There are officers who seem to be made of glass, staying firmly behind the barriers and barbed wire that keep them protected from the enemy guns.
And then there are those guys who are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python, declaring every injury a flesh wound and jumping back into the fray like an amputated hand ain’t no thang.
That’s why Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart is a British legend; he literally lost a hand, an eye, and part of an ear while serving in three wars, including two World Wars.
Carton de Wiart was born to Belgian nobility in 1880 and sent to prestigious schools. But in 1899, the British found themselves in the second Boer War and Carton de Wiart jumped at the chance to experience combat. But the British only wanted British subjects aged 25 or older or who had their father’s consent.
So, Carton de Wiart employed a clever tactic called “lying” and shipped out under a pseudonym. His first war ended when he received enemy rounds to the stomach and groin and a trip back to England to recover.
But flesh wounds couldn’t keep the Black Knight out of the fight for long, and he volunteered for duty in 1914 during World War I, this time under his actual name as a naturalized citizen.
Similar to in the Boer War, Carton de Wiart found the enemy guns quickly and caught a few rounds from them, this time in his arm and face while fighting as a member of the Somaliland Camel Corps.
He accepted a Distinguished Service Order and headed out for a quick convalescence for his missing eye. According to Lord Ismay, Carton de Wiart was probably happy about the whole situation.
“I honestly believe that he regarded the loss of an eye as a blessing,” he said, “As it allowed him to get out of Somaliland to Europe where he thought the real action was.”
And Carton de Wiart did get into the action. He was sent to the Western Front in 1915 (that’s the year after the enemy rounds knocked out his left eye and took a part of his ear, for those keeping track). Sporting a black eyepatch over his empty socket in the Second Battle of Ypres, he was probably laughing when the German artillery barrage slammed into his position, severely injuring his left hand.
Doctors refused to amputate the hand, so our Black Knight tore off two of his fingers and went back to work. Doctors finally gave in and took the rest of his hand later. That was 1915.
In 1916, Carton de Wiart took command of a regiment at the Somme. Yeah, he once again returned to the front just a year later after a serious injury that would have ended anyone else’s career.
At the Battle of the Somme, then-Lt. Col. Carton de Wiart saw three other battalion commanders die in the back-and-forth fighting at La Boiselle. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
During World War II, the hero of one war and a distinguished veteran of another took an assignment in Yugoslavia. When — at the age of 60 — his plane was shot down over the Mediterranean, he went ahead and swam his way to shore and was captured by the Italians.
Fun fact: that was Carton de Wiart’s second plane crash. He survived another crash in Lithuania between the wars.
Of course, even capture by the Italians wasn’t enough to stop him, and he attempted multiple escapes. At one point, he managed to evade capture for eight days.
He survived the war and continued to serve the British until he retired in 1947 as a lieutenant general.
The drones of tomorrow will be stealthier, faster, more computerized, equipped for electronic warfare, more lethal, more autonomous and, in some cases, able to deploy as swarming groups of mini-drones, according to the Air Force’s Chief Scientist.
“The ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) side will get a lot smarter. With the next generation, you will see UAVs that are faster, more maneuverable and maybe stealthy. You will see them accompanying fighters with extra weapons, EW (electronic warfare), countermeasures and even lasers on board,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Some of these anticipated developments were forecasted in a 2014 Air Force report called RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) Vector designed to anticipate and prepare for future drone developments over the coming 25 years. However, the rapid pace of technological change has sped up and, to some extent, changed the timeline and mission scope for drones outlined in the report.
Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy
The processing speeds of computers and algorithms aimed at increasing autonomous activities have continued to evolve at an alarming rate, creating a fast-moving circumstance wherein drones will increasingly take on more and more functions by themselves, Zacharias explained.
Computer algorithms will enable drones to conduct a much wider range of functions without needing human intervention, such as sensing, targeting, weapons adjustments and sensor payload movements, ranges and capabilities, he added.
