30 March 2018

Video Game Review: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)

Like it or not, Call of Duty has altered the face of the video game industry, injected itself into popular society, and even into politics. Over the course of the current lifespan of COD, it has gone from the battlefields of World War II, the Cold War, an alternate reality Zombie Apocalypse future, near-future, and now with COD: IW, it has gone into the final frontier...with mixed results. There has been no other game that I've asked more about or to review than Infinite Warfare and it is finally time to see the truth of the game. Is COD: IW worthy of its hatred by the COD community or was it a solid Military SF shooter? With all of the events around my life, I could not play IW until recently, but I decided to abandon Mass Effect Andromeda for awhile and give this one a try. Let us dive into the campaign of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

Why the Hate for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare?
When the reveal trailer was released for COD: IW, it earned an honor of being the second most unliked video of all time on YouTube (the first being "Baby" by Justin Bieber that replaced "Friday" by Rebecca Black). Over two million dislikes were ranked up on the reveal trailer in short order in 2016 and today in 2018, it stands at 3.6 million dislikes with only about 600,000 likes. Sales were down overall from other COD games, but it still racked nearly 2 million sales its first week. So, why the hate for this military sci-fi shooter? One major source of the hate is the direction of Call of Duty going despite protest and requests by the fans. For the last four years when Infinite Warfare was released in 2016, the direction of the entire COD franchise was set in the future and each game explored future conflicts deeper and deeper into the future.  IW was set the furthest into the future than any other COD game prior and likely ever with the release of COD: WWII.
To provide some historical context, there were fans that protested the move into the future since the release of Modern Warfare in 2007. It seemed to die down around the time of COD: Black Ops II due to the excellent online gameplay (it is my favorite multiplayer COD experience), but it ramped up around when COD: Advanced Warfare was released. It reached a fever pitch with the announcement of Infinite Warfare. One symbol of the level of hatred by the COD fans over the far future setting of IW came with COD Youtube Drift0r decided not to embark on his iconic in-depth series for IW that he's done for most of the COD games for years now....a decision that cost him heavily in viewers and income.
Some fans believe that Activision outright ignored their requests for the series returning to "boots on the ground" feel with World War II settings rather than interplanetary combat and decided to keep to the far-future setting generating hurt feelings among the fan community. IW became the symbol of that wrong direction. Another reason was a douchebag move on the part of the Infinity Ward and Activision: packing the remaster of Modern Warfare with the more expensive edition of IW. This was seen by the fans and the video game industry has a move to generate sales of a game that may not live up to sales expectations. This gave the endeavor of IW a black eye on the PR level and resulted in Infinity Ward releasing the remastered Modern Warfare as a standalone product.
Of course, another reason is that haters love to hate. It became popular and cool to hate IW in the gaming world, and people piled on like it was the deeply tragic Cabbage Patch Kids riot of 1983. Never forget. That group-think mentality spawned over three million dislikes that entered into the Danger Zone of Rebecca Black’s "Friday" (the horror, the horror…). With the COD fans seemingly want a return to the World War II or the current warfare format; it did not help matters when the rival Battlefield franchise finally gave us a World War One shooter, something rumored to be in development for the COD realm for years. When COD fans saw this back-to-formula shooter, some jumped ship saying that their beloved COD had jumped the shark and it was time to enlist with Battlefield

Call of Duty has been teasing taking the shooter games into outer space since the abandoned ISS mission in MW2 and there has been a debate if this would fit within the COD model. To my surprise, the interplanetary warfare aspect of COD: IW was one of the most enjoyable and it really set this game apart from the other titles of COD, creating a” unique” identity, over even other space-based shooter games. What makes IW so compelling is that it is a space shooter infused with the COD DNA, Elysium, BSG, B5, and real-world naval operations, making for a dynamic, quality military sci-fi experience.
Fighting off-world in some exotic locations was one of the best parts and it was not like HALO, especially the mission where you snipe from an asteroid! That is pretty fucking (space) ninja!What is good about COD games is on full display here in IW and I enjoyed myself on the main story missions and the side missions as well. There are some good characters in the mix with Reyes, Salter, and of course, Ethan, that make desperation of the events day seem more realistic as reflected in the actions and faces of these characters.
Adding to this realism is the design of the military hardware and the space carrier Retribution that feels like a current carrier and the Saratoga from SAAB all at the same time. There is also the smooth transition between infantry combat scenarios and jumping into your space fighter for some sweet ACM with Settlement space fighters and gunships. While that trope is common in sci-fi, where our intrepid starfighter pilot is so a ground pounder of equal skill, at least COD: IW attempts to give a concrete in-universe validation with the concept of the SCAR unit. One element I especially enjoyed was the VR gun range that allowed you to test out the outfitted and selection of your weapons. Bottom line: COD: IW is a very enjoyable campaign that, for me, was an oasis in a desert of disappointing and lackluster campaigns in previous COD titles.

