North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack - We Are The Mighty
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North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

North Korea has sharply criticized the U.S. after the U.S. Pacific Command moved a set of warships to the Korean Peninsula early April.


North Korea’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by its KCNA news agency on April 11, said the U.S. Navy strike group’s deployment showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.

“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” a spokesman for the country’s foreign affairs ministry said.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on Feb. 13, 2017. (KCNA/Handout)

“The DPRK [North Korea] is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

Later in the day, North Korea’s military chief said his country was ready to “mount a pre-emptive nuclear attack” on South Korea and the United States.

Hwang Pyong-so, North Korea’s effective number two behind leader Kim Jong-un, made the threat during a live broadcast on state television.

He insisted North Korea will “wipe them out without a trace if they attempt to launch a war of aggression.”

On April 8, the U.S. warships — including the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser — cancelled a trip to Australia and headed from Singapore to the waters off Korea, as part of the U.S. response to North Korea’s recent missile launches.

On April 5, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan from near Sinpo in South Hamgyong province, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.

Tensions rising

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Seoul, BJ Kim, adjunct professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said the level of tension has many South Koreans worried.

“The overall situation here, the way the South Koreans perceive it, is very unusual. They have not seen this level of heightened tensions for about a quarter of a century,” Kim said.

“In 1994 we had a similar situation in which the United States possibly wanted to strike. But since then this has been the highest point of tensions here, so people feel quite uneasy about it.”

North Korea has ratcheted up its nuclear program under its relatively new leader Kim Jong-un, carrying out two nuclear tests and launching around 20 ballistic missiles last year alone.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project

The international community also is concerned that North Korea could be working on an intercontinental ballistic missile, which could reach the western United States.

U.S.-based experts say that North Korea is currently planning a further nuclear test.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korean acting president, ordered the military to intensify monitoring of North Korea’s activities and to ensure close communication with the United States.

“It is possible North Korea may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since Park Geun-hye was removed as president over a corruption scandal.

Important date

North Korea convened a Supreme People’s Assembly session on April 11, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved.

April 15 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong-un.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Donald Trump has tweeted that Kim Jong-un is “looking for trouble.”

A military parade is expected in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day.

North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.

Hankuk University’s Kim said South Korea feels it is up to North Korea to open the possibility of dialogue.

“North Korea has been escalating the tensions and the U.S. has been responding to it,” he said.

“Seoul is waiting for words of reconciliation or at least expressions of interest in dialogue from Pyongyang.”

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China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.


report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.

China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.

Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.

In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
The THAAD missile system. Lockheed Martin photo.

Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.

Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.

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Orlando Police credit Kevlar helmet with saving officer’s life

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
(Photo: Orlando Police Department)


The Orlando Police Department is crediting a Kevlar helmet with saving the life of an officer who responded to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The department on Sunday posted a picture of the officer’s helmet showing damage from being struck by a bullet during the incident. The green paint is chipped, parts of the fabric is torn and there appears to be a small hole.

“Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life,” the department tweeted on its Twitter account. The make and model of the helmet weren’t immediately known.

The officer, who wasn’t identified but was presumably a member of the department’s SWAT team, suffered an eye injury, Danny Banks, special agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Orlando bureau, told CNN.

The incident was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with at least 50 individuals confirmed dead and another 53 injured. The shooting began around 2 a.m. Sunday at a packed Orlando nightclub called Pulse, which caters to the LBGT community.

The gunman, who was shot and killed in a shootout with police, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, during a 911 call, CNN reported. He was identified as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim who lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and whose parents were of Afghan origin, Fox News reported.

“This was an act of terror and an act of hate,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference at the White House.

Obama credited first responders with preventing an even deadlier attack by quickly responding to the scene and rescuing hostages. Mateen reportedly held dozens of people hostage until about 5 a.m., at which point the Orlando Police Department’s SWAT team raided the building using an armored vehicle and stun grenades, and killed him, The New York Times reported.

“Their courage and professionalism saved lives and kept the carnage from being worse,” Obama said. “It’s the kind of sacrifice our law enforcement professionals make every day.”

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Special operators just rescued a high-profile prisoner from al-Qaeda

Ali Haider Gillani, the son of an ex-Pakistani prime minister, was rescued by U.S. special operators and Afghan commandos in a joint operation in Paktika province May 10.


North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
A U.S. Special Forces soldier patrols with Afghan Commands from the 2nd Commando Kandak. Photo: US Army

The strike force killed four enemy combatants in the raid with no reported loss to friendly forces. Gillani was unharmed in the rescue mission.

The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”

Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.

Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaks with President Barack Obama in a 2012 nuclear summit. Photo: White House Pete Souza

The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.

Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.