Developments with “artificial intelligence,” (AI) will better enable unmanned platforms to organize, interpret and integrate functions independently such as ISR filtering, sensor manipulation, maneuvering, navigation and targeting adjustments. In essence, emerging computer technology will better enable drones to make more decisions and perform more functions by themselves.
The beginning of this phenomenon is evidenced in the computers and sensor technologies of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the aircraft uses a technique known as “sensor fusion” wherein information from multiple sensors is organized, interpreted and presented to pilots on a single screen.
Digital mapping, ISR information from the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System and targeting data from its Electro-Optical Targeting System are not dispersed across multiple screens which pilots try to view simultaneously. Fast evolving sensor technology, which allows for an ability to more closely view targets and tactically relevant information from increasingly farther distances, will continue to enable and improve this trending phenomenon.
One of the largest consequences of AI will likely lead to a scenario wherein multiple humans will no longer need to control a single drone – rather multiple drones will be controlled by a single human performing command and control functions.
“People will function as air-traffic controllers rather than pilots, using smart, independent platforms. A person does command and control and drones execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans as higher level systems managers,” Zacharias explained.
As a result, drones will increasingly be capable of working more closely with nearby manned aircraft, almost functioning like a co-pilot in the cockpit and massively expanding the mission scope of a fighter jet or other aircraft able to control targeting, sensors and weapons functions from the air nearby.
“Decision aides will be in the cockpit (of a nearby fighter jet or aircraft) and platform oriented autonomous systems will function like a wing man, for instance, that might be carrying extra weapons, helping to defend or performing ISR tasks,” Zacharias said. “We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution.”
Drones could lead the way into higher-risk areas in order to reduce risks for manned aircraft, test and challenged next-generation enemy air defenses and greatly increase the ISR and weapons ability of any given mission.
In addition, drones will become more capable of air-to-air maneuvers and attacks and no longer be primarily engineered for air-to-ground attacks. In fact, early conceptual renderings of 6th generation fighter jets and the Air Force’s in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber are being engineered for unmanned flight as well as piloted flight.
Nevertheless, although drones and unmanned fighters will rapidly become faster and more manueverable, algorithms may not sooon progress to the point where unmanned systems can respond or react to unanticipated developments in a dynamic, fast-changing environment the way a human brain could. At the same time, advances in long-range sensor technology will continue to enable aircraft to see enemies at much longer distances, massively decreasing the need for drones or unmanned systems to be able to dogfight in mid-air.
During the last decade and a half of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces experienced uncontested air superiority, drones were used almost exclusively for air-to-ground attacks against insurgent fighters on the run, compounds, weapons caches, bunkers and other strategically vital targets. As the Air Force looks to the future, it aims to be capable of using drones as a key part of successfully engaging near-peer competitors and potential adversaries with technological ability able to rival the U.S. edge.
Russia and China, for example, both operate 5th generation stealth fighters (the latest and greatest technology) – and Russia is known to operate some of the most sophisticated enemy air defenses in the world. Russian-built air defenses are now better networked to one another, have faster processing speeds and are able to detect fighter aircraft on a wider range of frequencies, making it much more difficult for even stealthy fighters and bombers to operate.
These potential scenarios, now being studied by Pentagon analysts, involve developing an ability to operate in what is called a “contested environment,” where enemies operate advanced air defenses, 5th generation fighter jets and long-range precision-guided weapons.
“You need to increasingly be able to react more to your environment in the air, addressing unanticipated failures and threats coming after you,” Zacharias added.
Zacharias explained that many of these developments will come to fruition more fully through ongoing training, simulations and live virtual constructions designed to assess various expected scenarios.
Faster computer processing power will also better enable an ability to organize and streamline the massive amount of collected ISR data. If a drone loiters over strategically important areas for hours upon hours, computer algorithms will increasingly allow the platform to identify important tactical information by itself.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is smarter on-board processors. An RPA (drone) can orbit around a given target and have it look, for instance, for a relevant white pick-up truck, instead of having human operators do that,” he said. “This requires image processing, pattern recognition. Then you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30 seconds ago you might want to take a look at the video feed which I am sending right now.'”
