The Inaugural events start tonight. Here's how to watch. - We Are The Mighty
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The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president. This year will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prior to the 20th amendment, Inauguration Day was always March 4, the anniversary of the Constitution taking effect. January 20 has been “the day” since 1933, unless it falls on a Sunday. This and some of the more modern traditions are the only things that will still be the same. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to ravage the globe and our country. With this in mind, the majority of the inaugural events will be virtual. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has created some special events leading up to the big day. Here’s a partial list of televised events (all times listed are in eastern time).

Image credit – Adam Schultz

Saturday, January 16 at 7pm there will be a virtual welcome event, American United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers, featuring musical guests and speakers to kick off the festivities. The focus will be on the country’s unsung heroes and the impacts they have made with their work. Sunday, January 17 at 8pm, the inaugural committee will have a concert titled, We the People

Monday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The soon-to-be president has dedicated the day to service. To honor the spirit of King, it has been designated as the National Day of Service. The call to action is for Americans all over the country to engage in a day of volunteerism within their own communities and the event has been titled United We Serve. That evening at 8pm eastern, there will be a virtual event with entertainers and speakers who will celebrate the legacy of King. 

Tuesday, January 19, will be a somber day; the day is dedicated to American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is inviting cities and communities across the country to join in on a moment of unity and remembrance at 5:30pm, by lighting their buildings and ringing their church bells. In Washington, D.C., there will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 

As in years past, Biden will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. Capitol alongside his soon to be Vice President, Kamala Harris. The attendance at the event will be minimal, with only congressional members present in accordance with safety protocols. But all across the National Mall there will be 200,000 American flags waving in the wind, in the place of Americans who would normally be there to witness the momentous event.  

Following the swearing in ceremony, the new president will make his address to the nation. The last part of this event will include the pass in review, a longstanding military tradition to reflect on the peaceful transfer of power. After that, the newly sworn in president and vice president will head to Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath on the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama, President George W Bush, President Bill Clinton and their spouses. 

Instead of the traditional parade to the White House that Americans are used to, the new president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will receive a presidential escort to the White House by representatives from every military branch. There will then be a full televised virtual parade, showcasing communities and citizens from all over the country. At 8:30pm, Tom Hanks will host Celebrating America, a prime-time television event in lieu of the traditional inaugural balls. President Biden and Vice President will offer remarks as well as a host of other speakers that represent the diversity of America. After that, President Biden and Vice President Harris will go to work.

To watch all of the inauguration festivities planned for the next five days, click here. Be sure to watch the swearing in LIVE on the We Are The Mighty Facebook page.

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Army answers Navy with a high-gloss spirit spot of its own

Army West Point has just revealed its most crucial and secret operation in the war against Navy team spirit in a video released across social media channels this morning.


The Navy fired their first video of this year recently.

The video is currently hosted on the West Point U.S. Military Academy Facebook page and depicts an operation that centers around the Army 1st Spirit Forces Group but also incorporates the 82nd Airborne Division, the U.S. Army Pacific Command, and other major units.

It appears that the mission objective may be the Navy’s mascot, Bill.

See what we know so far in the video below:

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This is how a US destroyer dodged 2 missiles off the Yemen coast

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.


The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.

Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.

The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.

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The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.

Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.

The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.

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This sailor died saving 20 of his Navy brothers on the USS Fitzgerald

One of the seven sailors who died aboard the USS Fitzgerald saved more than a dozen of his fellow shipmates before he ultimately lost his own life, The Daily Beast reported.


The USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel about 56 miles off the coast of Japan on Saturday.

Seven sailors were later found dead in flooded compartments on the ship.

When the Fitzgerald collided with the merchant ship, 37-year-old Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., “leapt into action,” according to The Daily Beast.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
WASHINGTON (June 19, 2017) File photo of Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio. Rehm was one of seven Sailors killed when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal. The incident is under investigation. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Fitzgerald was struck below the waterline, and Rehm Jr.’s family was told by the Navy that he went under and saved at least 20 sailors, according to WBNS-10TV in Columbus, Ohio.

But when he went back down to get the other six sailors, the ship began to take on too much water, and the hatch was closed, WBNS-10TV said.

“That was Gary to a T,” Rehm Jr.’s friend Christopher Garguilo, told NBC4i in Columbus, Ohio. “He never thought about himself.”

“He called [the sailors on the ship] his kids,” his uncle, Stanley Rehm Jr., told The Daily Beast. “He said, ‘If my kids die, I’m going to die.'”

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (June 17, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

Rehm Jr. was known to invite “his kids” over to his house in Virginia when their ship was docked in the US, his uncle said. “He was always ready to help anybody who needed it. He was just that kind of guy.”

