A look at President Reagan's Star Wars program, 33 years later - We Are The Mighty
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A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

 


A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Graphic of how SDI would work.

Thirty-three years ago, the Star Wars program was easily the most elaborate and complex defense system ever conceived.

“I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete,” President Ronald Reagan said on March 23, 1983. The speech announced the creation of a new missile defense called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which quickly became known as Star Wars.

It envisaged a vast network of laser-armed satellites, air-based missiles, and ground-based interceptors missiles and electromagnetic railguns. These would be used to intercept incoming nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union and other enemies, all coordinated through advanced sensors linked to supercomputers, and protect the United States from direct nuclear attack. By being able to neutralize at least most of the incoming nuclear warheads, the U.S. hoped to show the Soviet Union that any potential nuclear confrontation was hopeless.

The United States and the Soviet Union had flirted with anti-ballistic missile systems in the past.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Artist’s depiction of Star Wars in action.

The U.S. developed the Nike Zeus series of missiles in the early 1960s, which had some ABM capability, and the Soviet Union installed similar missiles around Moscow as protection against limited nuclear strikes. Neither could begin to effectively cope with large-scale nuclear attacks, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 strictly limited the number of missile interceptors allowed. The U.S. closed its only missile defense system, called Safeguard, in 1976 after it had only been in operation for a few months and at enormous expense. But by the early 1980s, concerned with advancements in Soviet missiles, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff revisited the idea, and presented it to Reagan. The idea of a defensive measure to nuclear war beyond simply building more nuclear warheads appealed to to the president.

The technical hurdles for a defense shield like Reagan proposed would be on a scale exceeding any defense project attempted before. The majority of the technology involved, such as weaponized lasers and electromagnetic railguns firing projectiles at extremely high speeds, did not even exist yet and might not be developed for decades. It entailed hundreds, if not thousands of advanced satellites and radars to even begin to aim all the weapons required to make a dent in the Soviet’s vast arsenal. Reagan himself admitted that SDI could easily take until the end of the century to be put into place.

The skepticism towards the program was intense from the beginning. Besides the clear violations of the ABM treaty such a system would represent, it would also extend the arms race even deeper into space.

Swarms of hunter-killer satellites and space-based lasers would be a frightening new frontier, and the Soviet Union would almost certainly try to respond in kind. The projected costs of the system ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the inevitable cost overruns would balloon the program to a huge percentage of the U.S. military budget. In the event of an a nuclear attack, unproven technology would have be coordinated on an unprecedented scale and work perfectly the first time. The hurdles involved were well-nigh insurmountable. Nevertheless, by 1987 more than $3 billion was being appropriated annually by Congress to start developing the technology, roughly $6.5 billion in today’s dollars.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
There has been much debate about what sort of affect the Star Wars program had running up to the end of the Cold War, but there is little doubt that the Soviet Union took the program very seriously, and were genuinely concerned about an expanded arm’s race which had immense costs they could not begin to afford. But by the end of the Cold War, a missile-defense system on the scale of SDI was still a pipe-dream. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea was scaled back to a much more limited system capable of defending against small-scale strikes.

The simple fact was that the program was never going to be feasible against as many weapons as an opponent like the Soviet Union could put into play. By 1986 the Soviet’s had over 40,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled, including nearly a thousand ICBM’s with up to 10 warheads a piece that could shower and overwhelm any target within 30 minutes of launch. Soviet submarine’s armed with nuclear missiles could get close enough to U.S. coasts that their payloads could strike hundreds of targets faster than any conceivable system could detect and intercept them. Even if SDI could stop 90 percent of the Soviet’s warheads, the 10 percent that made it through would leave the United States in radioactive ruin.

Though scaled back, development on weapons envisaged in Star Wars continued throughout the 1990s. Its legacy can be seen in today’s Missile Defense Agency. The MDA has cost more than $100 billion since 2002, and the test results of its missile interceptors have been decidedly mixed.

