43 giant presidents' heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field - We Are The Mighty
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43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.

 


The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.

Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away.  It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.

“I just feel it was very educational,” Hankins told the Daily Press,. “To destroy that stuff didn’t look right to me.”

The heads and necks cracked as cranes moved them onto trucks. Other damages occurred as well, including a large, eerie hole in the back of Abraham Lincoln’s head.

 

Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.

Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.

“I think I can build something the kids and the area can benefit from,” he told the Daily Press.

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The soldier who voluntarily became a prisoner in Auschwitz

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Nazi troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, despite the best efforts of Captain Witold Pilecki and his fellow Polish soldiers. On November 9th of that same year, Witold and Major Wlodarkiewicz founded the Tajna Armia Polska (TAP or Polish Secret Army), an underground organization that eventually became consolidated with other resistance forces into The Home Army.


Not long after the formation of organized widespread Polish Resistance, its members began hearing reports of the conditions within the newly constructed Auschwitz Concentration Camp put into operation in the Spring of 1940. Those first reports originated with prisoners released from the camp and from civilians such as railroad employees and local residents.

In order to cut through the very troubling rumors and figure out exactly what was going on there, Pilecki came up with a bold plan- become a prisoner at Auschwitz. With a little convincing, his superiors eventually agreed to allow him to go.

In order to help protect his wife and children after he was captured, he took on the alias Tomasz Serafinski, much to the chagrin of the real Tomasz Serafinski who was thought to be dead at the time (hence why his papers and identity were chosen), but was not. Later, the real Tomasz had some trouble because of Pilecki using his papers and name (more on this in the Bonus Facts below).

According to Eleonora Ostrowska, owner of an apartment Pilecki was at when he was taken, when a Nazi roundup began (lapanka, where a city block would suddenly be closed off and most of the civilians inside would be rounded up and sent to slave labor camps and sometimes even just mass-executed on the spot), a member of the resistance came to help Pilecki hide. Instead, Ostrowska said “Witold rejected those opportunities and didn’t even try to hide in my flat.” She reported that soon, a German soldier knocked at the door and Pilecki whispered to her “Report that I have fulfilled the order,” and then opened the door and was taken by the soldier along with about 2,000 other Poles in Warsaw on September 19, 1940.

It is important to note here that he didn’t really know if he’d be sent to Auschwitz at this point. As Dr. Daniel Paliwoda noted of Pilecki’s capture, “Since the AB Aktion and roundups were still going on, the Nazis could have tortured and executed him in

occupied Warsaw’s Pawiak, Mokotów, or any other Gestapo-run prison. They could have taken him to Palmiry to murder him in the forest. At the very least, they could have sent him to a forced labor colony somewhere in Germany.”

While he was willingly surrendering with the hope of being sent to Auschwitz, Pilecki lamented the behavior of his fellow countrymen during the roundup. “What really annoyed me the most was the passivity of this group of Poles. All those picked up were already showing signs of crowd psychology, the result being that our whole crowd behaved like a herd of passive sheep. A simple thought kept nagging me: stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving.”

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Photo: Wikicommons

As he had hoped (perhaps the only person to ever hope such a thing), he was sent to Auschwitz. He later described his experience upon arrival:

We gave everything away into bags, to which respective numbers were tied. Here our hair of head and body were cut off, and we were slightly sprinkled by cold water. I got a blow in my jaw with a heavy rod. I spat out my two teeth. Bleeding began. From that moment we became mere numbers – I wore the number 4859…

We were struck over the head not only by SS rifle butts, but by something far greater. Our concepts of law and order and of what was normal, all those ideas to which we had become accustomed on this Earth, were given a brutal kicking.

Pilecki also noted that one of the first indications that he observed that Auschwitz was not just a normal prison camp was the lack of food given to prisoners; in his estimate, the rations given to prisoners were “calculated in such a way that people would live for six weeks.” He also noted that a guard at the camp told him, “Whoever will live longer — it means he steals.”

Assessing the conditions inside Auschwitz was only part of Pilecki’s mission. He also took on responsibility for organizing a resistance force within the camp, the Zwiazek Organizacji Wojskowej (ZOW). The goals of ZOW included- improving inmate morale, distributing any extra food and clothing, setting up an intelligence network within the camp, training prisoners to eventually rise up against their guards and liberate Auschwitz, and getting news in and out of Auschwitz. Ensuring secrecy of the ZOW led Pilecki to create cells within the organization. He trusted the leaders of each cell to withstand interrogation by the guards, but even so each leader only knew the names of the handful of people under his command. This limited the risk to the entire organization should an informant tip off a guard or if a member was caught.