The ability for a single human to control multiple drones could bring a number of implications, such as an ability to effectively use a swarm of small drones. Air Force scientists have explained that emerging algorithms are increasingly able to allow large numbers of small, mini-drones to operate in unison without hitting one another. For instance, they could collectively work to jam or overwhelm an enemy radar system, act themselves as weapons or munitions, or cover an expansive area with ISR video feeds.
More Lethal Drones
A wider arsenal of weapons will also be integrated onto drone platforms, including high-tech guided weapons able to discern and destroy enemy targets by themselves to a much greater degree. This will likely include laser weapons as well, Zacharias added.
These weapons will naturally include laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles which are the primary weapon used by today’s platforms such as the Predator, Reaper and Army Gray Eagle. At the same time, drones or unmanned platforms are expected to fire a wider range of guided air-dropped munitions and air-to-air weapons such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM.
Also, the Air Force is now developing an air-dropped guided weapon called the Small Diameter Bomb II. This weapon uses an emerging technology called a tri-mode seeker, which draws upon infrared, laser and millimeter wave radar technology to detect, track and destroy targets in any kind of weather environment.
At the same time, Pentagon doctrine stipulates that a human needs to be in-the-loop when it comes to the possible use of lethal force, except potentially in some rare circumstance where immediate defensive weapons are needing in milliseconds due to an incoming attack, Zacharias explained. As a result, nearly all weapons will help distinguish, track and destroy targets under the guidance and supervision of human command and control.
Given the pace of technological change, future Air Force drones will also need to be modular, meaning they will be engineered such that they can readily exchange sensor payloads when mission requirements change or new technology emerges, Air Force officials said.
Future drones will also be much faster than the 200 to 300 miles per hour most current drones are able to travel at. Hypersonic speeds greater than Mach 5.5 may be in the very distant future; the Air Force Research Laboratory and Boeing have worked together on an emerging hypersonic test platform called the X-51A Waverider. The test vehicle has had both failed and successful test trying to launch from an aircraft and travel at hypersonic speeds. While this super-high speed technology may hold promise for possible drone applications in the distant future, it is currently regarded as a long way off and in need of much further development.
Nevertheless, there have been some successfull flights of hypersonic technology, including on in May of 2013 wherein the X-51A Waverider flew over the Pacific Ocean reaching speeds of Mach 5.1.
This May 1 test flight wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapping up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, according to an Air Force statement.
“The X-51A took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the wing of B-52H Stratofortress. It was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the cruiser’s supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, engine then lit and accelerated the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet,” a previous Air Force Statement explaining the test stated.
Naturally, massively increased speed could give drones an ability to urgently reach and potentially deliver weapons and sensors to crucial time-sensitive combat situations exponentially faster.
Future drones will also be quite stealthy, as a technique for having more success against high-tech air defenses. There are already a number of stealthy drones in various stages of development.
One such example is Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 Sentinel stealth UAV which, according to a 2011 report in The Atlantic, helped track Bin Laden’s compound prior to his death.
Boeing has unveiled its Phantom Ray, a fighter-sized unmanned combat air vehicle which first flew in 2011. The aircraft has a 50-foot wingspan, can climb to 40,000 feet and reach speeds of Mach .85.
Also, the Navy is still contemplating and analyzing future plans for a first-of-its kind stealthy, carrier launched drone, called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne and Strike system (UCLASS). UCLASS is slated to arrive in the mid-2020s to give a Carrier Air Wing an ability to launch stealthy drone attacks over enemy territory without needing to launch from a nearby land-base and, in some cases, secure permission from a nearby country to take-off-and-land from the ground.
Since World War II, the US has dominated the skies in any region in which it wishes to project power — but recent competition from countries like Russia and China threaten to erode that edge, and only a small group of elite pilots maintain the US’s edge in air superiority.
