If you think your duty station sucks try serving on 'Snake Island' - We Are The Mighty
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If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’

Ilha da Queimada Grande is an island off the coast of Brazil that is more commonly known as “Snake Island.” The British navy forbids visitors due to the extremely venomous snakes that live there. With 1-5 snakes per square meter, the island has the highest concentration of venomous snakes in the world.


If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
In this photo: about 1500-2000 snakes and a single lighthouse. Photo: flickr/Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaé

The golden lancehead is a pitviper species that lives only on the island. Its venom is up to five times more potent than normal pitvipers living in mainland Brazil.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’

The snakes are described as moving landmines, but they actually spend most of their time in trees, hunting the migratory birds that are their primary food source. Researchers believe that the island was once connected to the mainland, but rising seas cut it off. The snakes then evolved their organ-liquefying venom so that their strikes would kill the birds before the birds flew away.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
This thing can strike and kill a bird before it can take off. Photo: Otavio Marques (Instituto Butantan)

A lighthouse on the island used to be manned, but was automated in the 1920s. Local legend says the change was made after a family that tended the lighthouse in 1909 awoke to a snake crawling in through the window. The family attempted to flee but was attacked by snakes in tree branches and didn’t make it.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Brazilian sailors and a Vice journalist begin their ascent from the shore to the island lighthouse during a maintenance mission. Photo: Youtube/VICE

For the few people who are allowed onto the island, the navy orders that a doctor be present in case an anti-venom needs to be administered. A researcher interviewed by Vice said it’s still highly probable that the victim will die.

Despite the navy’s attempts to keep people away, smugglers visit the island and steal the snakes which then make their way to buyers around the world. Other bio-pirates (actual term) bribe researchers and navy sailors to get snakes for them. The going rate for the snakes in 2014 was thought to be between $10,000 and $30,000 each.

Researchers are allowed to remove the snakes legally in order to investigate potential applications for the venom. Certain compounds in it have shown promise as drugs for heart disease, blood clots, and cancer.

YouTube, Vice

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Pentagon identifies Navy SEAL killed in Fleet Week parachute accident

A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.


The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.

Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”

The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.

Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.

The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”

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Here’s who’d win if an Airborne brigade fought a MEU

Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.


During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.

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Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, Data SIO, MOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye

The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.

The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.

The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.

This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.

The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.

The Army decided to make its stand at the beach. Soldiers from the two battalion weapons companies rushed their Humvees, complete with TOW missile launchers, Mk. 19s, and .50-cals, away from the airfield and down to areas of dead space on the shore.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.

The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.

The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee J. Lolkus Sherrill

The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.

The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.

A few TOWs were launched at the Navy ships, but the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems destroyed them and the Navy pulled out of range.

Then the Marines began readying the Harriers. While the nearly 4,000 soldiers of an Airborne Brigade Combat Team vastly outnumber the 2,200 in a MEU, the MEU brings 7 acres of U.S. territory and 8 ground attack jets with them.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Claudia Palacios

The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.

Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.

The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.

Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.

By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.

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This VA official fired for poor leadership just got his job back

A former director of the veterans hospital in the nation’s capital who had been fired for poor leadership has been rehired.


Brian Hawkins was put back on the Department of Veterans Affairs payroll after he appealed the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Hawkins was let go last month after audits found mismanagement at the facility.

The board is requiring the VA to keep Hawkins as an employee until the Office of Special Counsel reviews his claim.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
David J. Shulkin visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications

In a statement August 9, the VA says Hawkins had been reassigned to administrative duty at VA headquarters in Washington and would not work directly with patients.

It says VA Secretary David Shulkin will explore other ways to fire Hawkins under a newly enacted accountability law signed by President Donald Trump.

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This man in Georgia restores WWII airplane turrets in his garage

Plane turrets got their combat debut in World War II but were nearly obsolete by the time the war ended as jet planes could fly too fast for most gunners to hit them.


Most turrets were scrapped after the war, but one enthusiast in Georgia is collecting those that survived and restoring them to working conditions.

In his workshop in Georgia, Fred Bieser has thousands of turret parts and, as of 2013 when this video was shot, had restored seven turrets. Most of them are kept in his workshop, but some have gone on display at military museums.

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American ball turret gunner Alan Magee poses in his station. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

In this video from Tested, Bieser takes a video crew through his workshop and shows the guts of turrets and how they worked.

