These are the 62 best COVID-19 memes on the internet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

These are the 62 best COVID-19 memes on the internet

There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.

In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.

And always wash your hands.


1. The milkshake


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force put some guys in a freezer to test out new survival gear

US airmen assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing tested a new arctic survival kit for the F-35A Lightning II in downtown Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

A team of airmen from the 356th Fighter Squadron, F-35 Program Integration Office, 354th Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment and 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 1, used a subzero chamber to replicate the extreme temperatures of interior Alaska.

The test was performed because the current arctic survival kit won’t fit in the allotted space under the seat of an F-35A. The 354th FW is expecting to receive its first F-35A in April of 2019.


“We are testing the kit that Tech. Sgt. John Williams, Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Ferguson and myself have developed over the last year in preparation for the integration of the F-35,” said Tech. Sgt. Garret Wright, 66th TS, Det. 1 Arctic Survival School noncommissioned officer in charge of operations.

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke tests an F-35A Lightning II survival gear kit in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

Four members of the team, to include Lt. Col. James Christensen, commander of the reactivated 356th Fighter Squadron, stepped into two separate chambers, one at minus-20 and the other at minus-40, wearing standard cold-weather gear issued to pilots. Once inside the chambers, the test observers timed how long it took them to don the specialized winter gear from their survival kit.

After the gear was on, the Icemen lived up to their name and stayed in the chamber for six hours. Wright recorded their condition every 30 minutes to ensure the safety and accuracy of the test.

Approximately five hours into the test, Wright noticed the temperature on the digital thermometer didn’t seem accurate in one of the chambers. He found a mercury-based thermometer and discovered the temperature one of the chambers was at minus-65 and the other was minus-51.

“After realizing that the ambient room temperature was at minus-65 at the five-hour mark, I knew that we had accomplished far more than we originally set out to,” Wright said. “Wing leaders wanted a product that would keep pilots alive at minus-40 and although unplanned, the findings were clear that the sleep system could far surpass this goal.”

Wright holds a thermometer beside Rumke during an F-35A Lightning II survival kit test in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nov. 5, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

After six cold hours, the Icemen stepped out of the subzero chamber and spoke with the survival, evasion, reconnaissance, and escape specialists and the AFE team to address discrepancies and better ways to utilize the equipment.

“The gear was great. There were a couple of minor tweaks that I think we could make to it to improve it but overall it was solid,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Rumke, 66th TS, Det. 1, Artic Survival School instructor.

After the debrief, the four Icemen agreed the equipment is more than capable of withstanding the harsh temperatures of the Alaskan landscape and said they would feel safe knowing they had this gear to help them survive in one of the world’s most extreme environments.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Air Force is on a mission to fix its uniforms

The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.

But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.

Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.


“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.

Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.

The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.

Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.

The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)


Some improvements have been made already. In November 2018, the service began delivering upgraded Aircrew Mission Extender Devices, also known as AMXDmax, for bladder relief. The device collects urine in a cup for men and a pad for women, and can hold 1.7 quarts of urine, according to the service. The Air Force said it had expected to deliver roughly 2,000 to crews service-wide by the end of this month.

Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.

“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”

Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.

“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.

Getting uniforms Amazon-quick

On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.

The system was created to quickly field resources to deployed airmen, such as Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) airmen, pararescue and special tactics operations in Air Force Special Operations Command, said Todd Depoy, the special warfare branch chief for the special operations forces and personnel recovery division within Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. Gear ranges from scuba gear to climbing equipment, Depoy said.

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)

“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.

The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.

“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.

The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.

Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.

The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.

“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.

Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.

In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.

Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”

Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.

Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.

“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.

Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.

The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.

Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.

“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

These 10 moves will give you the ultimate ab workout

If you look at a list of body parts men want to tone, somewhere up near the top, you’ll see abs. Sure, bulging biceps would be great, and you probably wouldn’t mind pecs that pop either. But abs — those elusive, sculpted, six-pack symbol of hyper-fitness — are universally sought on any fitness list. And yet, there is a cottage industry selling misguided, haphazard ab advice. The best abs workouts for men are pretty hard to come by.

