The models will celebrate Cadillac’s first-ever endurance racing manufacturer’s champions. The cars will be available in both Black Raven or Crystal White with V-Performance graphics on the hood and rear spoiler, Red Obsession side-view mirror caps, DPi-V.R. graphics on the quarter windows, red Brembo brake calipers and forge polished alloy wheels with pockets painted Midnight Silver.
The special edition also upgrades the interior with a Morello Red interior package coupled with black Recaro race-inspired seats, red front and rear door armrests and a Morello accented carbon fiber interior trim. You also get some neat gadgetry including a performance data recorder with the Cosworth toolbox and a rear camera mirror. The ATS-V comes with a turbocharged 3.6L V-6 pushing out 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The CTS-V shares the 640 hp LT4 V-8 found in the Chevy Corvette ZO6.
The Championship Edition cars will begin arriving at select dealers in December. Each new V-Series model also includes tuition and accommodations at the 2-day Cadillac V-Performance Academy at Spring Mountain, where you’ll learn all about controlling that hulking V-8 power. The ATS-V version starts at $72,190 for the sedan and $74,3909 for the coupe. The CTS-V will set you back $105,730. In total, only 200 Championship Editions will be built.
Cadillac’s V-Performance DPi-V.R. Prototype race car kicked off this past season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with seven straight victories. Cadillac placed three cars in IMSA’s prototype category last season, including the No. 10 Konica Minolta Caddy driven by Jordan and Ricky Taylor.
The hot new trend in luxury cars is subscription services. The idea is that rather than buying a car, you pay for a monthly subscription to drive any car you’d like from the brand’s lineup that often includes insurance, maintenance, pickup, and delivery. It’s kind of like a lease, but you aren’t stuck with just one vehicle. The brand then has clients rather than owners who are free from the commitment of owning a car.
Cadillac’s “Book” subscription service is underway and now its American luxury rival, Lincoln is getting in on the trend. Using the same software as Ford’s Canvas subscription program, Lincoln is launching its subscription service as a pilot program in California to see how it goes before a nation-wide launch.
Last year, Lincoln launched a pickup and delivery program which has provided more than 60,000 rides for Lincoln owners who get the convenience of having their vehicles picked up for service, dropped off when complete, and a complimentary loaner for the time in between. This new subscription service is like an expansion of that.
Another pilot program that Lincoln has underway is a chauffeur service called Lincoln Personal Driver. Basically, it’s a trained driver who shows up to wherever your Lincoln is to give you a ride and even runs errands for you. This program initially launched in Miami, Florida and San Diego, California and it’s been successful enough that it’s expanding to Dallas, Texas.
Are luxury car subscriptions a passing fad or the future of the industry?
A drone just discovered remnants of a 2,200-year old Idumean structure in the Lachish region of Israel. According to The Times of Israel, it is yet unclear whether these remnants were once part of a temple or a palace, but one fact remains: It’s only because of affordable drone technology that this rare, ancient structure was spotted at all.
Intended as a simple aerial survey spanning from Beit Guvrin in the north to Moshav Amatzia in the south using a basic, camera-fitted drone, the aerial images showed a potentially undiscovered structure. Once researchers on the ground surveyed the area themselves, excavations resulted in significant finds such as an altar from the Hellenistic period which has a bull as part of its decoration. Head on over to The Times of Israel for a few select images of the excavation site, and the items found nearby.
Reportedly, the finds in question belonged to the Idumean people, which were once called Edomites, before the Hellenistic period. “If this was indeed an Idumean palace or temple, it is a rare and exciting find. Similar structures in this country can be counted on the fingers of one hand,” said the team of archaeologists. Regarding the bull found on one of the altars, they considered that it “may have symbolized a deity worshipped by the Idumeans,” as it’s standing atop “what is apparently the facade of a temple adorned with magnificent columns.”
Regardless of the exact dates and origin of this fascinating archaeological find, it’s fairly safe to say that drones have added yet another vastly significant feature to their repertoire. The fact that historians, archaeologists, and researchers are beginning to profit from this aerial imaging tool is a benefit for all of us. The more we understand of our past, the better we can collectively forge ahead into the future. Thankfully, it seems like these nifty little flying robots are helping us get there a little easier.
On Dec. 11, ABC will air The Bachelor: Countdown to Arie, a preview of the Bachelor franchise’s 22nd season, starring race car driver Arie Luyendyk Jr.
He is the son of Arie Luyendyk Sr., a famed Dutch-born Formula 1 driver who won the Indy 500 in 1990 and 1997.
