The British flying Jeep of World War II - We Are The Mighty
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The British flying Jeep of World War II

How many of you science fiction buffs have fantasized about zipping around town in your very own flying car? Sure, a trip in a helicopter or airplane has now become the standard or even mundane mode of long distance travel, but imagine taking your very own flying machine on a trip across town, presumably withThe Jetsons‘ theme song blasting in the background. With advances in modern technology, it is only a matter of time right? What may surprise you though, is that way back in 1942, twenty years before Americans were meeting George Jetson and marveling at The Jetsons‘ flying car, the British Military actually had their very own flying jeep.


The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Wikipedia

It was right smack in the middle of the Second World War and the military needed to find a way to airdrop more than messages, medical supplies or rations. They wanted to sky dive off-road vehicles to provide transportation for their infantry soldiers and other military personnel. They had previously tested the Hafner Rotachute, a rotor equipped parachute towed by an airplane with the objective of delivering armed soldiers more precisely to the battlefield, and they figured they could apply similar technology to a large vehicle.

So they looked to Raoul Hafner again. Hafner was an Austrian engineer – a contemporary and admirer of Juan de la Cierva, that Spanish pioneer of rotary-winged flight – with a passion for helicopters. Hafner first designed the Rotachute and later conceptualized its spin-off the Hafter Rotabuggy. While both machines used rotor technology, the Rotachute was actually a fabric-covered capsule with room for one pilot and a notch for his weapon with fairing in the rear and an integrated tail. After various modifications, the first successful launch occurred on June 17, 1942 from a de Havilland Tiger Moth. Taking off, the airplane towed the Rotachute on a 300 foot towline and released it at an altitude of 200 feet. A rough landing necessitated further improvements in the form of a stabilizing wheel and fins to improve stability.

In the case of the Rotabuggy the question was how to build a vehicle that they could fly and drop from a height without causing damage. They did some tests using a regular (non-flying) 4×4 wartime jeep- a Willys MB- loaded with concrete and discovered that dropping it from heights up to a pretty impressive 2.35 metres (7.7 ft) could work without damaging the unmodified jeep.

With durable jeep in hand, they then outfitted it with a 40 ft rotor as well as a streamlined tail fairing with twin rudderless fins. For added toughness, they attached Perspex door panels, while stripping it clean of its motor. Inside they installed a steering wheel for the driver and a rotor control for the pilot and other navigational instruments. So visually you had the now-bantamweight jeep in front with two guys inside, a driver and a pilot, a rotor on top and a tail bringing up the rear. Welcome to the Blitz Flying Jeep!

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Wikipedia

In November of 1943, the flying trials started at Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Leeds. The first challenge was how to get the jeep up in the air. As so often happens with first attempts, during the first test flight the jeep literally failed to get off the ground. It ended miserably as they used a lorry to tow the flying jeep but it couldn’t get enough speed to lift the Willys MB airborne. During the second attempt, the jeep was towed by a heavier and more powerful Bentley automobile and it flew, gliding at speeds of reportedly about 45 to 65 mph. Later, they tested the jeep behind an RAF Whitley bomber, managing to achieve an altitude of about 122 meters (approximately 400 ft) in one ten minute flight in September of 1944.

While the records show that in the end the Flying Jeep worked very satisfactorily, there is an account of a witness who observed a rather shaken and exhausted pilot emerge to lie down relieved after one terrifying test flight. Apparently it had taken superhuman effort for him to handle the control column on that particular flight, which led to a rather scary, bobbing and weaving, bumpy ride. When the jeep finally dropped safely to the ground, the driver took over. After the vehicle came to a stop, reports say the ensuing silence was protracted, then the pilot was helped out to a spot adjacent to the runway where he lay down to rest and collect himself.

Although the Flying Jeep machine was improved with upgraded fins and rotor functionality, perhaps it was just as well that its further development was abandoned after military gliders, like the Airspeed Horsa, that could transport vehicles, were introduced.