The main problem is that many workouts don’t take into account that your midsection is actually composed of multiple muscles. The rectus abdominis is probably the one you know best: Running down your centerline from your sternum to pubic bone, this is the muscle people are typically talking about when they describe a six-pack. Then there are the obliques, technically two sets of muscles that run on diagonals beneath the rectus abdominis from your lower ribs to your hip bones. The transverse abdominus is even deeper still, wrapping around the sides of your torso and stabilizing your core. Your lower back muscles also play an integral role in defining your core — both aesthetically (they eliminate some of that side-fat overhang situation) and functionally (a strong lower back helps you rotate your core and stand more erect).


Not sure whether you’re hitting all the essential muscles in your core routine? The workout here has you covered. These 10 moves will sculpt your midsection into one lean, mean abdominal machine. Of course, no core workout will ever be a success if it’s not accompanied by eating smart and keeping up the cardio — if you’re carrying extra pounds, you’re going to have a gut, no matter how many planks you do.

(Photo by Sergio Pedemonte)

The ultimate abs workout

One you can get through the below workout comfortably, add reps to your set, or sets to your circuit, to keep challenging yourself.

1. Flutter kick

Lie on your back, legs extended, heels about 6 inches off the ground. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Begin to scissor your legs up and down, as if you are doing the backstroke in the pool. Flutter kick for 20 seconds, rest 10, then do 20 seconds more.

2. Leg drop

Lie on your back on the floor, legs straight up in the air, feet together. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Without bending your knees, lower your legs to just above the floor, then raise them back to their vertical position. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds, then do another 10 reps.

(Photo by Eric Mills)

3. Russian twist

Grab an 8-10 pound medicine ball or dumbbell. Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Hold the weight with both hands, arms straight in front of your chest. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Twist to the right, letting your arms swing over to your right side. Twist back to the left, letting arms swing to the left side of your body. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds. Do 3 sets.

4. Plank

Get into an extended pushup position, then lower yourself to your elbows. Keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe, hold the position for 60 seconds. For variations on the theme, try a side plank (prop yourself up on one elbow, then raise your hips off the ground to create a straight line from your feet to your shoulders).

5. Jackknife

From an extended pushup position, engage your abs and hike your hips into the air until your body forms an inverted V shape. Hold for three counts, then lower yourself back into an extended pushup position, keeping your back flat. Repeat sequence for 60 seconds.

(Photo by Humphrey Muleba)

6. V-sits 

Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Place a medicine ball between your feet. Lean back and lift your feet off the floor, straightening your legs until your weight is balanced in a V position. From here, either hold this position for 30 seconds, or for a more advanced challenge, bend and straighten your legs while maintain the V-hold. Relax, then repeat.

7. Side cable pull

Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Stand perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest, placing the pulley at chest height. Keeping your feet and hips stationary, twist your torso to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable until your arms are straight in front of your body and your torso is straight over your legs. Hold for one count, then twist back toward the machine to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.

8. Reverse crunches

Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Extend your arms in front of you as a counterbalance. Engage your abs and sink deeper toward the floor (don’t let your shoulders touch the ground), then immediately return to the start position. Pulse up and down for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. Repeat for 30 seconds.

(Photo by Felipe Galvan)

9. Pullup knee raise

Using an overhand grip, perform a standard pullup. Once your head clear the bar, hold the contraction while bending your knees to your chest. (For a simpler version, hang from the pullup bar, arms extended. Bend your knees to your chest, then release them.) Do 8-10 reps, 30 seconds rest. 2 sets.

10. Diagonal chop

Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Half-kneel perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest to the machine and left knee bent in front of you (right leg on the floor). Place the pulley just above head height. Keeping your lower body stationary, twist to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable on a diagonal until your arms are down at your right hip, torso twisted to your right side. Hold for one count, then twist back to the left to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

December 1969 was not a very merry Christmastime for many American families. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the draft lottery was held for the first time. 366 blue capsules were drawn, each containing a day of the year. Each calendar date was assigned a number based on draw order. The lower the draft number, the higher the possibility was of being drafted.


