ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.


IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.

On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Drones like this are easy to acquire but can be very lethal targeting tools. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.

It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.

But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.

Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.

Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.

Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.

Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.

Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.

Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.

Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.

They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.

If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.

But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.

This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.

The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This is a deadly combination.

The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.

Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.

If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.

After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.

Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.

The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and Ukrainian leaders discuss ways to counter Russia

A top U.S. official has met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in New York to discuss “cooperative efforts against Russia’s malign influence,” among other things, the State Department says.

A statement said the Sept. 25, 2018 meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also touched upon Russia’s “use of energy projects to extort and intimidate Ukraine and other European allies,” as well as Kyiv’s progress in implementing political and economic reforms.

Sullivan reiterated that the United States “will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and reaffirmed “strong U.S. support” for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the statement.


Relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March 2018.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

Moscow’s support for the separatists and its illegal annexation of Crimea prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia.

Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing the traditional route through Ukraine.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Germany “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course” on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an already existing pipeline.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to address the assembly later in the day.

Featured image: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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This awesome sea story explains why blue falcons get absolutely no love

Blue falcons—buddy f-ckers for the uninitiated—are a permanent fixture of military life. There are usually a couple in every unit who are out for themselves while messing it up for the rest. You know who they are; they never show up to watch on time, they call you out in front of superiors to make themselves look better, and they never cut you any slack during a PT test.


Related: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

While blue falcons are bent on passing the blame and taking the credit, they forget that NCOs can spot them a mile away. Case in point is this awesome sea story we found on reddit by LaserSailor760. The lesson learned: no one likes a buddy f-cker, not even superiors.

(The reddit post has been lightly edited for grammar.)

MA assigned to Harbor Patrol here. I got ratted out once for fishing from the back of the patrol boat while doing harbor checks. Got hauled in to see the Senior Chief and wouldn’t sign or make any statements implicating anyone else on my crew (I was the coxswain and POIC) so Senior decided that I needed some extra duties as punishment.

A major local holiday was coming up, celebrating the day US forces liberated the locals during WW2. We had to send a boat up to a local harbor and standby all night in order to have an escape route for the Admiral in case Osama Bin Laden showed up or some sh-t. I was kinda upset about it because it was supposed to be my weekend, but I figured I was getting off light, so whatever.

When my crew and I pulled the boat into the marina, the whole place was basically a block party. We hung out with the locals, ate a ton of awesome BBQ and they all laughed that this was our ‘punishment’.

After securing the boat and turning over the watch to the next crew at 0000, I went back to base for some sleep, because part two of my punishment started at 0700.

Part two was getting into my dress whites and marching in the Liberation Day parade. It was about a 3 mile march, which ended at an even bigger party. Having been dismissed, I hung out at the party and again chatted with locals, ate awesome BBQ, and proceeded to get completely hammered, without paying a dime.

A few weeks later Senior asked if I learned my lesson. I said yes I did and wouldn’t slack off on duty.

Senior, said “No, I mean the lesson about standing up for your guys,” winked at me and walked away.

Best Senior Chief, ever.

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This veteran-owned company gives back by turning discarded military items into fashionable accessories

The idea of turning “swords into ploughshares” — that is to say, converting military technology and/or equipment into materials with a peaceful civilian purpose — is a very old concept. The phrase comes from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah 2:3-4:


And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This is where Sword Plough draws its name. The company  sells unique designer handbags and accessories made from discarded military surplus items. Co-founded by the daughters of a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, Col. (ret.) Joseph Núñez, Sword Plough is a veteran-owned-and-operated business, dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.

One daughter, Emily Núñez Cavness, is SP’s CEO, and is also an active duty Army 1st. Lt. serving with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Emily co-founded Sword Plough with her sister Betsy Núñez, who is the Chief Operations Officer.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Emily Betsy

“We have received such an incredibly positive and supportive response from our community,” Núñez Cavness says. “We’re still a young company, but we’re growing fast and we have a lot happening in the new year. In addition to expanding our product line, we have a number of exciting brand partnerships in the works and we’re planning to grow our wholesale business to brick and mortar shops throughout the country.”

See all of Sword Plough’s repurposed military surplus products

“What sets Sword Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line,” she continues. “People, Purpose, Planet, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on improving veteran employment and supporting American jobs, bridging the civilian-military gap, repurposing surplus material, and donating 10% of our profits back to veteran organizations.”

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Purchases of this “Urban Rucksack” from Sword Plough directly benefit Operation Finally Home

One of their biggest passions is supporting veteran entrepreneurship.

