A Chinese pilot apparently watched too much “Top Gun” because he decided recently to pull one of Maverick’s classic stunts.
According to a report by CNN, the Chinese Su-30 Flanker jockey flew inverted while directly over a United States Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix aircraft in international airspace over the East China Sea.
The WC-135W is designed to monitor the atmosphere for radiation from nuclear tests and other radiological incidents. Notable operations have included monitoring the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.
The BBC reported that the Chinese plane came within 150 feet of the U.S. jet. It marks the second time there has been a close encounter. The incident was viewed as “unprofessional” by the crew of the Air Force plane, primarily due to the “Top Gun” maneuver. In February, a Chinese KJ-200 radar plane came close to a United States Navy P-3, which had to change course to avoid a collision. Other close encounters have occurred with Russian and Iranian forces in recent months.
While not as well-known – or complicated – as the South China Sea, the East China Sea has a number of maritime territorial disputes, notably over the Senkaku Islands. China lost an international arbitration ruling over its actions in the South China Sea in July, due to boycotting the process.
The Su-30 is a two-seat multi-role version of the Flanker. MilitaryFactory.com notes that it has a range of over 1,800 miles, a top speed of Mach 1.73, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons. GlobalSecurity.org reports that China bought 76 from Russia, and has been building more of these planes as the J-11B “Flanker.” The Su-30 has also been purchased by a number of other countries, including Algeria, Angola, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
South Korean National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon arrived to Washington, DC early March 2018 to brief their counterpart, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, on new diplomatic overtures from North Korea.
“Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization,” Chung said on March 8, 2018. “Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests.”
“And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Chung continued.
Chung said Trump “appreciated” the briefing, and agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un “to achieve permanent denuclearization.” The White House said a time and date for that meeting has not yet been determined.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump had accepted the invitation. She also emphasized that the US’s strict sanctions against North Korea, which were leveled in part because of the regime’s missile-test activity, will remain in effect.
“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea,” Sanders said. “In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the outcome through his spokesperson: “The May meeting will be recorded as a historic milestone that realized peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon reportedly said.
“In particular, the leadership of President Trump, who gladly accepted Chairman Kim’s invitation, will receive praise not only from people in the South and the North, but also from people around the world,” Moon continued.
Earlier on March 8, 2018, Trump teased that a “major announcement” would be made: “Hopefully, you will give me credit,” Trump quipped, according to ABC News journalist Meredith McGraw.
Trump has periodically indicated an openness to talks with North Korea “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”
Beginning in January 2018, North Korea made several diplomatic moves to indicate a willingness to negotiate with the US and South Korea.
Following its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the North conducted several meetings with officials from the South, including President Moon.
In the meeting between South Korea’s envoy and Kim Jong-un, North Korea proposed a summit with Moon in April 2018 — the third such summit between the two Koreas since the Korean War.
Trump said of those developments on March 6, 2018: “I think that they are sincere, but I think they are sincere also because the sanctions.”
“I hope they are sincere. We’re going to see and find out,” Trump said.
Kim Jong-un’s apparent verbal commitment to denuclearization, if he follows through with it, would be a significant victory for the US. Denuclearization is the key precondition for diplomatic engagement, as outlined by the Trump administration.
“Our condition is denuclearization,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said to reporters in late February 2018. “Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
US officials remained cautious on March 8, 2018. Hours before Chung’s announcement, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was “a long ways from negotiations.”
“I think it’s – we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it,” Tillerson said during a press conference from Ethiopia.
Japan, a country that has often witnessed North Korea’s missiles flying overhead, announced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be visiting Trump in April 2018 to discuss the recent developments with North Korea, Japan’s Kyodo News reported.
For centuries, many civilizations have tried (for one reason or another) to subdue or kill the Russian Bear.
Most of them failed.
To successfully plant their flag atop the Kremlin, an invader must consider a few things that’ll certainly affect the outcome before mobilizing forces and gassing up the fleet.
1. The Russian Winter.
Pro Tip: Pack your woobie.
In 2014, Vice’s Oscar Rickett askedIHS Jane’s military expert Konrad Muzkya just what it would take to conquer Russia and just how a nation might go about it. His first question is one that sticks in the minds of any student of military history: How does anyone beat the Russian winter?