The first drawn, September 14, was assigned 001.

The final tally is on this table, with months and dates listing out American draft numbers for 1970.

Related: This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

Conscription in the United States was a common practice, especially during wartime. It had been a part of American life since the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the draft disappeared and the U.S. military turned into an all-volunteer force.

But back in 1970, one Ph.D. student in computer planning saw the “random” Vietnam draft lottery as flawed — mathematically flawed. According to a New York Times article from the period, he wasn’t the only one.

Mathematicians and statisticians challenged the legality of the process, as it did not produce a truly random result. As the Times’ article points out, hundreds of thousands of men were already preparing for service in Vietnam.

The Nixon White House and the Selective Service System claimed they made a great effort to produce a random result, one that was as fair as possible. Pentagon experts, at the time, estimated that anyone with a number over 200 was unlikely to get drafted.

Experts said the resulting monthly average number could have been predicted if the capsules containing the dates early in the months were on the bottom and the later days were at the top and the capsules were not adequately mixed — which is exactly what happened.

The monthly average draft number from the 1970 draft.

David Stodolosky, the aforementioned Ph.D. student, is the one who filed a suit against Selective Service, based on the findings that the drawing wasn’t truly random. His lawyers argued that President Nixon’s orders called for a random draft and that wasn’t what they got.

His argument was that later birthdates were drawn much earlier than others and, thus, were more likely to be drafted for wartime service.

The student tried to get an injunction against the government pressing men into service until the draft lottery process was truly randomized — a task as simple as attaching numbers to dates using a random number table and then sorting them.

A judge refused the injunction. Besides, a live lottery made for a much better show.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

Silicon Valley is abuzz about “Meltdown” and “Spectre” — new ways for hackers to attack Intel, AMD, and ARM processors that were first discovered by Google last year and publicly disclosed Jan. 3.


Meltdown and Spectre, which take advantage of the same basic security vulnerability in those chips, could hypothetically be used by malicious actors to “read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications,” as Google puts it in a blog post.

The first thing you need to know: Pretty much every PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is affected by the security flaw, regardless of which company made the device or which operating system it runs. The vulnerability isn’t easy to exploit — it requires a specific set of circumstances, including having malware already running on the device — but it’s not just theoretical.

And the problem could affect much more than just personal devices. The flaw could be exploited on servers and in data centers and massive cloud-computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. In fact, given the right conditions, Meltdown or Spectre could be used by customers of those cloud services to actually steal data from one another.

Though fixes are already being rolled out for the vulnerability, they often will come with a price. Some devices, especially older PCs, could be slowed markedly by them.

Here’s what Meltdown and Spectre are. And, just as important, here’s what they’re not.

Am I in immediate danger from this?

There’s some good news: Intel and Google say they’ve never seen any attacks like Meltdown or Spectre actually being used in the wild. And companies including Intel, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are rushing to issue fixes, with the first wave already out.

The most immediate consequence of all of this will come from those fixes. Some devices will see a performance dip of as much as 30% after the fixes are installed, according to some reports. Intel, however, disputed that figure, saying the amount by which computers will be slowed will depend on how they’re being used.

The Meltdown attack primarily affects Intel processors, though ARM has said that its chips are vulnerable as well. You can guard against it with software updates, according to Google. Those are already starting to become available for Linux and Windows 10.

Brian Krzanich, Intel’s Chief Executive Officer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spectre, by contrast, appears to be much more dangerous. Google says it has been able to successfully execute Spectre attacks on processors from Intel, ARM, and AMD. And, according to the search giant, there’s no single, simple fix.

It’s harder to pull off a Spectre-based attack, which is why nobody is completely panicking. But the attack takes advantages of an integral part of how processors work, meaning it will take a new generation of hardware to stamp it out for good.

In fact, that’s how Spectre got its name.

“As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time,” the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says.

What are Meltdown and Spectre, anyway?

