Civil War Tech
America protects its homeland with the most technologically advanced military force ever conceived. Although they fight 21st-century battles worldwide, the technology unleashed is directly descended from a war fought more than 140 years ago. This episode explores how the War between North and South was the first modern war, and the technology used in it was a quantum leap beyond any previous conflict. The machine gun, aerial reconnaissance, advanced battlefield medicine, instantaneous communication, ironclad ships, even the first aircraft carrier were all innovations developed during the Civil War. We'll investigate improvements in weapons, sea power, transportation, troop conveyance, food processing, medical care, and telecommunications. At a time when the nation was divided, Civil War technology revolutionized the way war was waged. Today, those technological milestones have evolved to ensure that our modern military has no equal in the world.
World War I Tech
The first bombing airplanes and widespread use of chemical weapons...earliest tanks...submarines. When Industrial-Age technology and war first mixed on a large scale, the end result was ruthlessly efficient destruction. World War One epitomized the dark underbelly of the Industrial Revolution. We see how technological achievements that streamlined 19th-century production, improved transportation, and expanded science were used to efficiently decimate a generation of soldiers in the early 20th century.
The Maginot Line
The Maginot Line, a defensive string of forts with enfilading firepower, was built by France between WWI and WWII.
Where can you fire a missile without scaring the neighbors? Or lift millions of pounds in pursuit of a couple of ounces of gold? On a proving ground, of course, where performance is the only thing that matters. Because in the heat of battle or head-to-head competition, no excuses can be given. We'll visit the US military's Cold Regions Testing Center in Alaska and desert proving grounds in Arizona, the Olympic Complex in Colorado, and the now-defunct Packard proving grounds in Michigan.
Strategic Air Command
With the ironic motto, Peace is our Profession, the Strategic Air Command was in charge of U.S. nuclear forces from 1946 to 1992. SAC was the ultimate Cold War military machine, at its height controlling thousands of nuclear weapons, planes, and missiles, and boasting over a quarter-million personnel. We travel to the Strategic Air and Space Museum, located 20 miles from SAC's old headquarters in Nebraska, and walk through the cavernous bomb bay of SAC's workhorse, the B-52 Bomber.
Edwards' Air Force Base
Examine the colorful history of the premier flight test center, and America's most important aviation facility for more than 60 years, Edwards Air Force Base in California. Every single aircraft to enter the Air Force's inventory has been put through its paces at Edwards, along with many Navy and Army aircraft as well. With unprecedented access to several forgotten and abandoned facilities on the base, we are guided by Richard Hallion, former chief historian for the US Air Force. Today, Edwards continues to push the envelope. Among the many cutting-edge projects currently being tested is the Airborne Laser, designed to focus a basketball-sized spot of intense heat that could destroy a ballistic missile.
Join us for a supersonic look at some of the most cutting-edge aircraft ever developed--from the X-1 that first broke the sound barrier to the X-43 Scramjet that recently flew at Mach 7. These extreme aircraft have made their mark on aeronautical history, and sometimes on political history as well. the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes played a crucial role in the Cold War, and now Lockheed Martin's top-secret "Skunkworks" division is touting the new "air dominance" fighter plane-- the F/A-22 Raptor.
Extreme Aircraft II
Take a supersonic flight through a world of flying machines that are redefining our skies. Pull serious G's in the U.S. military's latest fighter jet: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Riding shotgun in the lethal B-1B Lancer, and look close or you'll miss the swarm of MAV's (Micro Air Vehicles)--so small they are launched out of a backpack. the "vertical takeoff and landing" capable PAV's (Personal Aerial Vehicles) may be the answer to the commuting needs of tired travelers. Then, discover how a commercial jetliner has been retrofitted into the biggest flying fire truck the world has ever seen.