Ferrari Expects Both Vettel and Raikkonen to Stay on Board in 2018

The future of Ferrari's driver team has caused speculation among Formula One fans since the start of the season. With the contracts of both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen expiring, many have rumored that they could be on the move or that Ferrari has plans of replacing them completely. However, a recent news report said the Maranello team expects the two former champs to return for the 2018 season, putting talks of relocation on hold.

As Autoweek reports, Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne released a statement on the situation claiming that he believes his team has good relations with the pair.

"They are great together so it would be a risk to change the game now," Marchionne said. "Let's see if we can keep them for 2018. I think they want to stay. We should be able to announce our drivers at Monza. Nothing is signed yet but we are talking to the drivers and the agreement may be close."

Vettel was reportedly offered a three-year, $138.5 million contract extension, though he has not accepted it yet. Additionally, Vettel added that he wishes for Raikkonen, his longtime friend, to be given a contract as well.

Team lead Maurizio Arrivabene mentions that this is a good idea as the duo have worked well in the past.

"Do not forget that he is the last Ferrari world champion and today he showed that," Arrivabene said of Raikkonen. "Only a champion like him could defend his teammate like a Viking, with no tricks and no deception."

Kimi showed a strong example of teamwork at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, agreeing to follow team orders and work in cooperation with Vettel.

Rumors swirled that Vettel had signed a "pre-agreement" to drive for Mercedes Benz in the future, to which Marchionne replied, "If he does not want to stay, then we will find a different solution and life goes on, because this is Ferrari. But if I look at Sebastian, then in a lot of ways he is already more Italian than many of us."

Vettel and Raikkonen are yet to release a response to this, and as the season reaches the halfway point, it's unlikely we will hear anything from the two until later on in the year. As Vettel leads the drivers' championship by 14 points over Lewis Hamilton, he will certainly be focused on returning strong at the end of this four-week break.

Intense Video Shows Police, Bystanders Pulling Victims from Burning Cadillac

Dramatic video shows police officers and witnesses saving two people trapped in the burning wreckage of their car after the pair plunged off a highway overpass in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the dark-colored Cadillac ATS was seen traveling at a high rate of speed before the driver failed to navigate a sharp turn at the end of a long straight, sending the car flying over a guardrail and falling at least 16 feet onto the westbound lanes of I-94 below. Two Minneapolis police officers arrived on scene minutes later, and that's where the eight-minute video begins.

In the footage, recorded by a witness, you can see the officers approaching the smashed Cadillac, which came to rest on its wheels after reportedly rolling several times upon landing. The wreckage is already smoking, and flames begin to erupt from the engine at around the 0:40 mark as the officers work to extract a female passenger. The unconscious driver remains pinned in the driver's seat.

The officers pull the woman to safety, but the flames quickly grow as they race back to the car and discover the driver's door won't open. Two bystanders and another officer join in the effort to free the man as the fire rages, and after a minute of struggling they finally manage to pull him out of the front passenger door and drag him away from the flaming wreckage. The rest of the video documents the emergency response and shows the officers giving the man CPR for at least five minutes straight until paramedics arrive.

Sadly the driver, identified by police as 31-year-old Floyd Cunningham, later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. Still, the video clearly shows the heroic behavior of everyone involved with the rescue.

The Model 3 Is Further Proof of Tesla’s Asymmetric War Against the Auto Industry

I didn’t attend the Tesla Model 3 launch. Did I have to? Everyone knows my position: If you actually want to #MAGA, Tesla is your company, and Elon Musk is your man. Even if you hate the whole enterprise, even if the Big One destroyed Fremont tomorrow, the world is a different and better place because of what Musk has built at Tesla.

What the Model 3 launch proves is that Tesla’s not going away. Not ever.

Don’t believe me? Let’s study the history of warfare, which is that of business plus death. One would think that with stakes as high as they are, lessons learned from the study of war would guide business more than it does, at least in the auto industry.

The French have always been celebrated for their Champagnes, but their greatest gift to the world is actually a better understanding of war. The Maginot Line — built in the 1930s to repel the German infantry & artillery assaults of 1914-18 — was overrun in 1940 by the German Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war." It wouldn’t have mattered if the French fortifications had extended to the English Channel, or if they had been fully manned; if it were pierced, armored columns could flow through.

Both during and after the war, the Allies expanded on Germany’s model of combined arms and maneuver warfare—and for forty years NATO and the Warsaw Pact prepared for a massive land war which would determine the struggle between capitalism and communism. Ready for the last war, France lost in Indochina in 1954, and was brought to a standstill in Algeria in 1962. The United States repeated this pattern in Vietnam in 1975 before the Soviets did the same in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.

Their foes — outmatched financially, logistically and technologically — were always fighting the next one. They had to, or fighting was pointless. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the army you’ve got.”

The upstarts conducted asymmetric war, defined by belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy and tactics differ significantly, typically between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement.

Sound familiar?

Traditional automakers have a century of experience behind them, backed by vast sums of cash, massive infrastructure, and supply chains in which every efficiency has been wrung out. You’d have to be absolutely out of your mind to launch a car company at any point after the closing decades of the 20th century, during which their dominance became seemingly insurmountable.

Which brings us to Tesla.