Pilecki’s first reports to the Polish government and Allied forces left the camp with released prisoners. But when releases became less common, passing reports on to the outside world depended largely on the success of prisoner escapes, such as one that occurred on June 20, 1942 where four Poles managed to dress up as members of the SS, weapons and all, and steal an SS car which they boldly drove out of the main gate of the camp.

A cobbled-together radio, built over the course of seven months as parts could be acquired, was used for a while in 1942 to transmit reports until “one of our fellow’s big mouth” resulted in the Nazis learning of the radio, forcing the group to dismantle it before they were caught red handed and executed.

Pilecki’s reports were the first to mention the use of Zyklon B gas, a poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas, and gas chambers used at the camp. He saw the first use of Zyklon B gas in early September 1941 when the Nazis used it to kill 850 Soviet POWs and Poles in Block 11 of Auschwitz I. He also learned of the gas chambers at Auschwitz II, or Auschwitz-Birkenau, from other resistance members after construction of the camp began in October 1941. ZOW also managed to keep a pretty good running log of roughly the number of inmates being brought in to the camp and the estimated number of deaths, noting at one point, “Over a thousand a day from the new transports were gassed. The corpses were burnt in the new crematoria.”

All of the reports were sent to the Polish Government in Exile in London, and they in turn forwarded the information to other Allied forces. However, on the whole, the Allies thought the reports of mass killings, starvation, brutal and systemic torture, gas chambers, medical experimentation, etc. were wildly exaggerated and questioned the reliability of Pilecki’s reports. (Note: During Pilecki’s nearly three years there, several hundred thousand people were killed at Auschwitz and, beyond the death and horrific tortures, countless others were experimented on in a variety of ways by such individuals as the “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele. All total, it is estimated that somewhere between 1 to 1.5 million people were killed at the camp.)

Significant doubt surrounding the accuracy of his reports meant Pilecki’s plan to bring about an uprising inside Auschwitz never came to fruition. Pilecki had managed to convince his network of resistance fighters inside the camp that they could successfully take control for a short while and escape if the Allies and Polish Underground provided support. He had envisioned airdrops of weapons and possibly even Allied soldiers invading the camp. However, the Allies never had any intention of such an operation and the local Polish resistance in Warsaw refused to attack due to the large number of German troops stationed nearby.

The Nazi guards began systematically eliminating members of the ZOW resistance in 1943 and so, with his reports being ignored, Pilecki decided he needed to plead his case in person for intervention in Auschwitz.

In April of 1943, he got his chance. After handing over leadership of ZOW to his top deputies, he and two others were assigned the night shift at a bakery which was located outside the camp’s perimeter fence. At an opportune moment on the night of the 26th, they managed to overpower a guard and cut the phone lines. The three men then made a run for it out of the back of the bakery. As they ran, Pilecki stated, “Shots were fired behind us. How fast we were running, it is hard to describe. We were tearing the air into rags by quick movements of our hands.”

It should be noted that anyone caught helping an Auschwitz escapee would be killed along with the escaped prisoner, something the local populace knew well. Further, the 40 square kilometers around Auschwitz were extremely heavily patrolled and the escapees’ shaved heads, tattered clothes, and gaunt appearance would give them away in a second to anyone who saw them. Despite this, all three not only survived the initial escape, but managed to get to safety without being recaptured.

Unfortunately, Pilecki’s plan to garner support for liberating Auschwitz never materialized. After arriving at the headquarters of the Home Army on August 25, 1943 and desperately pleading his case for the Home Army to put all efforts into liberating Auschwitz, he left feeling “bitter and disappointed” when the idea was discarded as being too risky. In his final report on Auschwitz, he further vented his frustration on his superiors “cowardliness.”

After this, Pilecki continued to fight for the Home Army, as well as trying to aid ZOW in any way he could from the outside. He also played a role in the Warsaw Uprising that began in August of 1944, during which he was captured by German troops in October of that year and spent the rest of World War II as a POW.

Pilecki wrote his final version of his report on Auschwitz (later published in a book titled:The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery) after the war while spending time in Italy under the 2nd Polish Corps before being ordered back to Poland by General Wladyslaw Anders to gather intelligence on communist activities in Poland. You see, the invading Germans had been replaced by another occupying power- the Soviet backed Polish Committee of National Liberation. This was a puppet provisional government setup on July 22, 1944 in opposition to the Polish Government in Exile, the latter of which was supported by the majority of Polish people and the West.

