOC acquired Atos in the summer of 2007. “Atos was a goofball, hard head, Malinois. He was awesome. Atos was kind of stubborn but very trainable and learned quickly,” said Roy. He continued on saying, “He was very sociable with everyone. They truly become part of the team and he certainly became a team member.” When Atos finished his training, he deployed to Iraq.
It was while in Iraq that he was assigned to his handler. The handler had just lost his previous military working dog, Duke, who was killed in action during a firefight. Roy shared that at first, Atos’ handler didn’t want to like him, most likely because the loss of Duke was so fresh. But Atos grew on him quickly.
Jarrett “Fish” Heavenston and Roy connected on that deployment, with Heavenson often volunteering for Atos’ training and happily donning a bite suit. Heavenston joined the Army at seventeen in 1991 and completed seven years as a ranger. He also worked in jungle warfare and USASOC. Heavenston wanted to do something different, so he left the Army and joined the Air Force in 2001 as a Combat Controller where he stayed until he retired in 2016.
“They [working military dogs] recognized who their tribe or pack was and they were very protective of them. We are kind of look, dress and walk the same; if you weren’t part of that pack they were alert and watching you and on guard,’ said Heavenston. As a Combat Controller, he was with many different dogs; he shared that some dogs were approachable, and friendly and that’s how Atos was described.
On Christmas Eve in 2007, Heavenston and his team were tracking enemy combatants. The brush was incredibly thick and woody. “It was very tough to move in the brush. We knew they were in there and waiting for us,” he shared. Heavenston said that he was helping to guide the handler as he was casting Atos out. The dog was able to find and track the guy they were looking for because of his keen sense of smell; but that meant that the team lost sight of Atos.
Although Atos quickly made his way through the brush, the team moved behind him much more slowly due to the difficulty of navigating the tough terrain. “You have the best-trained guys in the world out there, but it doesn’t negate that what you are doing is really hard,” said Heavenston. He shared that between the rough terrain and fading daylight, it was a tough operation.
“The dog is on him the dog is on him” is what Heavenston remembers hearing from the communications with an aircraft above them. They didn’t realize it was Atos at first, but eventually, they heard the commotion.
Shortly after that, the enemy combatant blew himself up, killing not just himself, but Atos.
Four members of their team were wounded that night, some grievously. “Had Atos not done what he had done, it would have been much worse,” shared Heavenston. He knows that if Atos hadn’t engaged with the enemy and forced him to detonate his bomb early, there would have been certain loss of human life that Christmas Eve.
“There are hundreds of dogs out there who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many of us within the military that are here today because of what they did,” said Heavenston. It was with this in mind that his company, Tough Stump Technologies (which Atos’ trainer, Roy, became a part of), decided to hold an event in Atos’ honor.
Touch Stump Technologies partnered with K9 for Warriors to raise money through their event for the organization, which is working to end veteran suicide and return dignity to America’s heroes by pairing them with service dogs. Dogs are paired with veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or have suffered military sexual trauma (MST).
The event will celebrate the life and sacrifice of Atos and all working dogs on March 13, 2020.
Heavenston also shared that his company is working hard to develop technology that would allow the military to better track their military working dogs. “If we had this on Atos that night, that narrative would have been a lot different,” said Heavenston. The hope is that with specialized GPS tracking capabilities, they won’t lose dogs like they lost Atos.
Working dogs are an integral part of the military and law enforcement. On this K9 Veteran’s Day, take a moment to remember the dogs like Atos that willingly sacrificed their lives to save their people. Every loss is felt deeply, and the gratitude for the lives they’ve saved is unmeasurable. Don’t forget them.
America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?
The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?
Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”
The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical factthat the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.
Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.
Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.
Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.
Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.
If you’ve joined the Marine Corps or if you’ve studied military history, then you’re likely very familiar with the legendary Dan Daly. For the uninitiated, he’s known for being one of the most decorated service members of all time. He coined an expression that will forever live on in books, movies, and among troops,
“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Although Marines of all ages are taught many incredible things about the career of this bold war hero, there are few things you probably didn’t know about Sgt. Maj. Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly.
Daly wasn’t the bigger guy ever
The New York-native joined the Corps in January, 1899, expecting to see action during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately for him, the war was over before he had finished his training.
Sgt. Maj. Daly stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall and reportedly weighed about 135 pounds. Regardless of his size, the prideful Marine was well-respected within the ranks and was seen as a tough, fearless man.
He earned two Medals of Honor — and almost got a third.
Sgt. Maj. Daly was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor during two separate conflicts. He earned the first one during the China Relief for killing numerous enemy combatants on his own. He received his second for heroic actions done during the invasion and occupation of Haiti. Alone, he crossed a river to retrieve a machine gun while under intense enemy fire.
He almost earned a third for his part in a counterattack against the enemy in the famous Battle of Belleau Wood. Instead, Daly was given the Distinguished Service Cross and, later, the Navy Cross.
Daly turned down an officer commission
For his outstanding leadership, the Marines offered Daly a commission. He turned it down by saying,
“Any officer can get by on his sergeants. To be a sergeant, you have to know your stuff. I’d rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”
That’s so badass!
The USS Dan Daly (DD-519)in honor of the Marine Corps legend.
On February 6, 1929, Daly hung up his rifle for good and received a hero’s parade that marched from Bedford Ave. to the Williamsburg Plaza in Brooklyn in honor of his decorated military service. From then on, Daly led a quiet life as a guard at a Wall Street bank.
He never married. It just goes to show that if the Corps wanted you to find a spouse, they’d issue one.