Thanks for checking in!

I started this blog to keep in touch with my family and friends during my time attending Commissioned Officer Training (COT) and the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course (JASOC) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. Now I'm done with training and back in the "real" world, but I'll keep updating this blog with any interesting developments from my JAG career.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

JASOC Week 2, Part 3: The McKinley Anti-Climatic Lab and the DOMINATOR

After the exciting morning spent with working dogs, tasers and shooting simulators, we headed to the largest indoor weather-testing facility in the US -- the McKinley Climatic Laboratory.  The lab is basically a huge hangar souped up with all kinds of fancy equipment that lets the operators replicate any weather condition, from blizzards and freezing rain to blistering desert heat and sandstorms.  The size of the lab allows the military to test huge planes, but it's also available for private companies to test their cars and planes (for a fee ranging from about  $10,000 to $40,000 per day, depending on how complex a testing process they require).  There is a huge dial on the outside of the lab that shows what the temperature is inside; as we drove up, it was set at 32 degrees.  We all were salivating at the thought of escaping the nasty Florida heat and stepping into a huge freezer.  As we stepped off the bus, we all imagined we'd see something like this: 

Unfortunately, we didn't get that.  There was not only no plane, but the temperature felt like a mildly pleasant 75 degrees instead of the freezer we were all expecting.  Apparently, the lab was doing some freezing rain tests on a private jet engine, but the tests were not going on that day.  And apparently the big temperature dial on the outside of the lab doesn't actually reflect the temperature inside the lab; it is set by hand and it isn't always accurate.  As we walked around the hangar, we took to calling the lab the "McKinley Anti-Climatic Laboratory."  That said, it was still pretty cool.

Those huge yellow fans behind me are used to blow the freezing rain into the jet engine.

From the McKinley lab we went to the Taconi Room, which houses a lot of specialized weapons, including some that are in development.  Our tour guide explained how smart bombs were developed, discussed the different kind of penetrating bombs dropped by Air Force planes, and gave us details about some unmanned aerial vehicles in the works, one of which is awesomely called The Dominator.


Some smart engineers built this jamming signal with $40 worth of equipment from Radio Shack and a Coke can.   It has a reach of 1 nautical mile.  Terrorists often have much more sophisticated equipment - underscoring the importance of having smart bombs.

The white bulb-like part at the end of this tail contains the "smart" technology that allows bombs to avoid jamming signals.

This bomb is used to attack chemical plants and other facilities that we may not want to completely destroy because of the chance of putting harmful pollutants into the atmisphere.  It splits up in the air and shoots hundreds of darts through the target.
More from Florida later.  Tomorrow we go to Hurlburt Field, where Air Force Special Operations Command (the command overseeing the elite special ops Air Force personnel) is located!

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