Despite how they’ve been discussed so far in the press, Meltdown and Spectre aren’t really “bugs.” Instead, they represent methods discovered by Google’s Project Zero cybersecurity lab to take advantage of the normal ways that Intel, ARM, and AMD processors work.

To use a Star Wars analogy, Google inspected the Death Star plans and found an exploitable weakness in a small thermal exhaust port. In the same way two precisely placed proton torpedoes could blow up the Death Star, so, too, can Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a very specific design quirk and get around (or “melt down,” hence the name) processors’ normal security precautions.

Let’s just hope your processor doesn’t end up looking like this. (Image from Star Wars)

In this case, the design feature in question is something called speculative execution, a processing technique that most Intel chips have used since 1995 and that is also common in ARM and AMD processors. With speculative execution, processors essentially guess what you’re going to do next. If they guess right, then they’re already ahead of the curve, and you have a snappier computing experience. If they guess wrong, they dump the data and start over.

What Project Zero found were two key ways to trick even secure, well-designed apps into leaking data from those returned processes. The exploits take advantage of a flaw in how the data is dumped that could allow them — with the right malware installed — to read data that should be secret.

This vulnerability is potentially particularly dangerous in cloud-computing systems, where users essentially rent time from massive supercomputing clusters. The servers in those clusters may be shared among multiple users, meaning customers running unpatched and unprepared systems could fall prey to data thieves sharing their processors.

What can I do about it?

To guard against the security flaw and the exploits, the first and best thing you can do is make sure you’re up-to-date with your security patches. The major operating systems have already started issuing patches that will guard against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. In fact, fixes have already begun to hit Linux, Android, Apple’s MacOS, and Microsoft’s Windows 10. So whether you have an Android phone or you’re a developer using Linux in the cloud, it’s time to update your operating system.

Microsoft told Business Insider it’s working on rolling out mitigations for its Azure cloud platform. Google Cloud is urging customers to update their operating systems, too.

It’s a good idea to stay current with your Windows updates. (Screenshot from Matt Weinberger)

It’s just as important to make sure you stay up to date. While Spectre may not have an easy fix, Google says there are ways to guard against related exploits. Expect Microsoft, Apple, and Google to issue a series of updates to their operating systems as new Spectre-related attacks are discovered.

Additionally, because Meltdown and Spectre require malicious code to already be running on your system, let this be a reminder to practice good online safety behaviors. Don’t download any software from a source you don’t trust. And don’t click on any links or files claiming you won $10 million in a contest you never entered.

Why could the fixes also slow down my device?

The Meltdown and Spectre attacks take advantage of how the “kernels,” or cores, of operating systems interact with processors. Theoretically, the two are supposed to be separated to some degree to prevent exactly this kind of attack. Google’s report, however, proves the existing precautions aren’t enough.

Operating system developers are said to be adopting a new level of virtual isolation, basically making requests between the processor and the kernel take the long way around.

The problem is that enforcing this kind of separation requires at least a little extra processing power, which would no longer be available to the rest of the system.

Related: Why it’s a big deal that Cyber Command is now a combatant command

As The New York Times notes, researchers are concerned that the fixes could slow down computers by as much as 20% to 30%. Microsoft is reported to believe that PCs with Intel processors older than the 2-year-old Skylake models could see significant slowdowns.

Intel disputes that the performance hits will be as dramatic as The Times suggests.

Some of the slowdowns, should they come to pass, could be mitigated by future software updates. Because the vulnerability was just made public, it’s possible that workarounds and new techniques for circumventing the performance hit will come to light as more developers work on solving the problem.

What happens next?

Publicly, Intel is confident the Meltdown and Spectre bugs won’t have a material impact on its stock price or market share, given that they’re relatively hard to execute and have never been used (that we know of). AMD shares are soaring on word that the easier-to-pull-off Meltdown attack isn’t known to work on its processors.

But as Google is so eager to remind us, Spectre looms large. Speculative execution has been a cornerstone of processor design for more than two decades. It will require a huge rethinking from the processor industry to guard against this kind of attack in the future. The threat of Spectre means the next generation of processors — from all the major chip designers — will be a lot different than they are today.

