The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s - We Are The Mighty
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The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during an especially dangerous period of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985 — a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.

This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.

In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.

There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.

Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”

This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.

In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.

As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.

Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its

At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.

The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”

But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.

The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.

There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.

That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”

Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.

Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.

More from Business Insider:

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

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NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

Maritime patrol aircraft from several NATO countries — including United States Navy P-8 Poseidons — are scrambling to carry out a mission that comes from the darkest days of the Cold War: Locating sneaky Russian submarines skulking around good-guy ships.


In this case, NATO’s prey is at least one Oscar-class nuclear cruise missile submarine.

According to a report by The Aviationist, the hunt is on since two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), are operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DoD photo)

While most submarines are designed to target an enemy merchant fleet, submarines, or enemy surface combatants, the Oscar was designed to take out two kinds of ships: supercarriers like the Eisenhower and de Gaulle or large-deck amphibious assault ships like the USS Wasp (LHD 1).

These are tough ships, not likely to go down after taking a single hit from a torpedo.

The main weapons of the 19,400-ton Oscar are its 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles. With a warhead of over 1,650 pounds, a top speed of Mach 2.5, and a range of roughly 300 nautical miles, the Shipwreck is one powerful missile.

Oscar-class submarines also can fire torpedoes, with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes. The 650mm torpedoes in the Russian inventory are arguably the most powerful in the world – and designed to kill escorts like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or the Ticonderoga-class cruiser with one hit using a torpedo called the 65-76.

The 65-76 has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, a top speed of 50 knots and delivers a warhead of nearly 2,000 pounds. The Oscar’s 533mm torpedoes, like the TEST-71M, can handle surface ships as well, but also give this carrier-killer a weapon to protect itself from submarines hunting it.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
A look at the SS-N-19 cells on the Soviet battlecruiser Kirov. 24 of these missiles are on an Oscar-class sub (DOD photo)

According to the 16th edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Russia has seven Oscar-class submarines in service out of an original inventory of 13.

One, the Kursk, sank after an accidental explosion in 2000, and five others were retired. The seven survivors are the target of modernization plans.

According to a report from IHS Janes, they are slated to replace the 24 SS-N-19s with as many as 72 SS-N-26 “Sapless” or SS-N-27 “Sizzler” cruise missiles.

This Oscar hunt raises a very big question: Who is hunting whom? Is the Oscar (or Oscars) hunting the carriers, or is NATO hunting the Oscar (or Oscars)?

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6 Tips For Being The Perfect Wingman

 


The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

Dating in the military is tough. There are rules against fraternization: no dating within your unit, no public displays of affection, and no dating of subordinate. On top of all of these rules, troops work long hours and have myriad duty responsibilities, so there’s very little time to get off base and meet someone.

So when liberty arrives, service members have to maximize their chances. This is where the a good wingman can come in handy.

Also Read: 13 Tips For Dating On A US Navy Ship

Being the perfect wingman is more than just accompanying your buddy for a night out in town. It takes dedication, humility, and a sixth sense. Here are six tips for being the perfect wingman:

1. Never let your buddy feel stupid.

funny gifs

Your job is to keep your buddy feeling good about himself no matter what.

2. Know when to bail your buddy from danger.

You do whatever it takes to save your buddy from making a mistake.

3. Never outshine your buddy.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Photo: wing-manning.tumblr.com

Remember, you’re the wingman, not the lead. Your job is to play the support role.

4. Know when to give your buddy space.

Here’s where the sixth sense comes into play.

5. If he or she is happy, you’re happy.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch/US Navy

You stand back and keep an eye on your buddy the remainder of the night.

6. Be there if your buddy happens to crash and burn.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

Learn from your buddy. Next time, it’s his or her turn to be the wingman.

NOW: 5 Signs You’ve Been In The Barracks Way Too Long

OR: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator

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The invasion of Iraq began 13 years ago

U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq 13 years ago today,  kicking off a war that would last until the end of 2011.