Russia has deployed powerful missile-defense batteries to Syria and its European enclave of Kaliningrad. The US Air Force can’t operate in those domains without severe risk. US President Barack Obama himself has acknowledged that these missile deployments greatly complicate and limit the US’s options to project power in Syria.
China has undertaken the breathtaking feat of building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, outfitting them with runways and radar sites that could allow Beijing to establish an air defense and identification zone, the likes of which the US would struggle to pierce.
Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, speaking during the State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, said of the Air Force’s dwindling dominance: “I believe it’s a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
The US has the world’s largest Air Force, but it’s important to remember that it’s a force stretched thin across the entire globe. In the Pacific or the Baltics, smaller, more concentrated powers have reached parity or near parity with the US’s gigantic fleet.
Only one US airframe remains head-and-shoulders above any and all competition — the F-22 Raptor.
The coming F-35 Lightning II, a stealthy technological marvel in its own right, has an impressive radar cross section approximately the size of a basketball. The F-22 however, blows it out of the water with a cross section about the size of a marble.
“Typically, we’ll train against the biggest and baddest threats because we want to train against the newest threat on the block,” one F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
“We’re fighting against the most advanced operational threats we can,” said another.
Even though the stealthy F-22s hold an overwhelming advantage at long range, because they can target enemies long before those enemies can see them, the Raptor pilots train for up-close-and-personal conflicts as well. While close range confrontations hugely disadvantage the F-22 pilots, they continue to train uphill and achieve impressive results.
As the most capable plane in the world, the F-22 pilots exist as a kind of “insurance policy” against the most advanced threats in the world, according to Majumdar.
“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats—advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400—it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,'” an F-22 pilot told Majumdar.
America’s clandestine operators developed some pretty diabolical weapons to help inflict death and destruction behind enemy lines in World War II. And in the fight against the Japanese occupation of China, the plans got downright dastardly.
In 1942, the Office of Strategic Services began working with Ukraine-born George Kistiakowsky who was a physical chemistry professor at Harvard University and developed an innovated explosive powder designed specifically for guerrilla warfare.
Kistiakowsky secretly created “HMX” powder, or “nitroamine high-explosive” that could be mixed in with regular baking flour and make various inconspicuous-looking baked goods.
Kistiakowsky managed to perfectly combine the HMX compound with a popular pancake mix and package the new weapon into ordinary flour bags that could be smuggled through the numerous Japanese checkpoints and delivered right into the Chinese fighters’ hands.
The explosive looked no different than regular pancake mix and if a suspicious Japanese soldier forced the smuggle to whip up a batch and eat them, there would be no ill effects except for a bit of a stomach ache.
Once the weaponized flour was in the hands of the Chinese allied fighters, muffins were baked from the Aunt Jemima pancake mix and a blasting cap was added to complete the destructive war device.
It’s reported that approximately 15 tons of pancake mix was imported and was never detected by Japanese forces.
The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.
For most of our teams, the season will not end well. For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.
Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump
The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?
Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead
Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012. But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.
Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon
This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.
Buffalo Bills – Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege
If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.
Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers
The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.
Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan
I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.
Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland
Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.
Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder
Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.
Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens
A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.
Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood
The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.
Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump
No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day
Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.
Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers
Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.
Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan
As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.
Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III
They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.
Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg
Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.
Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down
Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.
New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper
Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.
New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo
It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.
New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.
New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape
Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.
Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator
An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.
Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill
No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket
Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.
St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter
St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.
San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers
It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!
San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon
The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.
Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun
Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan
The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?
Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down
You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.
Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory
No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.
They say that life at sea is like living in a prison, but you don’t have to live like an inmate.
A sailor’s life at sea means not stepping on land for long periods of time. Sailors have to live with the items they board the ship with until they get a care package or make their first port visit. They can also visit the ship’s store, but those items aren’t the kinds of things that can improve quality of life, necessarily.