Learning The Wrong Lesson

Everyone knows Tesla has forced the universe of traditional automakers to embrace at least the the buzzwords of the future — Electrification! Autonomy! Mobility! — but doing so doesn’t necessarily guarantee success in a war that has only just begun. The legacy automakers’ public relations machines would have us believe they’ve absorbed the lessons necessary to survive in a new era, but nothing suggests they will all survive — or that the ones that do will resemble the companies we see today.

They think the lesson of Tesla’s success is to duplicate that which is relatively easy for traditional manufacturers: match functionality & specs, leverage efficiencies, built products, market, advertise, sell. Invest enough and they will catch up, eventually. Or so they think, because they see Tesla’s massive losses and as-yet unproven manufacturing capabilities as weaknesses that, on a long enough timeline, will bring them down.

The automotive sector is wrong.

I’m not suggesting the traditional rules of business don’t apply to Tesla, but business, like war, isn’t just about math. That’s why public relations and communications — propaganda by another time — is taught in both civilian and war colleges. That’s in part why the French lost Indochina, the U.S. Vietnam, the Soviets (and now probably the U.S.) Afghanistan.

Winning wars requires understanding not only the enemy’s weapons, but tactics, strategy and doctrine. Speed isn’t enough. This is where the traditional car industry is falling short. They’re just barely catching up with what they perceive as Tesla's primary weapon — electrified cars — and totally ignoring the rest of Musk’s war plan.

The industry’s metronome, like that of the Allies throughout the First World War and the early days of the Second, is a half beat slow, and set to the only sound they hear: product, product, product—which to them is still a car coming off an assembly line. The product of the future is more than a car plus whatever software they try to shoehorn into it; it's the sum of forces converging for decades, and well beyond their control. These forces include but are not limited to increasing political and cultural opposition to internal combustion, resentment toward traditional retail, rise of cheap connectivity, popularity of smartphones and apps, and the appeal of new technologies and inventor mythology.

These are akin to forces of nature, which Musk is harnessing and the rest are trying to fight. And fighting nature is always done at one's own peril.

Musk’s Master Plan Is Only Part of the Plan

Published in 2006, Elon Musk’s “Master Plan, Part 1” could not have been more clear:

  1. Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car
  4. Provide solar power. No kidding, this has literally been on [the] website for 10 years.

I’d have laughed too, if I’d read it at the time. Automakers scoffed. The first three seem obvious. Solar power? Stupid, right?

Actually, Musk could have been more clear, because whereas the “plan” laid out Tesla’s strategy, it ignored the doctrine and tactics.

The doctrine: electrify, starting with cars. Ignore all prior models for doing so. Make electrification cool, then affordable. Maximize vertical integration.

The tactics: Clean-sheet design. Direct sales. OTA updates. Proprietary charging infrastructure. PR, PR, PR.

Musk’s actual plan is a full-spectrum war not on the car industry, but on its business model, using a fully integrated (though as-yet only partially realized) doctrine, strategy, and tactics. All the industry saw from 2006-2015 was one component of his strategy, and that limited understanding was reflected in their failed preliminary attacks.

Behold, the Chevy Bolt, the failure of which I predicted in January of 2016.

Musk published Part Deux of his “plan” almost exactly one year ago. It says:

  1. Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
  2. Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
  3. Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  4. Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it

Now that the sector has woken up to Musk, they are attempting to attack elements of Part Deux before catching up with the tactics behind Part One.

Full Spectrum War

Full spectrum war also isn’t merely about adding electrification or software to the hardware that the legacies already know how to make or buy. The software ship has been sailing for twenty years, with increasingly tattered sails. The proof? If you wanted to make a fortune in the auto sector in the last ten years, all you had to do was invest in windshield phone mounts.

Electrification? Nothing in third-party networks can touch Tesla Superchargers for speed or ubiquity. VW’s and Porsche’s fast networks are years away. By the time they match Supercharger ubiquity, everyone’s EV range will have rendered charging speeds moot.

OTA updates? Direct sales? Franchise dealer networks are the doom of the auto sector, as they fight tooth and nail to survive, crippling manufacturer efforts to educate, market, sell, and support "new" technologies to customers who are already using them daily, on phones they can buy for a few hundred dollars. Tesla is pushing out updates as often as they can, and doing so seamlessly.

Clean sheet design? Chevy’s Bolt is fine, if you want an economy car with a battery. What is the industry releasing this year? Mild hybrids. Their dedicated EV platforms can’t come soon enough.

Autonomy? The legacy companies’ best semi-autonomy can’t touch Tesla Autopilot at its worst, and full autonomy is too far away to matter.

Sharing and hailing? Again, piecemeal investments and bet-hedging are doomed. Tesla’s strategy here remains to be seen—so why hasn’t anyone tried to get ahead before they do? GM should have bought Lyft when it had the chance.

The Model 3 just dropped. Where’s the competition? Nowhere, save in the minds of the Tesla shorts and legacy brand managers with two to three years to kill before something even conceptually equivalent hits the market—by which time it’ll be too late to stop Musk.

This is in part because Tesla already commands the global automotive PR space, without advertising. Several sources have told me Tesla accounts for 40 percent of all automotive news. (Ed note: Is that all? Seems like more.) This number isn’t going to go down. If you want to see propaganda, collusion, cyberwar, AI, bots, truth, lies, fiction, manipulation, hi-tech, old tech, and no tech leveraged, twisted, bent and wielded, forget Trump and the Russians. Every day my Twitter feed is clogged by Tesla supporters and Tesla trolls waging war with everything but guns. Tesla has motivated an army of online fans and enemies unlike anything the sector has seen since the rise of the internet. That can't be duplicated at any price.