President George W. Bush had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to cede power and leave the country by early-morning Mar. 20, 2003. American forces stepped off the line of departure 90 minutes after the clock ran out.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
An F-117A Nighthawk drops a laser-guided bomb during training. Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

Jets and Tomahawk missiles struck government and military targets deep within the country, including some within Baghdad. The first strike was conducted by F-117 stealth fighters against Dora Farms, a retreat near Baghdad where Saddam and two of his sons were believed to be that morning.

Most of Dora Farms was destroyed in the attack, but Saddam had left the area long before the bombs fell.

Saddam quickly went into hiding as CIA operatives and special operations troops called in airstrikes throughout Iraq. Fearful that the Iraqi military would destroy infrastructure and set traps for advancing troops like they did in the First Persian Gulf War, the coalition sent in ground forces just hours after the first airstrikes.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
British Royal Marines prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Photo: Ministry of Defence Dave Coombs

U.S. soldiers under V Corps and Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force invaded from Kuwait into Iraq towards Baghdad.

At the same time, U.S. Marines, British forces, and Polish commandos began an assault over land and sea against Al Faw peninsula and the port city of Umm Qasr. The area is home to a large amount of oil infrastructure and it controls waterways that would be vital to moving ships loaded with supplies into the country.

Just behind the front lines, Spanish troops moved into Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John L. Houghton, Jr.

The initial invasion ran from Mar. 20 to May 1 and was an unqualified success. While Saddam Hussein managed to escape into hiding, his forces put up little resistance. U.S. and allied forces were able to capture the entire country with little damage to infrastructure. American troops were pushing into Baghdad and walking American flags through palaces owned by Saddam by early April, just weeks after the invasion began.

Of course, things got more complicated after that, to put it mildly. Sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency against the new government of Iraq and the coalition forces would drag out the war for another 8 years.

But that’s another story . . . .

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6 kick ass fusions of old weapons with new technology

While the high-tech weapon systems of today are cool, there is always a sense of nostalgia for older weapons. So, what if you could get the best of both? Say, give a classic weapons system a boost from modern technology – or use a blast from the past to make a modern system much better?


Here are a few options:

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
The M50 Ontos was a marginal tank killer but was devastating against infantry. Imagine what a .50, digital targeting and a remote operation system could do? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: M50 Ontos

New Systems: Thermal imaging sights, digital fire control and laser range finder from the M1 Abrams; Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with M2 .50-caliber machine gun

The M50 Ontos is an obscure vehicle that never really had a chance to fulfill its role as an anti-tank weapon, but it proved to be a potent weapon against infantry. Six 106mm recoilless rifles tend to make a point very well.

But the Ontos had to get close to guarantee hits. It also lacked secondary armament beyond a M1919 .30-caliber machine gun. But what if the Ontos had the fire-control system and thermal sights of the M1A2 Abrams? Now the 106mm rifles can gain more accuracy from further out.

The Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station with Ma Deuce can give the Ontos a better chance to keep an enemy RPG team from getting too close.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

Old System: M551 Sheridan

New System: M256A1 120mm Gun

The M551 Sheridan once provided a lot of firepower for the 82nd Airborne Division. The air-drop capability meant that the paratroopers were far less likely to be mere speed bumps. And the 152mm cannon could do a number on buildings and bunkers.

But let’s be honest, the gun could be less than reliable, especially when using the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile. So, why not go with the same gun used on the M1A2 Abrams tank? Not only does this gun have the ability to beat just about any tank in the world today, logistics are simpler.

That counts as a win-win.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Oshkosh Defense

Old System: M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle

New System: Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

While systems like the BGM-71 TOW and FGM-148 Javelin provide a punch, those missiles can be expensive. But the need for fire support remains.

So, why not look for something cheaper? The M40 recoilless rifle could fit that bill. The shells are cheap, pack a decent punch, but they also can limit collateral damage in ways that a missile can’t (there’s no need to worry about burning fuel).

Think that is a stretch? In his book, “Parliament of Whores,” P.J. O’Rourke recounted how an Army unit pulled recoilless rifles out of storage for Operation Just Cause.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
The A1 Skyraider was one of the most badass CAS planes in Vietnam. What about making it into an A-10 equivalent? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: A-1 Skyraider

New Systems: AGM-114 Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs, M230 chain gun, Sniper ER Targeting pod — aka a crap ton of modern aerial firepower.