Luyendyk, who was announced as the Bachelor in September, has been racing since he was 11-years-old. The Scottsdale, Arizona-bred driver has raced in multiple Indy Lights races, the Indy 500 and the A1 Grand Prix, and was named the Infinite Pro Series’ “Most Popular Driver” from 2003 to 2006.
Luyendyk, 36, is one of the oldest Bachelors, but this is not his first time on the show.
The blue-eyed heartthrob appeared on Emily Maynard’s season of The Bachelorette in 2012 and made it to the final two, where he faced what he says is his most recent heartbreak. Unlike other Bachelor contestants, who have appeared on spinoffs like Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise, Luyendyk stayed out of the limelight after his first experience. He still recalls Maynard as his “last true love.”
Countdown to Arie will address Luyendyk’s recuperation from this breakup, along with successful Bachelor couples and a sneak peek at this season’s cast. Several other teasers have already aired for the show, which started filming in September.
A recent trailer showed Arie driving a lucky brunette on a motorcycle for their date.
The little adventure bike that we’ve been hoping Royal Enfield would bring the the U.S. is, indeed, coming to our shores starting in summer of 2018. We’re talking about the charming Royal Enfield Himalayan which was originally only available in India when it came out in 2016.
The Himalayan is a bit of a misfit in the adventure bike market. It’s much smaller than most “ADV” bikes, but it isn’t a dirt bike. It has beefy suspension which was co-developed with Polaris and it’s the first Royal Enfield with monoshock rear suspension. It’s powered by a carbureted, air-cooled, SOHC 410cc single-cylinder, four-stroke engine. While it’s fit for both street use and moderate off-roading, don’t expect too much from this 24.5-horsepower engine. However, it has 23.6 pound-feet of torque that peaks at 4,000 to 4,500 rpm. That means you get more accessible grunt nice and low in the rev range.
Don’t let its little size fool you. The Royal Enfield Himalayan is no scooter. It has a 21-inch front wheel with 7.9 inches of travel and a 17-inch rear wheel with 7.1 inches of travel. There are nine inches of ground clearance, a skid plate, a fairly tall adjustable windshield, and an aesthetic to back up its off-road performance.
The real beauty of the Himalayan is in its size. A lot of adventure bikes are heavyweights that are doomed if they ever fall over in an off-road adventure. The Royal Enfield Himalayan only weighs 421 pounds, so it’s light enough to not only be chuckable but to pick up when it falls over. Also, the bike is simple enough for you to do repairs on the fly.
When the Royal Enfield Himalayan arrives at American dealers starting next summer, it will have a starting price of just $4,499. That’s less than similar 250cc off-roaders from Honda and Kawasaki. If you’ve been looking for something a little different in an off-road motorcycle, keep an eye out for the Himalayan.
Recreational vehicle sales are on a roll, and could hit their highest level in nearly four decades, according to Reuters. The news organization attributes the surge to the combination of a strong economy, low fuel costs, and retiring Baby Boomers. Low financing costs also play a role in the sales surge, Reuters notes.
While loans for cars and SUVs only rarely exceed eight years, the financing for RVs can go to 20 years. This lowers monthly costs, but keeps buyers on the hook longer.
The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association reports that it tracked 334,408 wholesale shipments to RV retailers through the first eight months of 2017, a gain of 15.1 percent over the 290,582 units shipped in the same period of 2016. Towables (campers without their own powertrain) are the most popular type of RV. The association tracked 292,130 towable wholesale shipments in the first eight months of 2017, a 15.3 percent increase. By contrast, year-to-date sales of motorhomes reached 42,278 units through August 31, up 13.9 percent from 2016.
The sales boom is so pronounced that it's straining the labor market in northern Indiana, where 85 percent of America's RVs are made, the Reuters piece states. That area is home to the two largest RV manufacturers in the country, Forest River, and Thor Industries (the parent of Airstream, the iconic brand that produced the towable travel trailer shown in our photo at top).
RVs can cost as much as a house, but depreciate like cars. Bankrate notes that just driving one off the lot can decrease an RV's value by 30 percent. If (really, when) the stock market corrects itself and retirement savings take a hit, many RV owners will likely be looking to sell. This could glut the used market with options, and further depress prices.
"RV sales are quick to suffer when consumer confidence wilts, as happened during the Great Recession," Reuters states. "Shipments plunged by a third in 2008 and then fell more than 30 percent in 2009."