After more than three decades of advances in technology, however more modest our nuclear defense program is now, it still might not be any more realistic than its Cold War forebears.

 

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An adversary pilot was rescued after ejecting off San Diego coast

A Navy helicopter crew rescued a civilian pilot who ejected from a contracted fighter jet off the coast near Point Loma August 22, Navy and Coast Guard officials said.


The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat Hawker Hunter jet, for unknown reasons, roughly 115 miles off the coast, Navy officials said. No information about the pilot’s condition was available.

The Navy-contracted plane had participated in a pre-deployment training exercise for the ships of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Navy officials said. The Composite Training Unit Exercise, which tests the strike group’s deployment readiness, began earlier this month, according to the Navy.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Arabian Gulf. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alex Millar.

The Coast Guard was summoned about 4:30 p.m. to assist in the pilot’s rescue, but a helicopter crew assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt hoisted the pilot out of the ocean before a Coast Guard helicopter crew responded, officials said.

The pilot was taken to Naval Medical Center San Diego for a medical evaluation.

In the past, Hawker Hunter jets have been contracted by the Navy to play the role of an enemy aircraft in offshore training.

In two instances, in October 2014 and May 2012, the pilots who assisted in the training exercises crashed in a field near Naval Station Ventura County as they prepared to land. Both pilots died.

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Here is how a war between the United States and Iran could start

The recent incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) and an Iranian speedboat is a reminder that the South China Sea is not the world’s only maritime flashpoint.


The Persian Gulf is such a hot spot as well — mostly with the many instances where Iranian vessels have harassed American ships, with the closest encounter being within 150 yards. When you are talking about ships weighing thousands of tons, that is getting awfully close. Ships cannot turn and stop on a dime. As a result, an incident like the one involving USS Mahan could very well touch off a war.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

How so?

First there’s the risk of the warning shots actually hitting the incoming vessel.

There’s also the possibility that a suicide speedboat will hit an American ship. The October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) took place in port with a small fiberglass boat.

Iran’s “fast attack craft” that have a history of harassing American ships are, in some cases, larger, and pack heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. Those incidents have also produced warnings of a “tactical miscalculation” that could lead to an armed conflict.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

Something like the Boghammer, which became notorious for its attacks on tankers in the Iran-Iraq War, displaces about six and a half tons. It has a top speed of 45 knots (or nautical miles per hour). When these speedboats get within 1,000 yards, they are less than half a knot away — and at top speed, an American ship could have as little as 40 seconds to react. A Boghammer could easily carry a murder-suicide bomb similar to that used to attack the Cole.

The damage one of those boats can do is best reflected in the Cole attack. Only this time the damage would be suffered while at sea, not while refueling in a port where assistance is readily available. It cost $250 million to repair the Cole, which was out of action for 14 months, according to MaritimeTerrorism.com.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
USS Cole (DDG 67) is towed from Aden by the tug USNS Catawba (ATF 168). (U.S. Navy photo)

Understandably, an American ship commander would be very nervous about the possibility of such an attack.

All it would take would be one commander deciding that the Iranian “fast attack craft” posed a threat to his ship; defensively sinking the craft could kick off Iranian retaliation. American and Iranian forces would start exchanging fire in small naval and air actions. The United States would probably win most of those — albeit in some cases, there might be damage to ships or aircraft.

Iran, though, would likely start launching ballistic missiles at Israel, trying to use the same gambit Saddam Hussein did in 1991.

The Iranian-American War would then be on in earnest.

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Are the US and China coming closer to blows in South China Sea?

The South China Sea has been a maritime flashpoint for years, becoming the subject of the Dale Brown novel “Sky Masters” and Tom Clancy’s SSN video game and tie-in book.


A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

It’s a seven-way Mexican standoff between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam.

And you thought Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” had it bad in that final standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

But the United States Navy has been willing to challenge the PRC’s claims in the region. A recent U.S. Navy release discussed how the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the South China Sea. That region has recently become hotter with the ruling by an arbitration panel in favor of the Philippines, who were objecting to China’s claims.

