Here are the best military photos of the week - We Are The Mighty
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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erik D. Anthony

Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Connor Marth

ARMY:

U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht

Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr

NAVY:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Kledzik

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kirstin Merrimarahajara

Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

COAST GUARD:

An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read

Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Travis Magee

Articles

This is how many of some of the most heroic WW2 planes are left

According to a 2014 report by USA Today, 413 World War II vets die each day on average. However, the men (and women) who served in uniform are not the only things vanishing with time.


Many of the planes flown in World War II are also departing one by one from the skies.

In one sense, it may not be surprising – after all, World War II has been over for 72 years. But here are the production totals of some of the most famous planes: There were 20,351 Spitfires produced in World War II. Prior to a crash at a French air show near Verdun in June, there were only 54 flying. That’s less than .3 percent of all the Spitfires ever built.

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Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. The Spitfire served with the USAAF in the Mediterranean Theater from 1942-1944. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.

Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.

Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.

Here are the best military photos of the week
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.

Articles

This is the real Sgt. Pepper from the Beatles album cover

Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.


Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.

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Ringo was just happy to be there.

The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Sorry, fellas. There’s only one America.

After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.

From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Just Sgt. Pepper, doing Sgt. Pepper things.

When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.

Articles

9 true facts about the ‘Nuclear Club’

The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.


Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.

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A lot of energy.

Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.

1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.

The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.

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The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.

2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.

Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.

3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.

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Bomb casings at South Africa’s abandoned Circle nuclear bomb production facility near Pretoria. These most likely would have accommodated a gun-type nuclear package for air delivery

From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.

4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.

Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.

5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.

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Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.

6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.

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An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.

7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.

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India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.

8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.

Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.

9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.

Articles

The M50 Ontos struck fear into the hearts of communists in Vietnam

The M50 Ontos might be the craziest-looking armored vehicle in American history. But with six mounted recoilless rifles, the tank-killer design did more than its fair share of work on the battlefield, whether it was with the Army or the Marines. The Marine Corps would eventually find more use for it than the Army.

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Now THAT’S a six-shooter (U.S. Army)

This tracked vehicle behemoth was first designed to be a lighter-weight, air-transportable tank destroyer in the 1950s. To do this, it used two arms holding three manually loaded 106 mm recoilless rifles each. It was a powerful weapon, both facing the enemy and anything unfortunate enough to be behind it when it fired all six rifles. 

During its trials at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the mid-1950s, it successfully tested each of its turrets in single fire mode. But when the M50 fired all six turrets at the same time, the blast from the combined force smashed the masonry on nearby buildings and destroyed the rear windows in several parked vehicles. 

Here are the best military photos of the week
Worth it (Photo by Hans Eiskonen on Unsplash)

The Army ultimately decided to cancel the production of the M50 as an anti-tank weapon because crews needed to leave the safety of the armor to reload the recoilless rifles. Another issue with the tank was that it could only carry a limited number of rifle rounds, given the small size of the tank and the need for mounted machine guns to defend the crewmen. 

While the Army took a pass on the M50, the Marine Corps was still very interested in an armored anti-tank vehicle. Instead of its intended anti-tank role, the Marine Corps found a very different use for the vehicle once United States Marines entered ground combat in South Vietnam. 

The People’s Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army, fielded tanks in combat against American and South Korean troops, but not at the same levels U.S. troops had experienced in wars past. NVA tanks were seen in combat, but were nowhere as numerous as the pitched tank battles of World War II or the Korean War. 

When the U.S. Marine Corps brought the M50 Ontos to bear on the communists in Vietnam, they began to use its six recoilless rifles as an infantry support weapon. This direct fire support was never its intended use but it brought significant firepower to the battlefield for the Marines. 

Here are the best military photos of the week
M50 Ontos on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (Wikimedia Commons)

It was a highly mobile weapon, light enough to cross the pontoon bridges used by Americans in Vietnam, It was also able to be carried by CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters along with a platoon of Marines and be dropped anywhere in the country. Time and again, its performance with Marines in combat was so effective, the enemy would break and run from fortified positions at the mere sight of its spotting round. 