The raid was conducted as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the current campaign of America’s mission in Afghanistan. It is part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

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The first aerial refueling was straight-up nuts

Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.


But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.

Three men worked together to pull off the stunt. Mays, the daredevil, was joined by two pilots, Frank Hawks and Earl Daugherty. Mays rode along with his gas can in the plane piloted by Hawks. Then, he climbed out of Hawks’ passenger seat and walked onto the right wing tip.

From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.

The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.

 

The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.

Today, aerial refuelings are usually conducted by specially designed aircraft, though modified fighters and attack jets such as the F/A-18 have been pressed into service when needed. The Navy has even looked at using its unmanned X-47B as an automated tanker, but the two aircraft sit in hangars and have not yet been modified for the test missions.

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America’s Patton tanks saw combat from Korea to Desert Storm

For over 40 years, some variant of the Patton family of tanks served America. From the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and through the deserts of the Middle East Patton tanks bested America’s enemies time and again.


In 1950, the first Patton tank, the M46, entered service. The M46 was originally based on the WWII M26 Pershing heavy tank. However, after extensive redesigns and improvements, it received its own designation and a new namesake — Gen. George S. Patton, a hero of WWII.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
A Marine checks his tank after taking Howitzer hits. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M46 was armed with a 90mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun, and two .30 caliber machine guns, one mounted coaxially, the other forward-firing in the hull.

The arrival of the Patton into service was just in time as in June of that year North Korea, armed with formidable Russian T34 tanks, rolled across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. Fighting alongside WWII-era M4 Shermans and the M26 Pershings it was meant to replace, the M46 would see heavy combat in Korea.

Also read: This is what makes tankers so deadly

The first M46 tanks landed inside the Pusan Perimeter in August 1950 as part of the 6th Tank Battalion. They would prove critical in the defense. More M46s landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine Division’s 1st Tank Battalion.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Pro tip: the paint doesn’t need to be realistic if your enemy is superstitious. (U.S. Army photo)

In an attempt at psychological warfare, the tankers of the 24th Infantry Division’s 6th Tank Battalion painted tiger faces on their tanks thinking it would demoralize their superstitious Chinese adversaries.

By mid-1951 the Patton tanks had replaced all M26 Pershings in service in Korea. However, the M46’s own shortcomings had already led to the development of a replacement — the M47 Patton.

Though the M47 was introduced in 1952, it would be too late for it to see combat in Korea. However, the M47 was important because even though it shared design features and components with the M46 Patton, it was considered America’s first all-new tank design since WWII.

The M47, though, was just an interim design while engineers completed work on its successor, the M48 Patton. The M47 would never see combat but the M48 would be a workhorse of American and allied armored units.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

Like its predecessors, the M48 also mounted a 90mm main gun; it was the last tank to do so, but had significant improvements in armor and performance.

The M48 was also introduced too late to see combat in Korea, but just over a decade later the Marines would take it to Vietnam. Soon, Army units were bringing their own Pattons to the fight.

Due to the nature of the conflict, the M48s did not often have the chance to go toe-to-toe with North Vietnamese armor. One of the few instances of tank combat came during the NVA assault on the Ben Het Camp where elements of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment were stationed. The American Pattons easily defeated the NVA’s PT-76 tanks and BTR-50 APCs.

More often than not though, the M48s were relegated to infantry support — a role they excelled at. The Patton’s ruggedness allowed it to absorb a good amount of damage and its 90mm main gun was a welcome addition against dug-in enemies. A favorite of the troops was the Patton’s canister rounds, which acted like a giant shotgun through the jungle, cutting down man and tree alike.

A number of M48s were also converted to M67 “Zippo” tanks that mounted flamethrowers for dealing with stubborn Vietcong and NVA soldiers.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)

The Patton was also one of the few vehicles that could withstand the landmines that were employed against American forces. As such, it was often used as a route clearance vehicle to “sniff out” the explosive devices.

While the M48 was slogging it out in Vietnam, the next in line of the Patton family of tanks was coming into service with the American military: the M60 Patton, the M48s eventual replacement.

The M60 was the final tank in the Patton family line and America’s first Main Battle Tank. It mounted a modern 105mm main gun, a .50 caliber machine gun for the commander, and a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun.

The M60 also was the basis for the M60 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge and the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle, both of which were deployed to Vietnam alongside the M48s.

The M60 itself would not be deployed to Vietnam, but would be a mainstay of American armored formations, particularly in Europe.

One of the more interesting developments of the M60 Patton was the M60A2. Derisively known as the “Starship” because of its overly complex technology, the M60A2 mounted the same 152mm gun/missile system as the M551 Sheridan. A redesigned turret and an abundance of new technology gave the A2 variation a distinct look. However, the design was an overall disappointment and it was quickly retired.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
An M60A2 tank driving off an amphibious landing craft. (U.S. Army photo)

Despite entering service some 30 years’ prior, the M60 Patton would not see significant combat until the end of its service history during the Persian Gulf War. Outfitting Marine tank battalions, the M60s performed admirably.