Google is urging customers of its Google Cloud supercomputing service, hosted from data centers like this, to update their operating systems. (Image via Google)

Even so, the threat of Spectre is likely to linger far into the future. Consumers are replacing their PCs less frequently, which means older PCs that are at risk of the Spectre attack could be used for years to come.

As for mobile, there has been a persistent problem with updating Android devices to the latest version of the operating system, so there are likely to be lots of unpatched smartphones and tablets in use for as far as the eye can see. Would-be Spectre attackers are therefore likely to have their choice of targets.

It’s not the end of the world. But it just may be the end of an era for Intel, AMD, ARM, and the way processors are built.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

Following the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier in October, several questions remain unanswered, spurring lawmakers to press the White House and Pentagon for answers on the circumstances surrounding the incident.


Leading this charge is Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who says he may seek a subpoena to receive information on the attack, according to CNN.

On Wednesday, McCain said that the White House was not being upfront about the Niger ambush, and said he would like the information his committee “deserves and needs.”

“I haven’t heard anything about it, to tell you the truth, except that they were killed,” McCain said in a Daily Beast report on Tuesday.

Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

Although the Special Forces unit involved in the ambush and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) — the combatant command in charge of operations in Niger — are conducting investigations, McCain indicated he may want details before the results.

“That’s not how the system works,” McCain said to CNN. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly also dismayed by the dearth of information surrounding the ambush, but there was no sign that he was going to rush the investigation process multiple officials told CNN.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon claims it will keep the Armed Services Committees “up to date” on the ambush: “We will work with Sen. McCain and his staff to make sure they get everything that they need,” the Pentagon reportedly said on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

One of the primary questions that circulated in news reports has been why President Donald Trump had not addressed the casualties or the circumstances behind the ambush.

Following initial media reports of the ambush, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying that Trump had been informed of the incident. However, it wasn’t until 12 days later after the reports that Trump made his first public acknowledgment of the ambush.

A statement of condolence was reportedly drafted by a staffer from the National Security Council for Trump to immediately deliver following the ambush. But Trump never made the statement that was circulated around the Defense Department and the National Security Council. Instead, he delivered a speech that has been widely criticized for making false claims about his predecessors’ actions after a service member’s death and was condemned by a Gold Star father.

McCain also questioned why US troops were operating in that specific area of the Niger-Mali border without sufficient resources. French officials were frustrated with the US troops — who were there to establish relations with local leaders — because they acted on limited intelligence and didn’t have an emergency plan, a diplomat familiar with the incident told Reuters. France, a key US ally in the region, has a military presence that includes attack helicopters and Mirage jets, according to CNN.

While Special Forces troops have operated under AFRICOM’s purview for years, intelligence and contingency plans still remain the backbone of any mission US forces undertake. The investigation into the ambush — which spans the Special Forces group, AFRICOM, and the Pentagon as well as French and Nigerien forces — will likely take longer, given the broad scope of the mission.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy prepares to test its revolutionary carrier drone

The Navy will launch formal flight testing in 2021 for a new, first-of-its kind carrier-launched drone engineered to double the attack range of F-18 fighters, F-35Cs, and other carrier aircraft.

The emerging Navy MQ-25 Stingray program, to enter service in the mid-2020s, will bring a new generation of technology by engineering a new unmanned re-fueler for the carrier air wing.

“The program expects to be in flight test by 2021 and achieve initial operational capability by 2024,” Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman for Naval Air Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

The Navy recently awarded a development deal to Boeing to further engineer and test the MQ-25.


A central key question informs the core of this technology effort: What if the attack capability of carrier fighters, such as an F-18 or F-35C, could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?

The Navy believes so; “the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability, extending the range of the carrier air wing to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters,” Cosgrove said.

Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?

Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray.