The Spad did much of what the A-10 does now: it loitered, carried a big bomb load, and was generally loved by ground troops.

So, what would be a more interesting fusion than to do to the Spad what was done for the A-10 – to wit, give it the ability to use precision-guided weapons?

The Spad could carry up to 8,000 pounds of bombs. Imagine how many targets one equipped with JDAM or Hellfire could take out in a single sortie!

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Ready the guns! Full broadside!…(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: Sail Frigate USS Constitution (IX 21)

(Relatively) New System: M116 75mm Pack Howitzer

USS Constitution (IX 21) kicked a lot of butt during her service career. But imagine what this lightweight (1,439 pounds) howitzer would do.

It’s hard to imagine which would be the bigger game-changer in a fight: The higher rate of fire that the M116 would provide, or the high-explosive shells it could shoot up to five and half miles away.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Old System: 8-inch/55 Mk 71 Gun

New System: Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer

Let’s face it. The later versions of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers could use a little more anti-surface punch. The answer may lie in bringing back the Mk 71, an eight-inch gun capable of firing up to 12 rounds a minute. This could also help alleviate the shortfalls in fire support with the retirement of the Iowa-class battleships and the truncation of Zumwalt production from 32 vessels to three. Eight-inch rounds abound, and the precision guidance used on Excalibur, Copperhead, and Vulcano could be adapted to this gun as well.

Old System: W48 155mm nuclear projectile

New System: Excalibur, Copperhead and Vulcano precision guidance systems

With a yield of .072 kilotons (that is 72 tons of TNT), the W48 was intended for use against tactical targets from a 155mm howitzer. But artillery rounds can miss (no, it’s not about hitting the ground). But suppose you merged the W48 with the Excalibur, creating a W48 Mod 2? Now, that 128-pound package puts that .072-kiloton warhead within ten feet of the aiming point. Excalibur is not the only option: The laser-guided Copperhead and OTO Melara’s Vulcano packages would make the W48 a very potent weapon.

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The Army just appointed the first female Special Forces battalion commander

Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.


It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.

It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.

And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.

Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.

“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”

But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.

“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”

Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.

“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1hqYavS96U
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.

“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”

Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.

“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.

And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.

In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.

“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.

She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
A U.S. Army Cultural Support Team member from Special Operations Task Force – East, shakes the hand of a young Afghan, while on a presence patrol. The purpose of the patrol was to gain atmospherics from local villagers, and for the CST to interact with Afghan women, Kunar District, May 24.

Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.

But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.

Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.

Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.

Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.

The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces personnel from 3rd Special Forces Group perform room clearing and close quarters battle operations at Naval Station Pascagoula, Miss., during Southern Strike 17, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.

Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.

“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”

Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.

With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.

In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.

For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.

Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.

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Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

While Congress might have tinkered with the benefits many former servicemembers will receive when they leave the military beginning in 2018, the dizzying array of calculations, percentages, and investment tools now a part of a veteran’s future nest egg may come with a silver lining.


Potentially tax-free shopping for life.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act included significant changes to the military retirement system, including a reduction in retirement pay and matching contributions to a military Thrift Savings Plan. The so-called “blended retirement system” is similar to the kind of portable 401(k) that many civilian workers already have.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
This could be you in twenty years.

But in a separate deal, the Pentagon is set to approve a change to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service that would allow former honorably discharged servicemembers to shop at AAFES online for life.

For those not in the know, the Exchange is a department store-like retail outlet that also operates food courts, gas stations, liquor stores, and military clothing stores on U.S. military installations worldwide. While items do not have to be sold at cost (as they do at the commissary – the military grocery stores which are also on bases) if they are sold at the Exchange, they are sold tax-free.

This could mean tax-free commercial electronics for all!

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Time to relive those dorm room days.

The deal would not include access to the military commissary system.

Opening the Exchange service to all veterans would mean 20 million new customers and hundreds of millions in revenue for Morale, Welfare, Recreation services, which is where the dividends from Exchange services are reinvested, Military.com reports.