The Marine Corps used the M50 in Vietnam until 1969 and handed what was leftover to the Army, who used them until they ran out of parts for the vehicles. When they could no longer move on their own, the soldiers turned them into defensive fire positions. 

Military Life

Why May 2nd, 2011, was one of the greatest days in the military

Shortly after 1 a.m. PKT on May 2nd, 2011, Operation Neptune Spear was a go and the founder of al-Qaeda and mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden, was killed by SEAL Team Six in a CIA-led and 160th Special Operations Airborne Regiment-assisted mission.


President Obama announced the success to the world at 11:35 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 1st. The world cheered and the expression “tears of joy” doesn’t even come close to conveying the magnitude of emotions felt by the entire military community. To post-9/11 troops, this was our equivalent of V-J Day.

Here are the best military photos of the week
No tickertape parades. No randomly grabbing nurses and kissing them. But we did party a lot.
(Photo by Lt. Victor Jorgensen)

I was still in the Army at this point and this is my story.

It was 10:35 p.m. CST when we got the news at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. My unit had just returned from Afghanistan two months prior and I was still living off-post in an apartment I shared with my ex-wife. I get a text from my NCO that read, simply, “turn on the news.”

Out of context, you always assume the worst. I was wrong. I caught the last part of President Obama’s speech but the ticker that ran across the bottom of the screen read, “Osama bin Laden Killed” and I couldn’t focus on anything else.

My phone started blowing up saying everyone was basically throwing a party — despite the fact that it was a Sunday night before a 12-mile ruck march. Not a single soldier in that barracks was sober that night. Music was blasting, horns were being honked, everyone was screaming, and the MPs joined in instead of crashing the party.

A few hours later, at PT, the formation reeked of alcohol. Our normally salty first sergeant didn’t complain and broke the news to us (as if any of us hadn’t yet heard) with a big ol’ grin. He was one of the first conventional soldiers to step foot in Afghanistan back in 2001. Almost ten years later and he’s barely standing on his feet. Ruck march was cancelled and we were released until work call at 0900.

At the motor pool, no one was actually servicing their vehicles. This was the one day the E-4 Mafia got its way. Everyone just kicked the tires and checked off that it was good to go. No one cared enough to work… except the motor sergeant who, understandably, lost his sh*t (but took it in stride).

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I was commo. It’s not like we did motor pool maintenance anyways.
(Weapons of Meme Destruction)

No one was training back in the company area. We just shared war stories to the new guys that didn’t deploy with us, stories we hadn’t heard on deployment, and stories we’ve all heard a million times.

Keeping in line with how we spent our day, joyfully sharing stories with one another, let us know in the comment section about what you were doing on May 2nd, 2011.

Articles

22 photos of the incredible floating hospital that can care for 1,000 patients at once

The U.S. Navy owns the oceans, ensuring freedom of navigation for allies and fighting fiercely when called upon.


But the Navy has a softer side too, filled with humanitarian relief and medical missions.The crown jewels of this effort are the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort — hospital ships with a thousand beds each.

1. The USNS Mercy and her sister ship were converted from massive supertankers. Each is 70,000 metric tons.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: Department of Defense

2. The Mercy is a mobile hospital, complete with 12 operating rooms as well as pediatric, trauma, and orthopedic areas.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: Department of Defense Kristopher Radder

3. While the Navy maintains hospital ships to provide mobile care to soldiers and Marines fighting ashore, the USNS Mercy has been primarily deployed on humanitarian missions in the Pacific.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: Department of Defense

4. Mercy is often deployed to Pacific areas where clinics, like the one below, provide basic care. Doctors can refer the patients to the USNS Mercy, which will then provide hospital-level services.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: Department of Defense

5. Patients are transported to the ship by helicopter or by “band-aid” boats.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Feddersen

6. When patients arrive, they are sent to the receiving area. Their medical needs will be diagnosed and they are then sent elsewhere on the ship for care.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: US Navy JoAnna Delfin

7. When doctors need a better look at an injury, the use the onboard CT scanner.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Photo: US Navy JoAnna Delfin