If you hate most of the other futuristic COD games, then you should move along, because Infinite Warfare has COD DNA and there is nothing new in the basic foundations of the core gameplay that will make you a new convert to the faith. That is part of the issue with the game, it is too COD for fans of military sci-fi shooters and for fans of COD, it is too deep into the future with FTL starships and space fighters. Infinity Ward was damned from both sides with this title and maybe it would have been better if the label of Call of Duty was left off of this title.
Sawn into the fabric of IW is one of the most tiresome and overused tropes of the modern COD games: every game has a September 11th or December 8th level event in the campaign storyline. While the developer is attempting to invoke an emotional response I doubt it is boredom coupled with an eye-roll was the one they were hoping for. COD: IW could have moved away from this trend in the COD games and established the game storyline within the Succession Wars events (Seriously?! These guys must be BattleTech fans!)
While I praised the characters above, one of the core characters of the game, SDF invasion taskforce leader Salen Kotch who is played by Kit Harington, is the worst. Speaking in only forceful boastful militant slogans, he is tiresome, badly written, and just badly performed. I could not wait for him to die just so he would shut up! Another element with the characters I wished had been undertaken would have to several playable characters rather than just two. Once Reyes took command of the SATO carrier, the main character should have switched to Salter. Then come back to Reyes for the final mission.
 The bread-and-butter of any shooters is the weapons, and COD has a history of making games with great realistic and invented guns…but, they have a history of making games with poor realistic and invented guns. Unfortunately, IW is not Black Ops II, and there are only a few great guns in IW in my experience in both the campaign and local bot play. With IW borrowing weapon ideas from films like Elysium with the Volk DE assault rifle, you would think the weapons would be better, but they just are not in terms of performance and time-to-kill. I could only count on a few guns that were used during both the campaign and local bot play (my favorite being the M1 Garand retrofitted to the 23rd century!) and none of them were in the shotgun categories and there was only one in the pistols (the Hailstorm).
The worst element of the weapons found in IW is the inclusion of the Colt M4 assault carbine. Seriously, what the fucking deal with COD games and the M4 carbine? In the IW, the SATO forces of the Earth are using the NV-4 “ballistic” KW assault carbine that is the from-the-future ancestor of the current Colt M4. Now, I know that the brainchild of Eugene Stoner, the Armalite Rifle, has been the longest US military service rifle and it seems that the US military is dragging its feet in fielding a new assault rifle, but somehow I doubt that the M4 is still in service in the 23rd century! This also goes for the directed energy AKM, the Volk, which is the in the 23rd century! This also goes for the directed energy AKM, the Volk, which is directly borrowed from Elysium. There has been an AKM in nearly every modern or futuristic COD games serving alongside the M4 and while the case could be made for the iconic AK platform lasting for some time, I doubt that includes the 23rd century and retrofitting the AK platform into a laser blaster! The weapons of IW make me miss my Peacekeeper from Black Ops: II.

The crack in the foundation of the domination of COD franchise was Ghosts, and since then, COD has struggled to maintain its lofty place in the video game industry. For some, Infinite Warfare was the saving grace of the futuristic COD games, while other pronounced it the prime example of the failure of futuristic COD games. With the emergence of COD: WWII, we can see that it is highly likely that COD: IW may be the last futuristic game of the mighty franchise until we get hard intel on Black Ops: IV. To me, that is the “ugly” of COD: IW; it legacy. If you love or hate Infinite Warfare, it is a game that was thrown deep into the mud and it has been unable to get completely clean. Adding insult to injury, T\the attempt by Infinity Ward to develop another sub-franchise in the vein of Modern Warfare or Black Ops with Infinite Warfare…but like Ghosts and Advanced Warfare, the 2016 game failed to strike a fire with fans and burned out at one entry. While Ghosts was fatally flawed, I think IW was much stronger that could have been fully developed in several other games. However, it is likely that venture has disappeared forever.

The FWS Bottomline on COD: IW
In the final assessment of this bold experiment in the COD futuristic shooters, it is not deserving of the extreme hatred that it attracted and the death of the planned trilogy. This is a solid military science fiction shooter with COD DNA that allows for all of the good and all the bad of that injection brings. This campaign and setting along with the typical COD intense gameplay makes Infinite Warfare to be one of most enjoyable Military SF shooter campaigns on the 8th console generation and its campaign, despite its flaws, is easily better and more fun than that soul-sucking HALO 5! Let that sink in. Infinity Ward developed a better MSF space shooter than an entity in the hallowed HALO franchise. Frak me.  I also plan on playing the campaign again soon and I can see myself playing IW from time-to-time, this is in deep contrast to HALO 5: Guardians; which I deleted off of my Xbox One hard drive to make room for COD: IW.   