“Betsy and I grew up on Army posts across the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to give back to the military and veteran community,” Núñez Cavness says. “One of the most rewarding parts of both serving in the Army and leading Sword Plough is the ability I have to bring the knowledge of starting a business to the veteran community. Many soldiers and veterans approach me with exciting ideas and ask for advice on how to start. Mentoring aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is one of my favorite things to do. Veterans already have so many of the leadership and management skills necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship or business. It is such an energizing experience to help chart realistic pathways to bring their ideas to reality.”

Since launching in 2013, Sword Plough repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, donated 10 percent of profits annually, and shipped over 10,000 products globally. Not a bad startup period.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
The Signature Tote was one of their first products and it continues to be one of the most popular bags.

Their father commanded Army forces at the company and battalion level, taught political science at West Point, and deployed to Haiti in 1994 in support of Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy. Their uncle, Kenneth Cameron, served in the Marine Corps. Cameron is a retired Colonel and was an aviator, test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to outer space.

Being from such a strong military family, Emily Núñez Cavness is herself an ROTC graduate of Middlebury College. She recalls her introduction to the civilian-military divide, which happened as she walked to a military science class one morning.

“I was abruptly stopped when an upperclassman walked out of the fine arts building,” she says. “He meandered toward me and asked, ‘Hi there, What play are you in?! I’ve never seen you around here.’ I didn’t have a lot of time to talk since I’d be late for my class, so I quickly explained that my uniform was not in fact a costume, but my actual government issued uniform for Army ROTC.”

This would be the first of many instances to leave an impression on her. They would come to help influence Sword Plough’s mission to empower veteran employment and bridge that divide in any way they can. But it doesn’t stop there. The summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury, Núñez Cavness found herself at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“Even though I grew up in a military family on several Army Posts, this was the first time I was training next to Soldiers as a fellow service member rather than as a military kid,” she recalls. “We would spend almost every day quickly running from place to place in our helmets and boots, only to wait for hours under the hot sun until it was our turn to practice the parachute landing fall or how to properly pull a slip.”

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
1st Lt. Emily Núñez Cavness

“It didn’t take long for these periods of downtime to become some of my favorite moments of the course because it was then that the students to my left and right would open up to me about their past experiences in the Army and their goals and hopes for the future. Some expressed an interest in leaving the military in the near future but were seriously worried about their job prospects after talking to veteran friends who had been unemployed for a long time after leaving military service. At the time, I didn’t always know what to say, but I never forgot those conversations. It seemed like such an injustice to me that a group of people who had sacrificed so much and become such proven leaders would face this type of adversity.”

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
SP is dedicated to hiring veterans and making their products in the USA.

Fast forward one and a half years and Núñez Cavness is listening to Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, give her keynote speech during Middlebury’s first Social Entrepreneurship Symposium. She was talking about a business which incorporated recycling into its business model. The talk had young Núñez Cavness’ mind running 100 miles per hour.

“The way she described it immediately made me reflect on my own life,” Núñez Cavness said. “I asked myself, ‘what in my life is wasted on daily basis that could be harnessed and made into something beautiful?’ Having grown up on Army posts, I immediately thought back to the huge piles of military surplus I used to see that were going to be buried in a landfill or burned. As I looked around the audience, I noticed that every student had a backpack or bag of some kind propped up next to them. And then… it clicked! Why don’t I take the military surplus that would otherwise be discarded and turn it into stylish bags?”

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Their newer Wool Handbag and Wool Crossbody are also very popular items.

As part of its dedication to giving back to veterans, Sword Plough makes financial contributions to veteran-focused organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services, Feeding Our Vets, and Got Your 6. They support charitable organizations by donating their products for fundraisers.

These donations have helped recipients raise thousands of dollars through blind and live auctions. They also donate products to events which can raise general public awareness about veterans’ issues and the civil-military divide. To date, they have made more than $10,000 worth of product donations to organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation, the 3rd and Goal Foundationthe Headstrong Project, and more.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Find out more about Sword Plough’s quadruple bottom-line

Núñez Cavness designed the first three bags herself, but Sword Plough now has a creative director to design products. They also have a number of products designed by veterans.

“The military relies on cutting edge gear and technology to carry out its missions,” Núñez Cavness says. “This relationship with their equipment has definitely influenced the way we think about design and fashion. We repurpose military surplus equipment not only for the environmental benefits and vintage appeal, but also for its durability. Our team draws inspiration from cities that we live in, the people that we interact with, the feedback from the SP community of supporters, the history of the materials we use, and we try to honor tradition by constantly innovating and keeping functionality in mind.”