“Gary was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face,” Daniel Kahle, who had served with Rehm Jr. on the USS Ponce, told The Chronicle-Telegram. “(Gary was) such a great guy and (it’s) such a great loss. He needs to be remembered for the person we all knew him to be.”

Rehm Jr.’s uncle told The Daily Beast that he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather by joining the Navy straight out of high school.

Rehm Jr. was considering retiring soon but also hoped to make captain one day, his uncle told The Daily Beast.

The USS Fitzgerald, damaged in a collision at the US naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, June 18, 2017. Thomson Reuters

The Fitzgerald is named after another sailor, Navy Lt. William Fitzgerald, who, like his father, also joined the Navy right out of high school.

In August 1967, he was advising South Vietnamese forces at a compound near the Tra Khuc River delta when they came under heavy Vietcong fire.

Fitzgerald ordered the South Vietnamese forces and civilians to escape into the river on small boats, but he was killed while covering their escape with small-arms fire.

Rehm Jr. was raised in Elyria, Ohio, and is survived by his wife, Erin.

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How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.


Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.

Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
North Korean spies photograph fake missile schematics. Screengrab from CNN video.

The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.

But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.

Ukraine may have released the footage to CNN after a report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies alleged that North Koreans had somehow obtained rocket engine designs from Ukraine. Ukraine has strongly pushed back on that accusation, and other missile experts have since disputed it.

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The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you

What once hosted notable figures like Winston Churchill and Leonid Brezhnev — and where historic decisions like the precursor to SALT were made — has now become a nest for raccoons.


The USS Sequoia, which once was used as a presidential yacht, is falling apart and is the subject of a fierce legal fight over ownership.

According to a report by CBSNews.com, the yacht is no longer the “floating White House” where Richard Nixon reached a high point of his presidency (discussing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev) and a low point (deciding to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal).

The USS Sequoia was purchased in 1931, initially to serve as a floating sting operation against alcohol smugglers. However, it soon found itself used by President Herbert Hoover for fishing (the President once used it to sail to Florida – not something that would likely happen today).

Two years later, the Commerce Department handed the Sequoia to the Navy, and it became the presidential yacht, replacing the USS Mayflower, which was decommissioned in 1929. It remained in service until President Jimmy Carter auctioned the vessel off for $286,000 in 1977.

Afterwards, it served on a private charter, but was still used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to host events.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
USS Sequoia (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the condition of the boat is shocking. While it is drydocked in Deltaville, Virginia, the vessel has not received any maintenance. A family of raccoons have taken residence in the vessel, eating some of the ship’s keepsake candy bars and the ship might not even make it through this winter.

“The status of the vessel is we need to protect it immediately, get it through the winter. Currently, she is stressed,” Matthew Vilbas, the captain of the vessel, told CBS. “There [were] a few rooms where the animals defecated on carpets, including presidential carpets where presidents spent time with their families and foreign and national persons.”

It was Vilbas who discovered the family of raccoons using an American flag as a nest. Vilbas is desperate for the legal situation to get resolved.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey talks with wounded soldiers and their families on board the USS Sequoia on the way to Mount Vernon, Va., on Oct. 11, 2005. Gainey joined Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in presenting eight Purple Hearts to soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center during a ceremony at Mount Vernon. (DOD photo)

“I spent hours, days, evenings with and without family on board in what I felt has been a great honor to serve and provide experiences for many different persons. And when you spend that time on her, it becomes an extension of yourself,” he told CBS.

Even after the legal ownership is resolved, it will take millions of dollars to fix the vessel. Whoever owns it will also have to locate enough shipwrights who are knowledgable about classical wood building techniques.

It reportedly could take as much as 10,000 hours to fix the ship.

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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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ISIS is throwing reinforcements into Mosul battle as coalition tightens the noose

The Islamic State is throwing as many fighters as it can into the Iraqi city of Mosul in a desperate attempt to push back against coalition forces, according to the Pentagon.


The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The support provided by the Paladin teams denies the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant safe havens while providing the ISF with vital artillery capabilities during their advance. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

ISIS reinforcements from Syria and Iraq are entering Mosul from areas west of the city, which are still under the terrorist group’s control. ISIS leaders inside the city have been forced to conscript administration officials and other non-traditional fighters in order to counter the coalition’s offensive.

“ISIL continues to augment its manpower from the outside,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday. “We see them taking administrative and support personnel, people who are not normally involved in arms, and they are arming them.”

Davis noted that despite the reinforcements, ISIS is having difficulty with its command and control capabilities thanks in part to coalition air strikes.