While RV sales don't resemble other bubbles, it does seem like some people might get hurt.
A remote Welsh village just received broadband internet thanks to a cable-laying drone that connected the fiber cables across “challenging” forested, mountainous terrain. According to the BBC, a cable company called Openreach was responsible for this ingenious decision to utilize an unmanned aerial vehicle to solve the town of Pontfadog's internet connectivity issues.
Reportedly, the small town consists of a mere 20 homes, which could explain the lack of attention regarding high-speed internet opportunities up until now. Openreach changed all of that thanks to Chief Engineer Andy Whale’s idea of using a drone to get the locals connected to the World Wide Web. Thanks to him and the affordable, practical tool that is the modern drone, the locals now have access to internet speeds of up to 1 gigabyte.
Whale explained that this was a fairly unusual situation for him and his team, as they’re accustomed to more traditional, city environments when it comes to laying cables. “It’s a bit different to connecting an apartment block in London, that’s for sure,” said Whale. “If we tried running the cable through the woods it was also very likely we’d get it caught up in branches and other natural obstructions, so we figured the best option was to fly it in over the top of the tree canopy and then lift it up to make sure it was clear of the tree line.”
According to the BBC, the UAV wasn’t capable of lifting the weighty fiber cable itself, so the team towed a durable yet lightweight 328-foot fishing line to the required areas beyond the trees. This then allowed for the fiber-optic cable to essentially be pulled across the pre-set fishing line’s path.
Reportedly, all of the above took a mere hour, which, according to local retired teacher Chris Devismes, “has made a world of difference to us. I live here with my two teenage sons and they’re often online - watching films, streaming music or Skyping their friends. When all three of us were online at the same time, it could often be a struggle and things would start to buffer and freeze.”
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of our internet being unreliable at one point or another, and how exacerbating it is to rely so heavily on a connection that often fails you. The idea that a drone helped an entire town, albeit a small one, forever rid families of that annoyance, is vicariously very cathartic. The internet has become an essential part of the modern world's fiber. Having limited access to it, and being cut off from one another, is not an ideal situation to be in. As Openreach itself puts it, "that's not gonna fly."
Earlier this year, Marines aviators and their F/A-18C/D Hornets touched down at the unassuming Salina Regional Airport in Kansas, where they joined personnel from other branches of the U.S. military, the National Guard, and foreign troops for a two-week exercise known as Jaded Thunder. Less well publicized was that the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, runs the show, which is one of at least two domestic events – the other known as Bronze Ram – that focus on training to work closely with other special operations, conventional, and allies forces.
In February 2017, JSOC held one of the most recent Jaded Thunder exercises in and around the Kansas Air National Guard’s Smoky Hill Weapons Range, part of the Great Plains Joint Training Center, situated near the town of Salina. Approximately 1,300 American and foreign military personnel took part, including the fliers from Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron Two Two Four, or VMFA(AW)-224.
The February iteration was “the largest and most successful Jaded Thunder exercise to date,” U.S. Air Force Colonel Tim Smith, commander of the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Regional Support Group, which manages the Smoky Hill Range, wrote in a blog post in March 2017. “The event is becoming more frequent due to its popularity with our warfighters as an effective training venue.”
A draft document the command released in October 2017 on FedBizOpps, the federal government’s main contracting website, confirmed that JSOC not only takes part in, but runs both Jaded Thunder and Bronze Ram. There is virtually no other information readily available about the latter, beyond a pair of brief mentions on Facebook about one of the events that occurred at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center, situated in California’s Mojave Desert at Fort Irwin, in 2013.
However, from other publicly available information we know that Jaded Thunder serves as an opportunity for JSOC joint terminal air controllers, the individuals charged with calling in air strikes and other fire support, to practice with a variety of both special operations and conventional forces. It’s a live fire event that also gives the supporting personnel a chance to train as part of a large and complex force, similar to the kind they might find in an actual conflict zone, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria.
Jaded Thunder has occurred routinely since at least 2011 and there are multiple iterations of the exercises each year, likely in part to rotate JSOC personnel through the courses before or after operational deployments. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) declined to provide any additional details, including the frequency of the exercises, where they occur, or how many personnel have generally taken part.
According to the Kansas National Guard, JSOC chose Salina as one of the venues in 2013 after automatic budget cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act, a process known as sequestration, forced it to seek alternative training locations. Since then, Jaded Thunder events have continued in Kansas, but have also occurred at National Guard facilities in Florida.