8. For patients that require surgery, the 12 operating bays provide a modern, sterile environment for procedures.

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Photo: Department of Defense

9. Here, a doctor puts the final sutures in a patient after removing a six pound tumor from her.

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Photo: US Navy Kristopher Radder

10. The ship regularly trains for mass casualty events. This helps them support military operations where a lot of troops may be wounded and respond to humanitarian crises.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin W. Galvin

11. Children are welcome on the ship where onboard pediatricians treat them.

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Photo: Department of Defense

12. A pre-dental society sophomore student from the University of California-San Diego plays with a Timorese child during Pacific Partnership 2008.

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Photo: Department of Defense

13. A hospital corpsman gives a surgical screening to a child onboard the USNS Mercy in 2010.

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Photo: Department of Defense

14. Humans aren’t the only patients for the USNS Mercy. The ship deploys with U.S. Army veterinarians and veterinary assistants for treating livestock and pets as well.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ryan Clement

15. Pets and nearby wildlife can be a vector for disease, so the services of the veterinary staff help protect the human population.

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Peter Reft

16. The Mercy maintains its own combat search and rescue helicopter and crew.

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Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Valerie Eppler

17. Sailors launch and recover the birds from the upper deck of the ship.

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Photo: US Navy Kristopher Radder

18. Even foreign military doctors help out aboard the USNS Mercy. In this photo, an Australian Navy dentist treats patients onboard.

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Photo: Department of Defense

19. A dentist with the South Korean Navy treats a patient onboard the Mercy.

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Photo: Department of Defense

20. The USNS Mercy crew also goes ashore to help partner nations. Here, an environmental health officer tests a water well that was just dug by Navy Seabees.

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Photo: Department of Defense

21. The Mercy has its own firefighters who ensure the safety of the other sailors and patients on the ship.

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Roadell Hickman

22. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the ship and its mission in the Pacific Partnership.

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Illustration: US Navy

Articles

That time a Coast Guard icebreaker made a massive drug bust off the coast of Jamaica

Nope, that headline isn’t a mad lib. A Coast Guard icebreaker was sailing near Jamaica, the hot island in the tropics, and seized a boatload of marijuana.


The capture came in 1984 and represented the first narcotics bust for an Arctic icebreaker.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Northwind was based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, and spent most of its time breaking ice in the Great Lakes, Arctic, and Antarctic regions. But it was known to do some cruises in warmer climes, occasionally even the tropics.

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The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind in 1986, assisting Greenland in repopulating musk-ox herds. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

In 1984, the Northwind was operating in the Atlantic. It MEDEVACed a woman from a sailboat one day, put out a fire with the U.S. Navy on another, and captured 20 tons of marijuana on its own on another day.

The seizure came on Nov. 4, 1984. The Alexi I was sailing 240 miles from Jamaica when it was spotted by the Northwind and stopped. The Coast Guardsmen found 20 tons of marijuana onboard.

That had to be rough for the crew of the CGC Glover, which had made news three days before with a 13-ton record-setting bust. At the time, the Northwind’s was the largest maritime marijuana capture in history, breaking a 1976 record established by the CGC Sherman.

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The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Northwind was heavily armed for its class. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Northwind served for another five years after the incident but was decommissioned in 1989 and sent to the James River Reserve Fleet. The ship was later broken down for scrap.

Articles

Some of the world’s smartest people are worried about killer robots

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Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have joined with 1,000 of some of the world’s smartest people in warning of the potential rise of killer robots being used on the battlefield.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with [artificial intelligence] weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable,” reads an open letter from more than 1,000 AI and robotics researchers. “And the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.”

The Guardian reports:

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

Artificial intelligence on the battlefield poses many difficult questions, according to the open letter. Besides the possibility of SkyNet, some of the concerns posed by the letter are:

  • A military arms race akin to nuclear weapons in which nations build smarter and more powerful robots
  • Killer robots falling into the hands of terrorists
  • Dictators using such robots for genocide and other violent campaigns

You can read the full letter here

READ MORE: The Pentagon wants armed citizens to stop standing outside of recruiting centers

Articles

The ‘Loach’ was one of the riskiest helicopter assignments in Vietnam

While barely any American helicopters served in World War II and few flew in Korea, Vietnam was a proving ground for many airframes — everything from the venerable Huey to Chinooks sporting huge guns.