Access to the Exchange is currently restricted to military members who are active duty, guard, or reserve, retired or disabled military members, authorized family, and Medal of Honor recipients.

While the Pentagon says the proposal from Executive Resale Board is still under review, if approved, the new benefit would go into effect on November 11, 2017.

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That time those combat cameramen won an Oscar for covering the Battle of Tarawa

There were a lot of big name winners at the 17th Annual Academy Awards in 1945, Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, and… the United States Marine Corps. That’s right, USMC Combat Cameramen won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for their coverage of the Battle of Tarawa in 1943. Tarawa was unique because of the coverage COMCAM operators were able to give the battle.


The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
First Row: Tech. Sgt. Carlos Steele, Cpl. Jack Ely, Sgt Ferman H. Dixon, Staff Sgt. John F. Ercole, Cpl. E. Newcomb, and Sgt. Ernest J. Diet. Second Row: Pvt. Chris G. Demo, Sgt. Forrest Owens, Cpl. Jim R. Orton, and Cpl. Raymond Matjasic Back Row: Sgt. Roy Olund, Capt. Louis Hayward, Marine Gunner John F. Leopold, Staff Sgt. Norman Hatch. Pfc. William Kelliher was not present for the picture.

November 20-23 1943 saw a thousand Marines die fighting to take the tiny, two mile wide island of Tarawa from Imperial Japanese forces during World War II. Two thousand more Marines were injured. 4,700 Japanese died defending the island with only 17 surrendering to U.S. forces. Hundreds of Korean slave laborers also died.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Obie Newcombe, USMC Camerman

Combat Camera Marines with the 2nd Marine Division were along for the ride and after the battle, edited With the Marines at Tarawa, a twenty minute short film designed to bring the story of the battle to Americans on the home front. The goal was to give people as close to a first hand experience of the horrors of war as film could get them.

In an eleven minute newsreel from the Army-Navy Screen Magazine designed to be viewed by servicemen, Marine Corps Combat Cameraman Norm Hatch narrates the footage he filmed during the battle of Tarawa.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
USMC Combat Camerman Norm Hatch filming Bonneyman’s assault.

The narration was clearly written by a screenwriter (this is WWII propaganda, after all), and it includes a short skit as a premise for the story, but the combat footage is heavy and graphic at times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=222v=LnRvmCxSFMA

The end may seem out of place, but the quick construction of the airfield at Tarawa is a reminder of the importance of the battle and the need for the island’s strategic position. It’s also a good reminder of what Marines can do when called upon: The Japanese admiral commanding Tarawa boasted the Marines couldn’t take Tarawa with a million men in a hundred years.

It took 18,000 Marines only 76 hours.

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More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

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5 Reasons the Japanese didn’t launch a third attack on Pearl Harbor

There’s no doubt the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating blow to the U.S. military and its capabilities in the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t the crippling blow it was supposed to be, but with just one more attack, it could have been.

A full 21 of the Navy’s ships were damaged or destroyed in the attack, with three battleships being taken out permanently. Most were able to be repaired, re-floated, and re-entered into service. Much of the installation’s facilities, storage and infrastructure survived, however. Japanese officers wanted a third wave of attacks (and one even called for an invasion) to destroy those parts of the bases.

The third wave never came, but if it had, it would have been much more damaging to the U.S. war effort than attacking the ships. Admiral Chester Nimitz later noted that getting the American fleet operational would have taken more than a year if it had been destroyed, and the war would have lasted two more years than it did. 

Here’s why they decided not to.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Aerial view of “Battleship Row” moorings on the southern side of Ford Island, 10 December 1941, showing damage from the Japanese raid three days earlier. Diagonally, from left center to lower right are: USS Maryland (BB-46), lightly damaged, with the capsized USS Oklahoma (BB-37) outboard. A barge is alongside Oklahoma, supporting rescue efforts. USS Tennessee (BB-43), lightly damaged, with the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48) outboard. Note dark oil streaks on the harbor surface, originating from the sunken battleships. (U.S. Navy History and Heritage)

1. The Americans were no longer surprised.

The first wave came early in the morning, and despite a couple of warnings that something was amiss, the Japanese caught the American troops completely by surprise. The first wave of attacks were devastating, targeting the high-value capital ships in the harbor. It contained most of the bombers carrying specially modified shallow-water torpedoes. Dive bombers also attacked targets on shore and fighters strafed parked aircraft.

