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Combat air controllers: Skydiving with dirt bikes and guns

(CNN) -- Airmen toss dirt bikes out the rear of an airborne plane.

Then, a so-called "bike chaser" jumps out after them.

When U.S. troops take control of an airfield in a combat zone, this often is how it begins.
Parachutes unfurl. The motorbikes float to earth along with the bike chaser, who quickly cranks one of the motorcycles to life. Soon, the airfield is secured and ready for incoming U.S. aircraft.

That's a typical mission for Air Force combat control teams, CCTs for short. And, along with seizing airfields, they help ground force commanders and pilots pinpoint targets in war zones. These kinds of special forces could be useful on the ground in Iraq, military analysts say, in the event of U.S. airstrikes against Islamic extremists.

The Navy has its SEALs.

The Army has Delta Force.

And the Air Force has combat controllers: a lesser known special ops ground force sometimes referred to as "ground pounders."

Maj. Charlie Hodges, who served with CCTs in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent a few minutes on the phone with CNN Wednesday to offer an inside perspective on these highly trained, elite squads.

"All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles," says Hodges. Sometimes going to work "involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot."

Combat controllers are trained to help fighter pilots hit their targets more accurately without killing innocent civilians or friendly troops.

That's a resource that military analysts say would be important now in Iraq's efforts to combat ISIS militants. Iraq's government has asked the United States for airstrikes against ISIS, as it encroaches on the nation's key cities. Limited airstrikes might be possible, analysts say, if U.S. forces were inserted where they could accurately identify targets. For days, military sources have said ISIS fighters are dispersed and mixed with local populations, making them difficult to target precisely with airstrikes.

Retired U.S. Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The New York Times this month, "It's feasible for the U.S. to play a limited role with air power with (special operations forces) combat controllers and limited advisers."

On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the United States had "positioned additional U.S. military assets in the region." "Because of increased intelligence resources," he said, the United States is "developing more information about potential targets associated with (ISIS), and going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it."

The President didn't offer any specifics.
Related story: Who are the U.S. advisers heading to Iraq?

Let's not forget that at the beginning of the Afghanistan war in 2001, ground controllers teamed up with Northern Alliance fighters to help U.S. pilots target and smash the Taliban.

It's surprising: In this age of superaccurate smart bombs and camera-enabled, missile-toting drones, Hodges says human targeting intelligence remains the gold standard.

"People think that because they see it in a Jason Bourne movie" that technology can do everything, Hodges says. "But I don't think we're ever going to have a totally,100% air-centric war. I think we're always going to need boots on the ground."

Their job ranks among the most dangerous in the military. Think about it: These guys regularly work near or inside the target zones of some of the most fearsome flying machines devised by man: the A-10 "warthog," the B-2 stealth bomber, the Apache helicopter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the AC-130 gunship.

'It can be kind of squirrelly'

Falling safely from the air to the ground with all that gear is no small feat. A typical drop comes with two motorcycles. Bike sizes often range from minibikes with 100 cubic centimeter engines to dirt bikes with 250 cubic centimeter engines. The motorcycles are dropped in packages called "bike bundles."

Small bikes have parachutes attached to the handlebars. "It's small enough you can literally pick it up and just throw it out the back of the aircraft," says Hodges. "And that's what they'll do."

Engines are limited to around 250 cubic centimeters, Hodges says, because the combat controllers are riding with 100 pounds of gear on their backs. "When you have your center of gravity that high, it can be kind of squirrelly," he says. "So we do a fair amount of training," starting with a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation course followed by intensive experience with various four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles and side-by-sides.

Bike chasers retrieve and mount the motorcycles and use them to quickly secure the air field runways and clear them of obstacles.

"Hopefully the bike's got an electric start — and not just a kickstarter," Hodges says. If the bike takes a tumble when it lands, that could temporarily mess up its fuel system, he says, making it troublesome to fire up with a kickstarter.

In addition to helping ID air targets, these troops also work to protect civilians and allied forces on the ground. "If they're being fired on by the enemy, we can bring in aircraft," Hodges says.

Controllers also have access to special airborne surveillance assets that give them "eyes in the sky" for U.S. ground troops who need to know "what's on the other side of that building," as Hodges put it.

Having eyes in the sky to take out the enemy is pretty instrumental.
Maj. Charlie Hodges, U.S. Air Force
"When you're pinned down and can't move, having eyes in the sky to take out the enemy is pretty instrumental in making sure your guys come back alive."
Air control for earthquake victims
Attached to the Air Force 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, these guys are FAA certified air traffic controllers.