During his two years at this post, he managed to, among many other things, gather documented proof that the voting results of the People’s Referendum of 1946 were heavily falsified by the communists. Unfortunately, there was little the Polish Government in Exile could do. Even when his cover was blown in July of 1946, Pilecki soldiered on and refused to leave the country, continuing his work collecting documented evidence of the many atrocities against the Polish people being committed by the Soviets and their puppet government in Poland.

For this, he was ultimately arrested on May 7, 1947 by the Ministry of Public Security. He was extensively tortured for many months after, including having his fingernails ripped off and ribs and nose broken. He later told his wife of his life in this particular prison, “Oświęcim [Auschwitz] compared with them was just a trifle.”

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Witold Pilecki during his trial in 1948. Photo: Wikicommons

Finally, he was given a show trial. When fellow survivors of Auschwitz pled with then Prime Minister of Poland, Józef Cyrankiewicz (himself a survivor of Auschwitz and member of a resistance in the prison), for the release of Pilecki, instead he went the other way and wrote to the judge, telling him to throw out record of Pilecki’s time as a prisoner in Auschwitz. This was a key piece of evidence in Pilecki’s favor given one of the things he was being accused of was being a German collaborator during the war.

And so it was that as part of a crackdown by the new Polish government against former members of the Home Army resistance, Pilecki was convicted of being a German collaborator and a spy for the West, among many other charges, ultimately sentenced to death via a gunshot to his head. The sentence was carried out on May 25, 1948 by Sergeant Piotr Smietanski, “The Butcher of Mokotow Prison.” From then on, mention of Pilecki’s name and numerous heroic acts were censored in Poland, something that wasn’t changed until 1989 when the communist Polish government was overthrown.

Witold Pilecki’s last known words were reportedly, “Long live free Poland.”

Bonus Facts:

  • You might think it strange that Pilecki frequently, quite willingly, threw himself into incredibly dangerous situations despite the fact that he had a wife and kids back home. Polish actor Marek Probosz, who studied Pilecki extensively before portraying him in The Death of Captain Pilecki, stated of this, “Human beings were the most precious thing for Pilecki, and especially those who were oppressed. He would do anything to liberate them, to help them.” Mirroring this sentiment, Pilecki’s son, Andrzej later said his father “would write that we should live worthwhile lives, to respect others and nature. He wrote to my sister to watch out for every little ladybug, to not step on it but place it instead on a leaf because everything has been created for a reason. ‘Love nature.’ He instructed us like this in his letters.” It wasn’t just his children he taught to respect life at all levels. Two years after Pilecki was executed, and at a time when his family was struggling because of it, a man approached Pilecki’s teenage son and stated, “I was in prison [as a guard] with your father. I want to help you because your father was a saint.. Under his influence, I changed my life. I do not harm anyone anymore.”
  • As mentioned, the real Tomasz Serafinski was not dead, as Pilecki had thought when he took his papers and assumed Tomasz’ identity to be captured. After Pilecki’s escape from Auschwitz, the real Tomasz was arrested on December 25, 1943 for having escaped from Auschwitz.  He was then investigated for a few weeks, including a fair amount of pretty brutal strong arming, but was finally released on January 14, 1944 when it was determined he was not, in fact, the same individual who had escaped from Auschwitz. Afterwards, Pilecki and Tomasz actually became friends, and though Pilecki was killed, according to Jacek Pawlowicz, “That friendship is alive to this day, because Andrzej Pilecki visits their family and is very welcome there.”
  • In the early 2000s, certain surviving officials who were involved in Pilecki’s trial, including the prosecutor, Czeslaw Lapinski, were put up on charges for being accomplices in the murder of Witold Pilecki.
  • Pilecki also fought in WWI in the then newly formed Polish army. After that, he fought in the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921).
  • At one point while within Auschwitz, Pilecki and his fellow ZOW members managed to cultivate typhus and infect various SS-personnel.
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This presidential candidate hatched a successful rescue mission in Iran

In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.


Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.

Related: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Perot is best remembered for his two third-party campaigns for the U.S. presidency. The now 86-year-old CEO was the last third-party candidate to poll neck-in-neck with the two major party candidates.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called “the fastest, richest Texan.” He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.

In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.

With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.

The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.

So Perot launched Operation HOTFOOT (Help Our Two Friends Out Of Tehran). He recruited a team of mercenaries with combat experience in Vietnam, including retired Army Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, to lead the rescue.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field

The original plan called for Simons’ team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.

Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.

With the two men in Qasr Prison, a commando raid became too dangerous. So instead they hatched a plan for an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid to start a riot and lead a crowd of angry, pro-Khomeini revolutionaries to storm the prison and free thousands of political prisoners held inside.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
The prison is now a museum and memorial to the Shah’s prisoners.

Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Courtroom sketch of the rescue by Ida Libby Dengrove (University of Virginia archives)

On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot’s EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.

Perot’s men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world’s most powerful military held its breath.

 

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7 reasons ‘Enlisted Service Member’ is actually the worst job

A bunch of data crunchers at CareerCast have released their list of the Worst Jobs of 2017 and enlisted military service member was ranked number 4, causing a few headlines.


But seriously, when did the 3 worse jobs (newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and logger) ever have to stir their buddies’ MRE dumps into a diesel mixture and then mix it while it burns?

Here are 7 things CareerCast failed to mention about why being an enlisted service member is actually the worst:

1. The aforementioned MRE dumps

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
This is an airman preparing to change out the crappers on his base in Iraq. Yeah, even airmen have to take dumps with their thighs touching sometimes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Stagner)

Look, CareerCast looked at a lot of factors, but they don’t once mention diet and food choices in their methodology. Pretty sure newspaper reporters and broadcasters aren’t stuck eating 5-yr-old brisket and then trying to crap it out after it turns into a brick in their intestines.

2. Multi-year contracts guaranteed by prison time

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Holding a ceremony at the bottom of the ocean makes exactly as much sense as signing away the next four years, so why not do both at once? (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

They did look at “degree of confinement” as one of the “physical factors” of their measurements, but not as an emotional factor. Remember the last time a logger got tired of their job, walked off, and spent the next few years in prison?

No, you don’t. Because the only way that happens is if they set some machinery on fire or crap into someone else’s boots on their way out. But troops can’t quit, and there ain’t no discharge on the ground.

3. Long ruck marches, range days, and multi-day field operations

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Having to patrol 20 miles while wearing 65 pounds of gear is worth a maximum of five points but having tough competition for promotion is worth up to 15 points. (Photo: National Guard Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The list’s method discounts physical factors compared to emotional factors (“stamina” and “necessary energy” both top out at 5 points while facing strong competition for job placement and promotion is worth 15 points on its own).

Ummmm, anyone actually think waiting an extra year or two for promotion is harder than brigade runs every payday, 12.4-mile ruck marches every few months, and having to unload and re-load connexes whenever a lieutenant loses their radio? All so you can go face a nine-man board when you want to get promoted?

4. The barracks

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Who wouldn’t want to live here? (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Drunken parties spill into the hallways just an hour before sergeant major drags everyone out to pick up cigarette butts whether they smoke or not. Idiots knock on your door because they don’t know where their buddy lives, which sucks for you since you have duty in the morning.

But hey, at least your boss’s boss’s boss is going to walk through the building this Friday and critique every detail of how you live. That sounds like something that happens to reporters. Sure.

5. Beards

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Half the reason to go Special Forces is to be able to grow a beard when deployed. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Look, loggers are famous for their beards. And most people in the news and broadcast businesses can grow beards as long as they aren’t on camera.

Enlisted folks, meanwhile, have their faces checked for stubble at 6:30 most mornings.

6. PT Formation

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Speaking of which, that 6:30 formation where they’ll get destroyed for having a beard is the physical training formation, the one where they have to spread out and do a lot of pushups and situps in the cold and dark while wearing t-shirts and shorts because first sergeants have some perverse hatred of winter PTs.

All of that without a beard. It’s tragic.

7. All those extra laws

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
(Photo: U.S. Navy Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a major part of maintaining unit discipline, but man is it annoying to have your own set of laws on top of everyone else’s. And, some of those UCMJ articles basically just say that you have to follow all rules and regulations, which are a couple hundred extra ways to do something illegal.

A sailor who smokes or eats while walking is in violation of NAVPERS 15665I, which is backed up by articles of the UCMJ and federal law Title, U.S. Code 10. Think chowing down on a donut while walking into the office is illegal for loggers, broadcasters, or reporters?

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The Air Force is joining the race to bring back American rocket superiority

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Flickr


For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.

While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.

On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.

And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.

But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.

After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.

Now is the right time

As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.

Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field
Blue Origin

But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.

In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.

The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.

While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.

If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.

ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.

“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

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Mattis starts his review of US nuclear arsenal

Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.


President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.

“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.

The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Navy officer feels the need for NASCAR speed

43 giant presidents’ heads are sitting in the middle of a Virginia field


Jesse Iwuji wasn’t a race car driver when he entered his first race. The Dallas-area high school football standout and son of first-generation Nigerian immigrants had been recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy to play defensive back. He’d been a big part of three winning seasons with the Midshipmen when he took his stock Chrysler 300 to the Capitol Speedway in Crofton, Maryland to see if he could beat anyone on open drag race night.