With Napoleon and Hitler waiting with bated breath in the next world, Muzkya replies with his belief that guided munitions, nuclear weapons, and modern power projection capabilities nullify this historical advantage.
“Any potential conflict with the West would most likely be fought in the air, space, and sea,” he told Vice. “Any use of land forces would be limited to capturing strategically important facilities — bridges, airfields, and the like.”
2. The size of Russia.
To give the failed invaders a little credit, the Russia conquered by the Mongols was a fraction of the size it was during the 19th and 20th centuries. But a little secret to the Mongols success might be preparation. The Khans took 17 years to finish off the Russians.
It wasn’t a lack of manpower, either. At the time of the French Invasion, Napoleon’s Grande Armée numbered 680,000 troops.
To give some perspective, that’s like deploying half of all the active U.S. military troops as riflemen. Which is a terrible idea.
Trying to conquer Russia is the equivalent of invading the U.S. twice, in terms of land mass. Just moving from St. Petersburg to Moscow is 400 miles. It took the Allies more than two months to reach Paris from the Normandy — which is just 167 miles away.
Russia is 6.6 million square miles of cold, cold, cold, nothing. Which presents another problem entirely.
3. There’s nothing there.
Everything after Moscow is flyover country. An invading country can’t just not go into the steppe. Once the Russian people figured out the occupiers won’t go into the wilderness, that’s exactly where the insurgency will take root.
Even getting to all the nothing will take a Herculean effort. The Russian Army mans an estimated 280,000 effective fighting soldiers. When the going gets tough, it has to be assumed they will use the same human wave-style tactics used against the Nazis in WWII.
What was a problem in the past for armies who had to forage for food or move supplies by train is not a problem for a global power like the U.S. military. All the same, after Moscow, there isn’t much in the way of infrastructure for things like tanks or places suitable for airfields — all things insurgent partisans in the area will have a field day targeting.
4. One thing at a time.
Anyone who wants to invade Russia should probably clear their schedule. The Mongols drove through the country because it was on the way to where they were going anyway. The Nazis were still fighting in North Africa and preparing for the invasion of Britain when Hitler launched Barbarossa. Napoleon was fighting an insurgency of his own in Spain.
The United States and NATO, if they were to invade Russia, should probably withdraw from all the other conflicts they have around the world and concentrate on the problem at hand. Once there, keeping a unified front would be of the utmost importance.
An invader shouldn’t expect to actually conquer anything. In almost every invasion of their motherland, the Russian people have resorted to scorched-earth tactics — burning or otherwise destroying everything that might be of use to an enemy. As Muzkya notes in the Vice article, the Russians still move troops using trains. That hasn’t changed since WWII. It’s likely not much else has either.
5. Bring some friends … and an Air Force.
Muzkya cites an estimate of a half-million troops being necessary to properly subdue Afghanistan. He also notes that Russia is 26 times the size of Afghanistan and has a population of 143 million. Afghanistan has just 30 million. Even the Chinese military with its massive available manpower would have a difficult time creating a sustainable drive across Russia.
But a military campaign is more than just people these days. The Russian Navy can’t project power in the same way the U.S. can – or anyone else, really. The country has only one aircraft carrier, and that deploys with a tugboat in case it breaks down.
The Russian air force, however, is still on the relative cutting edge, even if that edge isn’t as sharp as it once was. It has a fighter that can compete with the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Russia’s bomber force isn’t relevant in a defensive war because it’s more likely they’d use a nuclear attack before a conventional bombing campaign on their own soil.
6. Be prepared to die.
As for the use of nuclear weapons, Muzkya says that Russia has the right to use them to defend itself and any invader needs to be prepared for that.
“Russia possesses second-strike capability,” he says. “And unless you’re ready to take a nuclear hit from Russia — which no one can — you need to embrace the notion of a total annihilation of your country.”
He predicts that Russia – all 6.6 million square miles of it – would be turned into a nuclear wasteland in the event of an invasion from China or the West, so talking about who wins is irrelevant.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Aligning with a superpower worked for some countries during the Cold War, and for many others, it didn’t. But Iran never aligned itself with the US or the Soviet Union, preferring to maintain its independence and sovereignty. But where the Non-Aligned movement was dedicated to the principles of pretty much minding one’s own business, the coalition Iran is building is more dedicated to pushing back against the US.