Also read: How 8 countries are preparing for war with Russia

The problem, of course, is that the ChiComs took a page from everyone’s favorite sociopath from “Game of Thrones” — one Cersei Lannister. They didn’t bother to show up for the arbitration proces, even though they had to have known the consequences. And they probably didn’t care.

In essence, what the McCain did was a freedom of navigation exercise. This sounds innocuous, but in reality it is only slightly less touchy than an invite from a samurai to take part in a “comparison of techniques.”

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) fires its MK-45 5-inch/54-caliber lightweight gun. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alonzo M. Archer/Released)

You see, a “freedom of navigation” exercise usually involves the American vessel operating in international waters that a certain country may not recognize as international waters. In essence, the United States is asserting: “No, these are international waters.”

It can get rough. In 1988, a freedom of navigation exercise off the coast of the Soviet Union in the Black Sea lead to a collision between USS Yorktown (CG 48) and a Krivak-class frigate.

What happened to the USS Yorktown was mild, though. Let’s go back more than 30 years to see how rough those exercises can really get.

In March of 1986, the Navy was sent to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises to push back against Moammar Qaddafi. In 1981, similar exercises had resulted in the downing of two Libyan Su-22 “Fitter” attack planes that took some ill-advised shots at Navy F-14s.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), the Republic of Korea navy destroyer ROKS Eulji Mundeok (DDH 972), and the Ulsan-class frigate ROKS Jeju (FF 958) participate in a joint exercise during Foal Eagle 2015. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

That was why three carriers, the USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66) were involved in the 1986 round of “Freedom of Navigation” exercises.

On 23 March, the exercises began. The next day, the shooting started.

The Libyans started by firing SA-2 and SA-5 missiles at Navy F-14s. Shortly afterwards, MiG-23 “Floggers” tried to engage some Tomcats, but broke off after an intense dogfight.

By the end of the day, Libya had lost a new Nanuchka II-class corvette, a Combattante II-class missile boat, saw a Nanuchka and a Combattante II disabled, while several surface-to-air missile sites ended up being live-fire tests for the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

Fast forward to January 1989.

American forces were operating near the Gulf of Sidra when two MiG-23s came looking for a fight, and got shot down by a pair of F-14s. Once again, the “freedom of navigation” exercises had lead to shots being fired.

Something to keep in mind the next time you hear of such exercises. When sailors are sent there, they could find themselves in a fight.

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The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

The military has a lot of rules and some of them are hard to follow every day in every instance. We’re not saying that everyone should be prosecuted under any of these articles, we’re just saying that a lot of people technically break these rules.


1. DISRESPECT TOWARD SUPERIOR COMMISSIONED OFFICER (ART. 89)

“Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Creating this meme would be an Article 89 violation for enlisted personnel.

“Can’t spell lost without the LT!” called in cadence in the presence of an officer is technically a violation of Article 89.

Interestingly, this is one of the few times where the word, “toward,” in an article doesn’t require that the victim be present. Service members can be prosecuted under Article 89 for disrespecting an officer even if that officer didn’t hear or see anything. For the NCO equivalent listed below, the NCO or warrant officer must be present and hear or witness the disrespect.

2. INSUBORDINATE CONDUCT TOWARD WARRANT OFFICER, NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER, OR PETTY OFFICER (ART. 91)

“Any warrant officer or enlisted member who–

(1) strikes or assaults a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer, while that officer is in the execution of his office;

(2) willfully disobeys the lawful order of a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer; or

(3) treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office;

shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Anyone who has mouthed off to a superior NCO or warrant officer is guilty, provided they knew that the person was an NCO or warrant officer at the time. Talking back to a squad leader could trigger Article 91. This also covers assaulting or disobeying a lawful order from a superior NCO or warrant officer.

3. MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES-LOSS, DAMAGE, DESTRUCTION, OR WRONGFUL DISPOSITION (ART. 108)

“Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority–

(1) sells or otherwise disposes of;

(2) willfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or

(3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, sold, or wrongfully disposed of;

any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

Getting the corpsman or medic to give an unnecessary I.V. or walking off with a couple of MREs falls under Article 108. Even painting hilarious graffiti on a bunker counts.

Side note: Some people like to claim that this article forbids troops from getting sunburn because that’s damage to “government property.” The Stars and Stripes Rumor Doctor investigated this and experts in military law told him this isn’t true for two reasons. First, service members are not military property. Second, the government has to quantify the damage done to the property which is nearly impossible when referring to a human being.

4. PROPERTY OTHER THAN MILITARY PROPERTY OF UNITED STATES – WASTE, SPOILAGE, OR DESTRUCTION (ART. 109)

“Any person subject to this chapter who willfully or recklessly wastes, spoils, or otherwise willfully and wrongfully destroys or damages any property other than military property of the United States shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
IRAQ. Baghdad. 2006. Graffiti written by soldiers on the walls of bathroom stalls.

This article is pretty broad, referring to any willful or reckless destruction of someone else’s personal property. So service members who vandalize a porta-potty rented from a vendor are technically guilty. In practice of course, the damage needs to be worth investigating and the government has to prove a certain person committed the act at a specified place and time.

5. GENERAL ARTICLE (ART. 134)

“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

There are many ways to fall foul of Article 134, but the most common is probably using indecent language. Any indecent language, especially if it causes “lustful thoughts,” can trigger the article.

Other commons ways of triggering the “General Article” are drunkenness and straggling.

NOW: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

OR: 8 reasons the new guy always gets caught when he screws up

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These 11 funny military vids will make you wish Vine wasn’t going away forever

October 2016 signals the end of the six-second social video service Vine. Six seconds was not a lot of time, but it was just enough time for Vine to burrow its way into our hearts – but just not far enough to stay in business.


Members of the military used Vine to offer a glimpse into military life and culture. These are 11 perfect examples of the military humor on Vine.

1. This is probably how all Marines feel when dealing with airmen.

From Vine user Lil Buckshot

2. A Brit in the U.S. Army should be prepared to have their Drill Sergeant Vine their history lesson.

From Vine user SFC Holy Fing Shit

3. MARPAT makes a great turtle costume.

From Vine user Chris S.

4. If people watching airborne operations didn’t have this song in their head before, they will now.

From Vine user TheJordanBell

5. Reality is not the best recruiting tool.

From Vine User Zane Orion

6. There are too many steps to remember in grenade tossing.

From Vine User Beaz

7. If you have a job where you wear a uniform, at least that uniform is badass.

From Vine user Lil Buckshot

8. Budgeting is the key to a successful household.

From Vine user MorHooahthanU

9. As if the Coast Guard wasn’t already busy enough.

From Vine user SirToodles

10. Every base has that one guy.

From Vine user Will Thurman

11. Being an L-T among enlisted people must feel like Basic Training until they make O-3.

From Vine user SFC Holy Fing Shit

 

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3 times the War Powers Act got the President cross-threaded with Congress

The Framers of the Constitution intended for there to be a, let’s call it, “healthy tension” between the branches of government, especially around matters pertaining to the power to commit the nation to war. The Constitution stipulates that the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military, but that Congress has the power of the purse over military funding as well as the authority to declare war. And like what tends to happen around pieces of legislation that endure because they’re blissfully ill-defined, the rest is subject to interpretation.


And differences in interpretation around who has the power to do what when it comes to waging war led Congress to pass the War Powers Act in 1973 after it came to light that President Nixon had expanded the already unpopular Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia. The resolution was passed in both the House and Senate before being vetoed by Nixon. That veto was overridden and the War Powers Act became law on November 7 of that year.

The War Powers Act requires that the President notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without a Congressional authorization for that use of military force or a declaration of war by the United States.