In 2010, the CCTs deployed to Haiti, responding to a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left more than 230,000 people dead. At the airport in Port-au-Prince, "nobody was sure of the structural integrity of the tower," says Hodges. "So they set up in the infield and they landed 200 planes a day — all with notebook paper, a card table and handheld radios." Two-hundred planes a day rivals air traffic at some of the world's busiest airports, including Chicago O'Hare and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson. The camaraderie you might expect between pilots and combat controllers is strong, Hodges says. "It's always neat when you've worked with a guy here in the States and then go overseas and they call up and you recognize their call sign." There's also some professional, good-natured rivalry. "We remind them that they're flying around in their air-conditioned cockpits," he says. "We're on the ground in the heat and humidity, carrying 100 pounds on our backs."

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forcite helmet unsw

Robocop’s Helmet in real lifeAlfred Boyadgis, a design student of UNSW and 23-years of age has brought Robocop to life. Mr Boyadgis is presently enrolled as a student for honours in industrial design at the University of NSW. This prototype design of the helmet is his final year project. Boyadgis has designed a futuristic motorcycle helmet for police officers. It not only shows information in the visor but is a conglomeration of various high level technologies that presently seem impossible to exist.
Robocop’s Helmet in real life (2)The helmet is called Forcite and includes various amazing properties like having turn-by-turn GPS by voice and a display showing critical information right in front of the cops’ eyes. It can also link to and identify number-plate with an automatic recognition system; just stare at it for 5 seconds and the officer will know if the vehicle is registered or not. A built in radio channel and frequency tuner enables an officer to connect to the local area command, a nearby hospital or the fire brigade; a semi-modular visor system, helps increase vision and impact safety by more than 65 per cent.
With its amazing profile, the helmet has already gained popularity with the Chief of Police in Coral Gables in the US state of Florida, who wants to test it in the field and look for its potential for positioning of tactical response as well. The helmet is designed to take care of emergency response times in emergencies to save lives.
Robocop’s Helmet in real life 4In his discussions with the NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Mr Boyadgis says,”The way that helmets are designed at the moment is quite archaic,” he further added, “There’s no direct electronics in there and, if you think about it, everyone has a smartphone, and all the luxuries of smart technology aren’t with riders. They’re still using strap-on GPSs and they have no ability to communicate with each other in a safe manner with something that’s integrated.” Boyadgis thinks that the helmets, as made and used today, were made incorrectly however Forcite uses a material called D3 polyurethane which is much stronger and thus safer.
What inspired him to make this design was the hard work of the officers that went through a lot of stress wearing the usual helmets. They wanted better ways to deal with emergency situations and connect back to the control rooms. In order to celebrate ingenuity, creativity and sustainable engineering, Forcite is in the running for the James Dyson Award. It is on display at the Red Dot Design Museum in Singapore as part of the Red Dot Design Awards being in the top 30 out of 300,000 entries; it was also presented at UNSW’s LuminoCITY design exhibition in November. According to Mr Boyadgis,”It’s probably about a year off from being an actual, viable prototype”. It is estimated to cost around $790 and commercializing it will cost around $1.5 million.
Robocop’s Helmet in real life (1)
The Chief of Police in Coral Gables, Dennis Weiner, told Fairfax Media that he was interested in field testing the helmet and said, “As designed, this helmet offers significant additional capabilities to the motor officer. Besides improved radio communications delivery, it also provides for two-way flow of data between the communications centre and the officer.” Mr Weiner added that the improved field of vision will be able to help with the comfort issues experienced by officers wearing such helmets.

7 Secret Weapons That Were Never Completed

Mankind is in a never-ending arms race against himself, other nations, religions and whoever is deemed a threat to existence. This leads governments to spend enormous amounts of money on even the craziest of ides, often leading to ridiculous weapons that eventually disappoint or simply never get developed.

Lunar Nuclear Bomb

lunar nuclear bomb
Also known as Project 119-A, the plan was to Nuke the moon  to boost public morale in the United States after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race. This was never carried out, because they figures putting a man on the moon was better than trying to blow it up.

Iceberg Aircraft Carrier

Iceberg Aircraft Carrier
Also known as Project Habakkuk, the Brits developed a plan during World War II to construct an aircraft carrier out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice). It took them some time, but developments in the war effort and realizing what a huge waste of resources it might be sunk the idea.

The Flying Dorito

Flying Dorito
The A-12 Avenger II was also known as the flying Dorito. It was to be an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber replacement for the Grumman A-6 Intruder in the United States Navy and Marine Corps; The development of the A-12 was troubled by cost overruns and several delays, eventually being cancelled in 1991 after wasting more than $5 billion on the project.