(Boeing photo)

The emergence of a drone of this kind bears prominently upon ongoing questions about the future of aircraft carriers in light of today’s fast-changing threat environment. Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship guided missiles, for instance, are said to be able to destroy targets as far away as 900 nautical miles. While there is some question about these weapon’s ability to strike moving targets, and carriers of course are armed with a wide range of layered defenses, the Chinese weapon does bring a substantial risk potentially great enough to require carriers to operate much further from shore.

In this scenario, these Chinese so-called “carrier-killer” missiles could, quite possibly, push a carrier back to a point where its fighters no longer have range to strike inland enemy targets from the air. The new drone is being engineered, at least in large measure, as a specific way to address this problem. If the attack distance of an F-18, which might have a combat radius of 500 miles or so, can double – then carrier-based fighters can strike targets as far as 1000 miles away if they are refueled from the air.

Also, despite the emergence of weapons such as the DF-21D, senior Navy leaders and some analysts have questioned the ability of precision-guided long-range missile to actually hit and destroy carriers on the move at 30-knots from 1,000 miles away. Targeting, guidance on the move fire control, ISR and other assets are necessary for these kinds of weapons to function as advertised. GPS, inertial measurement units, advanced sensors and dual-mode seekers are part of a handful of fast-developing technologies able to address some of these challenges, yet it does not seem clear that long-range anti-ship missiles such as the DF-21D will actually be able to destroy carriers on the move at the described distances.

A U.S. Navy X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator aircraft prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Furthermore, the Navy is rapidly advancing ship-based defensive weapons, electronic warfare applications, lasers, and technologies able to identify and destroy approaching anti-ship cruise missile from ranges beyond the horizon. Carriers often travel in Carrier Strike Groups where they are surrounded by destroyers and cruisers able to provide additional protection. One such example of this includes the now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air system, or NIFC-CA. This technology combines ship-based radar and fire control systems with an aerial sensor and dual-mode SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching threats from beyond-the-horizon. Ship-based laser weapons and rail guns, in addition, could be among lower-cost ship defense weapons as well.

The MQ-25A Stingray is evolving out of a now-cancelled carrier-launched ISR and attack drone program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.

A Northrop demonstrator aircraft, called the X-47B, has already performed successful carrier drone take-offs and landings. Accordingly, the ability of the Navy to operate a drone on an aircraft carrier is already progressing and has been demonstrated.

An existing large fuselage tanker, such as the emerging Air Force KC-46A, might have too large a radar signature and therefore be far too vulnerable to enemy attack. This, quite naturally, then creates the need for a drone able to better elude enemy radar and refuel attack aircraft on its way to a mission.

The early engineering process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High school students designed this part of the B-2 stealth bomber

The US Air Force’s $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, a key component of US nuclear deterrence, are protected from “catastrophic” accidents by a $1.25 part designed by a group of high-school students.

Switch covers designed by the Stealth Panthers robotics team at Knob Noster High School are installed in the cockpits of all operational B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes.


The B-2 is one of the most advanced bombers in the world, as its low-observable characteristics render the 172-foot-wide bomber almost invisible to radar, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Designed with Soviet air-defense systems in mind, the bomber has been serving since the late 1980s. Recently, a handful of B-2 bombers have been training alongside F-22 Raptors in the Pacific, where China has been expanding its military footprint.

But even the best technology can often be improved.

A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman made an emergency landing at an airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after an in-flight emergency last fall, Air Force Times reported, saying at the time that the incident was under investigation.

Apparently, the emergency was triggered by the accidental flip of a switch, among other unusual malfunctions.

“The B-2 Spirit cockpit is equipped with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology, but is a very cramped space, so something was needed to keep the pilots or other items from bumping into the switches,” Capt. Keenan Kunst told Stars and Stripes.

A B-2 Spirit bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

There are a series of four switches that are of particular concern. “The consequences could be catastrophic — especially if all four were flipped, in which case, ejection would be the only option,” Kunst told Stars and Stripes. “We recognized the switch posed a certain risk of inadvertent actuation and that we should take action to minimize this risk — no matter how small.”

And that’s where a handful of Missouri high schoolers had the answer to this particular problem.