21 March 2018

Top 20: Military Space Mysteries and Oddities

The final frontier of outer space is often viewed as the answer to issues down here on the good Earth. However, it is also the ultimate high ground in military strategic thinking, and that has made space exploration also a military venture. Since the first days of manned space flight, the men that went out into the black were officers in the military, and many missions conducted by the US and the Soviets were centered around military motivations and hardware. Over six decades of space travel, there have been a number of oddities and mysterious events that center around the military usage of outer space. Here are the top 20 military space oddities and mysteries. By the way, the Soviet-era Buran space shuttle program will be covered in its own blogpost coming up sometime in April or May.

1. The Lost Cosmonauts

The Soviet Union was never one for being open and admitting failure, and for years, there have been rumors for years that there were Cosmonauts killed prior to the successful launch of Yuri Gagarin into the history books as the first human into outer space. According to varies accounts and rumors, there were four Cosmonauts killed in the attempt to be the first humans in space. It did not stop there. Creepy radio transmissions were picked up by the Judica-Cordiglia brothers in the early 1960s of several failed Soviet manned space missions, including one bearing a female Cosmonauts who reported being hot as her vehicle failed reentry. They also picked up another failed reentry that caused the capsule to bounce off the atmosphere and sail helplessly into deep space.
While the sound recorders were produced to the public, they are widely considered fakes or they do not concern failed and fatal Soviet space launches. Another popular event that has lost Cosmonauts tied to it is the failed Soviet attempt to beat NASA to the Moon. Some believe that the Soviet tried a few missions prior to the successful landing of Apollo 11, but all ended in failure. Rumors state that the Hero of the Soviet Union, Yuri Gagarin, was killed during such an attempt onboard the N1 rocket. Some say that there are crashed Soviet landers on the surface of the moon to provide these claims. When the Soviet Union fell, previously classified documents on the manned space program were released and there is no evidence of any of the claims of “Lost Cosmonauts” among them.

2. The Soviet Space Laser Pistol
We all know that the Soviets had a thing for putting guns into space. The first gun in space coincides with the first man in space. When Yuri Gagarin launched into space in 1961, in his survival kit was a Makarov 9x18mm pistol. The interesting TP-82 survival space gun was carried by Cosmonauts in case of landing in a remote location in Mother Russia until 2007. However, during the Soviet obsession with a frickin’ laser beam in the 1980’s, the Soviet Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces (The USSR’s NORAD) developed a silver pistol that fired 10mm bullets loaded with zirconium, foil, oxygen, and a metal salt, all elements required for a pyrotechnic flash.
This flash made the little space laser pistol an optically pumped solid state laser DEW device, but the power output was minimum, about the same as an air rifle, however, the pistol was not developed for offensive space warfare, but for defense. Okay, leave it to the Reds to dream this one up…they develop a weak space laser as a defensive armament for Cosmonauts under attack from spacesuit soldiers.
The laser’s sole purpose was to pierce the spacesuit of the space soldiers and allow the nature of outer space to do its grim work. In this case, it really is that ray-guns don’t kill spacemen. I assume that the Soviets were dreaming up tactical scenarios were the US and the USSR battle over their space assets, and the US deploys specialized space marines to take the Russian space platforms form them. Of course, it was all a wet dream, and nothing really became of the space pistol, it never reached beyond the prototype stage, and one of the two examples is in the museum of the military academy that developed the pistol. It is reported that the space laser pistol is their most popular item.

3. The US Spy Space Station (MOT)
In the early days of manned space flight, there was a US Air Force space surveillance program, called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory that was designed to be an orbiting spy space station that took its foundation from the two-man Gemini capsule, but it was greatly expanded on. The cylinder-shaped MOL space station called for a 40-day tour for the two USAF astronauts that would carry out surveillance assignments while beyond the reach of Soviet weapons, unlike other options at the time like the U-2 spy plane. The USAF would modify an existing NASA Gemini capsule for being the transport vehicle for the crew of MOL.
Unlike many other US military space projects, important pieces of the overall MOL project was indeed a reality with a number of personnel recruited for the specialized corps of military astronauts including Maj. Robert H. Lawrence Jr, who would have the first African-American astronaut. Just before the MOL program was set to launch in 1969, it was canceled despite two successful test launches. This program was canceled due to the effectiveness of surveillance satellites and the abilities of the CIA’s A-12 “OXCART” spy plane and the USAF’s version, the SR-71 Blackbird. While the US never deployed or developed a manned space platform, the USSR did with the Almaz space stations.