Here are a few things that can, however:
1. Zip Ties
The bulkheads – Navy speak for ship walls – have exposed beams, pipes, and wiring. Zip ties come in handy for attaching items to the pipes and beams while also helping to organize the wiring of electronic devices.
Use Velcro tape for sticking items to smooth surfaces. Attach velcro tape to the back of your iPad and the ceiling of your coffin rack for movies in bed. You can also use velcro for your wireless alert chime when skating.
3. Power strip
The ship provides power strips, but you can’t claim ownership. Having one handy will save you the frustration of having to barter for one. Just don’t forget to safety tag it, since electronics that are not safety tagged are grounds for confiscation.
4. Wireless hard drive
The ship has great movies, but options are limited. Bring a wireless hard drive filled with movies to stream to your mobile device for days when “Top Gun,” “Master and Commander,” and “An Officer And A Gentleman” are the only things playing.
5. Pen springs
It could be a long time before hitting port, so use a pen spring to protect your charger cables from crimping. Coffin lockers are notorious for ruining perfectly good cables. I recommend a Neiko Steel kit for their size selection.
6. Laundry wash bags
Skivvies and socks go missing in the ship’s laundry all the time. Use a medium size wash bag with your name written on it to ensure return. Don’t exceed more than two pairs of skivvies and two pairs of socks per bag to get a good wash.
7. Baby wipes
Speaking of skivvies, use baby wipes to prevent earning the skid of the day award. Baby wipes prevent rashes and preserve the ego.
8. Cigarettes and chewing tobacco
Even if you don’t smoke or dip, take a couple of cartons of cigarettes and chewing tobacco to use as bartering chips. You’d be amazed at what people are willing to give up for a tobacco fix.
9. Packs of energy shots
Whether you’re a snipe or an airedale, it’s important to stay alert, and it could mean the difference between life or death. Pack some energy shots for backup. We recommend RuckPack because they give you the extra boost without the jitters.
10. Packs of dry noodles
The galley is only open during specified hours, but work doesn’t just stop. Pack a box of dry noodles to prevent from going hungry when your schedule doesn’t align with the galley’s hours.
11. Hot water dispenser
You can’t eat those dry noodles without hot water. Hot water dispensers are especially handy for airedales whose break time is determined by the flight schedule.
Sailors live in close quarters to other shipmates. With racks (Navy bunks) stacked three high in berthings that can have 80 or more people, they have to endure each other’s funk. Take some Febreze to help you tame the smells.
13. Foot locker storage bin
Personal space on a ship is limited to your coffin rack and a stand-up locker. However, if you have a good relationship with your LPO and shop mates, you can probably take a foot locker that you can store in the shop. These are great for storing your bartering items and port souvenirs.
Would you add anything to this list? Add it in the comments.
Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.
“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”
Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.
“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”
The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.
“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”
“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”
The number of civilian deaths in the Afghan war has reached a record high, continuing an almost unbroken trend of nearly a decade of rising casualties.
The number of deaths of women and children grew especially fast, primarily due to the Taliban’s use of homemade bombs, which caused 40% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017, according to UN figures released on July 17.
Child casualties increased by 9% to 436, compared with the same period last year, and 1,141 children were wounded. Female deaths rose by 23%, with 174 women killed and 462 injured.
US and Afghan airstrikes also contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43%increase in casualties from the air, the figures showed.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s Afghanistan mission, said: “The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction, and immense suffering – is far too high.
“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate, and illegal improvised explosive devices [IEDs] is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”
The UN attributes about two-thirds of casualties to the Taliban and other anti-government groups such as Islamic State.
The worst attack of the war on civilians occurred in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on May 31, when a truck bomb killed at least 150 people, amounting to nearly one-quarter of the 596 civilian deaths from IEDs in 2017.
In the countryside, bombs carpeting fields or left in abandoned houses have contributed to a steady, slow-grinding toll, with 1,483 civilians injured and many suffering amputations.