All of it benefits Tesla.

Where is the auto sector in all this? Still hoping that spending money on attacking elements of Tesla’s plan will stop them.

Elon Musk is playing the long game, projecting far beyond the average tenures of the CEOs he’s up against. Unlike his peers, he’s personally invested, for life, in seeing this through.

Which brings us to the Model 3.

The Model 3 Launch

Even without having driven it I can declare it a triumph for Tesla, and a disaster for everyone hoping it would hurt Tesla’s stock price, momentum, or mythology. The mainstream press has been universally positive, despite virtually no mention that Supercharging isn’t included, a question that generated lots of coverage earlier this year. Questions over how many they can build on any schedule are of seemingly no relevance to those on the waiting list. Potential production delays? Ask Ferrari or Porsche about how scarcity affects demand.

The price? No one really cares. Tesla announced two models, with base prices of $35,000 and $44,000, straddling the now-stillborn Chevy Bolt. The real competitor? The BMW 3 Series, which isn’t fully electric but is precisely the customer Tesla wants to convert. Are BMW buyers seeking out base models? Does anyone? Not in the premium segment, which is where Tesla has always been.

The shorts are complaining that it was a fake launch, because the first cars delivered went to employees. This isn’t a defect in Tesla’s plan; it was a feature. Musk had to deliver cars. He did. The cars needed positive press. They got it. They cars had to impress the reviewers. They did.

The Model 3 launch was Tesla’s to lose. Unless one of them caught fire or exploded, it was just another flag in a brilliant PR campaign. Tesla, news, beat, story, stock price. Tesla.

Tesla. Tesla. Tesla.

How To Defeat Tesla

There is only one way to “defeat” Tesla: accept that there is no defeating an idea destined to overtake the first-world countries' car markets. Tesla has redefined the business of war in the automotive sector, and anyone who wants to survive must wage it as Tesla does. This requires more than duplicating the weapons of war; it requires mastering the full spectrum of warfare required to wield those weapons — all of them — effectively.

There’s another way to survive. That is to ignore Tesla’s war on first world markets — for now — and do as Renault-Nissan and others are doing (brilliantly) in developing markets like India, where Tesla’s opportunity is still decades away. Indian customers are just waking up to concepts of brand, packaging, and luxury, as evidenced by the success of the wonderful Renault Kwid, which at $4000 is as disruptive in that country as the Model 3 will be in the US.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the number of global automakers will collapse to six, or possibly just five. Those brands that survive have a lot of work to do if they want to prevent Tesla from being one of them. The rest need to focus on survival via monumental pivots, which must begin with understanding full-spectrum war in the modern age of transportation. Tesla, for all their first-mover advantage, has not yet won anything in the still-undefined “mobility” space except mindshare, which is ephemeral. Countless startups have yet to reveal their insights, and await acquisition by a wise OEM still flush with cash.

Tesla has another war to wage, and that is a financial war, and that war will be fought with itself. But that is for a future story.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

(FYI, I don’t own any Tesla stock. Why not? It would a conflict of interest. Also, I could be completely wrong. But I doubt it.)

Alex Roy is Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports and author of The Driver, has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe & the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Massachusetts State Police Cruiser Smashed By Detached Truck Wheels

Massachusetts State Police are looking for information that may help the agency identify the owner of two wheels and an axle that detached from a truck and demolished the rear of a cruiser Monday morning. According to the MSP Facebook post, the incident occurred on Interstate 84 eastbound in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, between 5:20 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Monday morning.

The assembly of two truck wheels and an axle fell off a tractor-trailer in a construction zone, hitting the cruiser and coming to a stop in the right lane afterward. Fortunately, no one, including the State Trooper, was hurt by the hurtling truck parts. This incident could easily have ended in tragedy. It occurred in a construction zone, which is why the trooper was there in the first place. The pictures show what the assembly did to the Ford Crown Victoria, a car that Ford tested to withstand rear impacts up to 70 miles per hour. Construction workers on the side of the road would likely not have survived being hit.

The truck did not slow down or stop after the incident, apparently unaware that it had just lost two of its wheels. This is not as impossible as it sounds, considering that a tractor-trailer typically has 18 wheels. It's entirely possible that the driver would not have felt the effect of two wheels and an axle separating from the truck since that corner has another two wheels to hold it up. Even though it's technically leaving the scene of an accident, the driver likely didn't even know it had happened. No doubt the driver got quite the surprise when he reached his destination and realized that part of his truck didn't.

If you have any information about this incident, contact Trooper Scott Shea at the Massachusetts State Police Sturbridge Barracks at 508-347-3352.

Range Rover Makes the Best SUV in the World

Range Rover is about to release its all new Range Rover Velar, a not-quite-full size SUV that will fill a gap in the Range Rover lineup that you may not have known existed—right there between the Range Rover Sport and the wee Evoque. Built on a stretched version of the Jaguar platform that serves the F-Pace, XE, and XF, the Velar is a visual stunner, and will no doubt ably fly the RR brand flag of elegance, sophistication, on-road performance, and exquisite ride quality.