Japanese losses in the first wave numbered just nine planes. By the time the second wave came in, Americans had gotten to what defenses they could muster and were putting up a fight. The second wave suffered more significant losses than the first, with 20 downed planes and 74 more damaged. A third wave might have been devastating to the Japanese carriers’ defenses and they still needed to sail home. 

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
The first Japanese plane shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. American aircraft carriers were not in Pearl Harbor.

Even though the first wave of Japanese fighters were fitted to destroy the capital ships while they lay at anchor, it was the second wave’s primary objective to hit the American aircraft carriers as much as possible. As we know now, the U.S. Navy’s carriers were not at Pearl Harbor that morning, they were all away on separate missions. 

The Japanese did know that the American carriers were not at Pearl Harbor that day, but decided to proceed with the attack anyway. They believed it would be valuable to destroy all eight battleships, even if they didn’t know where the three operational carriers were. If on their way back to Japan, they had encountered the USS Saratoga, Enterprise, or Lexington with depleted aircraft, they would be risking their own carriers and airplanes. 

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
A Japanese Navy “Zero” taking off from the deck of the Akagi on the morning of December 7, 1941 (National Archives)

3. They couldn’t land at night.

Even though the attacks began early in the morning, aircraft and crews had to work substantially to land, rearm, refuel, and repair aircraft during the first and second waves. A third wave would have required a lot of preparation and effort. Turnaround times for the aircraft crews would have been substantial as well. 

By the time the planes were re-armed and ready, flew out to unload their third attacks, and returned to the Japanese carriers, they would have to be landing at night. In 1941, only the British Royal Navy had the ability to land aircraft at night. 

4. The Japanese fleet would have been low on fuel. 

Japanese Admiral Chūichi Nagumo positioned his fleet north of Pearl Harbor. The USS Enterprise sent its aircraft looking for Nagumo’s fleet south of Pearl Harbor. This was fortunate for the Japanese, because having to move too much or escape a pursuit would have left it low on fuel. Staying put would have risked his fuel situation. Actually, anything not in the plan would have.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
These maps, drawn post-war, illustrate the Japanese attack plan, and also give some perspective to just how far Nagumo’s fleet was from home (United States Army Center of Military History)

The time it would take to mount a third wave, no matter how destructive or necessary, in his eyes meant risking the fleet’s fuel supplies. If he ran dangerously low on the way home, he would have had to abandon some ships — ships that were now necessary to the war they just started. 

5. Nagumo thought he was finished.

It’s easy for armchair historians to question what the Japanese were thinking by not pressing their advantage. But the Japanese military had been wildly successful in combat up until this point. Its military doctrine said it should save its strength for the next battle after achieving its objective, rather than completely destroy an enemy force. It would come back to bite them in the coming days, all over the Pacific Theater. 

Nagumo believed the U.S. Pacific Fleet had been knocked out, and knowing the Japanese were advancing all over the Pacific area that very day, he knew they would need every man and plane. He was not willing to risk those men and planes on a battle he’d already won.

Feature image: U.S. Navy/ National Archives

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Air Force jets will control small groups of drones

The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.


At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
US Air Force

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot.  As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
US Air Force

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the  progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
US Air Force

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

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This military working dog was just recognized for actions that cost her a leg

“Lucky” Lucca is a Marine Corps working dog who successfully led about 400 patrols through combat zones without once allowing a service member under her care to be injured by IEDs, even on the day she lost her leg to a secondary IED after finding the primary. She received the Dickin Medal, an award for animal valor, Apr. 5, 2016.


Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham was her first handler. He deployed to Iraq with Lucca two times.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“She could see when I was getting kitted up for a mission, you could see her energy increase because she knew what time it was,” Willingham said. “I put the searching harness on Luca and she knew it was game on.”