The Marines’ M60s spearheaded the assault to liberate Kuwait. In the fighting for Kuwait City, the M60 bested its original rival, the Soviet T62, time and again while sustaining only one tank lost to combat and no casualties. Marines manning Patton tanks destroyed over 100 Iraqi tanks and numerous other vehicles in the fighting.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Marines from Company D, 2nd Tank Battalion, drive their M-60A1 main battle tank over a sand berm on Hill 231 while rehearsing their role as part of Task Force Breach Alpha during Operation Desert Storm. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Shortly after the Gulf War the M60 Patton was retired from combat service in favor of the new M1 Abrams. The last Pattons would return to Germany, the final resting place of their namesake, where they acted as OPFOR at the Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels before they too were retired in 2005.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Here’s your Hump Day news lineup:


Now: 5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy 

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9 of the most evil weapons of all time

Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:


1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.

2. Mustard Gas

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)

3. V-1 Buzz Bomb

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.

4. Flamethrower

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.

5. Firebombing

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.

6. Atomic Bomb

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.

7. Anti-personnel Mines

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.

8. Punji Sticks

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.

9. Napalm

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.

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New York ‘Fleet Week’ kicks off with parade of awesome ships

The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Week has kicked off with a parade of ships, including patrol, destroyer and assault vessels that pulled into New York Harbor.


The U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton military base held a salute to the ships on May 24. The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship carried out a seven-gun salute to Fort Hamilton, which replied with a 15-gun salute.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
The USS Kearsarge sails into New York Harbor during the Parade of Ships as part of Fleet Week New York, May 24, 2017. The Parade of Ships marks the beginning of the 29th Annual Fleet Week New York. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabby Petticrew)

“New York has always had a close relationship with the military,” U.S. Coast Guard Anthony Giovinco, U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran and chief of staff and secretary of the United Military Veterans of Kings County Memorial Day Parade, said in a statement. “The sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are treated very well here. This is a tradition that is important to me. It brings back fond memories of the years I spent in the military.”

The USS Kearsarge was accompanied by vessels including the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen; the Ticonderoga-class cruisers USS Monterey and USS San Jacinto; and Canada’s Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Glace Bay, among others.

“Fleet Week New York is a way for the general public to view and experience the maritime sea services while allowing us to show our appreciation for our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” U.S. Army Spc. Tanner Butler, who is assigned to Fort Hamilton, said. “I feel, that since 9/11, it is really important for the people of New York to experience these things and to remember that our fellow Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are there for us.”

New York City residents can inspect the vessels while service members are allowed to roam the city and enjoy perks such as free subway rides and baseball tickets. About 4,000 sailors,Marines and Coast Guardsmen are anticipated to participate this year. There will be a special screening of the 1986 film Top Gun in New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

“Fleet Week New York, now in its 29th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea service,” the Navy said in a statement. “It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.”

In 2013, the Navy canceled Fleet Week due to spending cuts amid a sequester. The event would have cost the Navy an estimated $10 million, while the New York City metropolitan area lost an estimated $20 million in revenue.

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These five countries fought a war that was literally over bird sh-t

In the early 1860s, Spain was dealing with the loss of many of its overseas colonies. Spain also suffered a series of minor insults to their prestige at the hands of Peru, a former Spanish colony. In an effort to save face and collect on debts left over the Peruvian War of Independence, Spanish forces launched a fleet of ships in April 1864 to seize the valuable Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru.


North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Photo: Wikipedia/Federico Castellón Martínez

The Chincha Islands supplied over half of Peru’s annual budget at the time as laborers collected bird guano from 150-foot-high deposits. Yes, sh-t stacks that high. In the late 1800s, bird guano was known as both a great fertilizer and a great source of saltpeter. Saltpeter mixed in the proper ratio with sulfur and charcoal forms gunpowder.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
The guano mines in the Central Chincha Islands in the 1860s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

So when the Spanish landed 400 marines on the islands and formed a blockade of Peruvian ports, the Peruvian government was understandably angry. A political crisis followed as negotiations repeatedly failed to end the standoff. This stalemate drug on from April 1864 to September 1865.

That was when a Spanish ship went to a Chilean port to refuel with coal and the Chileans refused it on the basis that they couldn’t support Spain’s occupation of the islands and blockade of Peru. The Spanish commander, Vice Adm. Juan Manuel Pareja, sailed his flagship into the Chilean harbor and demanded a military salute from the town. When it was refused, Spain demanded reparations payments. The Chileans declared war in September 1865 instead. The Chincha Islands war was on.