But those quantitative guidelines haven’t kept the Executive and Legislative branches from tangling over the definition of “war.” Here are 3 times the President and Congress disagreed over the use of the War Powers Act:

1. Reagan sends Multinational Force to Lebanon

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Marines search the rubble following a terrorist attack on the barracks that killed 241 troops on Oct. 23, 1983. (Photo: CNN)

In 1981 President Reagan took the lead in introducing western troops — including four U.S. Marine Amphibious Units — to Lebanon as a peacekeeping force that would, among other things, allow the Palestinians to safely leave the country. But what started as a fairly benign op erupted into chaos as the months went on. The most horrific and tragic among the violent events was the bombing of the Marine Corps Barracks on October 23, 1983 that killed 241 U.S. servicemembers and 58 French paratroopers.

That bombing caused Congress to realize the American mission as one in which American forces could not succeed because their mission was poorly defined from a military point of view. (Then as now, just being present is not a viable use of military force.) Lawmakers withdrew support for the Multinational Force presence and threatened the Reagan administration with the War Powers Act to expedite getting the troops out as fast as possible, which was ironic because they had also used the War Powers Act two years earlier to allow Reagan to insert the troops for an indefinite length of time.

2. Clinton takes military action against Kosovo

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Belgrade burning after NATO air strike. (Photo: kosovo.net)

As reported by Charlie Savage in The New York Times back in 2011, “In 1999, President Clinton kept the bombing campaign in Kosovo going for more than two weeks after the 60-day deadline had passed. Even then, however, the Clinton legal team opined that its actions were consistent with the War Powers Resolution because Congress had approved a bill funding the operation, which they argued constituted implicit authorization. That theory was controversial because the War Powers Resolution specifically says that such funding does not constitute authorization.”

In 2013, The Wall Steet Journal reported that Clinton’s actions in Kosovo were challenged by a member of Congress as a violation of the War Powers Resolution in the D.C. Circuit case Campbell v. Clinton, but the court found the issue was a “non-justiciable political question.” It was also accepted that because Clinton had withdrawn from the region 12 days prior the 90-day required deadline, he had managed to comply with the act.

3. Obama conducts a campaign against Libya

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Libya MiG-23 goes down in flames after being hit by rebel fire. (Photo: aljazeera.com)

In 2011, the Obama administration was waging a proxy war against the Khaddafi regime in Libya, primarily using air power to assist the rebels. (There were rumors that American special operators were acting as forward air controllers on the ground, but they were never substantiated.) We the clock ran out on the War Powers timeframe, President Obama (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) sidestepped asking Congress for permission to keep the campaign going, claiming that no authorization was needed because the leadership of the campaign had been transferred to NATO. The administration also said that U.S. involvement was “limited,” even though American aircraft were flying 75 percent of the campaign’s sorties.

Eventually, the rebels found and killed Khaddafi, which put an end to the air campaign but led to the Benghazi debacle where four Americans were killed, including the ambassador — a cautionary tale in itself, perhaps, about bypassing the War Powers Act.

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Watch the Coast Guard rescue this downed Navy pilot

This is when inter-service rivalry goes right out the window. A downed naval aviator who had to eject from a F-5N Tiger II tactical fighter aircraft during a training exercise is rescued by the puddle pirates off the coast of Key West. The cause of the crash is still unknown.


A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
An F-5N Tiger II assigned to the Sun Downers of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 launches from Boca Chica Field. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Morales)

“The watchstanders diverted a Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to conduct a search,” read a statement from the Coast Guard. “The helicopter crew arrived on scene at 1:15 p.m. The rescue crew hoisted the pilot from the water and brought him back to Lower Keys Medical Center in good condition.”

An MH-65 Dolphin based at Coast Guard Air Station Miami was diverted from a patrol on Aug. 9 after the Coast Guard picked up the pilot’s emergency smoke signal.

The pilot is attached to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 (VFC-111) Sundowners based at Naval Air Station Key West. The unit is a reserve squadron that simulates the enemy in combat training exercises.