Base leaders already had an established relationship the school, and some of the pilots had been mentoring members of the robotics team. Base personnel presented the issue to the students, and they began developing a solution. Working with pilots in a B-2 simulator, they were able to design and test the suitable switch cover.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian president says compensation offered by Iran for shooting down airliner not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”


Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.

Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.

However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.

“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.

“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An in-depth look at the F-35 Lightning II and its history

The F-35A Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced aerodynamics, survivability in high-threat environments, and an enhanced ability to provide pilots and allied assets across operational domains with robust situational awareness.

The F-35 is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to develop a single-engine, stealthy, multi-role fighter to replace an aging fleet of mission-dedicated airframes: the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II for the Air Force and the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II for the Navy and Marine Corps.


Although separate airframe variants were designed to meet specific needs of the various military services, all F-35 variants are primarily designed to infiltrate contested airspace, accurately deliver guided and conventional munitions, and collect, process and disseminate real-time reconnaissance while maintaining robust air-to-air combat capability at speeds above Mach 1.

F-35A Test Operations

www.youtube.com

Military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation are well represented in the F-35 program. Partner nations including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan, and South Korea.

Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of integrating dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is preparing to receive its first squadron of 14 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs in-country in late 2018.

The Royal Australian Air Force, has committed to obtaining 72 F-35A aircraft to form three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. The RAAF is expected to take delivery of its first operational F-35As in December 2018.

Development and design

After winning the JSF design competition, 0 million contracts to build prototypes were awarded in 1997 to both Lockheed Martin for it’s X-35, and Boeing, for its X-32.

Boeing’s entry incorporated the requirements of all the services into one short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) airframe with thrust being vectored through nozzles, as with the existing Harrier.

The Boeing X-32, left, and the Lockheed X-35 competed for the DoD contract to produce the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in 1997. Both companies received 0 million grants to build prototypes. The new single-engine, Mach-1 capable aircraft needed to be stealthy and provide robust situational awareness to the pilot during attacks on ground targets and when fighting in air-to-air engagements. It also needed to meet the specifications of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as well as nation partners. Lockheed won the competition which would eventually produce the F-35 Lightning II.

Lockheed Martin proposed to produce three airframe variants, one for each service: the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A for the Air Force’s long runways; the STOVL version, the F-35B, for U.S. Marine Corps and British navy and air force; and the F-35C for U.S. Navy carrier-born operations.

In the end, the Department of Defense determined the X-35B version, with a separate vertical-lift fan behind the cockpit, outperformed the Boeing entry and awarded the overall JSF contract to Lockheed Martin.

Maj. Nathan Sabin, taxis an F-35A of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, a tenant unit at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before a test flight at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Feb 17, 2016. Six operational test and evaluation F-35s and more than 85 airmen of the 31st TES travelled to Mountain Home AFB to conduct the first simulated deployment test of the F-35A, specifically to execute three key initial operational capability mission sets: suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support and air interdiction.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

The first F-35A test aircraft purchased by the Air Force rolled off the production line in 2006. The Air Force took delivery of its first production F-35As at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2011 to begin pilot and maintainer training and in 2014 the 58th Fighter Squadron was the first to become a complete F-35A squadron.

After years of testing weapons separation, operational integration and aerial refueling, the Lightning II met its targets for initial operational capability when it was declared “combat ready” in August of 2016 by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command.

Features and deployment​

Air Force units that operate the F-35A now include:

  • The 461st Flight Test Squadron and 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards AFB, California.
  • The Integrated Training Center for pilots and maintainers at Eglin AFB, Florida.
  • The 388th Fighter Wing and 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah.
  • The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona.
  • The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

An F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to MacDill AFB, Fla., about 100 miles off the Gulf Coast March 2, 2016. Airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing were able to complete modifications to the aircraft ahead of schedule to enable the use of inert munitions instead of simulated weapons, advancing the fifth-generation fighter’s syllabus and ensuring pilots receive the most comprehensive training before they support a combat-coded F-35A unit.

