Comedian Conan O’Brien tore apart the Air Force policy of allotting deployed troops a maximum of three alcoholic drinks per day at al-Udeid Air Base.
“One alcoholic beverage consists of no greater than five ounces of wine,” Conan O’Brien read from the al-Udeid Air Base rule book. “Five ounces of wine? I have that at breakfast with my cereal!”
He visited the Qatar-based forces with First Lady Michelle Obama, musicians Grace Potter and Jimmy Vivino, and comedian John Mulaney. They performed for the 11,000 troops stationed on the air base. Someone from the audience taped a portion and sent it to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tony Carr, who posted it to his John Q. Public blog.
Portions of his performance will be aired on his TBS show later this year.
First Lady Michelle Obama met with three dozen deployed troops for an ice cream social, where she thanked each of them personally for their service. Joining Forces is an initiative of the First Lady and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden to work in the American public and private sectors to rally around service members, veterans, and their families to support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities throughout their lives.
In what could be a hint at what might be the focus of Michelle and Barack Obama’s post-political careers, the First Lady promised service members she would help look out for them, not only for the rest of her time as First Lady, but “for the rest of my life.”
“You all still have struggles,” she told the crowd of deployed troops. “But we’re going to keep on working to ensure that you and your families have the jobs you deserve, that the benefits that you’ve earned are waiting for you ready, and that — the support this nation owes you.”
She continued: “And that’s not just my vow to you as First Lady, but it’s my vow to you for the rest of my life. (Applause.) So it’s important for me that you know that your Commander-in-Chief and your First Lady, we’re proud of you. And we’re going to devote our lives — it will look different in different stages — but we are going to have your backs. We’re going to figure out how to use whatever platforms we have to support you.”
In the meantime, O’Brien also took over the First Lady’s Instagram account, posting photos of himself and Michelle Obama interacting with and performing for deployed troops, and even busting out fifty of his best “Team Coco” push-ups for the FLOTUS.
Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.
Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status.
“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him.
Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.
Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.
“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.
Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies.
The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.
Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case.
Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.
Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.
In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1.
“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”
Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles.
Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The web blew up once again today around something Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on the campaign trail. During a rally in Ashburn, Va. retired Lt.Col. Louis Dorfman gave Trump his Purple Heart medal, saying, according to the candidate, “I have such confidence in you.” While relating the story to the crowd gathered at the rally, Trump went on to say, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, but this was much easier.”
While those who wear the Purple Heart Medal are highly respected, most troops familiar with the criteria that entitle one to it don’t “want” one, and a quick scan of those criteria illustrates why.
This excerpt below was taken from the U.S. Army’s instruction (AR-600-8-22), but the wording is similar across all branches of service.
The instruction reads as follows:
a. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of an Armed Force or any civilian national of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died or may hereafter die after being wounded
(1) In any action against an enemy of the United States.
(2) In any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged.
(3) While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
(4) As a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces.
(5) As the result of an act of any hostile foreign force.
(6) After 28 March 1973, as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of the Army, or jointly by the Secretaries of the separate armed Services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded in the attack.
(7) After 28 March 1973, as a result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force.
b. While clearly an individual decoration, the Purple Heart differs from all other decorations in that an individual is not “recommended” for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it upon meeting specific criteria.
(1) A Purple Heart is authorized for the first wound suffered under conditions indicated above, but for each subsequent award an Oak Leaf Cluster will be awarded to be worn on the medal or ribbon. Not more than one award will be made for more than one wound or injury received at the same instant or from the same missile, force, explosion, or agent.
(2) A wound is defined as an injury to any part of the body from an outside force or agent sustained under one or more of the conditions listed above. A physical lesion is not required, however, the wound for which the award is made must have required treatment by a medical officer and records of medical treatment for wounds or injuries received in action must have been made a matter of official record.
(3) When contemplating an award of this decoration, the key issue that commanders must take into consideration is the degree to which the enemy caused the injury. The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite, but is not sole justification for award.
(4) Examples of enemy-related injuries which clearly justify award of the Purple Heart are as follows:
(a) Injury caused by enemy bullet, shrapnel, or other projectile created by enemy action.