One of the most dangerous helicopter assignments was a tiny scout helicopter known as the “Loach.” Officially designated the OH-6 Cayuse, these things were made of thin plexiglass and metal but were expected to fly low over the jungles and grass, looking for enemy forces hiding in the foliage.

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(Photo: U.S. Army)

When the Loach debuted in 1966, it broke records for speed, endurance, and rate of climb, all important attributes for a scout helicopter. It was powered by a 285-hp engine but the helicopter weighed less than a Volkswagen.

They were usually joined by Cobra gunships — either in hunter-killer teams where the Loach hunted and the Cobra killed or in air mobile cavalry units where both airframes supported cavalry and infantrymen on the ground.

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In the hunter-killer teams, the Loach would fly low over the jungle, drawing fire and then calling for the Cobra to kill the teams on the ground.

In air mobile teams, a pilot would fly low while an observer would scan the ground for signs of the enemy force. Some of them were able to tell how large a force was and how recently it had passed. They would then call in scouts on the ground or infantrymen to hunt for the enemy in the brush while attack helicopters protected everyone.

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Cobra AH-1 attack helicopters were often deployed with Loaches to provide greater firepower. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Loach also had its own gunner in the rear and could carry everything from 7.62mm miniguns to 70mm rockets and anti-tank missiles. But even that armament combined with the Cobra escort couldn’t keep them safe. They were famous for being shot down or crashing in combat. One, nicknamed “Queer John,” hit the dirt at least seven times.

Queer John was famous not just for crashing, but for keeping the crew safe while it did so. An Army article written after John’s seventh crash credited it with surviving 61 hits from enemy fire and seven crashes without losing a single crew member.

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(Photo: Facebook/Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry)

While Loachs were vulnerable to enemy fire, they were famous for surviving crashes like John did. A saying among Army aviators was, “If you have to crash, do it in a Loach.”

The OH-6 was largely removed from active U.S. Army service in favor of the Kiowa, but modified versions of the helicopter flew with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment as the MH-6C Little Bird as late as 2008.

Today, the Little Birds in use by special operations are MH-6Ms derived from a similar but more powerful helicopter.

Articles

Coast Guard Cutter journeys to the bottom of the world

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A curious Adelie penguin stands near the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star on McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. During their visit to Antarctica for Deep Freeze 2016, the U.S. military’s logistical support to the National Science Foundation-managed U.S. Antarctic Program, the Polar Star crew encounters a variety of Antarctic marine life, including penguins, whales and seals. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.


What does it take to reach the bottom of the world?

For starters, you’ll need a well-designed hull, tapered like a football for maximum maneuverability. Then add a generous supply of horsepower; 75,000 is a good round number. Finally, you’ll need some weight to help break the thick ice, about 13,000 tons. To round this equation out you’ll need experience, especially the understanding that the best way to operate an icebreaker is to avoid ice in the first place.

In short, there’s no single factor that makes the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star‘s icebreaking possible. It’s an art that began with the first sketches of its blueprint and is still being perfected each time a new ice pilot qualifies to drive the 399-foot cutter. Each winter (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, Polar Star’s normal operating area) the crew is run through an icy gauntlet that tests every element of the ship’s capability.

“We began seeing sea ice near 62 degrees latitude south, but the pack ice we found further down was no real challenge as it was under heavy melting stress, rapidly retreating and further narrowed by a growing polynya, or ice-free area, opening northward from the other side,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, the U.S. National Ice Center‘s chief scientist, who just happens to be aboard the Polar Star for their 2016 mission. “Then we hit the fast ice, where we are now; where the work starts.”