The video includes a lot of cool history on turrets, like how pilots worked with gunners to ensure accuracy and how Britain and America used different technologies for power and control.

Check out the full video below:

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Watch this Texas monster truck rescue an Army vehicle from Harvey floodwaters

For the last several days, Hurricane Harvey has dropped an estimated 50-inches of rain, putting several Texas towns underwater.


Countless Americans are braving the weather conditions, driving massive trucks out to help their fellow flood victims by transporting them and what belongings they can muster to local shelters until this natural disaster clears.

One Twitter video has been recently making rounds of a massive Cadillac Escalade lifted up on enormous tires pulling a nearly submerged medium sized tactical truck from a flooded residential area.

Related: This is how the Growler disables an enemy’s air defense system

After the Escalade roared its powerful motor, the driver managed to tow the Texas National Guard’s military vehicle from the flood waters causing the nearby spectators to cheer.

According to the US Department of Defense, more than 3,800 people have been rescued, but many residents wish to stay at home protecting their belongings from looters.

Also Read: 15 clichés every military recruit from Texas hears in basic training

Check out Micheal Keyes’ video below to see the action for yourself.

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Watch the U.S. Air Force’s Lego safety video

WorkSafeBC is the name of the Worker’s Compensation Board of the Canadian province of British Columbia, covering 2.3 million Canadian workers. The Board is responsible for processing claims, complaints, and (among other things) prevention of workplace accidents. This is where they really shine.


The accident prevention videos the Board makes and uploads to YouTube received more the 25 million views since 2006. They’re short and to the point, illustrative of the importance of accident prevention, and have many fans. One such fan is the United States Air Force.

A video called Struck by Mobile Equipment really resonated with the USAF, who formally asked WorkSafeBC if they could use the video as part of their official safety training.

In an article from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), an official at WorkSafeBC told CBC he received an email from the Air Force saying “We love this piece. It’s really effective for our target audience in our Mishap Prevention Program for people who are 18 to 24 years old.”

Other areas covered by CBC but not picked up by the Air Force include Returning to Work and Caring for People with Dementia.

 

NOW: This Robot Is Built Like Legos And Can Do Most Ground Missions

OR: 33 of America’s Most Terrifying Nuclear Mishaps

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The invasion of Iraq began 13 years ago

U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq 13 years ago today,  kicking off a war that would last until the end of 2011.


President George W. Bush had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to cede power and leave the country by early-morning Mar. 20, 2003. American forces stepped off the line of departure 90 minutes after the clock ran out.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
An F-117A Nighthawk drops a laser-guided bomb during training. Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

Jets and Tomahawk missiles struck government and military targets deep within the country, including some within Baghdad. The first strike was conducted by F-117 stealth fighters against Dora Farms, a retreat near Baghdad where Saddam and two of his sons were believed to be that morning.

Most of Dora Farms was destroyed in the attack, but Saddam had left the area long before the bombs fell.

Saddam quickly went into hiding as CIA operatives and special operations troops called in airstrikes throughout Iraq. Fearful that the Iraqi military would destroy infrastructure and set traps for advancing troops like they did in the First Persian Gulf War, the coalition sent in ground forces just hours after the first airstrikes.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
British Royal Marines prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Photo: Ministry of Defence Dave Coombs

U.S. soldiers under V Corps and Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force invaded from Kuwait into Iraq towards Baghdad.

At the same time, U.S. Marines, British forces, and Polish commandos began an assault over land and sea against Al Faw peninsula and the port city of Umm Qasr. The area is home to a large amount of oil infrastructure and it controls waterways that would be vital to moving ships loaded with supplies into the country.

Just behind the front lines, Spanish troops moved into Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance.

If you think your duty station sucks try serving on ‘Snake Island’
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John L. Houghton, Jr.

The initial invasion ran from Mar. 20 to May 1 and was an unqualified success. While Saddam Hussein managed to escape into hiding, his forces put up little resistance. U.S. and allied forces were able to capture the entire country with little damage to infrastructure. American troops were pushing into Baghdad and walking American flags through palaces owned by Saddam by early April, just weeks after the invasion began.

Of course, things got more complicated after that, to put it mildly. Sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency against the new government of Iraq and the coalition forces would drag out the war for another 8 years.