Bonus Facts:

  • Raoul Hafner was an Austrian national and thus was classified as an enemy alien and placed in an internment camp in England during the start of WWII. He obtained his naturalization and was soon released and put to work by the government as previously described. He later became interested in applying his knowledge to sailboat design and died in a sailing accident in 1980.
  • Raoul Hafner’s daughter Ingrid became a British actress. She was best known for playing Carol in the TV seriesThe Avengers.
  •  In the 1950s, the Americans developed a prototype of a flying jeep known as the Airgeep but like it’s British predecessor it didn’t make it to the battlefield.
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The new Snakes Eyes movie looks as awesome as he is

After being delayed over a year by COVID, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is scheduled for release in theaters on July 23, 2021. The film stars Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame as the titular character. As the film’s name states, it also serves as an origin story for the classic character and reboots the G.I. Joe film series.

Golding replaces Darth Maul actor Ray Park who portrayed Snake Eyes in previous G.I. Joe films. The reboot also stars Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Haruka Abe as Akiko, Tahehiro Hira as Kenta, and Iko Uwais as Hard Master.

After saving the life of the heir apparent to the ancient Japanese Arashikage clan, tenacious loner Snake Eyes is welcomed by the family. In Japan, the Arashikage teach him the ways of the ninja warrior and give him the home he has been searching for. However, when secrets of his past come to light, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins was directed by Robert Schwentke who also directed the action films Red and R.I.P.D. Filming began in October 2019 in Vancouver and wrapped in February 2020 in Japan. Originally scheduled to release on March 27, 2020, the film was delayed due to COVID. In March 2021, Golding announced that they were doing reshoots for the film. As COVID restrictions lift across the country, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is now slated for a theatrical release on July 23, 2021 in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema and IMAX.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
(Paramount Pictures)
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Air Force defends nuclear cruise missile

The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.


At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated — given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs, and submarine-launched nuclear firepower.

However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
US Air Force image by R.L. House

Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.

The Long Range Stand-Off, or LRSO, weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52.  The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.

Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.

While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
AGM-86 ALCM cruise missile

“We’ve had cruise missiles for a very long time. The first cruise missile was the hound dog, so we’ve had cruise missiles since the 1970’s and what we’re doing now is developing a long-range standoff weapon for a modern A2-AD (defensed Anti-Access/Area Denial) environment. People write articles that say these weapons are destabilizing, but I don’t understand that. They’re not destabilizing when they’re protecting your nation,” Weinstein said.

In effect, the rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.

Furthermore, Dave Majumdar from The National Interest writes that Russia is now developing a next-generation S-500 air-defense system able to destroy enemy aircraft at distances up to 125 miles.

Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.

Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber or services now-in-development next-generation bomber, the B-21, might be challenged to attack without detection.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
A B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

A stealthy, high-tech nuclear armed cruise missile, such as an LRSO, may indeed in some cases be one of a very few weapons able to hold certain heavily defended or hard-to-reach targets at risk.

The U.S. Air Force has released a request for proposals, RFP, to industry for its Long Range Standoff, or LRSO, nuclear cruise missile program.  Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017, a service statement said.

A report in “Inside Defense” says the service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.

Along these lines, a report from “War is Boring” explains that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 calls for around $1.8 billion in spending on the missile during the next five years.

“There will be two versions—one to carry an updated W80 thermonuclear warhead, and another packed with conventional explosives for non-nuclear attacks,” the War is Boring report states.

The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.

LRSO to Keep the Peace

Weinstein made the argument that if, for example, the Russian military believed having an advanced nuclear cruise missile would give them a distinct advantage – they would be likely to pursue it. As a result, US deterrence strategy needs to ensure its offensive nuclear fire power can match or exceed that of any potential rival. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for why many US military leaders believe it is vital for the Air Force to have an operational LRSO.

“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” he said.

However, several reports have cited a group of US Senators who are making the case against development of LRSO, claiming it would both be redundant, too costly and too “destabilizing.” The concern, grounded in nuclear non-proliferation sensibilities, maintains it could further inspire nuclear arms-race type provocations and introduce new, more threatening elements into the air-triad of the nuclear arsenal.

In addition, a report in The National Interest cites the Federation of American Scientists as saying that LRSO would be redundant, expensive and not necessary.