The work indeed started in McMurdo Sound with 13 miles of ice between the open Ross Sea and the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station 18 days prior to the first supply ship’s arrival.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar approaches the pier at the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

First, the cutter collides with the edge of the fast ice at about six knots. The 13,000-ton cutter’s 1.75-inch thick steel bow and the aforementioned power and weight come into the equation here, upon initial approach toward McMurdo Station.

“We have diesel electric engines for general open-ocean steaming and some grooming of very light ice, up to six feet of ice,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kara Burns, the Polar Star’s engineer officer. “Then we have what we consider our boost mode, our main gas turbines. They really allow us to get through six feet of ice or upwards to 21 feet of ice when we’re backing and ramming.”

Those gas turbines, enormous pieces of machinery that can each transform jet fuel into 25,000 horsepower, are the key to putting the Polar Star where it needs to be: above the ice. When the cutter rams a thick plate, that power drives the rounded bow up on top of the ice, at which point gravity takes over.

“We carry three times the fuel capacity of a 378 or a [national security cutter],” said Burns, comparing the Polar Star to the Coast Guard’s largest non-icebreaking cutters. “The extra weight on the ship, as far as the liquid load capacity, is used as a cantilever mechanism. As the vessel rides up on the ice, the hydrostatic pressure forces the stern up and pushes the bow down, acting as a hammer on the ice.”

In this case, the world’s biggest hammer.

Rest assured control of such awesome power is not handed out on a whim. It’s only after qualifying to maneuver the cutter in normal open water conditions, and a meticulous review from the commanding officer, that a new ice pilot is able to take the throttles and the helm from the ship’s aloft conn: a small control center five stories above the highest deck.

“They have to understand the different kinds of ice; they have to understand the ship’s capabilities and its limitations, and how to break ice safely,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer, Polar Star. “The best way to break ice is to avoid ice, but when we’re down here we can’t do that.”

If the Polar Star crews of years and decades past hadn’t given the ice its due respect, the ship wouldn’t have made it to the 40th birthday it had in January. Before it comes to backing and ramming, the ice pilot has to know to dodge, or at least look for thinner ice when possible.

Carefully navigating through wayward floes in the Southern Ocean and beginning to break only when necessary, the crew accomplished another trip from one side of the planet to another. The grunt work, the supply vessel escort of Operation Deep Freeze 2016, the U.S. military’s logistical support of the NSF’s U.S. Antarctic Program, lies ahead.

With power and weight, with lessons passed down from one crew to the next, and with a hull made particularly for this type of work, the Polar Star moored at McMurdo Station Jan. 18, 2016. They’re as far from their home in Seattle as they could possibly be, but on familiar ground at the bottom of the world.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star sits in fast ice in front of Mt. Erebus in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. The Polar Star crew will break a channel through 13 miles of fast ice in McMurdo Sound to escort fuel and cargo vessels to the National Science Foundatin’s McMurdo Station for resupply. | U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Military Life

The pros and cons of being a military spouse

The title of “Military Spouse” is a descriptor that those married to service members wear proudly — and with good reason. There is a sense of pride in being married to someone who has dedicated their life and career to defending our great nation.


Military life affects the entire family to varying degrees and finding others who can relate to what you are going through is important. So, it makes sense to identify as a “Military Spouse” and be an active part of that community.

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We’re a family and it’s beautiful. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Calvin Shamoon)

But is there a downside?

Maybe.

My husband recently retired from the military after 20 years in the Marine Corps. We were ready for this transition. We knew exactly where we wanted to retire, we had friends and family in the area, and, having already lived in the location in the past, we had a few roots already planted.

I was a very active part of the military-spouse community and, over time, I became very well-versed in making friends and adapting to living in certain areas for only a few years at a time. Even today, we still find ourselves gravitating towards military families when it comes to social gatherings.

But 18 months into this “retirement” phase of our lives together, I am feeling a little bit lost.

It’s not that I’m getting the itch to move — I have jokingly told my husband that I just want to be buried in the backyard because I am not moving again. But I do feel a loss of identity when it comes to friendships.