ISIS’s decision to arm every potential fighter it can is not surprising. The terrorist group is woefully outnumbered, with less than 5,000 fighters in the city. In turn, the Iraqi Security Forces have deployed 18,000 men, while the Kurdish Peshmerga have fielded around 10,000. Approximately 2,000 Iraqi federal police are also supplementing the coalition force.

While coalition forces clearly have the upper hand, Davis noted they are experiencing “heavy resistance” from ISIS as they move closer to the Mosul city limits. ISIS has engaged in increasingly desperate tactics as they lose control of the city, including waves of suicide bombers, car bombs and burning oil fields. In some cases, they have resorted to using suicide bombers to cover the retreat of their personnel.

The Pentagon expects foreign fighters to be particularly dangerous targets, as many of them burned their passports upon entering the so-called caliphate.

“Those are the people we expect to stay in Mosul and fight to the death, they don’t have a lot of other good options,” said Davis.

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Navy advances plans for futuristic ‘Ghost Fleet’

The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.


“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.

Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Better learn how to swim, big guy. | US Air Force photo

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.

Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.

Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.

During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.

“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.

A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.

The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.

“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.

The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.

The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.

The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Creative Commons photo

ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.

A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.

“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.

Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.

Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.

For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.

Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.

“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.

When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.

Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.

The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.
Textron Systems photo

LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.

The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.

The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.

The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.

The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.

Sub-Hunting Drone Ship

The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.

The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.

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US Navy photo

“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.

The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.

The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.

The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.

The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.

As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.

“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.

Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.

“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.

If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.

Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan

Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.

This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.

“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.

This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.

Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.

The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.

“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.

The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.

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Feds sentence two who scammed Marines looking for love

Two people who ran a fraud scheme that took roughly $160,000 from active duty Marines were sentenced June 5 in federal court.


According to a release by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Jones Tyler Martin and Hailey Tykoski carried out a “catfishing” scheme targeting Marines. Officials say the two persuaded Marines to hand over personal and financial information by posing as women interested in relationships.

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US Marines training with small arms. (US Navy photo)

According to an October 2016 release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, Tykoski was accused of impersonating the women in phone and online conversations, while Martin would use the information the pair acquired to obtain credit or make wire transfers.

The two were taken into custody after an investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service’s Carolinas Field Office out of Camp Lejeune. The two were later indicted on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and aiding and abetting.

The Charlotte News and Observer reported that Martin and Tykoski used the social network MeetMe.com to lure the Marines in. Over a two-year period between 2013 and 2015, they hooked several Marines by convincing them they would be moving into to an off-base apartment.

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Cyberspace recently proved dangerous to some Marines’ wallets. (DOD photo)

On Jan. 30, Martin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and on March 27 Tykoski pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Martin was sentenced to 57 months in prison and five years of supervised release while Tykoski was given five years of probation.

Both were also ordered to make restitution. Martin was ordered to pay $117,306.42m while Tykoski was ordered to pay $42,289.05.

“The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this district treat cases such as this one with high priority,” U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce said in the release. “There will continue to be vigorous prosecution of those who commit fraud and cybercrimes targeting members of the armed services and veterans.”

H. Andrew Goodridge, the NCIS Special Agent in Charge of the Carolinas Field Office, added, “This case reminds all of us to remain vigilant about what information we provide to strangers, it also demonstrates that NCIS is committed to pursuing those who exploit US service members.”

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This is what happens when Russia makes a B-2 stealth bomber knock-off

As the saying goes: “If you’re going to dream, dream big.”


That’s exactly what Russia did when it was evaluating designs for its next-generation bomber, dubbed the “PAK-DA” — which literally means “prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation.”

The initial concept was supposed to be a stealthy and insanely fast hypersonic aircraft. But then reality set in, and so far the idea’s been more wishful thinking than reality.

Related: Let’s talk about America’s rocky ‘frenemy’ relationship with Russia

The PAK-DA will be a subsonic aircraft designed for high payload and long-range flight. It’s expected to replace the aging Soviet-era turbo-prop Tu-95 “Bear” and the Tu-160 strategic bombers. Developed by Russia’s Ministry of Defense and Tupolev, the PAK-DA is scheduled to begin testing in 2019, according to KRET, the Russian company responsible for designing its radar system.

About three months ago an animated video surfaced showing the PAK-DA’s blended wing-body design, which looks a whole lot like a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber knock-off. It’s probably not the aircraft’s final design considering the style of the video, which is strikingly similar to those published by Russia’s propaganda media arm, Russia Today.

Here are two other articles with the same animation style we’ve written about:

The final design is still under wraps, so for now, Russia will just have to keep the dream alive. Here is the animated PAK DA video:

arronlee33, YouTube

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Clinton invokes role advising Bin Laden raid in speech to veterans

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Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in New Hampshire. | Wikimedia Commons photo by Marc Nozell


In a script flipped from previous elections, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton styled herself as the candidate defending American exceptionalism, international alliances and the military in a speech to thousands of veterans Wednesday.