4. The Soviet Space Plane Projects
Both the Soviets and Americans began the process of developing space planes with the intention of using them for combat and intelligence gather work in orbital space. The US had the X-20 Dyan-Soar and in 1962, the idea of a space plane was proposed for orbital combat space vehicle to counter the Dyan-Soar by the USSR and by 1964 the project gained the general title of “Spiral”. 
The central idea was to have an orbital space plane that could be used as a space bomber, satellite attack vehicle, spy plane that was lifting into orbit via a two-stage launcher system, where a booster vehicle would lift the space plane to about 20 miles above the surface of the Earth, then the piggyback space plane would be launched from the booster vehicle into orbit with its own rocket motor then land like normal plane.  Some sources say that the name “Spiral” was the name for the booster/launcher vehicle that pushed the orbital space plane, while others say that the entire project was named “Spiral”. 
From 1964-1978, the Spiral Space Plane project was under development with the test-mule for the endoatmospheric portion being handled by the MiG-105.11 “Lapot” or “wooden shoe” in Russian. Several flights were made with the MiG-105.11 being lifted by a Tu-95 bomber or under its own power. These tests started and stopped until the late 1970s when technical issues and budget limitations due to the Buran Space Shuttle program caused cancellation. While the Spiral spaceplane project was canceled in 1978, the design of the space plane test vehicles was reused for the Buran Space Shuttle program to test certain exoatmospheric elements and technologies.
These unmanned lifting body subscale vehicles were called “BOR”(“orbital plane without pilot” in Russian) and western intelligence services were able to photograph the recovery of one of these subscale testers (BOR-4) in the early 1980s, leading some to believe that the Soviets were working on another space plane to counter the US Space Shuttle, which the Soviets had fears of being a “space bomber”. While it is true that the Spiral spaceplane concept was being revisited to counter the assumed military purposes of the new Space Shuttle Orbiter, the Russians were also working on their own copy of the Orbiter and the BOR test vehicles were helping gather the data they needed. In addition to the Buran and cancelled Spiral, there was yet another new space plane interceptor program was called “Hurricane” or “Zarya”(meaning “Dawn” in Russian” was being envisioned as rocket-launched space plane armed with missiles to take down US space assets like the Shuttle and satellites via the Zenit-2 rocket.
It was also being looked at a larger replacement for the aging Soyuz space vehicle. The “Hurricane” or “Zarya” project was scrapped in 1989. Then there is another space plane project was under study: the MAKS (multi-purpose aerospace system in Russian). This air-launched space plane was similar to the old Spiral piggyback system, and could use the An-225 airplane as a launcher, but was canceled in 1991 only to semi-relived in 2010 due to being a counter-project to the USAF secretive X-37B space vehicle.

5. The US and the USSR Wanted to Nuke the Moon?!
It often amazing to me just how insane the Cold War really was, especially when it came to the unique applications of nuclear weapons, as is the case with the US and USSR wanting to nuke the Moon. In the late 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union were exploring the insane possibility of using nuclear devices for studying the interior makeup of the Moon. As a bonus would be an excellent way to display the power of your nation over the other by detonating a nuclear bomb on the Moon that could be seen on Earth.  The United States plans to nuke the Moon was called “A119” and was first exposed to the public via a 1999 biography of Carl Sagan while the Soviet plan was called “E4” and was exposed in 2010 via some reports. Both plans were rejected for a number of reasons, but mostly due to technological limitations, fear of backlash from the public, and the possibility of unforeseen issues that could not be predicted. Sometimes, I am actually surprised that we even survived the Cold War.

6. The Lost Soviet Lunar Mission
Early on in the Space Race, the true measure of who was superior in the realm of outer space was thrown down by President Kennedy: the Moon. It is insane to think how young manned space flight was when NASA was able to accomplish this ambitious-as-hell Apollo mission, especially with the USA trailing behind the USSR space program at nearly every turn. While NASA did not win that many battles in the Space Race, it did win the war. So, why did the Soviets never make it to the Moon either during the Space Race or even after? Part of it rests in the political reality of the Soviet Union that complicated and delayed the approval of the lunar rocket as various design bureaus waged political warfare to achieve approval. To overcome the issue of the Soviet Union lacking the industrial base to construct the rockets need to lift the manned mission payload, they designed 30 smaller rocket motors for the N1. By the time the N1 rocket design with its 30 rocket motors arranged in a circular pattern was ready for testing, the Soviet Union Lunar Program was behind the Americans and the Soviet goal of landing on the Moon in 1967.
This N1 was closed-cycle engine design that was more advanced than the Saturn V rocket, but this leads to several failed launches and crashed. Then on June 3rd, 1969, another N1 was launched, but within a minute of the launch, there was an issue and the engines were shut down save for one. When the N1 came crashing down on the launch complex, it had over 2,000 tons of rocket fuel generating a massive explosion on order of the power of small nuclear bomb and it destroyed the launch complex and could be seen over 20 miles away. During this, Apollo 11 was successful and the Soviet spent two years rebuilding the launch complex.
This more or less killed the Soviet attempt at a manned lunar mission. It was officially canceled in 1974 before a fifth launch of the N1. If that launch has been successful, it is likely the Soviets would launch some sort of manned Lunar mission to justify the cost of the N1 rocket. The experimental rocket motors were sold to the Americans many years later and are used in American rockets. Weird. So, who would have been the first Russian on the Moon if the Soviets had been successful? Alexey Leonov

