Last updated: August 15. 2014 1:52PM - 64 Views
Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist



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The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4812, the Honor Flight Act. The bill would codify the process by which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans traveling to visit war memorials built and dedicated to honor their service in Washington D.C.


Expedited screening services will save veterans’ time and show them their proper respect and appreciation.


“The ‘Honor Flight Act’ is a measure that seeks to pay a debt of gratitude to a group of Americans who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we have today,” said Cedric Richmond (D-LA). “Although we may never be able to fully repay our veterans for their bravery, our national memorials bring into focus their lasting contribution and their impact on American history. It just makes sense that they are treated with the reverence and gratitude they deserve when visiting memorials erected in their honor.”


The Honor Flight Act of 2014 is supported by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization that works with airlines and other non-profits to transport American veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials built and dedicated in honor of their service. On July 23the bill was received in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.


In the interim the nation’s oldest living female World War II veteran has finally made it to Washington to see the monuments and memorials. Lucy Coffey, now 108, is a veteran of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II.


The corps took her to Japan before she came home and settled in San Antonio. This weekend, Coffey got to make another trip, this time to see the monuments of the nation’s capital. She flew first-class from San Antonio on a trip arranged in part by an Honor Flight group in Texas.


On July 26, Coffey visited the World War II Memorial and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery before heading to the White House for a tour.


Imagine if you could transform a dumb bullet into a guided missile? That’s what the Pentagon did earlier this year, successfully firing .50-caliber bullets that steered themselves in mid-flight. It has just released a video trumpeting the tip-top targeting of its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program


“This video [time.com/2979962/pentagon-selfguided-bullet-innovative-sniper-weapon] shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed,” the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says.


EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits. The Pentagon wants the capability for its snipers, making their goal of “one shot, one kill” even more likely.


The April 21 test by DARPA contractor Teledyne Scientific & Imaging shows the new bullet homing in on its target by riding a laser beam aimed by the sniper team at the desired target. Vanes on its body — and an onboard optical receiver — allow it to maneuver in mid-flight.


The highly-classified EXACTO program began six years ago.


“The ability to more accurately prosecute targets at significantly longer range would provide a dramatic new capability to the U.S. military,” DARPA’S original program description said. “The use of an actively controlled bullet will make it possible to counter environmental effects such as crosswinds and air density, and prosecute both stationary and moving targets while enhancing shooter covertness.”


Such a weapon, DARPA said when it launched the program, could employ “fire and forget” technologies including “fin-stabilized projectiles, spin-stabilized projectiles, internal and/or external aero-actuation control methods, projectile guidance technologies, tamper proofing, small stable power supplies, and advanced sighting, optical resolution and clarity technologies.”


The Pentagon wants the new gun to be no heavier than the combined 46-lb. weight of the current $11,500 M107 sniper rifle and all its associated gear (including ammo, tripod, scope and slide rules for target calculations).


Military sharpshooters require extensive and expensive training — all of which could be reduced with a better gun. Snipers “are unable to take a shot the vast majority of the time” because of wind or other weather factors, and a lack of confidence in their ability to hit the target or flee if detected, DARPA has said.


Then-Army Captain Keith Bell, former commander of the Army sniper school at Fort Benning, Ga., told TIME five years ago that he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the new bullet.


“The EXACTO would be revolutionary,” he said from Mosul, Iraq. “It will more than double our range and probably more than double our accuracy.” Current sniper rifles can regularly hit trucks at 2,000 meters, but not bad guys. (The record kill is 2,430 meters, just over 1.5 miles. It was charted by Canadian army corporal Rob Furlong against a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-kot valley during Operation Anaconda in March 2002 — but his first two shots missed.)


“There’s no limit as far as I can see so long as the bullet’s stable — I think 2,000 or 2,500 meters is very attainable,” Bell said. “Right now, anything past around 800 meters is an extremely tough shot.”

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