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No one gets the military community like the military-spouse community. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. John Healy)

Making friends with folks who have lived in one area their entire lives is a bit challenging. It’s not because they’re not open to being friends with a newcomer, it’s because I find myself so far out of my comfort zone. The zone where, no matter what, another military spouse and I instantly had at least one thing in common upon first meeting. So I struggle to create long-lasting, meaningful friendships (that are so valuable to my mental health) in a community of people who have been around each other their entire adult lives.

Was there something I wish I had done differently while my husband was on active duty? I’m not sure. I don’t regret the many incredible, life-long friends I made, even if they are spread out across the world. I don’t regret being active in the military-spouse community because I learned so much and grew as a person.

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Military spouses of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 visit local children at the Life is Beautiful Daycare Center in Ishikawa, Okinawa, Japan. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonah Baase)

But I do wish that I had spent more time making connections with those outside of the community. I had “civilian family” friends, sure, but it feels like a life skill I could have spent more time honing.

Just like active duty service, transition out of military service impacts the entire family. There are many aspects of the transition to be considered, but one that I really wish I had realized was being careful of putting so much stock in my identity as a military spouse, especially when it comes to the friends I made.

I don’t wish that I had spent less time with military friends, I don’t wish that I had shied away from participating in the community, but I do wish I had spent more time thinking of life after my husband’s military service in regards to my own identity.

Articles

That time Los Angeles fought off an imaginary Japanese bombing raid

In February 1942, Army units defending Los Angeles launched a devastating barrage of anti-aircraft fire into the sky, sending up 1,433 rounds against targets reported across the city in the “Battle of L.A.”


Fortunately for the occupants (but unfortunately for the egos of everyone involved), the City of Angels wasn’t under attack.

In the months after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the American Navy was largely in retreat across the Pacific, and the West Coast was worried that it was the next target of a Japanese attack.

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Army gun crews man a Bofors anti-aircraft gun in Algeria in World War II. (Photo: Library of Congress)

In reality, the chances of a Japanese attack on the West Coast were low since the Navy was pulling back from far flung outposts in order to secure ground they knew they had to hold, like California, Oregon, Washington, and vital bases on Pacific islands.

But LA was overtaken by fear and uncertainty in the early months of 1942. Then, on Feb. 23, a city in California was attacked by the Japanese. A long-range submarine surfaced near Santa Barbara, California, and shelled an oil refinery there.

The very next night, a light was spotted over the ocean off the coast, possibly a signal flare sent up to guide Japanese planes or carriers to their target. Then, a few hours later, blinking lights were spotted and an alert was called. When no attack materialized, the alert was called off.

But in the early hours of Feb. 25, radars picked up activity at approximately 12,000-feet. Lookouts reported dozens of aircraft closing on the city. “The Great Los Angeles Air Raid” was on, and the city residents and their Army gun crews knew exactly how to respond.

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American anti-aircraft gun crews firing in World War II. (Photo: Flickr/U.S. Army RDECOM)

Army Air Force crews rushed from their beds to await launch orders and gun crews ran to their stations. Volunteer air wardens fanned across the city to enforce the blackout.

At 3:06 a.m., the first gun crews spotted their targets and began firing into the sky. For the next hour, a fierce barrage lit up the night as searchlights and shells looked for targets. In all, 1,433 rounds would be fired by gun crews.

Citizens drove through the street against orders and caused three auto fatalities while two others were lost to panic-induced heart failure. Fuzes failed to detonate some rounds in the air and they crashed back to earth where they destroyed property while luckily causing no fatalities.

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But the embarrassing reality started to become clear at headquarters. With no reports of bomb damage and few reports of downed aircraft — none of which could be confirmed — either both sides were engaging in the least effective battle in the history of war or there were not actually any Japanese bombers.

The alert was suspended at 4:15 a.m. and later lifted entirely. Soon, the entire country heard that the reported attacks in Los Angeles were actually just a case of the jitters.

A 1983 military investigation of the incident found a possible explanation. A swarm of meteorological balloons had been released that night with small lights attached to aid in tracking. It’s possible that the gun and radar crews saw these balloons and, in the nervous atmosphere, mistook it for an attack.

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