7. The Loss of the Soviet Phobos-2  Space Probe
As a friend of my once observed about Mars, “it is a super creepy place” and one of the stories reinforcement that title is the mystery of what happened to the USSR Phobos-2 space probe sent to the potato-shaped moons of the Red Planet in 1988. When the space probe began its final mission to deploy two surface probes and photograph Phobos at a range of 50 kilometers, there was a failure of the spacecraft and communications were unable to be reestablished in March of 1989. The Soviet Space Agency said that it was a computer failure; however, there is “evidence” to counter that leaked out of the former Soviet Union. There are several photographs that indicate a massive cylinder shaped shadow on the surface of Mars, an underground structure on Phobos, and that a massive alien mothership.
The assumption in UFO conspiracy circles is that the Soviet probe was blasted to keep it away from any sensitive sites on the Martian moon. One hint of an artificial structure on Phobos was revealed in 1998 in an image from the Mars Global Surveyor. Jetting out of the moon is a 279-foot monolith of unknown origin that *could* be a constructed object. The claims of an attack on a Terran space probe from an alien spacecraft or lunar installation have denied, but one of the most intriguing theories is that attack on Phobos-2 was not from an alien space vehicle but from the rumored secret “solar warden” space fleet.

8. USAF /Boeing X-37B Space Plane
This mysterious US Air Force/Boeing automated spaceplane, the X-37B, is one of the big mysteries of current United States space effort. The most often asked question is what the hell is it? Officially, the X-37B is an orbital test vehicle for space plane technology and onboard experiments and the US Air Force has been more than willing to publish pictures and videos of the elusive spacecraft, but as the old saying goes "the best place to hid something is in plain sight". There are many questions asked about the two in-service Boeing X-37B especially after a 718-day mission ended in March of 2017.
There are many rumors, that include the testbed for a future larger manned or unmanned space recon vehicle, a dedicated classified satellite launch vehicle, a test vehicle for Hall-effect ionized thrusters. Above us at the moment is the fifth mission of the X-37B, the USA-277 (OTV-5), was launched in Septemeber of 2017 and a sixth launch is planned for 2019. The odd thing is how public the X-37B project has been and it makes you wonder what the Air Force is testing above us.

9. Secret Space "Solar Warden" Fleet?
There have been stories for years during the Cold War of a secret space program running parallel to NASA beyond the joint ventures between NASA and the Air Force. However, these rumors took on a Stargate SG-1 spin when a Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon starting accessing classified data that informed of a secret space fleet called “Solar Warden” also known as “Radiant Guardian”. This information was gathered between 2001-2002 and resulted in McKinnon’s arrest. In the gathered information, there was transfer orders of “non-terrestrial” officers between interstellar warship, recovered alien technology was used to construct the first American interstellar space vehicles with Hanger 8 at Johnson Space Center being a major site for these cigar-shaped Terran space vehicles. Inside the Excel files of the non-terrestrial USAF officers, he discovered the transfer of personnel between ships and even the name of these vessels. Naturally, the information on Solar Warden is fuzzy and sources vary greatly but are some of the interesting bits. There are eight carrier vessels that are the heart of the eight squadrons with about 43 smaller warships divided among these squadrons. 
This deep space fleet force is under the command of the US Naval Network and Space Operations Command with 300 personnel handling fleet operations. It is believed that there are off-world installations as well. While the program to develop interstellar space vehicles from reverse engineered alien technology had been going since 1947, with the first vehicles being built in an underground lab in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. However, it was during President Reagan’s first term that the construction of a full-fledged military space fleet was undertaken after he was briefed on Project Solar Warden and the five alien races. So, what are the purpose and the source of Solar Warden ships? 
The source of the technology is from a variety of sources: recovered alien technology, the Nordic aliens, and Nazi/alien technology that was all gathered and used to construct these warships that have an international (interstellar?) crew. What is all of this hardware being used for? That is uncertain. It could be little more than a protective organization with duties similar to the Coastal Guard that also monitors alien traffic in and out of the solar system. It could be defensive for some unknown foe or for possible use by an interstellar ET ally or defend rumored secret off-world colonies.   