Soviet Doomsday Device

Doomsday Bomb
Some say it’s a myth, but in the early 1990s several former high-ranking members of the Soviet military and the Central Committee of the Communist Party in a series of interviews to the American defense contractor BDM admitted the existence of the Dead Hand, making somewhat contradictory statements concerning its deployment.
What is it? Possibly still fully operational, a nuclear-control system that can automatically trigger the launch of the Russian Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) if a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity and overpressure sensors, creating a fail-deadly deterrence.

The Un-landable Plane

XFV Salmon
Instead of having an aircraft take off only from carriers, the US government wanted fighters on all their ships. From that, the XFV Salmon was born, a plane with landing gear on its tail. After development and some thinking, the plan to have a fighter jet on every ship was scrapped, because pilots couldn’t land backwards. The jet was also much slower than other contemporary fighters and was too complicated to fly.

Intruder From the Future

Intruder From the Future
Imagine a bomber, designed to carry atomic bombs, that can fly at an altitude of 15 miles and three times the speed of sound. The B-70 Valkyrie was supposed to be the aviation dream from the future, but while it was developed, the improvements of high-altitude surface-to-air missiles, the change to low-level penetration bombing, the program’s high development costs, and the introduction of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBMs) led to the cancellation of the B-70 program in 1961. Two prototypes were eventually used; one of them crashed following a midair collision in 1966.

The Thunderscreech

The Thunderscreech
The XF-84H was an experimental turboprop aircraft, powered by a a turbine engine that was mated to a supersonic propeller. Too many aerodynamic decencies and the fact that it was the loudest aircraft ever made; the sound of its engine starting up could be heard 25 miles away, along with blowing out eardrums and causing severe nausea among the ground crews led to its cancellation.

US Military Is Bringing Iron Man To Life

US Iron man suit

US Military bringing Iron Man to LifeHow many Iron Man fans do we have here? Did they do a good job with the recent films or what? Robert Downey Jr. has totally rocked the movie and Iron Man is enjoying an exponential increase in its fan base. It’s like a dream come true for many people; a suit equipped with technology that's out of this world and all the cool gadgets that come along with the obvious benefits of the suit. Perhaps it was these benefits which have inspired the United States Military and has resulted in the commissioning of a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit.
US Military bringing Iron Man to Life 2The suit is designed to enhance human abilities while providing the user with some superhuman abilities as well. These abilities include; Night vision, enhanced strength and, the best part, protection from bullets. So basically you’d soon see users of this suit walking through gunfire without any fear of harm.
Let’s take a look into the design of these suits. So basically we are going to have an on-board computer installed on each suit (kind of obvious) and this computer will respond in real-time to particular situations and will provide the user with improved situation awareness. The suit will be employing the use of liquid armor that is being developed at MIT and is known to transform from a ‘liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied.’ This liquid armor is what will be making the suit bulletproof. The ultimate goal is indeed full-body ballistic protection. Apart from that, a panel resting against the skin would detect and respond to body’s core temperature, skin temperature, hydration levels and heart rate. Basic life support will be provided by the suit as well it would include oxygen, air and heat.
US Military bringing Iron Man to Life 3Although US Army has taken Iron Man concept to reality, it isn’t the first one to do so. Another Iron Man inspired creator is Elon Musk who has managed to build a lab which relies on Leap Motion controller, an Oculus Rift and a projector. Although he himself has admitted that there is not much practical value of the system, he is still hopeful that this is a landmark for next level technological breakthrough. Fingers crossed for the Army suit though, which would definitely take defense technology to new levels.

Top 10 Futuristic Weapons Being Developed Today

future bug 300x300 Top 10 Futuristic Weapons Being Developed Today

Futuristic weaponry is far from reserved for SiFi films on TV anymore and military research around the world are pushing weaponry that is increasingly destructive. If we thought the 1940’s atomic bomb was devastating wait for the next generation of weapons technology.

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I think when Joerg fine-tunes this and he’s happy with the production model, he is going to sell a ton of these slingshot/bow hybrids. This slingshot bow is ridiculously powerful given its size, you can get full sized bows that aren’t this powerful… Something like this would be a great choice for preppers etc as it could easily be stored in a bug-out-bag with some arrows or even just arrow heads if you are going real lightweight. I like Joerg’s idea of attaching a fishing reel as this would be awesome to fish with!
I think the best thing about this is that it is easy to replicate and build something similar at home with a slingshot, whisker-biscuit and some super strong bands

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