(b) Injury caused by enemy placed mine or trap.
(c) Injury caused by enemy released chemical, biological or nuclear agent.
(d) Injury caused by vehicle or aircraft accident resulting from enemy fire.
(e) Concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy generated explosions.
(5) Examples of injuries or wounds which clearly do not qualify for award of the Purple Heart are as follows:
(a) Frostbite or trench foot injuries.
(b) Heat stroke.
(c) Food poisoning not caused by enemy agents.
(d) Chemical, biological, or nuclear agents not released by the enemy.
(e) Battle fatigue.
(f) Disease not directly caused by enemy agents.
(g) Accidents, to include explosive, aircraft, vehicular, and other accidental wounding not related to or caused by enemy action.
(h) Self-inflicted wounds, except when in the heat of battle, and not involving gross negligence.
(i) Post traumatic stress disorders.
(j) Jump injuries not caused by enemy action.
(6) It is not intended that such a strict interpretation of the requirement for the wound or injury to be caused by direct result of hostile action be taken that it would preclude the award being made to deserving personnel. Commanders must also take into consideration, the circumstances surrounding an injury, even if it appears to meet the criteria. Note the following examples:
(a) In case such as an individual injured while making a parachute landing from an aircraft that had been brought down enemy fire; or, an individual injured as a result of a vehicle accident caused by enemy fire, the decision will be made in favor of the individual and the award will be made.
(b) Individuals wounded or killed as a result of “friendly fire” in the “heat of battle” will be awarded the Purple Heart as long as the “friendly” projectile or agent was released with the full intent of inflicting damage or destroying enemy troops or equipment.
(c) Individuals injured as a result of their own negligence; for example, driving or walking through an unauthorized area known to have been mined or placed off limits or searching for or picking up unexploded munitions as war souvenirs, will not be awarded the Purple Heart as they clearly were not injured as a result of enemy action, but rather by their own negligence.
c. A Purple Heart will be issued to the next of kin of each person entitled to a posthumous award. Issue will be made automatically by the Commanding General, PERSCOM, upon receiving a report of death indicating entitlement.
It doesn’t matter how great some weapons seem on paper – sometimes, stuff just happens and even the coolest, most badass weapons end up relegated to the White Elephant chapter of history. Often times, these weapons that never saw action get caught up in political quagmire, or show up in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no war to fight.
Other times, in the greatest stroke of irony, some of the weapons that never saw action were just too great for their own good. Too big, too powerful, too expensive or just too over-the-top to prove practical in battle. But no matter what ultimately kept them off of the battlefield (including peace), it’s hard for military hardware enthusiasts to not feel a little pang of regret at the idea of these great machines winding up in mothballs.
Vote up the coolest weapons that never saw action below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Now, Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea has stated in an interview with Reuters that the cyber attacks allegedly by North Korea were masterminded by Unit 180.
Unit 180 is a special cell that is part of North Korea’s elite cyber warfare group, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.
The attacks, Heung-kwang believes, were aimed at raising money as dozens of countries impose sanctions on North Korea due to its ever-expanding nuclear weapons program, which has not only threatened peace on the Korean peninsula but has become a global threat.
According to Heung-kwang, “Unit 180 is engaged in hacking financial institutions (by) breaching and withdrawing money out of bank accounts.”
He further added, “The hackers go overseas to find somewhere with better internet services than North Korea so as not to leave a trace.”
He explained that the hackers might be heading to other countries as employees of trading firms or overseas branches of North Korean companies or joint ventures in China and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, James Lewis, an expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has said that Pyongyang has previously used hacking for espionage and political harassment against South Korea and U.S.
Lewis explained, “They changed after Sony by using hacking to support criminal activities to generate hard currency for the regime. So far, it’s worked as well or better as drugs, counterfeiting, smuggling — all their usual tricks.”
Further, in a report submitted to Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense said that North Korea likely “views cyber as a cost-effective, asymmetric, deniable tool that it can employ with little risk from reprisal attacks, in part because its networks are largely separated from the internet.”
The report added, “It is likely to use internet infrastructure from third-party nations.”
Some officials in South Korea even claim to have considerable evidence of North Korea’s cyber attacks.