10. Armed US Space Shuttles?
Despite one expectation with the Soviet 23mm cannon, spacecraft are not armed due to a lack of need, but that could have changed in the 1980s. The idea of intercepting nuclear missiles has been a dream since the invention of the ICBM and we still develop time and money to hitting a “bullet-with-a-bullet”. On March 23rd, 1983, President Reagan made the public announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that would use KE and DE weapon systems in orbit to knock out incoming ICBMs. The program was christened “Star Wars” by the press and publically mocked. While there is some debate on if the SDI program was more than the attempt to spend the Russians to the table, we know that there were real attempts to bring the vision of SDI to hard reality. Among some of the plans for SDI were a possible dedicated space shuttle orbiter fleet (rumored to be called "Blue Shuttles" and/or an SDI space station. There was also an idea of armed the NASA Space Shuttle fleet with a laser beam weapon system mounted in the payload section that could be used to take down incoming ICBMs. It is uncertain how NASA would have been able to launch all of the Space Shuttles in time to take a part in the role of orbital defense given the suddenness of nuclear war or if this idea was anything more than that…just an SDI fever dream.

11. Armed Soviet Space Station?
It is amazing when researching the Soviet space program how many outlandish and bold ideas were not only thought of but also undertaken. One of those was arming one of the Almaz military space stations, the Salyut 3, with a defensive 23mm cannon. As far as publicly known, this is the only weapon system mounted to a space vehicle and test fired in the vacuum of outer space. The weapon itself was heavily based around the widely known R-23M 23x260mm 37lbs autocannon that had unique telescoped steel casing and mounted on the Tu-22 bomber for the rear arch defense that was designed by Aleksandr Nudelman. This specially modified variant of the  R-23M has only publically been seen once during winter of 2015 episode of the Russian military-sponsored program “Voennaya Priemka” on the Zvezda TV channel.
The weapon was hard-mounted to the belly of the Salyut 3 Almaz space station causing the entire station to be repositioned to acquire a target. This variant was ground tested, then mounted to the space station prior to launch, with an optical sight to target the weapon. The test firing of the weapon was conducted remotely on January 24th, 1975 just before the station was to be burned up in the atmosphere due to concerns about the effect of the recoil on the station’s structure and orbit.
According to an article in Popular Mechanics, about 20 rounds of 23mm were fired in bursts with the rounds burning up in the atmosphere with thrusters being used to counter some of the recoil energy. The results of the test have not been made public, and if the Almaz program had continued, it was rumored that interceptor missiles would have been tested. From the one video of the actual space autocannon from Voennaya Priemka program, we can see a brass catcher system to project the station from the spent shells spinning round in outer space and posing a danger to the station or another other Soviet spacecraft.

12. US Navy Space Cruiser
One of the more oddball manned combat space vehicles proposed was by the US Navy with their anti-satellite “Space Cruiser”. The cone-shaped craft was a single man vehicle that could be more covertly launched from a Poseidon or MX missile to take out Soviet tracking satellites in one to two orbits with 17 small thruster ports. The kicker was that the pilot would partly exit the 30-foot space cone to pilot the craft and acquire the targets(s) and a spacesuit had to be worn at all time. I was unable to find anything on the weapon system of the USN Space Cruiser Cone and the project was canceled in the 1970s.

13. The Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar
What if the Space Shuttle had been 15 years earlier and it was under the direction of the US Air Force? That was the hope of the experimental Boeing X-20 Dynamic Soarer (Dyna-Soar) and its roots as an orbital space plane capable of space bombing mission, recon, and satellite attack platform dated back to World War II Germany. The idea of an orbital offensive space plane that could launch global missions via sub-orbital hops or ”skips” was explored by Nazi Germany via the Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt “Silbervogel” project, AKA “the Skip bomber”. This could have been used to wage softening up bombing campaign of the USA in a prelude to a Nazi invasion. It was also hoped by Eugen Sanger that the sub-orbital bomber could be used for intercontinental travel and peaceful space exploration.
During Operation PAPERCLIP, former Nazi scientists with knowledge of the Skip Bomber were used to design the US Air Force space plane, the Dyna-Soar. Began in 1957, the goal was to have a military reusable boost-glide space plane that could carry out a number of offensive and defense missions while landing like a plane, much like the NASA Orbiter. To achieve orbit, the X-20 would have used a Titan III rocket and launch from Cape Canaveral. After Boeing was select, the X-20 Dyna-Soar project moved forward with space pilots being selected, including Neil Armstrong, in 1960. The project was canceled in 1963 mostly due to DoD secretary Robert McNamara wanting the MOL program and there was no money for both along with issues if the USAF should even be in the business of manned space flight along with issues with the rocket booster. If the X-20 project would have continued, in 1965, there would have flight test of an X-20 being dropped from a B-52 bomber. It is uncertain how the inclusion of the X-20 Dyna-Soar would have had on the Cold War, NASA, or the Shuttle program if it had been made into a reality.