The Velar in not a game changer for Jaguar Land Rover or its parent company, Tata Motors. It’s more like a quadrupling down on what RR has already mastered: the art of the modern SUV. That’s not to say there isn’t some truth to the old Range Rover saw, If there’s no fluid under ’em, there’s no fluid left in ’em. If you know only one thing about the Range Rover, it’s that they’ve battled reliability issues for years. If you know two things, it’s that they’re expensive and perhaps unreliable. But the most important thing—the truest thing—that you should know is this: Right now, the planet around, Range Rover builds the best SUVs in the world. Period.

Recently, I drove the 2018 Land Rover Discovery solo on a multi-hour holiday weekend drive with two young children, a recipe for disaster. Go ahead and feel for me. I left at night, as the kids were theoretically falling asleep. The LR was the diesel V-6 variant, with a 22.5-gallon tank topped off, and Moana loaded onto a thumb drive plugged into the InControl infotainment system.

All arguments about the future or morality (or even criminality) of diesel aside, I love a diesel engine: That Discovery gave me a range of 500-plus miles. No stopping. Just me and my sleeping girls gliding through all that traffic atop our crappy, patchwork American interstate system. When I finally pulled into the driveway in Maine six hours later, they were still asleep, and the Disco’s tank was half full. I could have driven to Canada.

But what makes the Land Rover Discovery good is also what makes the Range Rover great. From the little Range Rover Evoque, with its surprisingly charming droptop option, to the mid-size Range Rover Sport, to the magnificent full-size Range Rover, which represents the ideal to which all SUVs must certainly aspire, there are qualities that are consistent. They are powerful, precise, luxurious, thoughtful, and unmistakably sui generis. Like the Basque language and basketball, the Range Rover has no antecedent. If you sit in the driver’s seat of a Range Rover, it is impossible to mistake it for any other SUV ever made.

And the brand has endured multiple owners across multiple continents (from North America to Europe to Asia), where it was smothered by varying degrees of absenteeism, sabotage, or crisis. Despite engineering disasters and some uninspired redesigns, the Range Rover retains all the things that made it so special and original to begin with.

First, a little history about the Range Rover brand.

The first Range Rover rolled off the factory floor in Solihull, England, in 1970. Rover, which became British Leyland in the late 1960s, had been looking for a new larger vehicle for a decade or so. So they developed a secret test vehicle and gave it the internal name “Velar” (a play on the Italian word, velare, which means disguise). Until the mid-’80s, the Range Rover had a single, two-door configuration with a boxy design that remains essentially intact today. JLR execs would argue all night long about the radically improved drag co-efficiency of the 2018 model. Fine. But it’s still a box. And that’s not a bad thing. No one has ever bought a Range Rover for the fuel efficiency.

The Range Rover wasn’t supposed to be a luxury vehicle, just a larger version of the Land Rover Series trucks. The seats were vinyl, the dash a spartan plastic affair. It was powered by a detuned, 153-horsepower version of Rover’s 3.5-liter, aluminum block V-8, which was originally developed by GM for Buick.

After years as a grey market staple, the Range Rover officially arrived in the United States in 1987, and sold just enough to capture the imagination of well-heeled America.

The 2018 Range Rover ($103,895)

It all starts with the Range Rover. Very little appears to have changed in this SUV since it first arrived in the US 30 years ago. It is still a big, boxy, gas guzzler with a greenhouse vast enough to grow row upon row of rose bushes inside. But the truth is, Range Rover has gone to great lengths to rebuild itself—and shed its reputation as unreliable—without tampering with the alchemy of the user experience. For starters, the new version saves weight after switching to an aluminum monocoque from steel, it is still a heavy ride.

The engine is a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 that makes 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic. There are other variants in the full size Range Rover, including an economical V-6, but get real. You want the big guy. The fuel efficiency is characteristically poor (I never got better than 15 mpg driving around Brooklyn), but I didn’t really care. Everything else about this SUV had me in its thrall.

The two most important components of the Range Rover’s success are its imperiously luxurious design and its precision performance off-road and on. You know you’re in a big SUV because you sit above everything else on the road, and you feel wrapped in glass, with a better field of vision than any other car on the road. But once you fire up that V-8 and start weaving through traffic, the steering shrinks the SUV: It is sharper, more precise, better balanced than any other SUV, crossover, or even most sports cars on the road. No matter the road conditions, no matter the maneuver, there’s never a moment where the steering doesn’t place the big 5,000-pounder precisely where you want it. It’s like watching Jackie Gleason dance a tango.

Range Rover has a design language that seems to have evolved over centuries rather than decades. Even the power window switches, stubbornly placed atop the door sill rather than down by the handle like every other car on the road, emphasize the very Roverness of this SUV. It is a luxury vehicle first, and an SUV second. No one else has drawn the equation like that before.

The Range Rover Sport ($81,650)

Some people can’t handle the dimensions of the full size Range Rover. For them, the Range Rover Sport was introduced to compete directly with the top-selling Porsche Cayenne. It has all the leather-clad comforts of the Range Rover, and all of the distinctive design elements.

But it is, arguably, more manageably proportioned. It has two engine variants—a 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, or a notably quiet 254-hp 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6—and an aluminum monocoque. Beneath the unfussy and elegant cladding, an air suspension system with aluminum chassis arms, active shocks and anti-roll bars all conspire with new “low-hysteresis” air springs on the front axle. The aim was to arrive at a more serene ride. This has been achieved, in ways that every other carmaker is chasing.