Ahn Chong-ghee, South Korea’s vice foreign minister said in a statement, “North Korea is carrying out cyber attacks through third countries to cover up the origin of the attacks and use their information and communication technology infrastructure.”
According to a former South Korean police researcher, Yoo Dong-ryul, Malaysia has been a base for North Korean cyber operations.
Further, Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership, said Unit 180 was one among several elite cyber warfare groups in the North Korean intelligence community.
In June 2016, law enforcement officials in Seoul accused North Korea of hacking over 140,000 computers at 160 South Korean companies and government agencies and planting malicious code as part of a long-term plan to lay the groundwork for a massive cyber attack.
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, 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 look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
U.S. Army doctor Col. William Gorgas paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal by destroying the mosquitoes that spread disease and doomed an earlier French effort.
When the Panama Canal Commission began construction in 1904, they began with the remains of a failed French canal. The French effort ended in bankruptcy in part because too many workers were hospitalized or died due to infections of malaria and yellow fever. Some estimates put it as high as one-third of all workers.
When the U.S. bought out the French company and began work, Gorgas was named the chief medical officer of the project. He immediately set his sights on controlling malaria. Gorgas had previously controlled yellow fever and malaria in Havana, Cuba by applying the research of U.S. Army Maj. Walter Reed and British Army Dr. Ronald Ross.
Gorgas drew up a $1 million plan with engineers and other doctors to reduce or eliminate the mosquitoes along the route of construction. Unfortunately, many other decision makers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, supported the “bad air” theory that said the diseases came from the soil and vapors in the air.
Roosevelt was eventually persuaded by his personal physician to back Gorgas’ plan.
Workers cut all grass to less than 12 inches high, drained open water where possible or sprayed a film of oil on it where it wasn’t. Custom poisons were spread across areas where larvae grew. Workers cleaned homes regularly and placed screens over windows and doors.
Progress was slow, but success did come. The campaign launched in the summer of 1905. In Aug. 1906, new yellow fever cases were at less than half of their historical norm. After Nov. 1906, no more canal workers would die of yellow fever. Malaria never went away completely, but in Jan. 1910 the death rate fell to 1 percent of the historical norm.
Gorgas went on to fight disease in South African gold mines before becoming the Army’s 22nd Surgeon General.
The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.
House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.
The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.
The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.
“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”
Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.
“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”
Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.
“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.
This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.
“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.
“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.
The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.
“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”
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Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.
According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky.
The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises.
For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads.
The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational.
In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable SS-18 ICBM.
The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.
It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets.
Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.
Russian sources say Sarmat will be operational by 2018.
However, not much else is known about Sarmat. Various Russian reports indicate that it is a two-stage liquid-fuel missile with an estimated operational range of 6,200 miles weighing about 220,000 pounds and capable of hefting perhaps a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry.
There is no information on the yield of each warhead. However, the hypersonic speed and increased maneuverability of the warheads apparently is an effort to thwart U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems.
On Thursday, the Kremlin said Russia is taking protective measures against the Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems deployed in Romania by the United States. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, told reporters while commenting on the anti-missile system “the question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.”
“From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Peskov said.
Despite economic hardships and Western criticism, Russia has aggressively worked on improving its strategic missile inventory and the destructive power of its ICBMs. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said revamping the nation’s strategic missile forces is a No. 1 priority.
Last year, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces general staff, said the United States and its NATO allies are developing the means to strike Russia precisely and effectively with strategic weapons. The Kremlin intends to introduce weapons that can penetrate the American missile defense shield and thwart this increased capability, Gerasimov said.
Russian writers for Sputnik, a Russian propaganda publication aligned with the Kremlin, have published reports touting the capabilities of the Sarmat. They claim the missile will “determine which direction nuclear deterrence will develop in the world.”
The story even claimed that Sarmat’s warheads could wipe out territory equivalent to a landmass the size of Texas.
Countries that border the Pacific are taking part in a massive exercise called “Rim of the Pacific” or “RIMPAC.” Dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of people are practicing their warfighting skills in RIMPAC.