Speaking here at the American Legion National Convention, Clinton highlighted her personal and professional military bona fides, describing her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy chief petty officer and invoking her role as an adviser in the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.

“I was deeply honored to be part of that small group advising the president,” she said. “I brought to those discussions my experience as a senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring bin Laden to justice.”

She recalled watching the SEALs adapt and carry on with the mission as one of the Black Hawk helicopters clipped the wall of bin Laden’s compound and was disabled.

“I was holding my breath for the entire operation,” she said.

Although the SEALs were racing against the clock to destroy the damaged chopper and depart after taking out bin Laden, Clinton said, they took time to move women and children — bin Laden’s family members — to safety.

“That is what honor looks like,” she said. “Maybe the soldiers of other nations wouldn’t have bothered. Or maybe the’d have taken revenge on those family members of terrorists. But that is not who we are. And anyone who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand what makes our nation great.”

The statement was one of many pointed rebukes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is set to address the convention on Thursday.

Last December, Trump said on a Fox News talk show that U.S. leaders had to “take out [the] families” of terrorists to be effective against them. He later would walk the remark back.

Clinton also took Trump to task for comments disparaging Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who spoke in Clinton’s support at the Democratic National Convention in July, and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, whose heroism Trump has questioned, saying in 2015: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

“I will never disrespect Gold Star families or prisoners of war,” Clinton said. “To insult them is just so wrong, and it says a lot about the person doing the insulting.”

Clinton struck a centrist note, acknowledging she spoke to an audience that tended to lean conservative. And she emphasized her commitment to the ideas of American exceptionalism and military strength.

She called her father, Navy veteran Hugh Rodham, a “rock-ribbed” Republican with whom she had never agreed on politics but had learned to converse with civilly.

“I believe we are still Lincoln’s last best hope of Earth … Still Reagan’s shining city on a hill,” she said. “Part of what makes America an exceptional nation is that we are also an indispensable nation. In fact, we are the indispensable nation. My friends, we are so lucky to be American when so many people want to be Americans too.”

She promised to send troops into harm’s way only as a last resort — a statement that drew applause from the convention — and promised to support and develop U.S. alliances, saying they were unmatched by those of competing global powers Russia and China.

“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends and acting like a loose cannon,” she said, subtly rebuking Trump, who has been critical of U.S. allies and NATO for not paying their share of defense costs. “You do it by putting in the slow, hard work of building relationships.”

On veterans’ issues, Clinton emphasized her support for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, rather than privatizing the system, and pledged to fight to end the national “epidemic” of veterans’ suicide.

Clinton said she would support expanded tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and would promote policies that allow veterans to get credit for military job skills as they transition into the civilian workforce.

She also promised a crackdown on for-profit schools and organizations that prey on veterans and military families. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” she said.

Clinton touted the endorsements she has received from retired military leaders and Republican national security experts, and promised to cross the aisle to work out a sustainable defense budget plan, denouncing the sequestration cuts, enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act, that placed arbitrary caps on defense spending.

“The last thing we need is a president who brings more name-calling and temper tantrums to Washington,” she said.

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the AFSPC-5 mission aboard the Space and Missile Systems Center procured United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 20, 2015.

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Photo: United Launch Alliance

Tech. Sgt. Bruce Ramos, a 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 1 radio operator, raises an American flag from an MC-130P Combat Shadow while it taxis at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 15, 2015.

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Photo: Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson/USAF

NAVY

The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a flyover during a graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Naval Academy Class of 2015.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Anthony Koch/USN

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for an independent deployment.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan/USN

ARMY

BIG STEP – On Tuesday, May 19, students at the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School conducted helocast drills. Helocasting is an airborne insertion technique used by small special operations forces to enter denied areas of operations.

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Photo: Janice Burton/US Army

An Army AH-64 Apache air crew, assigned to 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division conducts pre-flight checks prior to an air-assault operation, part of the Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas.

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Photo: Sgt. Jose D. Ramirez/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Landing craft air cushion conduct an amphibious assault during the MARFORPAC-hosted U.S. Pacific Command Amphibious Leaders Symposium (PALS) at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.

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Photo: Staff Sgt. Jason W. Fudge/USMC

An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires its 120 mm smoothbore cannon during a live-fire event as part of Exercise Eager Lion 2015 in Jordan.

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Photo: Sgt. Devin Nichols

COAST GUARD

Rescue crews from the Coast Guard 1st District don immersion suits to practice cold water survival in Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.

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Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USN

A Coast Guard crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.

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Photo: Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USCG

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

AND: 19 of the coolest military mottos

OR: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

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