But just for one very specific reason: inflation.
Ever since the United States left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the ‘Nuclear Deal’ – sanctions imposed by the U.S. have left Iran’s currency and economy in tatters. As today is the day Iranians celebrate the New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader is celebrating the regime’s resistance to the economic hardship.
“In the face of severe, and according to them unprecedented, sanctions from America and Europe, the Iranian people showed a strong and powerful reaction both in the field of politics and economy,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a pre-recorded speech. President Hassan Rouhani echoed that sentiment and called for Iranian to stop fighting each other a band together against the United States.
With sanctions crippling the value of Iranian currency, the Iranian government is looking to its neighbors to strengthen the rial. Other countries like Germany and France, who are still party to the nuclear plan, have opened channels to Iran for trade without using the dollar. While this has eased the out of control inflation in the Islamic Republic, the rial is still trading at 190,000 to one. Iranians have seen their savings and their net worth plummet in the past few years, which is the first result of rampant inflation.
Banks, merchants, and institutions have also seen the values of their businesses and livelihoods decline as a result. Throughout Iran, the inflation and unhappiness with the sanctions, and the regime’s inability to do anything about it has caused widespread protests and demonstrations – some on the same scale of the ones that brought down the Shah and saw the Islamic Republic come to power.
The US military spokesman for the coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria acknowledged on Wednesday that American military advisors have been knee deep in the offensive to retake the city of Mosul.
“They have been in the city at different times, yes,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters, according to ABC News. Though, he said, “they’ve advised Iraqi Security Forces as they’ve moved forward. They remain behind the forward line of troops.”
The battle to retake Mosul began in October, and Iraqi forces have encountered fierce resistance and significant casualties. For example, Iraq’s elite “Golden Brigade” of special operations troops have suffered upwards of “50 percent casualties” in the fight, which could eventually make them combat ineffective, according to a Pentagon officer who spoke with Politico.
Casualties have also hit US forces as well. Since October, the number of Americans wounded in combat has nearly doubled since OIR kicked off in August 2014.
That’s likely due to US forces working more closely with their Iraqi counterparts. Though US officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region as merely training, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces, the latest situation report from the Institute for the Study of War says that US and coalition forces have “embedded their advisors at lower-levels in the [Iraqi Security Forces].”
In other words, US special operations forces are often not remaining behind the front lines — especially considering a “front line” in the anti-ISIS fight is murky at best — but instead, are right in the thick of it with Iraqi troops.
The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.
Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.
These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.
The fisters carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.
They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the fister gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.
Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.
If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.
Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.
Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.
It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.
Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.
COVID-19 is here and schools have been cancelled across the country for weeks, even months. No matter if you are a working parent who is now teleworking or a stay at home parent with an unexpected long Spring Break, this list will help you get things done around the house without using copious amounts of screen time. All while saying screen time, especially education-focused learning, is important and a great tool to use within moderation.
Legos are a useful tool. When I give my boys a box of Legosand minimal direction they can play for hours. But when I can channel their energy into learning while playing, Legos become worth their weight in gold. Check out these 20 educational ways to use Legos. Even with all of these, the best way to use Legos is through free-play and imagination.
Depending on where you live the weather might not be ideal for going outside, but luckily Spring is almost here to stay, and even a 10-minute walk in the rain is a way to break up the schedule. On nicer days, send the kids outside to play. Some of my favorite games are race around the house, tag, sending the kids to find various objects in nature and puddle jumping in the rain. Make it a point to spend at least an hour outside each day. It will be good for you and the kids. Bonus if you can bring your laptop so you can get work done too.
Similar to Legos, but not as sturdy. One of my favorite things about Magna-tiles is that you can use them on the fridge to practice learning shapes and colors, but they are also great for building. Give your kids a theme and watch them use their imaginations. My boys especially love building rockets that we count down to blast off (aka total destruction of the said rocket).
Read Books Alone or Together
Even with a six and four year old, my boys can sit and read books for at least 30 minutes on their own. Sometimes longer. I often set a timer for the boys to read and then reward their independent time by me reading them a story. It gives them something constructive to do and allows me to get work done. And having a reward at the end of the time is an added bonus for them.