14. The STS-84 Footage
The September 15, 1991, Space Shuttle Discovery STS-48 mission is mostly remembered for a piece of remarkable footage shot by the crew of the Discovery while over Africa at night. Within the horizon and the Airglow is an amazing sight: a floating bright object appears to take evasive action to avoid an incoming projectile. NASA has rejected the appearance of an orbital space battle, citing that an 80-millisecond burst from the RCS caused the flash and reaction of the ice particles. However, the footage lives on as one of the best examples of UFOs and some sort of human reaction to them.
I came across a video briefing of Richard C. Hoagland, who is best known for books on the purported ruins on the Cydonia region of Mars, explaining the footage. He states that they have worked out that the events seen on the tape placed some 1700 miles away from the Discovery and that object was moving at over 5400 MPH prior to the flash. When that flash came, the object makes a radical shift in position and speed, accelerating in 2.2 seconds to over 200,000 MPH at a G-Force rating of 14,000! If even possible, this would represent clear evidence of some sort of advanced spacecraft of beyond our current engineering understanding.
While many believe that it is a UFO being targeted by SDI weapon systems out of Australia, Hoagland believed it is an example of the SDI Brilliant Pebble weapon being live-fired against a drone space vehicle in orbital space. How did this footage of a beyond-black weapon system be leaked to the general public? Hoagland believes that someone in the government allowed the footage to be broadcasted as a deep throat style leak to inform the general public of what the government has been up to with their money. It could also be a warning to other governments or powers that we have the technology.

15. Project Lunex
It came as a surprise to me that the US military was exploring their own Lunar landing venture with Project Lunex (Lunar Expedition) that would have resulted in a manned underground military base several years prior to the Apollo moon landing. The timeline for Project Lunex was insane and most of the milestones were laid down around 1961 with research dating back to the 1950s, well before the advent of manned American space flight. The USAF target date was 1967 for their moon landing. According to the declassified material, Project Lunex was to be the US Air Forces pathway to being first to establish an underground garrison base on the moon with 21 airmen stationed to counter the rumored Soviet military expedition to the moon around 1968 with the Kepler crater being the likely site.
These fears of military planners included Soviet Lunar tanks and off-world labs. It was hoped that the base would prevent this from happening. Many point to the fever pitch of NASA and the USAF work on lunar programs as a way to achieve a needed victory in the Space Race against the Soviets. There were many issues preventing the US Air Force's lunar dreams. For one, NASA was working on their own lunar program, Apollo, and the USAF had other space projects already in motion as well; like the MOL. Second, the Lunex spacecraft was much heavier than the Apollo payload, causing logistical and engineering issues. Third, the heart of the Lunex spacecraft was to be lifting body reentry vehicle more similar to the 1980s Space Shuttle orbiter than the Apollo space capsule system. The knowledge and technology were just not there in the 1960s. Fourth, the emergence of the Vietnam War altered the goals and economics of the US Air Force, allowing for NASA to take the lead in American manned lunar expeditions. It is thankful it never worked out. If the USAF had been successful, it would have a military organization had been the first to another stellar body, not a more civilian organization. The militarization of outer space could have spilled out of control.   

16. The Mythical "Aurora" Aircraft
The CIA, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, and the USAF have been involved in several Black Project aircraft like the B-2 Sheath bomber, the A-12 OXCART/SR-71, and the F-117…but does this list include the fabled Aurora hypervelocity advanced recon plane? Much like those real-world examples of black project aircraft, the Aurora is rumored to have been tested in roasting heart of the Nevada desert and it can achieve MACH 5/6 comfortable via scramjets and advanced materials that could have been from reversed engineered UFO wreckage.
Some have claimed that the rumored black project Aurora is actually the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works follow-up to the SR-71 blackbird, the SR-72. Others have claimed it is called the “SR-91 Aurora” and it is a space plane. There have been rumors of the Aurora advanced black project aeroplane since the 1980s, due to various eyewitness reports and encounters with sonic booms and donut contrails. The name “Aurora” coming from a line in the 1985 budget that allocated $455 million for a “black aircraft production” for 1987. The name entered into public culture due to a story in a March 1990 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (I was unable to verify this) and the project has remained in the public eye ever since with various accounts from eyewitnesses and former Lockheed employees. According to some of these reports, Aurora is a triangle shaped craft that leads some to believe that alien technology is at the heart of its performance. In addition to a few photographs that float around the internet, there is the black triangle photography from STS-61C on January 12th, 1986 that some have claimed is Aurora on an orbital test. Several former Lockheed employees have come forward and stated that the “Aurora” found in the 1985 budget was actually a codename for the B2 “Spirit” bomber program.