But that’s another story . . . .

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The military is closing in on powerful exoskeleton technology

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Photo: Raytheon


For decades, the U.S. military and its private-sector partners have been working toward a technology straight out of science fiction: robotic suits.

And it’s no surprise. Exoskeletons could add to soldiers’ natural strength, letting troops lift seemingly impossible loads and dart across the battlefield at incredible speed.

Currently, the military is exploring creating an Iron Man-like specialized suit through the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) program. The suit would provide soldiers with enhanced mobility and protection, and it would most likely run on top of an exoskeleton base.

Today’s exoskeletons vary in utility, but they can allow soldiers to carry 17 times more weight than normal and march with significantly less strain on the body. With an XOS 2 suit, for example, a solider can carry 400 pounds but feel the weight of only 23.5.

Although robotic exoskeleton suits have been in development for over 50 years, things really started picking up speed in the 1990s, leading to more and more interest from the U.S military. Now, it’s a clear priority.

As former Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper said: “We must give the individual soldier the same capabilities of stealth and standoff that fighter planes have. We must look at the soldier as the system.”

Early 1960s: The Man Amplifier

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Photo: Youtube.com

Throughout the early 1960s, Neil Mizen developed the early stages of the Man Amplifier at Cornell University’s Aeronautical Lab. The suit was intended to have powered gears at the joints to provide additional support and strength.

Although it was hoped that the Amplifier would have military and scientific uses, Mizen could not master the system’s powered gear system, and the suit was never completed. Even so, his research went on to inspire future exoskeleton projects.

1965: The Hardiman Suit

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Photo: Wikipedia/Bruce Fick and John Makinson

One of the first powered iterations of exoskeletons was General Electric’s 1965 Hardiman Suit, which was co-developed with the U.S. military. The suit built upon the research done for the Man Amplifier.

The Hardiman was intended to lift 1,500 pounds; however, the suit never managed to act as a fully unified machine, and controlling it proved impossible.

Instead, research was focused on one arm of the suit. The arm managed to lift 750 pounds, but it weighed three quarters of a ton alone. The suit was deemed impractical, and the project was eventually abandoned.

1997: The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL)

In 1997, the Japanese research firm Cyberdyne started the earliest prototype of the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). The South Korean and U.S. militaries offered to fund the program, but the company wanted to avoid military applications for its technology.

The first prototypes of HAL were created at Tsukuba University with the aim of assisting the disabled and elderly with their daily tasks. The original HAL systems were attached to computers, and the batteries alone weighed 49 pounds.

The HAL 5

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Photo: Wikipedia/Steve Jurvetson

In 2013, the fifth-generation HAL prototype, HAL 5, received a global safety certificate for worldwide medical use. It was the first powered exoskeleton to receive this certification.

The HAL 5 is a full-body exoskeleton that weighs a total of 22 pounds. The system functions by sensing bio-signals on the surface of the skin, causing the exoskeleton to mirror the user’s movement. The suit can function for about an hour and a half on a full charge. The suit was used by relief workers during efforts to clean up the partial meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, because the suit could allow workers to wear more protective gear and work longer shifts without tiring as quickly.

The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)

The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) entered development in 2000 with a $50 million grant from DARPA. The prototype allowed wearers to carry upward of 200 pounds while feeling no additional weight. The exoskeleton was even capable of traversing rough terrain for extended periods of time.

The BLEEX has been designed so that the legs can be easily removed from the back if the device loses power — thus transforming it back into a standard backpack.

Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle

In 2001, Trek Aerospace ran its first test of the now-defunct Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle. The Springtail was considered for military development and even allowed for vertical flight. But ultimately, the project was deemed impractical and never took off.

The Springtail was unique in that it would allow soldiers to fly and hover, effectively taking the role of a personal vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle. The Springtail had a maximum speed of 113 miles per hour and could fly for 184 miles and carry a payload of 358 pounds.

The LIFESUIT

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Photo: Youtube.com

Also in 2001, U.S. Army Rangers veteran Monty K. Reed set up North Seattle Robotics Group. The group opened the They Shall Walk non-profit, dedicated to developing LIFESUIT exoskeletons for the disabled.

Reed had a parachute accident while in the military in 1986 that left him with permanent back injuries. During his recovery, Reed became fascinated with the exoskeletons in Robert Heinlein’s novel “Starship Troopers.” The LIFESUIT is in a late stage of development, and it has entered widespread medical trials.