The Range Rover Evoque ($43,000)

They said it shouldn’t be done: A baby Range Rover that comes with a ragtop variant. This is the most controversial of all Rovers, and in some ways the most courageous. A convertible crossover? Nissan tried that once with the hideous Murano CrossCabriolet. But in the end it sacrifices all too many practicalities (starting with, but not limited to, cargo space) in favor of making a fashion statement. If you have a house on Nantucket, you would consider buying an Evoque and leaving it there. Otherwise, it’s a decent all-season city car.

Range Rover Velar (starting at $50,000)

Will the fourth Range Rover, due in showrooms in a month or so, hue to the same high standards set by the full size Range Rover? We’ll see. It is expected to be the most high-tech of the four, available in three engines—a 247-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4, a 380-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, and a 180-hp 2.0-liter turbo-diesel four. From the outside, its design is impeccable, with a floating roof, unbroken waistline, and the distinctive rounded corners of the modern Range Rover.

The expectations are high. After all, Range Rover makes the best SUV in the world.

Surprise! Conventional Oil Is Still Popular For Fleets

Why spend seven bucks a quart for synthetic motor oil if your engine runs perfectly fine on the conventional stuff?

The oil retailers are more than happy to promote what is one of the biggest myths in the car business, and that is synthetic oils are inherently better than their conventional counterparts. Therefore you should pay more for the good stuff.

It's not true. What matters most when it comes to all things motor are two things. The additive package and whether you simply follow what is recommended in your owner's manual. Follow that? You're good. Manufacturers employ small armies of chemical engineers who figure these things out for all of us so that we don't have to be swayed by the anecdotal evidence that's offered throughout the internet.

Fleet Maintenance magazine recently developed an extensive study on the maintenance regimen for light-and-heavy duty trucks and there were two eyebrow raising surprises.

1) Conventional oils are used just as often as synthetic oils by those folks who maintain fleets of trucks for a living.

2) Synthetic transmission fluids are more popular than synthetic motor oils.

Anyone who has ventured through the Long-Term Quality Index has found that for most cars and light-duty trucks, it's not the engine that usually breaks first, it's the transmission. Sealed transmissions and the mythical lifetime fluids within them add a lot more cost to the ownership experience, but it's rarely reported on by the mainstream media because these issues typically happen well after the new car warranty expires.

Those who maintain trucks that often cost well into the six-figures already know that transmission fluid needs to be changed, preferably a 'drain and fill' with a synthetic transmission fluid. Trucks can handle a lot more abuse than cars and they also have larger sumps that handle a greater volume of fluid to protect your powertrain. Yet those transmission fluids need changing at some point.

You can find the study here

The B-52 Is About to Become a Much More Effective Psychological Operations Tool

After more than half century of service, the U.S. Air Force’s B-52 bombers remain an iconic symbol of America’s military power, able to carry some of the most destructive weapons in existence. Now the service is looking to expand the plane’s arsenal even more in order to help it perform one of its less well known missions, psychological warfare.

On July 25, 2017, the Air Force announced that a B-52H bomber from the 419th Flight Test Squadron had finished a series of test drops of the PDU-5/B. Though it might look like a cluster bomb at first glance, this dispenser actually holds tens of thousands of paper leaflets that, in an operational environment, might implore the enemy to abandon their cause or tell civilians to avoid certain areas.

The PDU-5/B uses the same dispenser, called the SUU-76, as the CBU-100/B Rockeye II anti-tank cluster bomb. It functions the same way, too, with a fuze in the nose causing the canister’s shell to split open, releasing the payload inside. The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the PDU-5’s blue stripes, indicating an inert device.

“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” Kevin Thorn, the B-52 air vehicle manager for the 419th, told the service’s reporters. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition.”

A B-52H from the 419th Flight Test Squadron drops a PDU-5/B during tests.

Each B-52 has a pair of "Heavy Stores Adapter Beams," one under each wing, each of which can hold up to nine approved munitions, depending on their size and weight. During the tests, the Stratofortress only carried eight dispensers on the racks, leaving the center six-o’clock position empty. The actual test drops occurred over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range off the coast of California and on land at the Precision Impact Range Area at Edwards Air Force Base.

The tests were reportedly successful, but there is no indication when B-52s might use the PDU-5s in an actual war zone. Earl Johnson, in charge of the program to integrate the bombs onto the BUFFs, said the next step would be making sure they functioned properly when the aircraft released them from its internal bomb bay.

It is possible the Air Force may want to get that testing done sooner rather than later so they can get loads of PDU-5s out to B-52s flying over Iraq and Syria. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations,” Johnson explained.

Despite being a very low-tech concept, leaflet drops are also relatively low cost and have been a regular component of coalition air operations against ISIS. Many of the leaflets warn civilians of impending strikes, telling them to flee to safety – something that unfortunately isn’t always an option, even if people are willing to abandon their homes in the first place. There's always the problem of whether the target population will even be able to read them, too

American aircraft notably dropped some of the paper notes ahead of a spectacular attack on trucks carrying ISIS oil near Abu Kamal, Iraq in November 2015. A-10 Warthogs and AC-130 gunships pummeled the site, destroying more than a hundred tankers.

“We assessed that these trucks, while although they are being used for operations that support ISIL, the truck drivers, themselves, probably not members of ISIL,” U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, then the top spokesman for the American task force leading the fight against ISIS, told reporters on Nov. 18, 2015, using another common acronym for the terrorist group. “They’re probably just civilians.”