17. The Soviet Polyus Orbital Weapons Platform
One of the strategic uses of outer space is satellites and the ability for one nation blind another’s “eye-in-the-sky” capability via anti-satellite weapon systems (ASAT) has been one of the most common reasons cited for developing armed space vehicles of one sort or another. When the US SDI program was announced, the Soviet Union became quite worried that the US would soon be able to knock down their ICBMs, rendering their nuclear stockpile neutered and open to a first-and-final strike by the US like it was the 1940s all over again.  This fueled the Soviet Union to explore technology to reduce the gap in technology and the Soviets turned to several orbital weapons programs going on since the 1970s. The end result of this request was the experimental "Polyus" or "Pole" in Russian orbital weapons platform. The purpose of the Polyus-Skif battle station was to take out the American SDI weapons platform via a laser directed energy weapon that would have been followed by a Soviet nuclear launch. The laser was a one-megawatt carbon-dioxide laser that was also used on an experiment airborne laser system that used the A-60 aircraft. This 18,0,000lbs space station was to be launched into orbit via the new Energia heavy rocket that was developed for use also with the Buran Soviet space shuttle program.The launch of the Polyus-Skif full-scale test vehicle that devoted of the laser, was to be the first use of the Energia.
During the plans for the 1987 launch, Gorbachev himself prohibited the test-firing of the laser in outer space due to the resulting fallout, On May 15th, 1987, the Polyus-Skif was launched mounted upside down on the Energia rocket and it did not go well. Due to computer error after the Polyus separated the rocket, the 180 degree was overshot and the spacecraft tumbled back to Earth crashing into the Pacific ocean. It was after this that the political, economic, and military situation changed and the orbital laser battle station program was killed with pieces of the Polyus being reused, even on the ISS. The Energia rocket would be used again to launch the Space Shuttle Buran a few years later.

18. Apollo 20 Alien Lunar Salvage Mission
The last NASA Apollo moon mission was Apollo 17 in 1972 causing the cancellation of three moon missions and ending the possibilities of a lunar base. There have been rumors and badly done space horror movies concerning the “lost Apollo missions”. The evidence is pretty clear that there were no more manned lunar missions after 1972. The remains of the Apollo program were used for the Skylab program and the 1975 joint Apollo-Soyuz space mission, but that has not stopped the conspiracy theory train. In 2007, a series of videos were uploaded to YouTube that were rumored to show a top-secret alien technology salvage mission to Guyot crater, where a massive abandoned alien spacecraft was resting, photographed by Apollo 15 in 1971. This mission was conducting using Apollo-era equipment with two Americans and one Russian, the famous Alexey Leonov.
On the mission, an alien city is explored along with the city-sized ship, and a hibernating alien female, nicknamed “Mona Lisa” was recovered. According to the mission patch and other details, there was a strong Egyptian connection to the alien craft and the body. It was the supposed mission commander, William Rutledge that “leaked” the footage and conducted interviews. While this is regarded as a hoax, it is an elaborate one. The footage is not bad, the landing site is one known to moon conspiracy theorists prior to the 2007 videos, and the Mona Lisa human-alien thing was horrifying and compelling.

19. The 1984 USSR Laser Attack on Space Shuttle Challenger
During the Cold War, the Sary Shagan testing range in the Karaganda Region of Kazakhstan was a major site for research and testing region for anti-ballistic missile defense system, later, this the Sary Shagan site was devoted to tracking objects in space and possibly anti-satellite systems.  It was the rumored site of ruby and co2 laser directed energy weapon research that was purposely designed to knock out US satellites. But there is much doubt about the claimed abilities of the former Soviet laser research facilities once American officials got to take a look at the TERRA-3 site in 1989. According to either rumor or fact, on October 10th, 1984, the TERRA-3 facility tracked the Challenger orbiter on STS-41-G with a low-power laser beam that temporally blinded the crew and disrupted some of the onboard equipment. This “attack” was to serve as a warning to the United States about the SDI program and the “attack” was ordered by Defence Minister Dmitri Ustinov. This "attack" by TERRA-3 was met with an official diplomatic protest by the US. However, official logs of the mission, the crew themselves, and former intelligence service have denied this ever happened.

20. Nazi Space Weapon?
In 1929, noted space pioneer Hermann Oberth came up with the basic idea of using an orbiting mirror to focus and direct sunlight as a form of directing space-based energy for used back on Earth. However, the 3rd Riech had visions of space-based weaponry in their sick heads. The project, known as  the Sonnengewehr or "Sun Gun", was little more than a study project by the time of the war's end, but based on interviews, the Nazi scientists predicted that the Sun Gun project would have taken about 50-100 years to complete based on what the Nazis understood about the proposed Nazi manned space program. Some have doubted the ability for the Nazis to actually construct the Sun Gun and its actual effectiveness.

Next Time on FWS...
Throughout the scope of human history, stories have been told of special objects handed down by gods, strangle women lying in ponds, and travelers. These objects were magical and given the owner powers beyond normal humans. This idea has altered throughout the centuries and today, it has taken the form of alien technology from the stars. In the next installment of What We Fight Over, FWS will be looking at the topic if alien technology will be the genesis of future wars or if it alright has been...