The special operators had made use some portion of the sprawling training space in and around Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on at least one occasion in 2011. At the time, U.S. Air Force personnel gave a public briefing about the exercise to officials and citizens in the nearby city of Pahrump, which you can watch below.
But the sheer diversity of assets that have supported Jaded Thunder in the past four years underscores Colonel Smith’s comments about the expanding popularity of the exercise and the event’s apparent importance. The full scope of special operations aircraft have taken part, including AC-130 gunships, from Air Force Special Operations Command and AH-6 Little Bird light attack helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
In addition to the attackers, specialized intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, such as the Air Force’s MC-12Ws and U-28As, have supported the exercises, according to annual reports from the Kansas National Guard. In the past, CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors have participated to fly ground teams around the fictional battlefields. Unspecified drones, which could include small tactical types, such as the Scan Eagle or RQ-21 Black Jack, or larger, armed examples, such the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and MQ-9 Reaper, have been involved in Jaded Thunder, as well.
In 2013 and 2014 both, the pair of OV-10G+ Broncos, which the Navy borrowed from NASA and heavily modified as part of light attack aircraft experiment, flew missions during Jaded Thunder exercises. In 2015, the aircraft went to Iraq for a limited field trial where they hunted ISIS terrorists, which you can read about in more detail here.
In June 2015, Gawker’s now defunct Phase Zero made a post on Twitter suggesting that Jaded Thunder has also included some of JSOC’s most shadowy elements, including its own internal aviation component, the Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group (AVTEG). This organization oversees covert “black” special operations units such as the Air Force’s 66th Air Operations Squadron and 427th Special Operations Squadron, which I wrote about in detail in a previous feature.
Among other aircraft, observers have linked a number of modified CASA CN-235 surveillance aircraft to the 427th, which plane spotters often track using online software flying at various locations in the United States. We at The War Zone took an in depth look into these particular planes after one appeared in the skies near Seattle in August 2017 for a still mysterious training mission. There is substantial evidence that JSOC personnel, and private contractors supporting their operations, fly or have flown a variety of other discreet reconnaissance aircraft with civilian style paint schemes, including twin engine Beechcraft King Airs and four engine de Havilland DHC-7s.
The special operations components are just a part of the aerial armada that takes part in Jaded Thunder, though. As already mentioned, Marine Corps units have regularly brought their F/A-18C/D Hornets to the exercise. Active and Reserve Air Force A-10 Warthog squadrons similarly make routine appearances and B-1 bombers have flown missions during the event at least once.
The U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army National Guard in various states have sent various types of attack, scout, transport helicopters – including UH-60 Black Hawks and HH-60 Seahawks, OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, and AH-64 Apaches – to help shuttle personnel around and support the training events, too. During Jaded Thunder 14-2, the second iteration in 2014, participating aircraft of all types flew more than 230 sorties and JTACs on the ground were able to call in almost 550 mock support requests.
And on the ground, Army artillery units have brought M109 155mm self-propelled howitzers on at least two occasions to provide a different kind of fire support. The Kansas National Guard says that Jaded Thunder 2013 was actually the first time ranges near Salina had hosted any live-fire artillery training since World War II.
All of this makes perfect sense, of course. Though its activities are generally classified, JSOC relies heavily on conventional forces, including reservists and national guardsmen, to conduct its operations in the field. There are often simply not enough special operations assets to meet the demand for airlift and other transportation, as well as fire support, during regular and often short-notice missions.
On top of that, special operations units do not include long-range artillery or the breadth of strike aircraft available in the conventional force, which is often the best option for attacking particular targets. It is essential that JSOC’s operators know how to work seamlessly with their conventional counterparts.
In 2015, The Washington Post reported that special operations forces in Afghanistan had been working closely with Army elements armed with the 227mm High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to conduct targeted strikes against particular terrorists. The truck-mounted launcher and its GPS-guided rockets, which have a range of more than 40 miles, has continually proven to be a valuable and easily deployable tool, something we at The War Zone have discussed numerous times in the past.
During the 2013 and 2015 iterations of the Air Force Special Operations Command’s own capstone exercise, Emerald Warrior, an MC-130 special operations transport plane practiced dropping off a HIMARS launcher as part of a simulated raid. This illustrated the ability of both conventional and special operations elements to try and get the weapon into position quickly to respond to actionable intelligence about fleeting, time-sensitive targets, such as meetings between terrorist leaders.
