Mark Your Calendars, NASA Is Holding A Public Meeting On UFOs

We’re sorry, the politically correct term these days is “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAP), as it’s less likely to excite those with a predilection for tinfoil hats. But whether you call them flying objects or anomalous phenomena, it’s that unidentified part that has us interested.

Which is why we’ll be tuned into NASA TV at 10:30 a.m. EDT on May 31 — that’s when the agency has announced they’ll be broadcasting a meeting of an independent study team tasked with categorizing and evaluating UAP data. The public can even submit their own questions, the most popular of which will be passed on to the team.

Before you get too excited, the meeting is about how NASA can “evaluate and study UAP by using data, technology, and the tools of science”, and the press release explains that they won’t be reviewing or assessing any unidentifiable observations. So if you’re hoping for the US government’s tacit acknowledgment that we’re not alone in the universe, you’ll probably be disappointed. That said, they wouldn’t have to assemble a team to study these reports if they were all so easily dismissed. As always, interstellar visitors are dead last on the list of possible explanations, but some cases have too much hard evidence to be dismissed out of hand. They might not be little green men, but they are something.

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Cold War Military Telephones Now Usable Thanks To DIY Switch Build

The TA-1042 is the most badass looking telephone you’ll ever see. It’s a digital military telephone from the 1980s, but sadly non-functional unless it’s hooked up to the military phone switches it was designed to work with. These days, they’re really only useful as a heavy object to throw at somebody… that is, unless you had the suitable supporting hardware. As it turns out, [Nick] and [Rob] were able to whip up exactly that.

Their project involved implementing the TA-1042’s proprietary switching protocol on a Raspberry Pi Pico. The microcontroller’s unique Programmable I/O subsystem proved perfect for the task. With a little programming and a hat for the Pico to interface with the hardware, they were able to get the TA-1042 working as intended. It involved learning how to encode and decode the Manchester encoded data used by the Digital Non-secure Voice Terminal equipment.¬†Notably, the TA-1042 isn’t the only phone you can use with this setup. You can also hook up other US military DNVT phones, like the TA-954 or TA-1035.

If you want this hardware for yourself, you can simply buy one of [Nick] and [Rob]’s DNVT switches from Tindie. Alternatively, you can roll your own with the source code provided on GitHub.

We’ve seen these phones before repurposed in an altogether different fashion. We’ve also taken a deep dive into the details of the military’s AUTOVON network.

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German Air Force Surplus Teardown

It isn’t clear to us how [mrsylvain59] came into possession of a late-model piece of military gear from the German airforce, but we enjoyed watching the teardown below anyway. According to the documentation, the thing has a huge price tag, although we all know that the military usually pays top dollar for various reasons, so we are guessing the cost of the parts is quite a bit less than the price tag.

We don’t think [mrsylvain59] was sure what the amplifier (verst√§rker is German for amplifier) does. However, we recognized it as an avionics box from a UH-1 helicopter. We aren’t sure of its exact function, but it is classified under “Automatic Pilot Mechanisms and Airborne Gyro Components.”

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The TAK Ecosystem: Military Coordination Goes Open Source

In recent years you’ve probably seen a couple of photos of tablets and smartphones strapped to the armor of soldiers, especially US Special Forces. The primary app loaded on most of those devices is ATAK or Android Tactical Assault Kit. It allows the soldier to view and share geospatial information, like friendly and enemy positions, danger areas, casualties, etc. As a way of working with geospatial information, its civilian applications became apparent, such as firefighting and law-enforcement, so CivTAK/ATAK-Civ was created and open sourced in 2020. Since ATAK-Civ was intended for those not carrying military-issued weapons, the acronym magically become the Android Team Awareness Kit. This caught the attention of the open source community, so today we’ll dive into the growing TAK ecosystem, its quirks, and potential use cases.

