This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs - We Are The Mighty
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This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs

For decades, MREs have been a staple in military culture as troops have lived off the nourishment the bagged rations have provided.


At the U.S. Army Natick Labs in Massachusetts, top food scientists and chefs have researched and developed ways to improve the legendary military MRE.

Their work has contributed to making the meals tasty while keeping the ration’s shelf life up to three years at 80-degrees.

Related: 11 regional American foods we’d like to see in MREs

These researchers did everything from examining the molecules in the food matrix to reaching out to the troops themselves for input about the food they consume.

During the durability testing phase, MREs take a beating to prove they can hold up to intense environments —that’s before they’re even shipped off the troops who need them.

Developing each MRE requires plenty of time and careful construction to support operational habits like being dropped out of C-17 planes — sometimes at an altitude of 1,000 feet.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
These soldiers load up an MRE supply to transport them to troops stationed on the ground.

The chef’s mission is to create full individual meals to give that troop a sense of being home through their variety of entrees and sides.

Once the MREs reach the hands of hungry troops, the items within the pouch can be quickly heated up for a hot meal or negotiations can take place so that hungry service members can make their favorite blend.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
The Air Force takes a moment to chow down on their issued MREs.

On deployment, meals are rarely consumed in an individual setting, but in a supportive group — as troops use their mealtime as a way of reflecting on their life back home through a warm pouch of chili mac.

Also Read: Amazon could soon deliver its own version of MREs

Check out the very first full-episode of Meals Ready to Eat below to see how military cuisine is created and tested in high-tech kitchens then shipped to the troops on the front lines:

(Meals Ready to Eat, KCET)
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This Harlem Hellfighter single-handedly held off a dozen German soldiers

Sgt. Henry Johnson received the Medal of Honor for his actions taken on May 15, 1918, when he beat off a German attack with grenades, his rifle, a knife and, finally, his bare hands to protect his unit, the “Harlem Hellfighters.”


The Harlem Hellfighters were a “colored unit” attached to French forces because segregationist policies at the time prevented black and white soldiers to serve side by side. Pvt. Henry Johnson was assigned to sentry duty on the night of Feb. 12 with Pvt. Needham Roberts. The pair were attacked by a raiding party of at least 12 Germans.

Read more about how this Harlem Hellfighter defended his fellow soldier and his unit here.

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This is how many of some of the most heroic WW2 planes are left

According to a 2014 report by USA Today, 413 World War II vets die each day on average. However, the men (and women) who served in uniform are not the only things vanishing with time.


Many of the planes flown in World War II are also departing one by one from the skies.

In one sense, it may not be surprising – after all, World War II has been over for 72 years. But here are the production totals of some of the most famous planes: There were 20,351 Spitfires produced in World War II. Prior to a crash at a French air show near Verdun in June, there were only 54 flying. That’s less than .3 percent of all the Spitfires ever built.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. The Spitfire served with the USAAF in the Mediterranean Theater from 1942-1944. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.

Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.

Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.

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This training film showed how American machine guns outshot German machine guns

Believe it or not, folks, gun debates raged long before there was an Internet. Though in some cases, it was rather important to “diss” some guns. Like in World War II.


This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
(WATM Archive)

The Nazis had some pretty respectable designs. The MP40, a submachine gun chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge, with a 32-round magazine was pretty close to their standard submachine gun.

Compare that to the American M1928 Thompson submachine gun, which fired the .45 ACP round and could fire a 30-round magazine or drum holding 50 or 100 rounds, or the M3 “Grease Gun,” also firing the .45 ACP round and with a 30-round magazine.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
(WATM Archive)

Two of the major Nazi machine guns were the MG34 and the MG42. Both fired the 7.92x57mm round. They could fire very quickly – as much as 1,500 rounds per minute in the case of the MG42. The major machine guns the Americans used were the M1917 and M1919. Both fired the .30-06 round and could shoot about 500 rounds a minute.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
German paratroopers open fire with a MG 42 general purpose machine gun. German Bundesarchiv photo.

That said, the primary Nazi rifle, the Mauser Karabiner 98k, was outclassed by the American M1 Garand. The Germans also didn’t have a weapon to match the M1 Carbine, a semi-auto rifle that had a 15 or 30-round magazine.

And the Walther P38 and Luger didn’t even come close to the M1911 when it came to sidearms. That much is indisputable.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

But it isn’t all about the rate of fire in full-auto – although it probably is good for devout spray-and-pray shooters. It’s about how many rounds are on target – and which put the bad guys down. The German guns may not have been all that when it came to actually hitting their targets, at least according to the United States Army training film below.


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This stunning video about the Hyuga is crazy impressive

The Hyuga is the lead ship in Japan’s first class of aircraft carriers since World War II.


Okay, they call them “helicopter destroyers,” but put the Hyuga next to a Kongo-class destroyer and a Nimitz-class carrier — or even a World War II Essex — what does Hyuga look like?