“The FAS believes that a new, stealthy and conventionally armed cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is a better and cheaper choice. “The new nuclear cruise missile will not be able to threaten targets that cannot be threatened with other existing nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, according to the report from Mike Peck of The National Interest.

At the same time, the FAS statement does not seem to address the concern from Air Force leaders that a longer-range nuclear threat may, in fact, be necessary in today’s high-tech threat environment. The LRSO, naturally, is being engineered to launch both nuclear and conventional attacks. While many details and plans for the weapon are, quite naturally, not available for public discussion, it takes little imagination to point out that the LRSO is being designed to be much more capable than both the ALCM and JASSM-ER in terms of range, command and control technology and stealth characteristics.

Weinstein also reiterated that the existence of an LRSO will not destabilize decision-making regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons. He emphasized that, despite the presence of an LRSO, nuclear weapons will only be fired by the President of the United States.

“The actual truism when it comes to nuclear weapons is that no one in the United States military releases nuclear weapons – nobody. The President of the United States releases nuclear weapons, therefore when we develop new capability based on the environment we’re in, based on defensive systems that other nations have, it doesn’t make us able to use them any quicker or any faster,” Weinstein explained.

LRSO B-52

The historic and somewhat iconic B-52, which is now bombing ISIS, will be among the platforms to be armed with the emerging LRSO; the idea is to equip the large bomber with long-range conventional and nuclear attack potential. The Air Force is now upgrading the platform with new radios, data links, avionics and weapons capability to ensure the older aircraft remains relevant and function for at least several more decades.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
A B-52 Stratofortress | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths

“You have to look at the history of it. We needed something that would go high and fast and penetrate to say – ‘well the world has changed.’ It goes low and we use it in conventional conflicts, and then we use it to fight ISIS and we use it to defend on a nuclear standpoint, and it’s a great platform that has many years left in it,” Weinstein said.

Air Force Statement: LRSO Acquisition

“The RFP identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase.  After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors.  The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.”

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This is the Soviet soldier found alive 30 years after dying in Afghanistan

Shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Russian 101st Motorized Rifles were caught in a firefight with the Mujahideen near the city of Herat. A young soldier, 20-year-old Bakhretdin Khakimov, was wounded in the fighting, lost on the battlefield, and presumed dead.


Until recently.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Bakhretdin Khakimov in 1980 and now.

Khakimov was a draftee from Samarkand who had only been in the Red Army a short time when he was injured in Herat Province, near Shindand. Some 30 years later, a group of Soviet war veterans founded the Committee for International Soldiers, a group whose mission is to find and identify missing Soviet soldiers or their remains. Most, like Khakimov, are presumed to be dead.

The young soldier now goes by the name of Sheikh Abdullah. He was rescued from the battlefield by locals, nursed back to health and opted to stay with those that helped him survive. He later married an Afghan woman and settled down to a semi-nomadic life. His wife has since died and he does the same work as the man who rescued him.

“I was wounded in the head and collapsed. I don’t remember much about that time,” he told TOLO news.

There are an estimated 264 Soviet soldiers currently missing from the 1979-1989 Afghan War. The Committee for International Soldiers actually found 29 living servicemen, 22 of which were repatriated to the former Soviet Union. The rest stayed in Afghanistan. The CIS has also identified 15 graves of Soviet war dead, exhuming and identifying five of those.

It is estimated that the decade-long war cost the Soviet Union 15,000 lives — not to mention those of an estimated one million Afghan civilians.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Khakimov poses with an old photo of himself in the Shindand area of Herat Province.

Bakhretdin Khakimov was an ethnic Uzbek, with family roots not far from Afghanistan’s northern borders. Staying in the country was dangerous for Khakimov and those like him. The USSR would trade submachine guns to locals in exchange for “turncoats” trying to defect from the Red Army.

Russians captured by the Mujahideen did not fare so well — they could expect to be tortured to death. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Soviet soldiers were often brutally mistreated by their own officers. They would then take out their rage on the civilian population, sometimes even wiping out entire villages.