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Japanese prime minister pays his respects at Pearl Harbor in solemn ceremony

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Dec. 28 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to pay their respects to the victims and honor the survivors of the attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War II.


Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, President Barack Obama reflects on how war tests people’s most enduring values, Dec. 27, 2016.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Yeoman 2nd Class Michelle Wrabley, assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet, President of the United States, Barack Obama, and U.S. Pacific Command Commander, Adm. Harry Harris pause to honor the service members killed during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” Obama said. “How even as Japanese-Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and its 100th Infantry Battalion, the Japanese-American Nisei.”

“America’s first battle of the Second World War roused a nation,” Obama said. “Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans — including my grandparents, that greatest generation — they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it.”

On the front lines and in factories, Americans did their part to win that war, Obama said. To the World War II veterans in his audience, he declared, “A grateful nation thanks you.”

The meeting of the two leaders, the president said, was intended to “send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”

“Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost,” Obama said. “And we give thanks for all that our two nations have won, together, as friends.”

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9 ways you can show appreciation on Armed Forces Day

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) practice for the San Diego Padres’ opening day flag ceremony. | US Navy photo


On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.

The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.

Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:

1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group. There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.

2. Talk to veterans or an active service member. Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.

3. Visit a memorial. All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8 but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation. If you’re near D.C., we suggest reflecting in Arlington National Cemetery.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington April 12, 2014. | U.S. Marine Corps

4. Put together a care package. With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package. Microsoft is matching gifts to servicemen and women during May in honor of Military Appreciation Month so send a gift to a soldier.

5. Donate to a worthy cause. Organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Homes for Our Troops or Disabled American Veteransall work to assist military members, both active and vets, in rebuilding their lives. Organizations like Operation Homefront assist the families of servicemen and women with food, school supplies, finances and housing.

6. Attend a parade. Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.

7. Offer to help a military spouse. While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.

8. Fly a flag, the correct way. Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.

9. A simple thank you. Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.

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Audie Murphy held off waves of armor and troops while atop a burning tank

There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.


Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.

Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).

About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.

Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.

During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Audie Murphy played himself in a movie that detailed his exploits. Photo: Youtube

As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,

It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,

I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.

Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.

When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.

Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.

A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.

Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.

Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.

On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.

That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military bases linked to cancer and health problems

CBS recently released a story about toxic chemicals at Air Force bases and their link to severe health problems, like cancer and birth defects, but this is in no way new information. In 2001, the Deseret News raised the same question: Do military bases have links to cancer?


The correlation, at least, is astounding.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Exposure to jet fuels can occur if you have skin contact with soil or water contaminated from a spill or leak. You might breathe in some of the chemicals evaporating in the vicinity of an aircraft during cold engine startup. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker.)

In 2001, communities near Hill Air Force Base in Utah showed a high risk of developing brain cancer, while Fallon Naval Air Station was investigated for acute childhood leukemia incidents, and Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, was revealed to have contributed to water and air pollution when clusters of cancer and leukemia popped up.

Also read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

At the time, however, officials kept to a firm statement: Correlation does not equate causation.

In other words, it was clear that military bases were contaminating the water, air, and environment. It was clear that there were higher-than-expected cases of severe illness. It was not clear that one caused the other.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Air Force firefighters extinguish burning jet fuel during a fire training exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Cozad)

Air Force bases, in particular, show high cases of contamination for a few reasons: jet fuel is extremely toxic by itself, but it is also highly flammable, requiring toxic flame retardants. These leak into the ground and contaminate water supplies; jet fuel is also known to pollute the air, especially in areas like airports or flight lines, where there are high volumes of active engines.

In 2016, residents near Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan discovered that the water they drank, bathed in, swam in, and fished in was contaminated with jet fuel, cancer-causing chlorinated solvents, and toxic fire retardants. Military families and members of the local community have since reported cases of hypertension, lung disease, nervous system issues, blood vessel damage, asthma, spinal defects, and thyroid problems.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Members of the 151st Air Refueling Wing Medical Group don their hazardous material suits for training at Camp Williams, Utah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Giacoletto-Stegall)

And now, in 2018, the communities near Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, are considering a class action lawsuit due to the health defects linked to contaminated water.

The number of people — service members, their families, and civilians in communities near military bases — affected is in the millions (as of 2014, there were 21.8 million living veterans alone).

Related: How Vietnam veterans can get a rare cancer from this parasite

So, while it has been clear since the first World War that the United States and its military has a global impact, and therefore an imperative to maintain military superiority so we may continue to defend not only our way of life, but the livelihoods of our friends and allies, the question remains: at what cost?