To be fair, not all art projects are created equally, but drawing with markers and crayons is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and keep them focused on a project for an extended period of time. You can leave it basic with coloring or go on Pinterest and become the art queen or king.
Last summer we had every intention of doing school work during the break, but life happened and the school workbooks we bought went unused. Luckily for us we still have them and each day we will be working through the workbook.
What ways are you finding to keep your kids entertained with this sudden life interruption? Has there been something that you have felt has helped you the most or are any of these suggestions something you want to try at home this week?
The U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria has rejected a claim by the Syrian army that a coalition air strike hit poison gas supplies and killed hundreds of people.
A Syrian army statement shown on Syrian state TV on April 13 said that a strike late on April 12 in the eastern Deir al- Zor Province hit supplies belonging to IS, releasing a toxic substance that killed “hundreds including many civilians.”
“The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. He said the coalition had carried out no air strikes in that area at that time.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 13 that it had no information on fatalities in a coalition air strike in Deir al-Zor and was sending drones to the area to monitor the situation.
Russia says that a new NATO plan to enhance its combat readiness in Europe would weaken security on the continent, and is warning that Moscow would take that into account in its own military planning.
Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko criticized the initiative known as Four Thirties in comments on June 13, 2018. He said that Russia would take all necessary military measures to guarantee its own security.
The initiative “creates a threat to European security,” Grushko told journalists.
Four Thirties, the U.S.-proposed initiative that was supported by NATO defense ministers on June 7, 2018, is meant to protect allies against what NATO says are increased threats from Russia and to bolster combat-readiness by easing the transport of troops across Europe in the event of a crisis.
The plan, whose full details were not revealed, provides for the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days. The plan is set to become operational in 2020.
Thousands of NATO troops are already stationed on standby in the Baltic states and Poland as a deterrent, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed on June 7, 2018, that the goals of Four Thirties are increased coordination and better mobility.
“This is not about setting up or deploying new forces. It is about boosting the readiness of existing forces across each and every ally,” Stoltenberg said.
“This is about establishing a culture of readiness and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment. We have to be prepared for the unforeseen,” he said.
Grushko said that Russia’s “views on the preparations made by the alliance on the eastern flank are well-known. We are acting based on the assumption that it substantially worsens military security in Europe.”
Asked whether Russia will factor Four Thirties into its own military planning, Grushko told journalists, “Without a doubt, we will take it into account.”
“If the need arises, we will take all military-technical measures that will guarantee our security and defense capability,” said Grushko, who is a former ambassador to NATO.
Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 13 called on NATO to ensure that no state or group would strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others — the so-called “indivisible security” concept.
“We will continue to call on our NATO counterparts to respect all the agreements…which declare drawing new dividing lines to be unacceptable and emphasize the need to ensure indivisible security so that no one has to strengthen their security by damaging the security of others,” Lavrov said in Moscow after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.
As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.
Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.
World Wrestling Entertainment, better known as the WWE, marked Memorial Day this year by sharing some of their best Tribute to the Troops moments. Tribute to the Troops is a recurring WWE program that hosts wrestling matches specifically to entertain service members deployed around the world.
One of the most popular clips they shared came from a 2003 fight between John Cena and Big Show. The match was held in Baghdad less than two weeks after American soldiers captured Saddam Hussein. It was the first WWE Tribute to the Troops and featured some great action performed in front of soldiers celebrating their victories over the Iraqi military.
Soldiers can’t achieve peak performance when they’re chilled to the bone. So in winter weather, some soldiers may don up to seven layers of clothing. That much fabric can weigh them down. Later, soldiers might find themselves overdressed, now getting hot and sweaty. That sweat, in turn, can turn to ice if the weather is super cold. But it doesn’t have to. Researchers have just come up with a way to lighten a winter warrior’s load and fight the threat of frozen sweat.
They’ve designed a new high-performance fabric. It could become the basis of underwear for troops deployed in places blasted by Arctic cold. Scientists unveiled it here, last August, at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Paola D’Angelo is a bioengineer. She uses principles of biology to solve problems. Elizabeth Hirst is a chemist. Both work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts. Their team got the initial idea for this innovation from some earlier work by a group at Stanford University in California. Their new fabric improves on that earlier research. It also adds an important new twist.
Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D’Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers’ uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D’Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski)
Yi Cui and Po-Chun Hsu are materials scientists at Stanford University. Their team already had been using metal nanowires to create see-through electrical conductors. Such materials could be handy for things such as thinner smartphones, displays on car windshields and more. Teeny, tiny nanowires have diameters at the scale of billionths of a meter.
At Cui’s suggestion, the Stanford team set out to use conductive nanowires in a fabric. It would be “warm, lightweight and breathable,” explains Hsu. That way, it could help reduce the energy needed for indoor heating.
The team got itty bitty wires of silver to form a mesh across cotton fabric. The silvery metal can reflect body heat back to someone’s skin. The treated fabric also can carry an electrical current. So, batteries could deliver extra heat when needed.
Now the Army’s team has been tweaking that idea to work not just with cotton, but also with high-performance fabrics. Athletes, soldiers and others often turn to such fabrics when they’re doing things that call for lots of physical activity or that expose them to extreme conditions.
Examples of these special fabrics include polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics. Their fibers are engineered by people, instead of coming from natural materials, such as plant fibers or animal hair. The Army uses synthetic fabrics (or blends that include synthetics) for gloves, socks and a soldier’s base layer. That’s the “underwear” that sits closest to the skin. And it’s for that layer that this team has been building upon the Stanford group’s work.
Besides getting the concept to work with other fabrics, the Army researchers tested the ability of such fabrics to hold up through repeated washings. And their fabric indeed performed well.
In addition, the Army team packed more fibers onto each area of fabric than the Stanford team had. That denser wire mesh can carry more current and provide more warmth. Three volts of electricity is enough to warm a test swatch that’s 6.45 square centimeters (1-square-inch) in one minute by 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), D’Angelo reports. A typical watch battery is all that’s needed to provide those 3 volts.
Soldiers won’t want their underwear that hot. But the fabric could provide quick heat in a hurry. With the right controls, soldiers could even customize how warm their clothes get.
Super soakers for sweat
That material would still not be a perfect solution for working in cold weather, however. Even if it were used under with the Army’s current winter wear, soldiers can get sweaty as they hike, climb or carry out other tasks. That’s because the synthetic fabric of the base layer is not good at wicking away moisture, Hirst explains. Instead, sweat soaks into the fabric. As water in the sweat cools, it can ice up. That’s “obviously very uncomfortable,” she adds.
To deal with this, her team is working with hydrogel beads. A hydrogel is a type of “super soaker” material that can absorb a lot of water. In this case, the beads can sop up as much as 40 times their weight in water, Hirst says. The molecules of the beads are made from polymers. These are long chains of identical repeating units. A part of each unit in the hydrogel has a segment that attracts water.
Researchers could tweak the hydrogel to act differently at different temperatures, Hirst points out. As a soldier sweats, the fabric would warm. That warming could lead the hydrogel to soak up any sweat, moving moisture away from the skin. Later, when the soldier took off the underwear, it would cool down. Moisture in the hydrogel beads could then evaporate into the air. Now the fabric would be ready to wear again.
Don’t expect to see the new fabric on soldiers just yet. “We are in the basic research stages,” Hirst says. Among other things, her team will play with different ways to attach the hydrogel beads to the wired fabric. Her group also wants to work on a protective coating for the nanowires. That would help the silver resist tarnishing, which could reduce its reflectiveness.
“We look forward to seeing their cloth combining silver nanowire and hydrogel together,” says Hsu. In his view, it makes good sense to combine features that would provide both heating and cooling as needed. “In the future stages of this research,” he suspects, “there might be some trade-off between the total amount of heating and cooling that the cloth can provide versus its compactness and weight.”
In addition to developing better winter underwear, the Army team hopes the new fabric might lead to warmer gloves and socks. After lots and lots of field testing by soldiers, the fabric might find its way into civilian clothes, too. Then anyone could wear it for skiing, winter walks, snowboarding or other cold-weather fun.
The outdoor temperature topped 32º C (90º F) when the researchers unveiled their new fabric in Washington, D.C. Few folks at the meeting were ready for winter. Later, however, many might appreciate that some scientists and engineers had been thinking ahead.