According to MilitaryFactory.com, Hyuga displaces 14,000 tons — about as much as the carrier USS Ranger (CV 4). The Hyuga holds 11 helicopters, typically a mix of SH-60J Seahawk and MCH-101 helicopters. Normally, she carries three SH-60s and one MCH-101. The similarly-sized Giuseppe Garibaldi, in service with the Italian Navy, is capable of operating AV-8B Harriers.

In essence, since the Hyuga entered service, Japan has quietly carried out a comeback as a carrier navy.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
JS Hyuga (DDH) with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)

However, she also carries a suite of weapons, including a 16-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that carries RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs. This makes her name pretty appropriate. The previous Hyuga was a hybrid battleship-carrier that didn’t work out so well.

Hyuga entered the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in 2009. Since then it has been used for a number of missions, including exercises off Korea in the wake of North Korean provocations earlier this year. The Marines landed V-22 Ospreys on the Hyuga in 2013, and also during earthquake relief operations in 2016.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Hyuga has one sister ship, the Ise, which entered service in 2011. Two larger “helicopter destroyers,” the Izumo and Kaga, are also in service. The Kaga was commissioned earlier this year, while the Izumo was commissioned in 2015. Both of those vessels displace 19,500 tons, about the size of the British Invincible-class carriers.

A video about the Hyuga — and why she is so important to Japan — is available below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7Rf3zEfAcY
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This is how you move a World War I railway howitzer to a museum

In World War I, there was a need to hit targets either pretty far off, or which were very hard to destroy.


At the time, aircraft weren’t much of an option – in fact, they really had a hard time carrying big bombs. Often, an aircrewman would drop mortar rounds from a cockpit. So, how does one take out a hard target? They used naval guns mounted on railway cars.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
‘Boche-Buster’, a 250-ton 18-inch railway gun, Catterick, 12 December 1940. The gun later travelled down to Kent to take up position at Bishopsbourne on the Elham to Canterbury Line, taken over by the Army for the duration. (Imperial War Museum photo)

Many of these guns came from obsolete armored cruisers – the most common of the rail guns was the BL 12-inch railway Howitzer. The British pressed 81 of these guns into service, and many lasted into World War II. These guns are obsolete now, rendered useless by the development of better aircraft for tactical strikes, from World War II’s P-47 Thunderbolt to today’s A-10 Thunderbolt II, as well as tactical missile and rocket systems like the ATACMS, Scud, and MGM-52 Lance.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
An ATACMS being launched by a M270. | Wikimedia Commons

The gun the British were moving didn’t actually serve in World War I. According to a release by the British Ministry of Defence, the BL 18-inch howitzer just missed the Great War, but it did serve in World War II as a coastal defense gun – albeit it never fired a shot in anger, since the Nazis never were able to pull off Operation Sea Lion. The gun was used for RD purposes until 1959, when it was retired and sent to the Royal Artillery headquarters.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
BL 18 inch Railway Howitzer, seen in Spoorwegmuseum, Utrecht in the Netherlands. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 2013, it was briefly loaded to the Dutch railway museum. Later that year, it went to the Royal Armouries artillery museum. It is one of 12 railway guns that survive. The video below from the Smithsonian channel shows how the British Army – with the help of some contractors – moved this gigantic gun.

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Watch a WWII Vet nail 3 head shots from over a half-mile away

Ted Gundy was in his teens when he fought at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. He had been selected for the role of sniper after reporting to his unit in Belgium just before the German attack that would become the Battle of the Bulge, and he provided sniper cover for his rifle company during the battle.


At 86 years-old, Gundy heard about modern snipers hitting shots at over 1,000 yards and decided he wanted to take a shot at that range. He contacted Shooting USA — which set up the event on his behalf — getting him an invitation to shoot at Fort Benning with a sniper team from the Army Marksmanship Unit that has won two international sniper competitions.

Gundy takes three shots at 300 yards with a replica of his 1903 Springfield A-4 Sniper Rifle from the war before taking another three shots at 1,000 yards with a more modern rifle. (If you just want to see the longest shots, skip to 6:10 in the video below).

Shooting USA has the full story behind the event with Gundy here.

NOW: Video: Iraq war vet relives his most intent gunfight

OR: The Air Force wants to shoot bad guys with laser guns

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The first ‘Memphis Belle’ was actually shot down before it completed 25 missions

You’ve probably heard of the Memphis Belle, especially after the 1990 film starring Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.


That film took a lot of liberties with the story of the actual B-17 that was the subject of a documentary done during World War II, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress.”

But history can also be very malleable, especially in the hands of Hollywood.

When Hollywood director William Wyler was doing a documentary for the U.S. government on the first Allied bomber crew to complete a 25-mission “tour” over Europe, he took some liberties. Why? Because it was World War II, and the bombing campaign over Europe was a bloody affair. In fact, the Directors Guild of America notes that during the filming of the documentary, cinematographer and World War I vet Harold J. Tannebaum was killed when the Nazis shot down the B-24 Liberator he was in.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
The Memphis Belle in the sky, June 1943. (USAF photo)

According to the memoirs of Robert Morgan, the pilot of the Memphis Belle, Wyler had picked a different bomber for the feature film, a B-17 known as “Invasion 2nd.” That plane – and five others – were shot down on an April 17, 1943, mission to Bremen. The Memphis Belle was chosen to replace Invasion 2nd – Morgan related how he was told that another plane had a back-up film crew on a bomber called “Hell’s Angels” in case the Memphis Belle went down. Wyler actually filmed parts of multiple missions for the documentary – the mission portrayed on the film was actually the Memphis Belle’s 24th mission.