The last two battalions of Russian spetsnaz crossed the “Friendship” Bridge into neighboring Uzbekistan on Feb. 15, 1989. At that moment, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, told reporters, “There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind me.” He was wrong.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Soviet Troops Withdraw from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, Feb. 15, 1989.

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It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.


The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.

The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.

The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.

Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.

Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.

The British flying Jeep of World War II Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.

Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo by Michael Vadon

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.

His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

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US general calls Iran ‘greatest threat’ in Middle East

Iran’s malignant influence is the most significant threat to Middle East security, according to the top U.S. general in the region.


The British flying Jeep of World War II
Iranian soldiers on parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Middle East remains a highly unstable region, ripe for continued conflict, Army Gen. Joseph Votel warned the Senate Committee on Armed Services Thursday. Of the multitude of challenges in the region, Iran is the primary concern in the long term, according to the general.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

He added that Iran’s support of the Assad regime in Syria and exploitation of Shia Muslim population centers are parts of its “malign influence.”

Votel’s assessment comes after a significant increase in Iranian provocation in the Middle East over the last several months. Iranian naval vessels harass U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf using boat swarm tactics and the regime in Tehran continues its fiery rhetoric against the U.S. and its allies.

Iran has also continued to support various proxy groups across the Middle East, including the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which is actively engaged against the U.S. and Saudi-supported government. The Popular Mobilization Units, a conglomerate of mostly Shia militia units backed by Iran, continue to play a major role in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, allowing Iran to continue to entrench itself in the Iraqi government.

“Since Iran cannot strike the U.S. homeland conventionally the way the United States can strike the Iranian homeland with near impunity, Tehran seeks ways to balance the deterrence equation by threatening U.S. interests worldwide through proxy terrorism and asymmetric operations,” said J. Matthew McCinnis, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who specializes in Iranian strategy, while testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December.

McInnis added that Iran will likely continue to use proxy groups as a means of deterrence against the U.S., meaning Votel and the U.S. military will likely continue to face an Iranian threat for some time to come.

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This is why the US is considering sending weapons to Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.


Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.

Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.

The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
A Ukrainian soldier with the 1st Battalion, 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade fires a modified DSHsK heavy machine gun to cover the advance of fellow 1-28 soldiers during a live-fire training exercise. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones

The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.

Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.

“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.

Articles

This movie about an Iraq War troop based on an acclaimed book is a surefire Oscar contender

The British flying Jeep of World War II


It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.

Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.

It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.

Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.

The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.

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At military town hall President says Colin Kaepernick should appreciate troops’ sacrifice

Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.


President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.

When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.

“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”

He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”

The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”

Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.

“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”

The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.

“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”

U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.

“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”

U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.

The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.

Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”

Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.

“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”

Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.

“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.

The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.

“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”

The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.

The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.

“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”

 

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The Mighty TV’s Top 10 Videos of 2014

So, when we say “2014” that means about 49 days that WATM was live, but thanks to you, our rapidly growing audience, we have had some hits. Here are the Top 10 among them (ranked using a proprietary algorithm that uses page views, video plays on two domains, and editorial intangibles):


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1. WOUNDED MARINE FINDS NEW LIFE AS AN UNDERWEAR MODEL

Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps with every intention of making a career out of it, but that plan was changed by an insurgent IED. See how he finds a new life in the fast-paced world of modeling.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

2. HOW THE SERGEANT MAJOR STOLE CHRISTMAS

A grumpy Sergeant Major hatches a plan to steal Christmas from the troops of Troop-ville.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

3. CAN ISIS BE STOPPED? – 3 VETS WALK INTO A BAR

Host Todd Bowers leads a discussion with guests Andrew Exum and Blake Hall about how the military might effectively deal with the ISIS threat.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

4. NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEAUTY PAGEANT – BEHIND THE SCENES AT MS. VET AMERICA

Meet ‘the women beyond the uniform’ at the 2014 Miss Veteran America competition. Find out how walking the runway helps support homeless female veterans and their children.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

