Tag Archive | Military

US Air Force’s flying saucer plans declassified

Recently declassified documents reveal that the US Air Force was working on a flying saucer-like craft in 1956. “Project 1794” was in research and development at the USAF’s Aeronautical Systems Division, and was contracted out to Canadian company Avro Aircraft Limited. The craft was designed to be a vertical take-off and landing plane that used propulsion jets to steer, and could reach a top speed between Mach 3 and Mach 4, with a ceiling of over 100,000 feet and a range of about 1,000 nautical miles. The Project 1794, Final Development Summary Report reveals that the project was going well, and would “provide a much superior performance to that estimated at the start of contract negotiations.”

The report also estimated the cost of the project at $3,168,000 over a roughly two year period, which would be about $26.6 million today. The project was eventually dropped, and, as Wired points out, the USAF’s other attempts to build flying saucers were considerably less effective in practice than on paper. However, it does make one wonder what other classified projects the USAF is developing using today’s technology.


DARPA CAAT is Like a Tank that Floats on Water

Whether or not you support the investment in military technology, you have to admit that DARPA comes up with some amazing technologies. A recent DARPA project is the Captive Air Amphibious Transporter (CAAT), which works much like a tank, except it floats on water.


Using air-filled pontoons attached to tank-like treads, the CAAT can drive across the surface of water or swamps at a high rate of speed. When out of the water, the amphibious vehicle can drive directly onto shore – even onto uneven surfaces. The vehicle is designed as part of DARPA’s Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform, which is designed to help support disaster relief from offshore ships. So I imagine these would be brought in on larger boats, and then drive into shore. It’s an impressive sight when you see it in action:

At this point, what you’re looking at here is a 1/5th scale prototype of the CAAT, and it’s not clear if it will eventually make it into full-scale production.

U.S. Military’s Big Plan For Renewable Energy Projects

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to open up 16 million acres of its land for renewable energy development, which it hopes will create a boom of solar, wind and geothermal projects and provide clean power to military bases, the department announced Monday.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on promoting renewable energy generation projects on public land that has historically been restricted for military uses. About 13 million of those 16 million acres are located in western U.S., where a lot of solar, wind and geothermal power development already has been taking place on private and other types of public land.


The administration has been making a strong pushfor renewable energy development by funding both technology research and power generation projects since the President Obama took office in 2009. The administration wants to accomplish two key goals by supporting renewable energy: creating jobs and finding alternative, cleaner and more abundant power sources domestically.

Last month, Salazar unveiled a roadmap for speeding up solar power project development on 285,000 acres of public land in six western states.  we

The government support for renewable energy has indeed propelled the development of advanced materials and equipment and the construction ofsome of the largest solar power plants in the country. It also has attracted vocal critics, notably Republicans, who have used the bankruptcy of government-funded solar panel maker Solyndra last fall to accuse the administration of political favoritism and mismanaging public money.

The Monday announcement by the Defense and Interior departments involved not only land set aside for the military but also offshore locations near military installations. The goal is to promote onshore and offshore energy projects, such as erecting wind turbines in the sea.

The MOU calls for the military and the the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to run a pilot project to oversee solar power plant development at military bases in Arizona and California.

The military has been vocal about its support of renewable energy, from electricity to transportation fuels, that it says will help it become more self-sufficient and reduce its vulnerabilities in the battle fields.

The vast majority of the military bases rely on power from nearby utilities, and they depend on backup generators during blackouts, said Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, during a conference call on Monday. The military is keenly interested in creating “microgrids” for its bases. A microgrid is a mostly self-sufficient base of power generation and storage, which allows for banking the electricity (using batteries or other technologies) for later use. A microgrid can still be connected to the regular electric grid, but it will take power from local utilities only when its own power plants aren’t able to generate enough to meet the demand.

“Renewable energy will allow a military base to maintain critical operations for weeks or months if an electric power grid goes down,” she said.

The military wants to attract developers and private investments for building solar, wind and other renewable electricity power projects on its land. It plans to lease the land to developers and buy some or all of the power from each project for its own use, and any unused power will be sold local utilities, Robyn said. Each of the military services plans on getting 1 gigawatt of renewable energy installed near its bases by 2025.

Photographs of Secret Government Technology from the 20th Century

Thought you knew everything about secret government projects in the 20th Century? Think again. Macedonian artist Damjan Cvetkov-Dimitrov created this series of simple, but surprisingly compelling, photoshopperies of “ancient high tech.” Each combines historical photographs from World War I, II and the Cold War with evocative bits of CGI. The effect is slightly cheesy, but also kind of believable.