Military photographers and videographers have been sending out hundreds of excellent photos and videos from the exercise this year, and here are 19 of the best of what they’d captured:
1. Marines and U.S. allies attacked the beaches of Hawaii in a simulated amphibious assault
2. Once the Marines hit the sand, they flooded out of their vehicles and got to work
3. Marine attack helicopters flew overhead and provided support to the guys on the ground
5. Ashore, infantry Marines prepped for the hard fight to the island’s interior
6. At training areas past the sand, the Marines practiced assaulting buildings and bunkers
7. They even went to firing ranges to practice making stuff blow up
8. Out at sea, the Navy got in the action with a large formation of 40 ships that included some surprising participants …
BTW, if you want to see hundreds of photos of these 40 ships sailing next to each other, just click on this link. Literally hundreds. There are different angles and close-ups on dozens of the ships available.
9. … like the Coast Guard’s USCGC Stratton …
10. … and a Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark
11. Onboard the Peace Ark, doctors and other medical personnel practiced treating patients and responding to humanitarian crises
12. Another Chinese ship, the multirole frigate Hengshui, fired on targets to display its proficiency
13. Under the waves, a New Zealand dive unit had to locate an 18-foot shipping container and assist in its recovery
14. A Canadian team found and interrogated an underwater wreck during their training
15. Forces from four allied countries land on a “captured” beach on a Royal Australian Navy landing craft
16. Military vehicles laid down beach matting to prevent other vehicles from slipping on the loose sand. The matting can be laid down in combat to allow tanks and other heavy vehicles to assault towards their objectives quickly
17. Royal Australian combat engineers cleared the way inland for allied forces by searching out mines and other simulated explosives
18. Air Force F-22 Raptors and a tanker aircraft assisted with the exercise, allowing the Air Force to improve its interoperability with the U.S. Navy and foreign militaries
19. The Mexican Navy sent small craft to southern California to practice working with U.S. Navy riverine craft, the small boats that patrol rivers and other tight waterways
RIMPAC takes place on most even-numbered years and has been held 25 times since 1971. America’s traditional allies in the Pacific usually attend, but some rivals like Russia and China are common guests as well.
The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.
“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”
He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.
“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.
“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”
Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.
“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”
Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.
What is retinitis pigmentosa?
“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”
Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.
“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”
The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.
“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.
Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.
Moving to Florida
In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.
“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”
Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.
In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.
One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time
When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.
“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”
Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.
“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.
It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present
Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.
“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”
“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”
Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.
“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.
At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.
During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.
“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”
About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System
The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.
General Tso is dead – long dead actually. But the man who invented his chicken dish just died in November 2016.
Taiwan News reported the death of Chef Peng Chang-kuei, creator of the famous spicy chicken, at the ripe old age of 98. And in an interesting international twist, it turns out one of Peng’s most famous dishes was hurriedly named during a visit to China by a U.S. Navy admiral in the ’50s.
Before Chairman Mao Zedong’s Communists overran mainland China, Peng was in charge of the Nationalist government banquets. When Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his government fled the mainland for Taiwan in 1949, Peng came along.
Once in Taiwan, Chef Peng founded the Hunan restaurant chain Peng Garden. Shortly after that Peng created the legendary dish, now served at more than 50,000 restaurants worldwide.
There’s even a full documentary about the history of it.
Peng told the China Times that it was during a visit from the U.S. Navy’s Admiral Arthur W. Radford in 1952 that General Tso’s Chicken was born. He served the admiral and other guests almost everything he knew how to make. So in an effort to keep it all fresh, Peng fried up some chicken and added a unique mix of sauces and seasonings.
The admiral was impressed with the dish and asked its name. Thinking quickly, Peng named it after a 19th-century Hunan Chinese general who squashed a series of rebellions during the Qing Dynasty.
The real General Tso would not know what his namesake chicken tastes like.
When Peng opened a restaurant near the United Nations building in New York, the dish followed him. Like other New York establishments’ signature dishes – the Waldorf Salad and Eggs Benedict to name a few– Peng’s chicken dish spread across America.
The General Tso’s Chicken with which most of us are familiar is actually a slight variation on Peng’s original recipe. If you want to taste the original, just make a quick visit to Peng’s in Taipei.