When naval aviators eject over water, a few things happen. First, the parachute is separated from the pilot, because the sea currents can grab the chute and pull the pilot under. Then, there is an automatic flotation device that inflates to keep the aviator above water. Then the mask on the ejection seat, which provides oxygen and protects the pilot’s face during ejection, is separated. The pilot then deploys either signal mirrors, smoke, flares, or all three.

One more Squid safely pulled from the deep by our amazing Puddle Pirates.

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Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs:

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Key ISIS commander taken out in US strike

Conflicting reports from U.S. officials and terrorist leaders suggest a top commander of the militant Islamic State group might have been killed in a U.S. airstrike near the embattled Syrian town of Aleppo.


The Pentagon said in a release late yesterday that a precision airstrike had targeted a vehicle that officials say Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was riding in. Al-Adnani was believed to be the ISIS group’s top spokesman and a key player in inspiring so-called “lone wolf” attacks on Western targets, including the shooting rampages in Paris, France, and Orlando, Florida.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Al-Adnani was believed to be the number two commander for the Islamic State group and was a key recruiter and operational planner for the terrorist organization. (Photo: France 24 YouTube)

“Al-Adnani has served as principal architect of ISIL’s external operations and as ISIL’s chief spokesman,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. “He has coordinated the movement of ISIL fighters, directly encouraged lone-wolf attacks on civilians and members of the military and actively recruited new ISIL members.”

While the American military was uncertain whether Al-Adnani had been killed in the strike on Al Bab, near Aleppo, the Islamic State confirmed his death in a statement.

Analysts say the result, if confirmed, is an effective blow against the terrorist group, which has seen its hold on territory in both Iraq and Syria wither under U.S., coalition and Russian air and ground assaults in recent weeks.

“He was an important Islamic State leader and one of the top remaining leaders of the old guard,” said terrorism analyst and founder of The Long War Journal Bill Roggio. “It’s definitely a good kill.”

But while ISIS has now lost three of its top leaders in one year, the death of al-Adnani could have the unintended consequence of bringing rival terrorist groups together. For years, Roggio says, al-Adnani has been at odds with al Qaeda — eventually causing a very public split and disavowal from Osama bin Laden’s successor, Aymen al Zawahiri.

With al-Adnani gone and only one of the Islamic State’s founding leaders left on the battlefield, the group behind the 9/11 attacks could rise as ISIS falls.

“In it’s way, al-Adnani’s death could pave the way for a rapprochement with al Qaeda,” Roggio said. “It could have implications that could bolster other jihadist movements.”

Al-Adnani may have been an important leader and a key victory in the war against ISIS, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. military is planning to stop going after them anytime soon.

“The U.S. military will continue to prioritize and relentlessly target ISIL leaders and external plotters in order to defend our homeland, our allies, and our partners, while we continue to gather momentum in destroying ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria and combat its metastases around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Cook said.

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Army weapons developers consider how future enemies will attack

Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their platforms and technologies earlier in the developmental process, senior service leaders told Scout Warrior.


The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies in order to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The goal of this thinking, she explained, is to identify “fixes” or design alternatives to further harden a weapons system before it is fielded and faces contact with an enemy.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to look at early developmental systems for potential vulnerabilities. As we understand where we might have shortfalls or weaknesses in emerging programs, we can fix them before things go to production,” Miller added.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Soldiers with the Army Evaluation Task Force give a demonstration of the small unmanned ground vehicle combat application to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and fellow committee member Syvestre Reyes (D-TX) at Ft Bliss, TX. | US Army photo by D. Myles Culle

The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.

“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.

This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or worst case, deployed.

Miller explained that this strategic push to search for problems, vulnerabilities and weaknesses within weapons systems very early in the acquisition process was designed to keep the Army in front of enemies.

A key concept is, of course, to avoid a circumstance wherein soldiers in combat are using weapons and technologies which have “fixable” problems or deficiencies which could have been identified and successfully addressed at a much earlier point in the developmental process.

As a result, weapons developers in the Army acquisition world and Science and Technology (ST) experts spend a lot of time envisioning potential future conflict scenarios with next-generation weapons and technologies.