I especially love the contrast between the government workers in their hats and trenchcoats, milling around with old-fashioned cameras, staring at throbbing geometric shapes.

About this image, Cvetkov-Dimitrov writes:

In 1919, a relatively secret project by the British government was underway. Very few images are available since most of the information that was saved, was quickly scrapped.

And then there’s this odd alternate history [click image to see non-wonky gif]:

The Eko project was Japan’s answer to the looming threat of communism faced on a daily basis by japanese fishermen who had nets near the border with the Soviet Union. Much of the economy of Japan was based on export of raw fish and rice. Since it was such an important commodity to the Japanese and such a vital export element, billions of yen were invested in a shape shifting reflective ball that was determined would terrify those with socialist flirtations. Two years after the project was first tested, the sphere proved very effective, even so that it caused the fishermen to adopt it as their symbol, which the japanese government later implemented it into their flag along with the colors red and white, even though everything was monochromatic at that period of history.

You can see more bizarre madness on Damjan Cvetkov-Dimitrov’s site

Sunken Nazi Submarine Found Just Off the Coast of Nantucket

It has been well documented that German submarines came disturbingly close to U.S. shores during World War II — but just how close was made all the more apparent by the recent discovery of a German U-550 sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean a mere 70 miles south of Nantucket.

Back in the Spring of 1944, an Allied convoy started to make its way across the Atlantic on its way to Britain. One of the boats, a tanker filled with 140,000 barrels of gasoline, started to lag behind, leaving it vulnerable to a German U-550 submarine patrolling the area. It torpedoed the tanker, and then slipped underneath to hide.

Alerted to its presence, the USS Joyce hit back with a series of depth charges, forcing the sub to the surface. The German sailors manned their deck guns, but the USS Gandy joined in by returning fire and ramming right into it. The USS Peterson then finished the job by sending another barrage of depth charges, sending the U-550 and its crew to the bottom of the ocean. It hadn’t been seen again — at least not until last Monday July 23.

According to the Telegraph, a privately funded team led by New Jersey lawyer Joe Mazraani has confirmed discovery of the submarine in deep waters off the coast of Nantucket. It was their second attempt in two years to find the U-boat, with some team members having been on the case for the past two decades. From the article:

The U-550 is one of several World War II-era German U-boats that have been discovered off the US coast, but it’s the only one that sank in that area, Mazraani said. He said it’s been tough to find largely because military positioning of the battle was imprecise, and searchers had only a general idea where the submarine was when it sank. Kozak noted that the site is far offshore and has only limited windows of good weather.

The team towed a side-scan sonar vessel in a mow-the-lawn pattern over the search area and found the U-550 after covering 100 square miles of ocean, between the trip this year and last year, Mr Kozak said.

Just the nose of U-boat was visible on sonar on the first pass, but the team was delirious after the second pass. when the sonar image made it obvious they’d found it, Mazraani said. Quick dives to the wreck to beat bad weather confirmed the find with pictures.

Mr Mazraani is cagey about the vessel’s precise location, saying only that it’s in deep water. Mazraani’s said his best estimate was that the team spent thousands of dollars of its own money on the expedition. He joked that no one on the team, whose members range in age from the mid-20s to mid-50s, stands to make money from the find unless someone writes a book.

Mr Mazraani said the next step is to contact any sailors or their families from the escort vessels, the tanker and the German U-boat to share the news and show the pictures. Another trip to the site is coming, he said, adding the investigation has just started.

Read more about it here.

Images via Telegraph.

Watch as these five soldiers stand directly beneath an atomic blast


Back at the dawn of the atomic age, many Americans were rightfully worried about the effects of nuclear fallout. So, in a (failed) attempt to reassure people that atomic weapons were nothing to get in a huff about, the U.S. Air Force recruited five volunteers (plus one photographer who didn’t have much of a say in the matter) to stand directly beneath a 2-kiloton nuclear detonation. The result is a video that you won’t soon forget.

The video was commissioned by Col. Arthur B. Oldfield, the public information officer for the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs. It was through the video, and its (unintentionally comical) commentary, that he hoped to show the relative safety of a low-grade nuclear exchange in the atmosphere.

The exercise happened on July 19, 1957 in a deserted area about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. In the video, the soldiers can been seen standing approximately 18,500 feet directly beneath the atomic blast (the video claims that it’s at 10,000 feet, but that’s incorrect). And in what appears to be a rather macabre gesture, they stand next to a sign declaring, “Ground Zero: Population 5”.