Of course, the Memphis Belle did complete the tour – and she got all the accolades of being the “first” to do so. The crew of Hell’s Angels, though, actually flew their 25th mission a week before the Memphis Belle flew her 25th mission. The documentary, though, became a classic.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
The Memphis Belle on a War Bond tour. (USAF photo)

Wyler went on to direct a documentary about the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt’s operations in Italy, titled, “Thunderbolt!” He was wounded by an exploding anti-aircraft shell, losing some of his hearing.

After the war, he went on to direct the classic films “The Best Years of Our Lives” — a movie about veterans who returned home that won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director — and “Ben Hur,” featuring former B-25 gunner Charlton Heston, which won 11 Oscars.

Today, “Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress” is available via the Internet Archive and Netflix is also streaming the film. It is also on Youtube. Feel free to watch it below. The Memphis Belle is currently being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.

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Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs:

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This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

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  The sport of gladiator fighting in the arenas of ancient Rome was just as popular as boxing and MMA are today. Gladiator combat was slightly more gangsta, though, seeing as how those warriors fought to the death during brutal tournaments.

Some historians believe the gladiator games started as ceremonial offerings for the funerals of wealthy aristocrats. At the height of the sport, the fighters were mostly made up of prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals, but they could even be pitted against animals like tigers or crocodiles.

The Coliseum in Rome was even home to aquatic battles, when the arena was flooded and fighters attacked from boats.

They lived in privately-owned schools that doubled as their training and prison grounds. Reportedly, after Spartacus led an uprising in 73 B.C., the empire began to regulate the gladiator schools to prevent further rebellions.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

During the games, each gladiator fought with various weapons and levels of armor.

A “Secutor” was a heavily armored fighter who competed using a short sword. A “Retiarius” battled his foes wearing light armor, a trident, and occasionally a weighted net. The “Vremea” wore a helmet with a stylized fish on the crest.

The gladiators ate a high energy diet consisting of barley, beans, oatmeal, dry fruit, and ash, which was believed to fortify the body. Very few of them fought in more than 10 battles or made it past the age of 30 before getting killed.

The Roman empire housed more than 400-arenas and displayed over 8,000 gladiator deaths per year. Learn more about their fighting in the video at the top.

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Watch USMC footage of artillery strikes on ISIS in Syria

US Marines have been on the ground in Syria since March, when a detachment from an amphibious task force arrived in the country, where they joined US special-operations forces to support US partner forces.


The Marine units deployed to Syria included elements of an artillery battery that can fire 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers.

The military has already released footage and photos of Marines in Syria firing their howitzers in support of local coalition partners during their advance on Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital in northwest Syria.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs

“The Marines have been conducting 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Coalition’s local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the Defense Department said at the time that footage was released.

During the first week of July, the US military released the first footage of Marine artillery units striking an ISIS target on May 14, destroying what the Defense Department called an ISIS artillery position in support of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The M777 howitzer has a range of 15 to 25 miles, and the artillery units in Syria have moved at least once to support the ongoing fight against ISIS there, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in April.
“The fight evolves, so they’re moving to where they can best provide support based on the capability of the weapons system,” Neller said. “The commanders there understand the capability, and they’ll reposition them as required in order to provide the fire support and other effects they need to do to make the campaign successful, ultimately.”

Marine artillery units previously deployed to Iraq to support the fight against ISIS there were set up in a fixed position — though they came under fire just hours into their deployment in March 2016.

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.)

US forces in Syria are aiding local partner forces in what Defense Secretary James Mattis has called an “annihilation campaign,” seeking to surround and destroy ISIS fighters — foreign fighters in particular — “so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” Mattis told reporters in May.

Mattis “asked me and the military chain-of-command to make a conscious effort not to allow ISIS fighters to just flee from one location to another,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Defense News in June.

“Our commanders on the ground have tried to meet that goal of annihilating the enemy in order to mitigate the risk of these terrorists showing up someplace else.”

This is the research and development that goes into producing MREs
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

Fighting to retake Raqqa has already begun, and over 2,000 ISIS militants are thought to remain there.

US special-operations forces are already working with Arab and Kurdish partners to vet and train a force to secure the city during and after the effort to oust ISIS. Questions remain about how Raqqa and the surrounding area will be secured, as well as about how territory wrested from ISIS around Syria will be divided among the various factions operating in the country.

The US-led coalition and its partner forces have already come into conflict with Syrian pro-regime forces, which are backed by Iran and Russia. Southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders has been a flashpoint for these confrontations, though a local ceasefire has recently gone into effect there.

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