Ever Wonder Why Weapons Contracts Are So Complicated?

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Air Force Academy

A drawing detailing part of the Air Force Academy's ceremonial sword.

If so, you won’t once you check out the specifications for Air Force ceremonial swords.

These are the beautiful swords that cadets at the Air Force Academy get (paid for with about $300 of their own money, deducted from their cadet pay) when they graduate (you can buy one too, here, for $355).

They may merely be ceremonial, but the testing they have to undergo offers some sense as to just how demanding the testing is for real weapons – like fighters, bombers and drones.

According to a recent contract solicitation by the academy for 724 of the swords, mostly silver but some gold “in appearance” for class standouts, the swords must be machined to precise tolerances, and meet the following standards:

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— The blade must be able to tolerate a bending moment of approximately 85 N-m over the length of the blade.

— The blade must be firmly secured to the handle assembly and not fail at the connection after being dropped 50 times from a height of 1 meter.

— The cross guard shall be solid metal that can withstand impact from being dropped 50 times, without bending, from a height of 15 feet.

— The liner inside the scabbard body shall cushion the blade and prevent rattling.

— The liner shall fit the inside dimensions of the scabbard body without being loose after 2,000 draws and sheathings of the sabre.

— The liner shall fit such that the draw force to remove the blade is approximately 15N ± 5N.

— Each sword shall have a washer cushion to act between the base of the cross piece and the mouthpiece of the scabbard.

— The cushion must be waterproof and remain in place after 2,000 draws and sheathings.

— Each sword and scabbard shall be provided with a Navy blue, cotton, flannelette, cover to fit the assembled sword and scabbard. The color number is 19-3938 TCX, from the Pantone/Fashion and Home/Cotton Planner.

Navy blue?