Chile won an early victory at the Battle of Papudo when it captured a Spanish ship, the Covadongo. Peru then entered open hostilities with Spain and signed a treaty with Chile. Spain, Peru, and Chile fought for a year before Ecuador and Bolivia joined the fight against Spain in late-1866.

In early 1867 Spain crippled Chile’s merchant marine and shelled a Chilean city. While the attacks were militarily successful, the rest of the world was quick to condemn Spanish actions. Spain found itself with even fewer friends as Britain and America condemned the attacks.

Spain eventually gave up on the war without having captured any ground beyond the original guano-soaked gains in the Chincha Islands. As the Spanish withdrew, Peru took the islands again and have continued to collect the guano since.

The Chincha Islands War wasn’t the only conflict the nations fought for guano. The War of the Pacific from 1879-1884 was partially over guano deposits in the Atacama Desert.

NOW: 4 of the weirdest things the Nazis ever did

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The first openly-gay service member fought the Air Force to a standstill

Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.


North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)

Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.

In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.

He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Matlovich receiving the Bronze Star while deployed to Vietnam as an Airman 1st Class. (leonardmatlovich.com)

His supervisors called him “dedicated, sincere, and responsible,” and “absolutely superior in every respect.”

Matlovich received  a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Leonard Matlovich recovering from his wounds in a Vietnam field hospital.

That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.

He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.

In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.

All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.

He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Matlovich with his honorable discharge certificate.

Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.

When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:

“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Matlovich’s tombstone in Congressional Cemetery.

Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.

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This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.


“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
Light armored vehicles with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 traverse the rocky terrain of the Sinjar Mountains. Photo by Sgt. Eric Schwartz.

Lasers, Railguns, Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.

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An Air Force pilot used a commercial GPS system during the Iraq War

While flying an F-16 in the Iraq War, Air Force pilot Raj Shah had a multimillion-dollar global positioning system at his disposal. While flying combat missions in 2006, he had everything the Air Force thought he might need, including the global coordinates of his intended targets. 

His problem was there was no way of looking at the military-specific system to know where he was in relation to those targets. There was no little plane icon on the screen to indicate where he was. No dot. Not even a little triangle. 

It seems that many millions of dollars may pay for innovation, but a little common sense came at a much higher price – or did it? Shah found a simple fix, and began to revolutionize the way the U.S. military interacts with maybe its greatest asset of the 21st century: Big Tech. 

While flying those missions, it occurred to Shah that civilian-grade GPS technology was far surpassing anything the military had. The F-16 took its first flight some 47 years ago and even though its avionics and other tech had been upgraded since, getting those upgrades often comes with some intense budgetary wrangling. 

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
“In one mile — recalculating… in three miles — recalculating…” (U.S. Air Force photo SMSgt Thomas Meneguin)

Needless to say, it did not have Waze or Google Maps available to the pilots. While neither of those apps were available back then, the F-16 didn’t have the latest and greatest that was. And despite what Donald Rumsfeld has famously said about going to war with the army you have, Shah thought he could do better.

When he was able to go home on leave, one of the first things the pilot did was pick up an iPAQ HW-6500, a PC-based digital assistant launched by Compaq in the year 2000. He then loaded a run-of-the-mill aviation map application. When he returned to duty in Iraq, he put the iPAQ on his lap and used that to aid his navigation, ignoring the ultra-expensive software on his F-16. 

North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack
I mean… that’s fair. This thing looks complicated anyway (U.S. Navy)

Shah would later head the Silicon Valley-based Defense Innovation Unit, a Pentagon office that not only specializes in working with America’s Big Tech sector, but is able to fast-track the funding of special prototypes. This was especially important as a way to integrate emerging technologies into the U.S. military at a time when American military dominance relied on it staying ahead of technological rivals. 

The DIUx (the “x” stands for “experimental”) was founded in 2015 to do just that. Using an old Space Race-era law that allowed NASA to stay one step ahead of the Soviet Union, the DIUx was able to procure new technologies. The law was called “Other Transaction Authority” (OTA), and was a fast lane for the military and defense contractors to introduce new tech to the U.S. government and its various agencies. 

That same year, Congress passed a law expanding the use of OTA to various other projects, so long as it was blessed by the Pentagon brass for its military effectiveness. Silicon Valley executives now had a reason to sit down with U.S. government and military officials, knowing there could be a deal within weeks – instead of months or years. 

Raj Shah, the F-16 pilot who originally flew missions in the Iraq War with a civilian GPS system, took over as head of the DIUx office in 2016 and expanded its reach beyond Silicon Valley. By the time he left the post in 2018, he had branch offices in Boston and in Austin, Texas, two other important sectors of technological innovation and development. 

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