The U.S. military has recently begun to signal that the fighting in Iraq and Syria against ISIS is beginning to slow. On Nov. 30, 2017, Combined Joint Task Force-Operational Inherent Resolve, the main American task force leading the effort, announced that Marine artillery troops were on their way home from Syria after having supported the intense campaign to liberate the city of Raqqa.
On Tuesday, the European Space Agency announced that it’s working on developing aerial vehicles that operate like satellites but fly at altitudes similar to standard aircraft. In the agency’s own words, these High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites would bridge that “‘missing link’ between drones and satellites,” and serve as unmanned aerial vehicles that continuously monitor the earth from a fixed position inside our atmosphere for months at a time.
According to ESA’s press release, the most fruitful altitude would be 12.4 miles (20 kilometers), which would position these pseudo-satellites above commercial airline traffic and clouds, as the weather conditions there allow for the UAVs to remain stationed in one place without much issue. Reportedly, from this vantage point, the vehicles can monitor terrain up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) away, as well as communicate with stations on the ground via high-bandwidth, or utilize the navigation services of satellites floating nearby.
In the ESA's own words, HAPS "are stratospheric platforms that stay over a fixed point on Earth from weeks to months. Compared to ground-based systems, towers or aircraft, HAPS operate quasi-stationarily at an altitude of approximately 12.4 miles (20 kilometers). This allows them to complement or extend the capabilities of satellites in the domains of Earth Observation, Telecommunication, and Navigation with the potential to further integrate with ground-based infrastructure."
ESA future-systems specialist Antonio Ciccolella says, “For Earth observation, they could provide prolonged high-resolution coverage for priority regions, while for navigation and telecoms they could shrink blind spots in coverage and combine wide bandwidth with negligible signal delay. ESA is looking into how these various domains can be best brought together.”
While the title of "future-systems specialist" may seem foreign to many of us, it certainly warrants its lofty designation. This is the type of work that reaches into the future and pulls it toward us. When new drones that can monitor entire regions of Earth, stay afloat for months at a time, and take advantage of pre-existing satellites are being developed, it’s clear that an entirely new paradigm may arise, regarding geopolitics and surveillance. Suddenly, future-systems specialist seems fairly apt. As Earth observation specialist Thorsten Fehr said, “We’ve been looking into the concept for the last 20 years, but now finally it’s becoming reality.”
How did we get here, and what are the functional prospects regarding your average citizen of the world that this tech provides? Well, according to Fehr, the road has been smoothed over “through the maturing of key technologies…that can deliver competitively priced services.” Essentially, the miniaturizing or various technologies and competition driving the price down so much that innovation was inevitable. As for the potential uses, navigation engineer Roberto Prieto Cerdeira claims “There’s obvious potential for emergency response. They could also be employed semi-permanently, perhaps extending satnav coverage into high, narrow valleys and cities.”
While we’ve seen other aircraft with similar traits before, such as the MIT-developed drone capable of multi-day flight, the AtlantikSolar drone, or Russia’s LA-252, the ESA’s so-called pseudo-satellite project seems like the next logical step. The higher the altitude, the bigger the opportunity for surveillance, monitoring, data collection, and communication. Stay tuned, as we keep our eyes peeled for any potential developments.
Self-driving cars will give people a lot of extra time, and Intel believes that time can be valuable to companies hawking products and services. At the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, Intel announced a partnership with Warner Bros. to develop what it calls "in-cabin immersive experiences in autonomous-vehicle settings." The goal is to make autonomous cars a platform for both entertainment and advertising.
Intel says Americans spend about 300 hours per year in cars, and believes all of those hours could be prime video-viewing time. Hence the collaboration with Warner Bros., which could see the company's movies and television shows beamed into future self-driving cars. But Intel doesn't want to stop there.
The tech company wants to use augmented-reality and virtual-reality tech to alter a passenger's experience. Intel thinks it can use those technologies to make people feel like they're in the Batmobile, which would also be a great opportunity for Warner Bros. to tell passengers about upcoming Batman movies. An Intel press release noted that these tech features could "render the car a literal lens to the outside world, enabling passengers to view advertising and other discovery experiences."
It's not surprising that companies are pursuing this. Advertising and other branded content represent another potential revenue stream for self-driving cars, alongside sales and ride-hailing services. Autonomous vehicles could become extensions of peoples' smartphones, with all of the potential for marketing and data mining that entails. Intel plans to test this concept using one of the 100 cars in its autonomous test fleet, and we would be fine if that was as far as it got.
Love it or hate it, time spent in cars is one of the few parts of the average day when we don't have to be bombarded by advertising. It would be nice if it stayed that way.