That experience fueled his desire to do it again . . . and better. Immediately after he graduated and put on ensign bars in May of 2010 he bought a Dodge Challenger SRT8 and started racing it.

After a year of coaching football at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, Jesse made his way to San Diego for his first fleet tour aboard a mine sweeper. Among his priorities once he got there was to join a car club and locate the nearest raceway. He managed to balance his shipboard duties with drag races on free weekends at a strip 45 minutes away.

His racing was interrupted by a 10-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, but when he returned to San Diego he was able to convert the money he’d saved on cruise into modifications to his Challenger that made it into a 1,000 horsepower scream machine. He took the car to the Mohave Mile and hit 200.9 miles per hour, which made him only the fifth person in the world to reach that speed with a modern HEMI engine.

“I proved you don’t have to be a fancy person to go fast,” he said.

His performance at the Mohave Mile got him the right kind of exposure. A lot of people started following his racing videos on YouTube. He was featured in a number of car magazines, including Hot Rod. That coverage led to performance company sponsorships.

Jesse transferred from sea duty to a shore tour working on the staff at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and as he did he bought a five-year-old Corvette ZO6 with an eye on switching from drag strips to road courses. He spent weekends driving five and a half hours from Monterey to Irwindale in an attempt to learn the ropes required beyond driving fast in a straight line.

“I started learning car control and the different parts of being a good driver,” he said.

Eventually he landed an invitation to try out for a driver slot with Performance P1 Motorsports. After 4 test sessions he was on the team for the 2015 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season – 11 30-lap races, one every two weeks or so, all of them at Irwindale Speedway.

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(Photo: Eric Win)

Race weekends start with Friday night practice runs. Saturday is race day, including qualifying runs to determine pole position in a field of 20-22 cars.

Jesse’s first race was on April 4. He crashed during a practice run but managed to make the race and finished 15th. He started in the 12th position in his second race a few weeks later but got tangled up with another car and spun out.

“The guy behind me had nowhere to go,” he said. “I got T-boned. That ended my night.”

He finished the third race in 17th place.

Jesse has quickly learned that setting the car up right maintenance-wise is crucial.  “When you don’t have a lot of seat time you don’t necessarily know what’ normal in terms of how the car should feel,” he said.  “The more runs I get the more I’ll know.”

Entry fees for races are between $3,500-$7,000, which is a lot of money for a single lieutenant. But his financial burden has been largely reduced by the Phoenix Patriot Foundation.

“We dedicate each race weekend to a wounded veteran and his family,” he said. “The effort has been widely supported by race officials and others. It’s an opportunity for everyone to give back to the people who’ve made a sacrifice on their behalf.”

Jesse plans on getting out of the Navy at the end of his current tour to pursue bigger things as a NASCAR driver. He hopes to move up to the KN Pro Series soon, driving a bigger car in front of bigger crowds. After that he wants to make it to the Xfinity series and finally the big leagues – the Sprint Cup.

Jesse’s confident he’ll make it all the way. “All the things I’ve learned in the Navy have helped,” he said.  “Some of the biggest drivers haven’t even graduated high school yet. They don’t have real life experiences.  I’ve managed myself in stressful environments, including war zones. That has already helped me a lot out here, along with networking and meeting the right people.”

Jesse’s next NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race is July 4.

For more about the Phoenix Patriot Foundation go here.

Now: This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

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Coast Guard commandant warns of cruise missile-equipped Russian icebreakers

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has one very clear message: The country needs more icebreakers.


Zukunft reiterated that point time and again during an Aug. 24 speech to members of the Alaska policy nonprofit Commonwealth North in Anchorage.

He recalled a conversation he had with then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice when Rice asked him what President Barack Obama should highlight shortly before the president’s extended trip to Alaska in late August 2015.

“I said (to Rice) we are an Arctic nation. We have not made the right investments and we do not have the strategic assets to be an Arctic nation and that translates to icebreakers and that’s almost exactly what President Obama said when he came up here,” Zukunft said.

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US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“Fast forward — it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and I’m sitting next to President Trump and as they’re parading by he says, ‘So, you got everything you need?’ I said, ‘I don’t. The last administration, they made a statement but they didn’t show me the money. I need icebreakers.’ (Trump said) ‘How many?’ ‘Six.’ ‘You got it.’

“You never miss an opportunity,” Zukunft quipped.

It’s well documented in Alaska that the US has “one-and-a-half” operable icebreakers. That is, the heavy icebreaker Polar Star and the medium icebreaker Healy, which are in the Coast Guard’s fleet. A sister ship to the Polar Star, the Polar Sea remains inactive after an engine failure in 2010.