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Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

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Here’s what 70 years of US air superiority looks like

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance


On March 5th, Airmen from all over the US converged on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for the 20th annual Heritage Flight, showcasing 70 years of US air superiority.

The P-38 Lightnings, P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts, and P-51 Mustangs, that ruled the skies during World War II flew alongside the F-16s, F-22s, and the F-35 in this moving tribute to the US’s military aviation.

“The best thing about being a part of Heritage Flight is the impact that is has on people when they see us at an airshow,” said Dan Friedkin, the founder of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation and demonstration pilot, Airman Magazine reports.

“The music, the sound of the airplanes, and the visuals, inspire great feelings. It makes people proud to be an American, proud of the US Air Force and happy to see others inspired.”

See the highlights of the flights below:

The aircraft, old and new, have to be meticulously maintained by the airmen.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Senior Airman Anthony Naugle, right, an A-10 crew chief with the 357th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group based at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., gets a lesson in the maintenance of one of the two 1,000 hp (746 kW), turbo-supercharged, 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 engines on a P-38 “Lightning” from Doug Abshier after the day’s practice flights at the Heritage Flight Training Course, Mar 5, 2016.

93-year-old Fred Roberts, a World War II P-51 Mustang pilot who took it to the Luftwaffe, was a hit at the event. “I love joking with young pilots and talking about our ventures,” Roberts said. “It truly puts a visual to the lineage of the aircraft.”

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Fred Roberts, 93, second from right, a former P-51D pilot during WWII with the 354th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group in England, talks with Lt. Gen. Mark C. “Chris” Nowland, Commander, 12th Air Force, Air Combat Command, and Commander, Air Forces Southern, US Southern Command, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 6, 2016. Roberts was tasked with destroying 57 P-51s after the cease of hostilities in Europe; including one of the planes he flew in combat.

Here’s a view from inside the Mustang’s cockpit with the pilot who flew in the Heritage Flight.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

Vlado Lenoch, a pilot with Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, taxis the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016.

A look at the F-86’s cockpit. The Sabre was a staple of the Korean War.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

A Heritage Flight pilot taxis an F-86 “Sabre” to join with a P-51D, F-16 and an F-22 for formation practice during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 4, 2016.

An airman and his son take in the sights.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Brad Balazs, an F-16 pilot with the 162nd Air National Guard points out WWII-era fighters to his son Whitt Balazs, 2, on the flight line of the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 3, 2016.

The P-40 was first produced in 1939, but thanks to the maintainers at the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, this cockpit looks like it just rolled off the line.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

The cockpit of a vintage P-40 fighter on the flight line of the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 6, 2016.

An F-16 gets ready to join the formation.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

An F-16 Fighting Falcon is marshaled into position at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 4, 2016.

Here an F-22 Raptor leads the pack of heritage fighters, but there is an even newer aircraft at the show …

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Four generations and over 70 years of US Army Air Corps / US Air Force air superiority, and the technological leaps that maintained it, are represented by a single formation of an F-22 “Raptor”, F-86 “Sabre”, F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and a P-51D “Mustang” during the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 5, 2016.

… the F-35 Lightning II.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

An F-35 Lightning II flies around the airspace of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016.

Here’s the business end of the F-35’s namesake, the F-38 Lightning.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Replicas of four Browning M2 machine guns and one Hispano 20mm canon are mounted in nose of a P-38 “Lightning” participating in the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 3, 2016.

Here they are flying together …

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

The Lockheed F-35 “Lightning II” flies in formation for the first time with its namesake, the WWII-era Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” during formation practice flights at the Heritage Flight Training Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 4, 2016.

… and side by side.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro

An F-38 Lightning and an F-35 Lightning II fly side-by-side for the first time at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 4, 2016.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is preparing for a war without satellites

Exercise Red Flag is the much-less famous, Air Force version of TOPGUN. It had the same impetus as TOPGUN – the Vietnam War highlighted some very serious shortcomings in how the service prepared to fight a war. Red Flag, however, doesn’t just feature the air-to-air stuff. Red Flag takes it a step further and trains pilots in air-to-ground combat as well.


Sometimes, Red Flag is a very international affair, with participants from all over the world. The current Red Flag, though, is going to be a much more… private affair. According to Popular Mechanics, the United States is only bringing in some of its closest allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia. This is because this Red Flag is being run without the use of the Global Positioning System, or GPS.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
A four-ship formation of F-22 Raptors from the 94th Fighter Squadron and 1st Fighter Wing fly in formation over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The four aircraft were in transit back to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. after participating in Red Flag 17-4 Aug. 26, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Why? Just take a look at the news: Both Communist China and Russia are working on deploying systems that can destroy American satellites. Among the satellites at potential risk are those of the GPS system. This would put a serious crimp in not just navigation, but also in munitions guidance. Weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition and the Joint Stand-Off Weapon use GPS to get within about 30 feet of a target.