5. SOLDIER CATCHES HER SECOND WIND AS A MODEL AND ACTRESS AFTER SURVIVING CANCER

Mylee Cardenas had a plan: stay in the Army until they begged her to leave. But her dreams of becoming a career soldier were derailed by cancer. See how she finds her second wind in life as a model and actress.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

6. DOES AMERICA STILL SUPPORT THE TROOPS? – 3 VETS WALK INTO A BAR

Host Todd Bowers leads a discussion with guests Andrew Exum and TM Gibbons-Neff about what “support the troops” means thirteen-plus years into the war.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

7. ARE WE SAFER NOW THAN BEFORE 9/11? – 3 VETS WALK INTO A BAR

Host Todd Bowers asks former Army Ranger Blake Hall and Marine vet TM Gibbons-Neff whether they think the homeland is safer as a result of 13 years of war. Their answers might surprise you.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

8. GUARDSMEN WRESTLE WITH THE DECISION TO GO TO WAR – SHEPHERDS OF HELMAND

In the first episode of this groundbreaking documentary series, members of the Oregon National Guard deal with the decision to join the unit as it prepares to deploy to Afghanistan.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

9. THIS 93-YEAR-OLD FORMER MARINE COULD BEAT YOU UP

Meet Stella, one of the first females in Connecticut to sign up for the Marine Corps during WWII. Find out how her fighting spirit and willingness to try new things keep her in the fight.

The British flying Jeep of World War II

10. INSIDE THE COCKPIT OF THE MILITARY’S NEXT-GENERATION HELICOPTER – BOOTS ON THE GROUND

The V-22 Osprey was the first generation of “tiltrotor” aircraft, and now the manufacturer is introducing the “Valor,” a prototype that claims to take the Osprey’s unique capability to the next level. How will it work, and will the Army buy it?

Happy New Year from the WATM team, and look for many more great videos at The Mighty TV in 2015.

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These Are The Best Pictures From The Military This Week

Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found:


AIR FORCE

A B-52H Stratofortress flies during Cope North 15, Feb. 17, 2015, off the coast of Guam. During the exercise, the U.S., Japan and Australia air forces worked on developing combat capabilities enhancing air superiority, electronic warfare, air interdiction, tactical airlift and aerial refueling. The B-52H is assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson/USAF

Exercise Cope North 15 participants and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Philippine Air Force take a group photo Feb. 13, 2015, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson/USAF

NAVY

SASEBO, Japan (Feb. 26, 2015) Lt. j.g. Weston Floyd, ballistic missile defense officer, Cmdr. Chad Graham, executive officer, and Chief Operations Specialist Chris Ford prepare to participate in a fleet synthetic training joint exercise aboard the Arleigh-burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56).

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist First Class Joshua Hammond/USN

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 26, 2015) Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of Task Force (CTF) 51, addresses Sailors and Marines during an all-hands call on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason M. Graham/USN

ARMY

Soldiers train with multinational soldiers at the International Special Training Center Advanced Medical First Responder Course (ISTC), conducted by the ISTC Medical Branch, in Pfullendorf, Germany, Feb. 17-19, 2015.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Visual Information Specialist, Jason Johnston/US Army

Soldiers participate in the chin up portion of the Ranger Physical Fitness Assessment (RPFA) on Fort Benning, Ga., Feb. 7, 2015, as part of the Ranger Training Assessment Course. In order to pass the RPFA, Soldiers must successfully do 49 push ups, 59 sit ups, a 2.5-mile run within 20 minutes, and six chin ups.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Sgt. Sara Wakai/US Army

MARINE CORPS

An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to take off aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2) during Amphibious Squadron/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT) off the coast of San Diego, Feb. 24, 2015.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos/USMC

Marines extinguish a fuel fire at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma during live-burn training Feb. 21, 2015. The Marines worked together to contain and extinguish the fire.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Lance Cpl. Janessa K. Pon/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bill Glenn and Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Korte, members of the military dive team aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, are hoisted out of icy water after completing an underwater inspection of the ship while moored at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Jan. 23, 2015.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener/USCG

The crew sees alit of amazing wildlife in Antarctica. We’re going to show you some of our favorite shots today. A seal lay on the ice in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star while the ship is hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.