Not looking to deliberately kill innocent bystanders caught up in the conflict, American commanders chose to send them a literal message. The leaflets, copies of which I later obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, told them to get away quick.

“Airstrikes are coming, oil trucks will be destroyed. Get away from your oil trucks immediately. Do not risk your life,” one side said. “Oil trucks are being destroyed because buying this oil is the lifeblood of Da’ish. Leave the trucks and flee,” the other side added, using another term for ISIS.

Ahead of similar strikes against hundreds more tankers and other oil infrastructure in neighboring Syria, U.S. aircraft dropped more leaflets with similar messages. “The Coalition Forces will continue to attack all Da’ish controlled oil facilities until Da’ish is defeated,” one declared.

Separately in 2015, American forces dropped much more graphic missives in Syria, according to a report by The Washington Post. One showed terrorists feeding young men into a meat grinder, an allegory ISIS’ leadership blindly throwing them to their death in a hopeless struggle against the United States and its allies.

A very graphic leaflet depicting ISIS feeding new recruits into a meat grinder.

We don’t know what aircraft actually dropped the leaflets in these instances, or whether they used PDU-5s in each case. The U.S. military also has the capability to use helicopters and low-flying cargo aircraft to drop cardboard boxes full of messages in low-risk environments.

According to an official U.S. Central Command regulation covering “Military Information Support Operations,” or MISO, another term for psychological warfare, the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar would process each request for a leaflet drop involving fixed wing aircraft and determine what method would be most appropriate. We obtained a copy of this document via FOIA.

A sailor packs rolls of leaflets into a PDU-5/B on board the aircraft carrier USS <em data-recalc-dims=Nimitz." />

After that, the information would go out to either a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier operating in the region, each of which has the facilities to print and pack leaflets independently, or to the land-based Joint Information Support Task Force (Special Operations), which is part of Special Operations Command Central. The special operations forces personnel would then provide leaflets to Air Force units who would pack them for the final drop over the target area.

Now, B-52 bombers have been flying sorties against the terrorist group from Al Udeid since April 2016. One official video clip, seen below, confirms that the aircraft have been adding to these psychological missions already, but using much older M129E1 or E2 leaflet bombs.

Dating back to the 1960s, these dispensers can only hold 30,000 leaflets each. More importantly, the Cold War-era M129s are long out of production. Originally intended primarily for high performance multi-role fighter aircraft like the F-16, F-15E Strike Eagle, and F/A-18 Hornet, the PDU-5 will eventually become the only leaflet bomb in U.S. inventory.

So it makes perfect sense to add the PDU-5 to the B-52’s arsenal in order to help ease the burden on those fast flying aircraft and free them up for more strike and close air support missions that require their ability to respond at high speed. Compared to tactical fixed wing aircraft, the BUFFs could carry the weapons to much more distant or remote target areas without the same need for extra fuel, too.

The B-52s can simply lug significantly more payload, overall, as well. A full load of 16 PDU-5s on the wing racks alone would contain nearly a million leaflets, which could cover a wide array or multiple distinct zones in a single flight. With a leaflet bombs in its internal bay and GPS-guided Joint Direct Munitions out on the wings, the lumbering BUFFs might even be able to perform psychological missions and remain on station for actual kinetic attacks all in the same sortie.

So if you see what looks like cluster bombs under the wings of B-52s in the Middle East any time soon, make sure to look for the blue bands first. What you might have is a bomber headed out on a psychological warfare mission with the newest “weapon” in its arsenal.

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With Porsche Moving in, Is it Time to Take Formula E Seriously?

Porsche is officially leaving the Le Mans Prototype Class behind in favor of joining Jaguar, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz in Formula E, and around this office, most of the immediate reactions were along the lines of, “Great, Le Mans is dead,” rather than, “Wait, is it now time to take Formula E seriously?” Which seems odd when you consider that the FIA-sanctioned EV series now includes some of the most storied names in motorsport history, and normal when you consider the prickly, hidebound animal that is the racing enthusiast.

Car enthusiasts, and by extension car-racing enthusiasts—or reverse that flow if it makes more sense to you—often claim to like weird things, but in my experience that’s only partially true. When it comes to oddity, what enthusiasts like, broadly speaking, are things that are both weird and old, and furthermore appreciated by at least some subset of other enthusiasts: a familiar type of weirdness. History, by way of prior enthusiasts, must have vetted certain curiosities—the awkward-fish styling of a Citroën DS or a six-wheel Tyrrell P34 Formula 1 car—for those things to be considered Weird But Still Fun, or perhaps Fun Owing to Weirdness.

New weird things—the Porsche Panamera when it debuted, the BMW i8, the proposed F1 halo guard—are on the other hand routinely derided. They are not simply ugly, or pretentious, or somehow cowardly, but also Wrong in the Context of History. When it comes to enthusiasm—most any type of enthusiasm—rule number one is: Even if It’s Good Now, it Was Better Back Then.

Such is the problem faced by Formula E, a new weird thing. Because no one spent their childhood Saturdays handing beers to his dad as the guy wrenched on a battery, and because Fangio, Hunt, McRae, and Earnhardt only ever put foot to gas and never foot to electron, Formula E for a certain type of enthusiast will perpetually fall under the definition of “experiment”—linked not to history but to science, and therefore unworthy of enthusiasm; insubstantial.