Willingham later deployed with Lucca to Afghanistan and led 30 working dog and handler teams. When Willingham was sent to a new duty station, he asked one of his handlers, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, to take over as Lucca’s handler.

It was on Lucca and Rodriguez’s second deployment to Afghanistan that Lucca lost her leg. She had indicated the presence of one IED and Rodriguez showed the explosive ordnance team where it was. Lucca was looking for more IEDs when Rodriguez heard a loud boom and saw dust erupt under Lucca. Lucca immediately tried to return to Rodriguez.

“I see Lucca trying to get up and attempting to run towards me,” Rodriguez said. “At this point I took the same path she already had cleared and ran towards Lucca. I picked her up and started running towards the treeline.”

Rodriguez placed a tourniquet on Lucca and the pair were medevacced out. Lucca had lost her paw at the blast site. Doctors later had to amputate the rest of her leg. It didn’t keep her down for long.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“As soon as she woke up, she wanted to get up,” Rodriguez said.

“She was so quick to adapt to having three legs that in a few days she was walking on her own.”

Willingham adopted Lucca under Robbie’s Law which gives handlers the first chance to adopt retired working dogs. When it came time to decide who would escort Lucca to where Willingham lived in Helsinki, Finland, Willingham immediately asked for Rodriguez.

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
GIF: YouTube/PDSA

In retirement, Lucca has experienced snow for the first time and gotten to play on the beach with the Willingham family. See Lucca in action and hear the full story from Willingham and Rodriguez in this video:

Lucca received the Dickin Medal, known as the animal version of the Victoria Cross. The  Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for valor, the equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Honor.

Previous American recipients of the Dickin Medal include G.I. Joe, a pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and prevented the accidental bombing of American troops, and Salty and Roselle, two guide dogs for the blind who got their humans out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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15 of the most expensive projects abandoned by the US military

The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.


But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.

The abandoned projects are largely due to a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.

Sequestration, which is indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is the greatest threat to the US military currently, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.

Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially due to a lack of funds.

Future Combat Systems

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Army

A prototype of the Non-Line-of-Sight-Cannon, a component of the Future Combat Systems.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle Program. This program was also ultimately canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

RAH-66 Comanche Armed Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $7.9 billion

Follow-On: The helicopter was superseded by the later canceled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter project.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

An artist’s concept drawing of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

Branch: Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sunk-Costs: $5.8 billion

Follow-On: The program was replaced by the now canceled Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). The DWSS is slated to be restarted as the Weather Satellite Follow-On.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Airborne Laser

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
US Missile Defense Agency

The Airborne Laser in flight with the mirror unstowed.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $5.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was canceled without an identified replacement.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

VH-71 Presidential Helicopter

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Sikorsky

A conceptual drawing of the VH-71 helicopter.

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.7 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Marine Corps

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.3 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

XM2001 Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $2.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, which was also then canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

E-10 Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Air Force

An E-8, which was intended to be replaced by the E-10.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.9 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Replacement Program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Space Based Infrared Systems — Low

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Air Force

An artist’s rendition of the Space-Based Infrared System — Low

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.5 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Advanced SEAL Delivery System

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Navy Photo

An SDV is docked into place by Navy SEALs.

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.6 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the later canceled Joint Multi-Mission Submersible.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $0.5 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred following the Army’s decision to field a mix of drones and AH-64Es instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Aerial Common Sensor

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Navy

The Aerial Common Sensor was replaced with the P-8 (pictured).

Branch: Army/Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.4 billion

Follow-On: The project deferred in favor of the Navy’s P-8 program and upgrades to Army aircraft.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CG(X) Next Generation Cruiser

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
U.S. Navy

Pictured above are two DDG 51 destroyers, which were purchased instead of the CG(X).

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred, and the Navy purchased additional DDG 51 destroyers instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CSAR-X Combat Rescue Helicopter

The HH60 Pave Hawk, which was produced as part of the Critical Rescue Helicopter program.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately restarted as the Combat Rescue Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Next Generation Bomber

The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s
Nothrop Grumman

Concept art for the Long Range Strike-Bomber that replaced the Next Generation Bomber project.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the Long Range Strike-Bomber.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

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