The British flying Jeep of World War II
Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Rodriguez/USCG

NOW: The 12 Funniest Military Memes This Week  

AND: 13 Signs You’re An Infantryman

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A computer algorithm could help predict ISIS’ next big attack

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A computer scientist has pioneered an artificial intelligence-driven method of modeling the behaviors of militant groups, and the Department of Defense is interested.

In a paper titled “Mining for Causal Relationships: A Data-Driven Study of the Islamic State,” presented at the 2015 Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, a team led by Paulo Shakarian of Arizona State University used 2,200 individual data points on ISIS-related incidents from the Institute for the Study of War to build a descriptive model — an algorithm that models ISIS’s behavior.

Shakarian, who is a former Army officer, DARPA military fellow, and assistant professor at West Point, applied principals of computer science to turn the raw reports from ISW into a database which he could then analyze.

As the paper notes, “ISIS has displayed a high level of sophistication and discipline in its military operations.” Even so, it’s possible to glimpse patterns in their operations, and the paper found strong correlations between certain tactics.

For instance, a spike in car bombs in Baghdad was very often followed by ISIS attacks in northern Iraqi cities. Based on this relationship, the paper suggests that ISIS uses the car bombs to draw Iraqi security forces away from ISIS infantry pursuing other targets.

In the paper, Shakarain and his research partners identified two targets that ISIS seems to value especially highly: Balad and Baiji. Baiji is home to a major oil refinery and Balad is near an important government air base.

Shakarain described the paper as a “proof of concept,” telling Business Insider that “it’s not a really big data set, but it’s still significant.” Based on limited data from the only the second half of 2014, the paper focused only on modeling the past behavior of the elusive terror group.

“We came up with a description of their behavior, not any predictions,” explained Shakarian.

Shakarian said that there were people in the Department of Defense who “found the study very interesting.” And he thinks that his kind of computer science-driven research methods will become more accepted inside the Pentagon.

“It’s been revolutionary for DoD to see what you can do with this much data,” Shakarian told Business Insider. The ASU algorithm, updated with real-time data from the Pentagon, could be a powerful analytical tool.

Shakarian is excited at the prospect of applying his machine-learning methods to complex security situations around the world. “People are going to the battlefield with computers and recording data. We all forget how new this stuff is.” Shakarian noted that “It’s only been happening in the last 10-15 years where you have this much high-resolution data.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This is Russia’s ‘father of all bombs’ in response to the U.S.’s ‘mother of all bombs’

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Russian Government Photo


On September 11, 2007, Russia announced to the world that it had successfully tested the world’s most powerful nonnuclear bomb.

The “father of all Bombs,” (FOAB)named in response to America’s smaller “mother of all Bombs,” has the power of a nuclear bomb but does not produce chemical or radioactive fallout.

“The results of tests of the aviation explosive device that has been created have shown that it is comparable with nuclear weapons in its efficiency and potential,” Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the Russian armed forces, told Russia’s ORT First Channel in 2007.

“The main destruction is inflicted by an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature. All that is alive merely evaporates. At the same time, I want to stress that the action of this weapon does not contaminate the environment, in contrast to a nuclear one.”

The lack of environmental damage from the FOAB is as a double-edged sword as it makes the bomb less likely to cause the sort of massive destruction that a nuclear bomb would produce through fallout. This lack of fallout, though, also heightens the chances that the FOAB would be used in a military confrontation.

The FOAB, according to RT, is a thermobaric bomb. This sort of weapon explodes in midair, which ignites a fuel-air mixture.

This then proceeds to cause an incredibly hot and powerful outward blast that vaporizes targets and can collapse structures. The FOAB can produce blasts and aftershocks as powerful as a nuclear blast.

The blast from the FOAB is equivalent to a blast yield of 44 tons of TNT. The FOAB has a destruction radius of nearly 1,000 feet.

Everything within that area becomes superheated to the point that surfaces melt, and the ground takes on an almost moon-like quality.

In addition, the burning of gases within the vicinity by the blast produces a vacuum, which can compound damage by dragging nearby objects toward the epicenter of the explosion.

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