Kamel Danesh, 19, a student and avid cricketer, was helping a friend clear a house in Helmand a month ago when he stepped on a mine left by the Taliban.
“I didn’t hear the blast. I was just knocked over. My mouth filled with dust. I tried to stand up but couldn’t,” Danesh said. “I looked down and my leg was cut off at the bone. My hand was cut off.”
A rickshaw transported him from the suburbs of the provincial capital to Emergency, an Italian-run trauma centre, where medics saved his life.
“It was so painful. I prayed to God to take me,” Danesh said. The provincial cricket association named the Ramadan tournament after him, but he will never play again.
In June, the US conducted 389 aerial attacks in Afghanistan, putting this year on a par with 2013, when there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country.
Of the 232 civilian casualties from 48 aerial operations, 114 were caused by Afghans and 85 by Americans. In one especially deadly operation, the US killed 26 civilians in airstrikes in Sangin district in Helmand.
With peace talks elusive, the war is expected to intensify and prolong the violence that has engulfed Afghanistan for four decades.
Danesh lost his leg to a conflict that began when he was two. As a child, his father and grandfather used to tell him war stories, but “now it is the young people who are sacrificing”, he said.
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video:
Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.
Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.
“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.
The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.
“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”
It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.
The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.
To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.
Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer. There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.
“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.
The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.
They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.
Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.
Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.
But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.
While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.
It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.
“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”
The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.
Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.
The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.
The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.
“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.
Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.
“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.
He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.
On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.
He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.
Thrilling enough? Yes and no.
Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.
Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?
Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.
That’s Lobpries’ goal.
So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.
“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”
Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”
Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.
(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)
As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.
“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.
It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.
Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.
Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.
Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.
Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.
Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.
With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.
Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.
If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”
“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.
He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.
Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.
But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.
The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.
Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.
Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).
Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.
According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.
ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.
There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.
In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.
In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.
China has established a new agency to develop advanced weaponry for China’s changing military force.
The Scientific Research Steering Committee, established earlier this year but revealed to the public this week, is modeled after the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which strives to “make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security,” according to DARPA’s website.
The new agency falls under the control of the Central Military Commission, which is chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the South China Morning Post. Since he took power a few years ago, the president has been putting the military through an intense modernization program designed to strengthen the quality of the armed forces while reducing quantity. China is investing heavily in its aviation and naval forces, as well as its strategic support and rocket forces.
“As everyone knows, the internet, global positioning systems, stealth fighters, electromagnetic guns, laser weapons as well as other advanced technologies – most are DARPA-related,” CCTV, a Chinese state broadcaster, said in a recent broadcast revealing the new weapons development agency.
“We should make greater efforts to promote scientific technology in our army if we want to win the competitive advantage,” Chinese state media added.
The new agency, together with the CMC Science and Technology Commission will spearhead technological innovation for the military, such as the development of electromagnetic cannons and elite stealth fighters.
“The PLA sees technological innovation as a core aspect of military competition and seeks to draw upon DARPA’s model to achieve comparable successes,” Elsa Kania, an independent military analyst, explained to the Financial Times. China has been spending more on its military while cutting thousands of personnel. The Chinese defense budget is expected to hit $150 billion this year and soar to $220 billion by 2020. American defense spending still vastly outpaces China, but the latter is rapidly closing the gap.
The Scientific Research Steering Committee will pursue a path of “civilian-military integration,” which suggests that the program will bring private companies into the fold to develop new technology for the military.
China has made several major technological breakthroughs in recent months. The Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter entered active service in March. The rising Asian giant launched its first independently-produced aircraft carrier in April and an indigenous guided-missile destroyer in June.
China exhibited its new combat drone at a recent international air show. (Photo from Globalsecurity.org)
Last week, a Chinese company, a leader in unmanned systems, announced that the new CH-5 combat/reconnaissance drone is ready for mass production.
China has not reached technological and military parity with the U.S., but its capabilities are improving as it seeks to establish itself as a superpower.