Writing in NPR, Robert Krulwich (who many of you might know from the popular Radiolabshow), offers his perspective:

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Watching this film, there are many things to wonder (and worry) about, but one of the stranger moments is how the bomb bursts in complete silence. We see a sudden white flash. It makes the soldiers flinch. Then there’s a pause, a pregnant quiet that lasts for a beat, then another and then – there’s a roar. (“There it is! The ground wave!”), after which the sky above seems to go black and the air turns to fire.

Basic physics explains the pause. Because light travels quicker than sound, you see light first, you hear sound later. In most movies (even in government-released atomic bomb blast films), the sound is artificially time shifted to make the flash and the sound appear simultaneous.

Perhaps the best quote comes from Col. Bruce, who seconds after the explosion declared, “My only regrets right now are…that everybody couldn’t have been out here at ground zero with us.”

Check out Krulwich’s entire article, which features a second video demonstrating what an actual nuclear explosion sounds like.

Inset image via NPR/Atom Central/YouTube.

US Navy deploys SeaFox submarines to Persian Gulf for universal mine control

Tasked with mine detection and eradication in the Persian Gulf, the US Navy has sent a fleet of unmanned submarines to help keep the Strait of Hormuz open in Iran. Dubbed the SeaFox, each vehicle houses an underwater TV camera, sonar and a dose of explosives. Tipping the scales at less than 100 pounds, the subs are about four feet in length and are controlled via fiber optic cable that sends the live feed back to the captain of each ship. SeaFoxes can dive to depths of 300 meters and boasts a top speed of six knots. The units are thrust into action from helicopters, small rubber boats and off the rear of minesweepers and are capable of disposing of the aforementioned weapons of both the floating and drifting sort. There is one small catch: the $100,000 submarine destroys itself in the process, making each successful trek a suicide mission of sorts.

Stunning Image of US Navy Nuclear Supercarrier Skidding Like Crazy Over the Atlantic

This photo of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is incredible—and it looks like a lot of fun too. I imagine the helmsman pushing the rudder and whispering “wowwheeeee!”

According to J.D. Levite—our intern and ex-US Navy sailor who spent nine years on one of these carriers—”it’s like a car skid, they ramp the carrier up to full power and then push the rudder to make it turn. That sort of turn usually results in a 10-15 degree list. It’s not much compared to small ships that’ll list 40-50 degrees, but huge for a carrier.”

It is! Everything on the deck has to be tightly secured for this operation. Otherwise it would fall off into the water.

The photo was taken last Sunday, July 8, from an airplane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. The USS Harry S. Truman is “conducting sea trials in collaboration with Norfolk Naval Shipyard to train Sailors and ensure operability of equipment and systems while at sea.” [Flickr]

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young

Video from Space Shows Army Creating an Island Off the Coast of the US [Video]

The Army has been creating an island since 1998 on the Northeast coast of the United States. Slowly, the US Army Corps of Engineers built concrete dikes to establish its perimeter and then have spent more than decade filling them with mud.

Its name: Poplar island.

Fortunately, no weird stuff is going on there (that we know of, anyway). Poplar Island, which is being rebuilt in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, is 30 miles south of Baltimore Harbor, where all the mud is coming from.

Right now, the island is a wildlife sanctuary, home of 170 species of birds “including terns and bald eagles” as well as hundreds of diamondback terrapins.

The images for this time-lapse were taking by a Landsat satellite, which is managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. [US Army and Flickr]

Video from Space Shows Army Creating an Island Off the Coast of the US

US Army breaking up with A160 Hummingbird drone-copter, says it’s too high m…

It’s not me, it’s you. The US Army’s dalliance with Boeing’s A160 Hummingbird drone got one step closer to Splitsville after the military branch issued a stop-work order for the project. Initially scheduled to see action in Afghanistan starting this July, the chopper-drone turned plenty of heads thanks to aDARPA-developed Argus-IS imaging system with a 1.8-gigapixel camera capable of spying on ground targets from 20,000 feet. The honeymoon period between the Army and the A160 is apparently over, however, thanks to a host of issues. These included wiring problems as well as excessive vibration that caused an A160 to crash earlier this year due to a transmission mount failure. The problems not only increased risk and caused delays, but also led program costs to helicopter out of control — a big no-no given Uncle Sam’s recent belt-tightening. In the meantime, the Army is reportedly checking out the K-MAX, though it’s important to note that this unmanned chopper specializes in cargo and doesn’t have the A160’s eyes.