The main complaints about Formula E seem to be that the cars aren’t loud enough and that the racing isn’t fast enough. The first is a fair point, especially at the start of a race, though even the most charismatic of deafening noises loses its appeal at the two-hour mark, even if it is coming out of a Corvette; the second begs the question: compared to what? Outright speed does not automatically produce great racing. Formula One, the series Formula E most resembles at a glance, isn’t particularly fast compared to IndyCar, but has motorsport’s largest fanbase by far. Or, if you simply need proof of a high fun-to-speed ratio, go watch Sprint cars or Midgets or certain vintage series.

And on paper, Formula E has many of the qualities fans now complain have disappeared from other series—weirdness included. (Think about the fact that drivers have to swap out of perfectly good cars at some midway point during the race, and also how fun that is to watch: between the footie-pajama racing suit and the helmet’s wobbly, big-headed effect, drivers look like hyperactive toddlers jumping from one race-car bed and being speedily tucked into another. It’s hilarious.) Series rules are opening up rather than constricting; the cars are pretty; racing teams are pushing relevant automotive technology forward in tangible ways—next year, the batteries will reportedly be able to endure an entire race—and the series now boasts some of the most storied marques in motorsport history.

Even better, it’s unpredictable. I once covered a European NASCAR race at Le Mans and discovered a scene that I described at the time as “bumper cars crossed with an orgy”: The effect of young drivers still mostly unfamiliar with big, heavy stock cars, during an all-out sprint, and on a winding European road course no less, was barely-controlled mayhem recognizable as racing because it (mostly) moved in the same general direction. I watched the whole contest wearing a dumb, happy grin, consumed with curiosity as to what sort of madness was about to unfold. The New York Formula E race a couple weeks back felt similar—there were mysterious vehicle failures, drivers massively misjudging speeds and careening off the track, heroic and aggressively stupid passes—and it’s not hard to see why: teams qualify on the same day they race, new tracks are being added all the time, and the series itself is only a few years old so everything is new to everyone. Drivers and teams are figuring out things on the fly while all the while pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing.

And now, the remarkable lineup of manufacturers, most of which left established series (Mercedes-Benz from DTM, Audi and Porsche from LMP1) in favor of Formula E for the same reason those companies are dedicating so many resources to developing battery-powered cars despite the fact that EVs make up a microscopic portion of global sales: the people in charge of those companies believe the future will be electric. And, most likely, the expense of traditional racing is outstripping its modern popularity.

(In a way, the perceived radicalness of Porsche’s move to Formula E underlines how little the automobile has changed since its invention. All motorsport is basically a management of energy and failure in the attempt to get somewhere faster than everyone else, and Formula E is no different. But unlike Formula E, engines across the rest of the motorsports kingdom are essentially similar; a dragster’s Hemi Elephant engine is recognizably the same technology as an F1 car’s turbo V-6 or a small-block V-8—whereas a battery belongs to a different taxonomic class altogether. A manufacturer could therefore throw money at whatever series made the most business sense without needing to fundamentally change its skill set because the drill was basically the same: build an engine that runs on a petroleum distillate, put it in a vehicle, and make those things work together reliably enough to both go fast and keep running long enough to finish the contest. But EV racing represents a different skill set altogether. With due respect to the infinite complexities of and differences between NASCAR, WRC, F1, DTM, Stadium Super Trucks, Top Fuel, and IndyCar, those series are far more similar to one another in terms of basic technology than any one of them is to Formula E.)

The electric future is cheaper, too, at least in terms of FIA racing: a season in F1 or an LMP1 campaign in WEC can costs tens of millions of dollars at the low end and several hundred million to win, but Formula E capped investment per season at $3.3 million when it launched. Amid increasing diesel-emissions scandals and the various associated penalties and fines—including, in VW’s case, a requirement to spend billions of dollars specifically on EV infrastructure—it’s no wonder race-pedigreed European brands have decided to invest a small amount to position themselves down the road and hope, as vehicles become increasingly electrified, the fans show up at some point—rather than blow a metric fuckton of money now with dubious returns. Or, to put that point in the form of a question: Did you ever buy an Audi because of the brand’s Le Mans prototype-class dominance?

I’m not a Formula E apologist or booster or fanboy—or even a fan, really. The New York race was the first I saw and I have no plans to start following now. The racing is missing some elemental ingredient I can’t put my finger on; in any case it is too slow, the races too short, the stakes too low. I’m only pointing out that while many see the EV series as an anomaly at best or what’s wrong with motorsport at worst, it in fact does many things considered “right” about racing—and not only right, but otherwise vanishing. Formula E is unpredictable and relevant and weird—and, yes, new—and it’s worth seeing where Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar and Audi and BMW and, now, Porsche take it.

In other words, Formula E is worth taking a chance on, if only because a significant number of history’s best racing marques already have.

It Looks Very Likely That North Korea’s New ICBM Can Reach The West Coast

North Korea has tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which appeared to land somewhere in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the East Sea. The launch is the latest for the reclusive regime since it demonstrated the Hwasong-14 for the first time on July 4th, 2017. It likely involved either that same missile type or a derivative thereof. If initial estimates are correct, the weapon can hit the continental United States, able to reach at least west coast and possibly beyond.