Tracking firefighting aircraft in 3D space using ADS-B (Credit: The TAK Syndicate)

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New Engines Could Propel The B-52 Beyond Its 100th Birthday

First taking to the skies in April 1952, and introduced into the US Air Force in 1955, the B-52 Stratofortress has since become a mainstay of American air power. Originally developed as a nuclear bomber to carry out the critical deterrence role, changing realities saw it delivering solely conventional munitions in actual operations.

Of 744 B-52s originally built, 76 remain in service with the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. This fleet is set to go on flying beyond the type’s 100th birthday, into 2050 and beyond. To reach that milestone, a new engine package will be key to keeping these birds in the air.

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Three-Piece Cyberdeck Plays The Role Of Military Computer That Never Was

While we’re not at all sick of the cyberdeck movement yet, we do have to admit that some of the builds we see are starting to fall into categories that are beginning to seem a little familiar. The clamshell aesthetic comes to mind, but really, with spaces for a display and a keyboard, the form factor is pretty much a natural for cyberdecking. Which is why we like this three-piece twist on the cyberdeck concept so much.

Like many cyberdeck builds, inspiration for the awesomely mustachioed [Max]’s deck came from the military surplus world. As the story goes, he has a smallish clamshell case that once held radio tools and supplies for the Bundeswehr. Figuring it would make the perfect case for half of a split keyboard, he tracked down a couple more of the sturdy aluminum cases and got to work. As a mechanical keyboard aficionado, [Max] already had PCBs that would fit into two of the cases, so he populated those with suitably clicky switches, came up with cool-looking faceplates, and connected the two boxes with retractile cables. The third case got a Raspberry Pi 4 with a trimmed-down heatsink, a battery and power management, and a generous touchpad and LCD panel display. A Kali Linux install completes the tacticool look.

The three-piece cyberdeck looks very cool when all wired up together, but [Max] needed one more piece to really sell it. So he 3D-printed a slipcase for all three units; painted in military colors and suitably distressed, the whole thing really just works. We’ve seen a lot of cyberdecks lately in all sorts of styles, but this one really pleases.

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Exploring Turn Of The Century RAF Avionics

The second hand market is a wonderful thing; you never know what you might find selling for pennies on the dollar simply because it’s a few years behind the curve. You might even be able to scrounge up some electronics pulled out of a military aircraft during its last refit. That seems to be how [Adrian Smith] got his hands on a Control Display Unit (CDU) originally installed in a Royal Air Force AgustaWestland AW101 “Merlin” helicopter. Not content to just toss it up on a shelf, he decided to take a look inside of the heavy-duty cockpit module and see if he couldn’t make some sense out of how it works.

Unsurprisingly, [Adrian] wasn’t able to find much information on this device on the public Internet. The military are kind of funny like that. But a close look at the burn-in on the CDU’s orange-on-black plasma display seems to indicate it had something to do with the helicopter’s communication systems. Interestingly, even if the device isn’t strictly functional when outside of the aircraft, it does have a pretty comprehensive self-test and diagnostic system on-board. As you can see in the video after the break, there were several menus and test functions he was able to mess around with once it was powered up on the bench.

With the case cracked open, [Adrian] found three separate PCBs in addition to the display and keyboard panel on the face of the CDU. The first board is likely responsible for communicating with the helicopter’s internal systems, as it features a MIL-STD-1553B interface module, UART chips, and several RS-232/RS-485 transceivers. The second PCB has a 32-bit AMD microcontroller and appears to serve as the keyboard and display controller, possibly also providing the on-board user interface. The last board looks to be the brains of the operation, with a 25 MHz Motorola 68EC020 CPU and 1Mb of flash.

All of the hardware inside the CDU is pretty generic, but that’s probably the point. [Adrian] theorizes that the device serves as something of a generic pilot interface module, and when installed in the Merlin, could take on various functions based on whatever software was loaded onto it. He’s found pictures online that seem to show as many as three identical CDUs in the cockpit, all presumably running a different system.

[Adrian] has uncovered some interesting diagnostic information being dumped to the CDU’s rear connectors, but he’s still a long way off from actually putting the device to any sort of practical use. If any Hackaday readers have some inside information on this sort of hardware, we’re sure like to hear about it.

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