Miller emphasized how the Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyber attacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping, among other things.

As a result, Army engineers, acquisition professionals and weapons developers are working now to ensure that tomorrow’s systems are as effective and as impenetrable as possible.

“We need to better understand vulnerabilities before we design something for our soldiers. We need to see if they have inherent glitches. We now face potential adversaries that are becoming technically on par with us,” Miller said. “We are asking the ST enterprise to think ahead to a scenario where our enemies might be using our technologies against ourselves,” Miller said.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Soldiers with Bravo Troop, 3rd Battalion, 71st Calvary Regiment of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, fire their 120mm mortars during a live-fire at Forward Operating Base Lightning, in Paktia province, Afghanistan. | Photo by U.S. Army Capt. John Landry 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs

One recent example which advanced the Army acquisition community’s strategy to look for and address vulnerabilities early in the developmental process involved an assessment of Forward Operating Base, or FOB, protection technologies used in Afghanistan.

The “Deployable Force Protection” program focused on protection systems including sensors, towers and weapons systems designed to identify and destroy approaching threats to the FOB. These systems were being urgently deployed to Afghanistan in a rapid effort to better protect soldiers. The Army performed useful assessments of these technologies, integrating them into realistic, relevant scenarios in order to discern where there may be vulnerabilities, Miller explained.

Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies. They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Miller explained.

“We have focused on small bases in Afghanistan and did Red Teaming here (in the U.S.) to make sure the system was robust. We’ve taken that whole mindset and now merged it into a new program concept,” Miller said.

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The USS Pueblo is now the main attraction at North Korea’s Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

For the uninitiated, the USS Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters in 1968. The crew didn’t just give up; they deftly maneuvered away from the attackers. It took two North Korean


It took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo, even allowing for the fact that the crew didn’t man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The crew destroyed all the classified material they could, but they were simply outgunned and outnumbered. One sailor was killed and eighty-three others were held by North Korea for 335 days before being returned to the U.S.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
And they took the time to let the North Koreans know how they felt about their stay.

The Pueblo is still commissioned in the U.S. Navy and is the only ship to be held by an enemy country. For decades, the ship was moored on the Taedong River in the capital of Pyongyang. After a restoration begun in 2013, the ship is now a part of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in keeping with the North Korean label for the war.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
Seriously though, the U.S. really flattened North Korea.

Related: I went to North Korea and saw the US Navy ship still being held captive after 47 years

The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum was founded right after the 1953 armistice was signed. (Note: The U.S. is still technically at war with North Korea as the armistice ended the conflict but not the Korean War.)  As Communists often do, the North Koreans wanted to put their spin on the war immediately, and thus the museum was born.

Ten years later, it was moved to a building built just to house the museum’s collection, a massive trove of North Korean tanks, weapons, and aircraft, along with captured American equipment, jeeps, and downed planes, all supporting the North’s consensus that they actually won.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
This is how they believe the Korean War looked.

Of course, with the Pueblo comes the newest exhibit in the Museum, the Pueblo section.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

If you’re wondering how the war became a “liberation war to the North, young North Koreans are taught that a joint South Korean-U.S. army started the war, and not that it was started by a North Korean sneak attack.

The North is not likely to return the ship, considering how immensely proud they are of having captured it.

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later
The Pueblo on the Taedong River in 2012

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This letter General James Mattis wrote to his Marines is a must-read of historical proportions

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later


Marine Gen. James Mattis is something of a legend in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines, and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.

He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991, and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle.

Also read: These 4 Marines killed so many Germans, the Nazis thought they were an allied battalion

One day before beginning the assault into Iraq, on March 19, 2003, every member of 1st Marine Division received this letter, written in Mattis’ own hand.

In the letter, he tells them, “on your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.” He conveys a sense of staying together and working as a team, writing, “keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit.”

He finally signs off with the motto of 1st Marines: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”

You can see the full letter below:

A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later