Zukunft noted Russia’s current fleet of 41 icebreakers to emphasize how far behind he feels the US is in preparing for increased military and commercial activity in the Arctic as sea ice continues to retreat — a message Alaska’s congressional delegation stresses as well.

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USCGC Healy. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are the only military service that’s truly focused on what’s happening in the Arctic and what happens in the Arctic does not happen in isolation,” Zukunft said.

He added that Russia is on track to deliver two more cruise missile-equipped icebreakers in 2020.

“I’m not real comfortable with them right on our back step coming through the Bering Strait and operating in this domain when we have nothing to counter it with,” he said.

The Coast Guard’s 2017 budget included a $150 million request to fund a new medium icebreaker, which Zukunft characterized as a “down payment” on the vessel expected to cost about $780 million, according to an Aug. 15 Congressional Research Service report on the progress of adding to the country’s icebreaking fleet.

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Photo from United Sates European Command.

For years it was estimated that new heavy icebreakers would cost in the neighborhood of $1 billion each, but those estimates have been revised down as the benefits of lessons learned through construction of the initial vessel and ordering multiple icebreakers from the same shipyard are further examined.

The CRS report now estimates the first heavy icebreaker will cost about $980 million to build, but by the fourth that price tag would go down to about $690 million for an average per-vessel cost of about $790 million. That is on par with the cost for a single new medium icebreaker.

Zukunft said the Coast Guard is working with five shipyards on an accelerated timeline to get the first icebreaker by 2023, but how it will be fully funded is still unclear.

“We have great bipartisan support but who is going to write the check?” he said, adding that aside from Russia and China, the United States’ economy is larger than that of the other 18 nations with icebreakers combined.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a heavy icebreaker homeported in Seattle. USCG photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener.

The Obama administration first proposed a high-level funding plan for new icebreakers in 2013 that has not been advanced outside of small appropriations.

“Our GDP (gross domestic product) is at least five times that of Russia and we’re telling ourselves we can’t afford it,” Zukunft continued. “Now this is just an issue of political will and not having the strategic forbearance to say this is an investment that we must have.”

He also advocated for the US finally signing onto the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which lays out the broad ground rules for what nations control off their coasts and how they interact in international waters.

Not signing onto the Law of the Sea, which was opened in 1982, leaves the US little say as other nations further study and potentially exploit the Arctic waters that are opening, he said.

“We are in the same club as Yemen; we are in the Star Wars bar of misfits of countries that have not ratified the Law of the Sea convention,” Zukunft said.

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Marines may expand PSYOPS with new job specialty

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Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred


As the Marine Corps looks to prepare for future conflicts and expand key highly skilled communities, the service will consider adding a new primary military occupational specialty: 0521, Military Information Support Operations.

A briefing document obtained by Military.com proposes expanding what is now a free, or additional MOS, into a primary MOS and increasing the total number of MISO Marines from 87 to a steady state of 322. The enlisted-only MOS would be composed chiefs of sergeants and staff sergeants, with a tapering senior enlisted leadership structure.

MISO, which has also been called psychological operations, or PSYOP, aims to influence emotions and behavior by targeted messaging and information distribution. It requires an understanding of the people and cultures with whom Marines will interact and how they are affected by various communication strategies. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers that blast messages to communities, leaflet information campaigns, and one-on-one meetings with local leaders all fall under the umbrella of MISO.

Currently, the Marine Corps deploys its small community of MISO Marines in teams of two to four aboard Marine expeditionary units and its special purpose Marine air-ground task forces for Africa and the Middle East. They also support elite operations at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and assist in major exercises and sometimes with larger Marine force operations.

The MISO MOS brief, prepared in October 2015 by Col. Drew Cukor, commanding officer of Marine Corps Information Operations Center in Quantico, Virginia, which contains the MISO program, notes that U.S. adversaries have seen success in exploiting the “information environment” to their own advantage.

“[Marines] may win physical battles but still lose because of failure to fight effectively in the cognitive dimension,” Cukor notes.

Creating a MISO primary MOS would allow the Corps to get more value from the investment it makes training its Marines, the brief notes. Currently, about 30 Marines a year complete a 17-week training course at Fort Bragg, N.C. at a cost of $12,000 per student, plus another $5,000 per Marine to obtain a required Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Total training costs add up to more than $600,000, according to the brief.

However, few MISO Marines remain in the community, with 80 percent choosing to end active service following their three-year tour in the free MOS.