The F-35 serves as an unparalleled force multiplier because its advanced sensors and datalinks share information and situational awareness not just between fifth- and fourth-generation U.S. and allied aircraft, but also between coalition land, sea and space assets.

This “operational quarterback” is also proving to pack a nasty ground attack and individual air-to-air combat capability.

During the large-scale combat training exercise, Red Flag 17-1, held at Nellis AFB in the spring of 2017, F-35As participated in multi-aircraft sorties in a highly-contested airspace. Air Force leadership and pilots reported F-35As destroyed multiple ground targets without being detected in the airspace and earned a stellar 20:1 kill ratio in air-to-air combat scenarios.

F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20 for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a Red Flag exercise. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite the impressive individual performance, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stresses the F-35 is best thought of as an integral component of the Air Force’s overall warfighting capability.

During a symposium at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February of 2017, Goldfein was asked to compare the F-35’s capability versus advanced Chinese aircraft like the J-20 and the J-31.

“I hope, over time, we can evolve our discussion from platform v. platform, which I would argue is a 20th Century discussion, to a network versus network,” Goldfein said. “Its not about what the F-35 or the J-20 or the F-22 or the J-31 can actually do in a one versus one… it’s an interesting conversation, but its not very compelling because we are never going to have the F-35 in there by itself, ever.

An F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.

(Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“What really counts is we are going to bring a network, a family of systems to bear on the enemy. That’s going to be an F-35 that’s there with an F-22, that’s there with an F-18, that’s there with a space capability being fed into the cockpit, that’s there with cyber capabilities, that’s there with a multitude of ISR, that’s there with a submarine force. We’re going to bring multi-domain, multi-component capabilities and we’re going to bring coalition capabilities.

“As we do today, in the future, we are going to be able to achieve decision speed and maneuver forces from all domains and create so many dilemmas for the enemy that, that in itself, will become a deterrent value,” Goldfein said.

An Air Force weapons load crew assigned to the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Hill Air Froce Base, Utah, loads a GBU-12 into an F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Nellis AFB, Nevada, Feb. 1, 2017.

Partner nations who have purchased the airframe, the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. As such, the F-35 program represents a model of the military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan and the Republic of South Korea.

Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of trying to integrate dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.

Did you know?

  • The F-35A CTOL variant is flown by the air forces of the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and Italy.
  • The three F-35 variants are manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas, Cameri, Italy, and Nagoya, Japan, with 300,000 parts from 1,500 suppliers worldwide.
  • The F-35 software has more lines of code than the Space Shuttle.
  • An F-35’s pilot wears a helmet that has inputs necessary for situational awareness projected onto the interior of the visor: airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings. It also projects imagery from around the aircraft, via infrared cameras, onto the visor, allowing the pilot to “look through” the bottom of the aircraft.
  • The F-35 Lightning II is named after the famous WWII fighter, the twin-engine P-38 Lightning. The U.S.’ leading air combat pilot of WWII, Maj. Richard I. Bong, scored all of his 40 victories flying the P-38.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the Air Force version of Burning Man

For three years, RED HORSE airmen have been rotating every six months to Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, to participate in the largest troop labor construction project in Air Force history. RED HORSE stands for Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.

The Air Force built the base and its 6000-foot runway from the ground up. A similar mission had not been undertaken since Vietnam.


Airmen had to persevere and innovate through the lack of an asphalt production facility in the country, thunderstorms that caused flash floods, dust storms that made it impossible to work safely, high-sulfur diesel fuel that fouled construction equipment and even a plague of locusts.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Waters, a vehicle maintance NCOIC with the 823 Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, maintains the squadron’s construction equipment. Sgt Waters and his team battle the harsh environment and poor quality fuel that frequently breaks their equipment.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Perry Aston)

Despite working in one of the harshest environments in the Sahel region of Africa, RED HORSE finished a project that will allow aircraft as large as the C-17 Globemaster III to operate in western Africa, expanding the Air Force’s ability to bring air power to combat increasing extremist activity.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a massive amount of warships

The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.


The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.

Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.

The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.

(Forbes)

China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.

Unless you also have hundreds of ships.

While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.

One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.