The good news is that GPS is not the only tool that American pilots have. There are inertial navigation systems and radios that don’t rely on the satellites. GPS, however, has become the preferred tool. As such, if an enemy were to knock some or all of the constellation out, American forces would be greatly disadvantaged.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
A B-1B Lancer taking part in Green Flag, an exercise similar to Red Flag, over Nellis Air Force Base. (USAF photo)

This year’s Red Flag is recreating that scenario to prepare pilots for the worst. The United States will be getting a good idea of how to fight without GPS. Participants will be getting plenty of practice doing so when the stakes are little more than a bunch of bruised egos.

How did they shut off GPS over the deserts of Nevada? They aren’t saying — after all, no need to give the enemy ideas.

Articles

An American flag’s journey across the United States

Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.


Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians in the communities they call home.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Photo: Tim Kolczak

“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” said Team RWB Executive Director Blayne Smith. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”

With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.

But the Old Glory Relay takes that connection one step further, linking together Team RWB’s 210 chapters and over 115,000 members with their love for the Stars and Stripes.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Photo: Team Red, White Blue

“This is all about connecting folks to the American flag,” said Donnie Starling, Team RWB’s national development project manager. “One hand-off after another, under the symbol of Old Glory.”

“People see the flag, and they see different things,” remarked Navy veteran Sean Kelly. “But when they see people together in their community, they’re drawn to it. I think it’s an interesting time in our country – and to see a positive force that tries to pull people together, that’s a super important mission that I’m excited to be a part of.”

The Old Glory Relay began on Sept. 11 under the Space Needle in Seattle. Runners carried the flag through the Pacific Northwest, through California and across the desert Southwest and deep south.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Photo: Tim Kolczak

The relay ended on Veterans Day in Tampa. And while it was a long journey through some grueling country, the feeling of accomplishment showed through from all the participants.

For Shawn Cleary, a runner in Arizona who delivered the flag to the Tucson team to finish out the Phoenix leg, being part of Team RWB has helped him to get to know a culture he wasn’t a part of as a civilian but had always respected as a military child.

“My life before Team RWB was kind of a college lifestyle,” Cleary says. “It started about two and a half years ago, I wanted to get healthy again, and I was starting to run.”

A friend suggested Cleary run with Team RWB. “I was just hooked,” he says.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
Photo: Tim Kolczak

There are tens of thousands of veterans and civilians alike who have gotten “hooked” and found a home with Team Red, White Blue. Through the organization, they continue to give back to one another and the community at large – and have an incredible time doing so!

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is still hitting 17 countries with cyber attacks

A North Korea-linked hacking group has been tied to a series of cyberattacks spanning 17 countries, far larger than initially thought.

A new report by McAfee Advanced Threat Research found a major hacking campaign, dubbed Operation GhostSecret, sought to steal sensitive data from a wide range of industries including critical infrastructure, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.


Attackers used tools and malware programs associated with the North Korea-sponsored cyber unit Hidden Cobra, also known as Lazarus, to execute the highly sophisticated operation.

Operation GhostSecret is thought to have started with a massive cyberattack on several Turkish financial institutions and government organizations in early March 2018. The cyberoffensive then began targeting industries in 17 countries and is still active, according to McAfee.

Servers in the US, Australia, Japan, and China were infected several times from March 15 to 19, 2018. Nearly 50 servers in Thailand were hit heavily by the malware, the most of any country.

McAfee researchers noted many similarities between the methods used in Operation GhostSecret and other major attacks attributed to the group, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and 2017’s global WannaCry attack.

ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance
(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)

“As we monitor this campaign, it is clear that the publicity associated with the (we assume) first phase of this campaign did nothing to slow the attacks. The threat actors not only continued but also increased the scope of the attack, both in types of targets and in the tools they used,” Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief scientist, said.

The report indicates North Korea has been expanding its cybercrime beyond its usual focus of stealing military intel or cryptocurrency that can be used to funnel money to the heavily sanctioned government.

North Korean groups have been tied to increasingly high-stakes attacks in recent months.

In January 2017, researchers from the US cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said a hacking campaign targeting the South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinlink employed the same malware used in the Sony and WannaCry attacks.

The attack was attributed to the Lazarus group, which has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when it launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.