In an award-winning Dec. 2015 essay published by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Marine Sgt. Dion Edon, a MISO Marine, said that those in his community tended to seek out other opportunities after their three-year tours because there was little incentive to stay.

“The Marine Corps loses an Army Special Operations Forces–trained Marine to the civilian contracting world, Army SOF, or the fleet, where their MISO-specific knowledge is unavailable,” he wrote. “The MISO MOS should become a primary MOS with warrant and limited-duty officer opportunities so that the Marine Corps can retain its investment in behavioral experts who can support senior-level staff with technical expertise and advice.”

Edon, who recently returned from a deployment supporting the 15th MEU as a MISO noncommissioned officer, also proposed giving MISO Marines more regionally focused and language specific training, and incorporating them further into Marine Corps planning and wargaming operations.

He quoted 15th MEU commanding officer Col. Vance Cryer, who said the addition of the MISO capability aboard the MEU had resulted in a “much more refined” approach to the integration of intelligence with operations.

“The MISO mission and support provides me [with] critical context, insight, and validation of various levels of information for use in the planning and execution phases,” Edon quotes Cryer as saying in the essay. “As a key part of a networked organization, it provides timely, value-added tools that enable asymmetric advantages to the MEU or MAGTF level of operations.”

Expanding the community would also better allow MISO Marines to meet high operational demand and increase the number of MISO personnel available to serve within each Marine expeditionary force and at MARSOC, Cukor’s brief shows.

Officials with Marine Corps Information Operations Center declined requests for an interview because the plans were pre-decisional.

But the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, told Military.com that preliminary decisions could be made as soon as this fall regarding how to develop the MISO community.

“In MISO, within those specialties and capabilities, I think those are some of the things that we’re going to be wrestling with to determine whether or not the Marine Corps needs more structure, whether it becomes a primary MOS, whether it becomes an expanded MOS, or whether it becomes a series of MOSs, depending upon the specific specialties,” he said. “So if individuals are interested in MISO and expanded realm of information operations, etcetera, then they should stand by, because I think more will come out of this.”

He noted that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has directed Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to conduct a study that defines where the Marine Corps needs to be in 2025 and whether the force is properly organized to address future challenges.

“One of the larger discussion areas is in cyber, information, deception, psychological operations, where is the Marine Corps with those capabilities, that structure, that capability inside the force,” he said. “So there will be a fairly robust discussion about where we sit today, and where we may want to go tomorrow.”

Brilakis declined to speculate whether the Corps could add even more MOSs, but said many decisions had yet to be made.

This push for a MISO primary MOS comes as Neller pushes to expand certain Marine Corps communities, including information and cyber warfare. He told an Atlantic Council audience in February that the Corps had two options in light of this objective: to ask for an end strength increase, or to restructure, perhaps shrinking other communities such as infantry, to realize growth in others.

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The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

So, we are back with another complete hater’s guide to one of the Air Force’s aircraft. Last time, we discussed the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10

Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.

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As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Why you should hate the A-10

Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.

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Because that low, slow, flight profile means it is a big target. Because you’d rather claim that a relative died in a motorcycle accident than admit they fly that ugly plane.

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Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Because that plane always seems to stick around when the Air Force wants to retire it. Because it is useless in a dogfight.

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Representative Martha McSally, pictured in her office during her Air Force career, preparing to distribute BRRRRRT. Helps explain why the A-10 will be around indefinitely. (Photo credit unknown)

Why you should love the A-10

Because this plane can bring its pilot home when the bad guys hit it — just ask “Killer Chick.” Because it also has a proven combat record in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the War on Terror.

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Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

Because it not only has a powerful tank-killing gun, it can carry lots of bombs and missiles to put the hurt on the bad guys.

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An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. (Air Force Photo)

Because while it is designed for close-air support, it also proved to be very good at covering the combat search-and-rescue choppers.

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An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for refueling Sept. 12, 2013, over southern Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

Because, when it comes right down to it, the A-10, for all its faults, has saved a lot of grunts over the years.

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These tunnel detectors can ferret out enemy below ground

Enemy combatants lurking in tunnels have attacked US troops throughout history, including during both world wars, Vietnam, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Detecting these secretive tunnels has been a challenge that has been answered by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s engineers at the Geotechnical and Structural Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The lab developed the Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection system, or R2TD, several years ago, according to Lee Perren, a research geophysicist at ERDC who spoke at the Pentagon’s lab day in May.

R2TD detects the underground void created by tunnels as well as the sounds of people or objects like electrical or communications cabling inside such tunnels, he said. The system is equipped with ground penetrating radar using an electromagnetic induction system.