XOS Exoskeleton

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Photo: Youtube.com

In 2000, Sarcos, an engineering and robotics firm in Utah, began designing the XOS Exoskeleton after receiving a grant from DARPA. DARPA accepted Sarcos’ exoskeleton design in 2006, and production of prototypes began that year.

The XOS had to stay connected to a power source to maintain movement. But the suit performed remarkably within this limitation: The XOS allowed users to lift significantly more weight than they could previously. Its actual-to-perceived-weight ratio was 6:1, meaning that a 180-pound load would feel like only 30 pounds.

A lighter, more efficient XOS

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Photo: Raytheon

In 2007, the defense giant Raytheon purchased Sarcos. In 2010, Raytheon-Sarcos released the XOS 2. The XOS 2 featured a host of improvements over the XOS.

The XOS 2 suit allows users to lift heavy objects at an actual-to-perceived-weight ratio of 17:1. The suit also required 50% less energy than the XOS, while also weighing 10% less than its predecessor.

The XOS 2 is also touted as being more precise, faster, and more portable than the XOS. The military is considering using the XOS 2 in its TALOS project.

The Human Universal Load Carrier

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Photo: Wikipedia

The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) began development in 2000 with Berkeley Bionics, which later changed its name to Ekso Bionics. The HULC was a third-generation exoskeleton system, and it incorporated features from two previous Ekso Bionics prototypes.

The HULC was proved to augment the strength of its wearers, allowing them to lift 200 pounds without impediment. The HULC also lowered the wearer’s metabolic cost, meaning soldiers could march with a load while having a decreased oxygen consumption and heart rate.

The HULC’s Military Applications

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Photo: Lockheedmartin.com

In 2009, Ekso Bionics licensed the HULC to Lockheed Martin for research into possible military applications. Lockheed continued its development of the HULC along the same lines as Ekso Bionics, but it increased the functionality of the suit to match the military’s needs.

HULC is multi-terrain operational, supports front and back payloads, and has enough power to last for an eight-hour march before having to be recharged. HULC allows a user to perform deep squats or crawl while wearing it, and it supports upper-body lifting as well. HULC is one of the exoskeletons currently being examined by the military for possible use in its TALOS Iron Man suit.

The X1 Mina — NASA’s Exoskeleton

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Photo: NASA

NASA announced that it was creating an exoskeleton as part of a partnership with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. The X1 Mina Exoskeleton will have dual functionality. In space and low-gravity environments, the joints of the suit will be stiffer, providing the astronauts with exercise to combat muscle atrophy.

NASA also envisions that the X1 can be used by paraplegics and others with disabilities to provide support while walking. In this case, the X1’s joints can be loosened, providing support to the wearer without being physically taxing.

The Warrior Web Program — DARPA’s Exoskeleton Of The Future

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Photo: DARPA.mil

DARPA began its Warrior Web program, aimed at creating a soft and lightweight under-suit that protects wearers’ joints and helps increase the amount of weight a soldier can easily carry while using less than 100 watts of power. One of the most promising designs has come from the firm Boston Dynamics.

The Warrior Web program has produced small exoskeleton-like clothing designs that are meant to be worn under normal uniforms. The overall goal of the program is to increase the endurance of soldiers by lessening the strain on their muscles.

Over the past 50 years, exoskeletons have gone from an unproven and even slightly fanciful technology to systems with medical and aerospace applications. They are becoming lighter, more energy-efficient, and more flexible — meaning that it is probably just a matter of time before the U.S. develops a practical military version.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Navy advances plans for futuristic ‘Ghost Fleet’

The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.


“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.

Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

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Better learn how to swim, big guy. | US Air Force photo

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.

Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.

Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.

During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.

“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.

A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.

The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.

“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.

The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.

The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.

The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.

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Creative Commons photo

ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.

A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.

“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.

Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.

Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.

For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.

Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.

“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.

When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.

Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.

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Textron Systems photo

LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.

The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.

The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.

The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.

The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.

Sub-Hunting Drone Ship

The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.

The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.

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US Navy photo

“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.

The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.

The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.

The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.

The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.

As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.

“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.

Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.

“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.

If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.

Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan

Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.

This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.

“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.

This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.

Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.

The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.

“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.

The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.

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Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.


Cash was born J.R. Cash and was raised in a hardscrabble family in Arkansas. He was forced to begin working at the age of 5 and he began playing and writing his own songs at the age of 12 after one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

At the age of 18 in 1950, J.R. Cash joined the Air Force and was forced to change his name to John. He rose through the ranks and served as a Morse code operator. He spent much of his time quickly decoding communications between Soviet officials.

On March 3, 1953, he was a staff sergeant manning his post in Landsberg, Germany, when a surprising message beeped into his ears. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, who had suffered from ill health for years, had died.

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(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

The leader of Russia had suffered a massive heart attack that day and died quickly.

The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.

The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.

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Johnny Cash as a newly signed musician at Sun Records in 1955. (Photo: Sun Records. Public Domain)

Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.

He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.

Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.

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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

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(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

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(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

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(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

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Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

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(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

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(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

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The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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Mushroom sports drinks and 5 more most glorious revolutionary people’s North Korean inventions

Did you know the Glorious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has invented many revolutionary technological and cultural wonders? With guidance from the Eternal Great Leader Kim Il-Sung, his son Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, and the many followers of the Great Marshal Kim Jong-Un, the magnificent Juche ideology has led to the creation of many things the evil imperialists and their southern puppets claim to be their own.


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These five wonders of the modern world are undisputedly from the one true Korea, however – and the lying imperialist media even admits to the greatness and vision of these amazing North Korean inventions.

1. The Cure for AIDS, Cancer, and Ebola – in one drug

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When the gangster regime of Obama tried to rid the world of the oppressed Africans by spreading Ebola, our most humble Marshal Kim Jong-Un and his scientists triumphed where the Western American lapdogs would not. By infusing rare earth elements into superior Korean ginseng, the glorious Marshal discovered Kumdang-2, which was found to cure 56 percent of AIDS patients, a number of cancers, Ebola, addiction, impotence, and many more vicious maladies, probably a creation of American capitalist biological weapons manufacturers!

2. Hamburgers

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In 2004, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il graced the Korean people with his invention of a brand new sandwich called Double Bread with Meat. The decadent Western imperialist media derided the invention and stole it as they have tried to steal the pride of the Korean people, claiming it as their own. Comrade Kim Jong-Il honors us with his protection and guidance in immediately setting up a factory to produce his new sandwich. Large-nosed American capitalists swill their sandwiches with the brown cesspool sugar water swill they call “Coke” while the people of Korea patriotically drink water to be prepared for reunification of the peninsula at any moment!

3. The invisible phone

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North Koreans are guided by the advice from our most divine, usually when the Supreme Leader is visiting. But when our Dear Leader (may his soul be ever ascendant with the stars in heaven), Kim Jong-Il needed to guide the glorious People’s soccer matches during the decadent World Cup games, he needed a technology that would allow him to give coaches the knowledge they needed to win the games. The guiding light from heaven invented a mobile phone that could not be seen with the naked eye. The dog of a coach did not listen to all the Dear Leader’s advice and our comrades on the field fell to the malignant Brazilian dogs, 2-1.

4. Waterproof Liquid

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This most glorious invention is revolutionizing the housing boom in the glorious capital city of Pyongyang. As hapless America begins to crumble under the weight of its own ignorance, the Juche idea and its ant-colonialist construction forces use this to seal floors and keep the flowing waters of the mighty Taedonggang River out of the homes of loyal patriot Koreans.

5. Unicorns

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Though Unicorns are not so much an invention as they are a discovery, the fact that a unicorn lair was uncovered the lair of unicorns ridden by King Tonngmyong, the ancient ancestor of our Eternal President and Great Leader, the wise and mighty Kim Il-Sung. The King founded his empire in the Juche Year -4912 on the backs of these mighty beasts which would surely have trodden upon the criminal regime in Seoul, puppets of the colonialist American mongrels.

6. Mushroom Sports Drinks

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Decadent capitalist American athletes drink their salty poisonous trash water, Gatorade. The pure North Korean people’s athletes represent their country by the overwhelming virtuousness with a natural beverage that enhances the physical ability of sportspersons. This all-natural drink is made from Juche idealist mushrooms which will surely cause a worldwide demand for the mushroom, which we will use to tirelessly crush the treacherous southern hyenas.