The U.S. military confirmed the launch and that it involved an ICBM, but did not specify what type. The North Koreans fired the missile from the remote Mup'yong-ni in the country's Janjang province. The missile flew for approximately 45 minutes before crashing into the sea some 600 miles from the launch site.

"We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment," U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement. "The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America."

However, this latter portion of the statement likely referred only to this specific launch. The missile's apogee was reportedly nearly 2,300 miles, more than 300 miles higher than in the July 4 test. With that information, subsequent independent estimates put the weapon's range at more than 6,000 miles with a payload weight sufficient to accommodate a nuclear weapon. With that range, it isn't just Alaska, Hawaii, or even California that could be under threat. It could mean the North Koreans could launch an attack right into the middle of the continental United States. Although they would need a warhead and miniaturized nuclear device capable of surviving reentry to do so.

After the first Hwasong-14 test, experts had already speculated that the North Koreans had yet to demonstrate the missile's full capabilities. So it is unclear whether or not this is just a more strenuous test of that design or a significant modification based on it. Regardless, it is a significant achievement that is likely to both anger and spook the United States and its East Asian allies.

After the launch, both the Japanese and South Korean governments did say they would convene emergency meetings of their national security staffs. “I have received information that North Korea once again conducted a missile firing,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “We will immediately analyze information and do our utmost to protect the safety of the Japanese people.”

North Korean premier Kim Jong-un celebrates after the success of an earlier missile test.

As the missile came down inside Japan's EEZ, it initially looked as if the test might have a been a protest to very recent Japanese sanctions against North Korean individuals and entities. Earlier on July 28, 2017, the country's cabinet reportedly agreed to implement new restrictions on nine people and five companies, including two Chinese firms, the Bank of Dandong and Dalian Global Unity Shipping. The United States had already sanctioned both of these organizations, among others, in response to North Korean missile activity in June 2017.

Initial reports even incorrectly suggest that the missile had landed inside Japanese territorial waters, within 12 miles of the shore. Though the country claims exclusive rights to natural resources within its EEZ, which extends out 200 miles from the coast, the area still qualifies as international waters. Still, “North Korea’s repeated provocative acts absolutely cannot be accepted,” Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declared.

However, this would not be the first time North Korean missiles have fallen into this zone. In May 2017, North Korea fired a barrage of much shorter range Scud-type ballistic missiles, three of which came down in Japan’s EEZ near the Oki Islands. This and other missile tests in the East Sea had already prompted Japanese authorities to look more closely at acquiring additional missile defenses, including the U.S. military's Aegis Ashore system, to defend against potential attacks.

Instead, it now seems obvious that North Korea was more intent on demonstrating their increasing credible deterrent capabilities. In their report, the Associated Press speculated that this was why North Korean officials decided to conduct a nighttime launch, which wouldn't be an ideal scenario for flashy propaganda pictures and video. Firing an ICBM in the dead of night could have been meant as a demonstration of the country's ability to respond at any time.

The test did seem to conflict with recent assessments that it was unlikely the North Koreans were close to launching another ballistic missile. "Currently, there's no sign of an imminent North Korean missile launch,” South Korean Army Colonel Roh Jae-cheon, a spokesman for the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, had said at a press conference on July 27, 2017.

A canisterized ICBM-type design that North Korea has yet to demonstrate in an actual test.

The U.S. military and others had already been expecting another missile launch to closely coincide with the anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27. This arrangement had stopped much of the overt fighting on the Peninsula, but did not include a formal peace deal, leaving North and South Korea technically at war to this day.

On July 20, 2017, CNN reported that the U.S. military had already spotted signs that another missile launch might be coming sometime in the next two weeks. It was unclear whether the test would come from a site on land or the sea, as there had been “unusual deployment activity” among North Korea’s submarine fleet.

And in spite of the reality, North Korea has declared the armistice date as Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War Day, celebrating the "defeat" of the United States and “puppet” allies. These events are often marked with military parades or demonstrations, including missile launches. In the end, the date came and went without a launch, possibly due to bad weather.

We don't know why North Korean forces ultimately decided to wait, but it didn't prevent them from reaching a significant milestone in their missile program. We'll keep an eye out for additional information, but it seems increasingly clear that North Korea will present a threat to the continental United States itself far sooner than most ever imagined.

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This Chevrolet Tahoe Frame Swap at a Dealership Has Not Gone Well at All

A frame swap is among the most intensive procedures you can do to a truck (or car, for that matter), and unless you're pretty skilled with a wrench, it's definitely a job best left to the professionals. But even they can screw up sometimes. Badly.

The picture up top surfaced on Facebook this week courtesy of Wickedautovids, and it's actually hard to imagine how a frame swap could possibly go worse. According to their post, a customer brought his third-gen Chevrolet Tahoe into a dealership for an insurance-covered frame swap. The body was successfully dropped onto the new frame, but the mechanic decided to just insert a few mounting bolts "loosely" before lifting it into the air to tighten and add the rest.

The pictures tell the rest of the story. The frame slipped, detached on the left side, and swung down like a pendulum, dragging the body off the lift and "nearly crushing" two employees standing beneath it. Thankfully, no one was injured.

And as mad as the Chevy's owner probably was to come back expecting a like-new truck and see, well, this, there's justice for them too—the dealership owner reportedly took them out to the lot to pick out a new Tahoe. All's well that ends well?