Additionally, a variety of sensors detect acoustic and seismic energy, he added.

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Emblem courtesy of r2td.org/

The detection equipment data can then be transmitted remotely to analysts who view the data in graphical form on computer monitors.

The system can be carried by a soldier or used inside a vehicle to scan suspected tunnel areas, he said.

R2TD has been deployed overseas since 2014, he said. Feedback from combat engineers who used the system indicated they like the ease of use and data displays. It takes just a day to train an operator, Perren said.

Jen Picucci, a research mathematician at ERDC’s Structural Engineering Branch, said that technology for detecting tunnels has been available for at least a few decades.

However, the enemy has managed to continually adapt, building tunnels at greater depths and with more sophistication, she said.

In response, ERDC has been trying to stay at least a step ahead of them, continually refining the software algorithms used to reject false positives and false negatives, she said. Also, the system upgraded to a higher power cable-loop transmitter to send signals deeper into the ground.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The improvements have resulted in the ability to detect deeper tunnels as well as underground heat and infrastructure signatures, which can discriminate from the normal underground environment, she said.

Picucci said ERDC has shared its R2TD with the Department of Homeland Security as well as with the other military services and allies. For security reasons, she declined to say in which areas R2TD is being actively used.

Besides the active tunneling detection system, a passive sensing system employs a linear array of sensors just below the surface of the ground to monitor and process acoustic and seismic energy. These can monitored remotely, according to an ERDC brochure.

While current operations remain classified, ERDC field engineers have in the past traveled in to Afghanistan according to members of the team.

In 2011, for example, ERDC personnel set up tunnel detection equipment to search the underground perimeter of Camp Nathan Smith, Afghanistan, said Owen Metheny, a field engineer at ERDC who participated in the trip.

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(DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Dexter D. Clouden)

His colleague, Steven Sloan, a research geophysicist at ERDC in Afghanistan at the time, said the goal was to ensure safety at the camp.

“We make sure nobody is coming into the camp using underground avenues that normally wouldn’t be seen and wouldn’t be monitored,” Sloan said. “We check smaller isolated areas — usually areas of interests and perimeters.”

The researchers did a lot of traveling around Afghanistan.

“We travel to different regional commands and help out in the battle spaces of different military branches,” Sloan said. “We use geophysical techniques to look for anomalies underground. We look for things that stick out as abnormal that might indicate that there is a void or something else of interest. As we work our way through an area we look for how things change from spot to spot.”

“I really enjoy my job,” Metheny said. “I’m doing something for my country and helping keep people safe. Plus, where else could a bunch of civilians get to come to Afghanistan and look for tunnels?”

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Abrams, Stryker and Bradley to get active RPG protection

The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.


Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.

General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.

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An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself. However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.

APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar (Click Here for Story), Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.

A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.

“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.

Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.

Trophy

DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.

Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.

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DRS Technologies

The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.

Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.

Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.

“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.

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US Army Strykers in Romania. | US Army photo

While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.

“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” the DRS official explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’

The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.

Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.

 Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain

A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.

Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.

The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.

The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.

Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.

“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.

Israel’s IRON FIST

Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.

“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.

IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.

“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.

UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System

German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.

Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.

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DARPA wants to implant chips in soldiers’ brains

DARPA has a plan to implant a device in soldiers’ brains to let them communicate with computers and digital sensors.


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The brain-computer interface would allow soldier to communicate with sensors to more effectively track enemies or sense the surrounding terrain. Photo: US Army PEO

The program is called Neural Engineering System Design. The device would be about the size of two nickels stacked together. If successful, the small device would represent a huge breakthrough in neural communications.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

NESD would gather signals from the brain at a much higher resolution than is currently possible. Right now, devices which read brain waves are aimed at areas of the brain. Each of 100 sensors picks up the activity of tens of thousands of neurons, giving a vague picture of what the brain is saying.

The chip and sensors from the NESD program would aim to communicate individually with millions of neurons. This would allow prosthetics wearers to give detailed commands to their prosthesis, soldiers to receive information from battlefield sensors instantly, and for researchers to map the human brain in exquisite detail.

While controlling mechanical arms and giving foot soldiers radar are sexy, it’s the research applications that DARPA is primarily targeting right now. NESD would support other DARPA initiatives that aim to map, protect, and communicate with the human brain.

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One of the goals of DARPA’s brain initiatives is to help prosthetic wearers communicate with their devices. Photo: US Department of Veterans Affairs

The road forward for DARPA and its research partners is a hard one. According to a DARPA release, it will require “breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”

DARPA is looking for business and research partners for the initiative. Interested parties can find information at their website.

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