The US Marine Corps did not mince words when deploying F-35s to Japan, saying that the “arrival of the F-35B embodies our commitment to the defense of Japan and the regional-security of the Pacific.”
Tensions between the US, US allies, and China have been steadily mounting for years as China builds artificial islands and outfits them with radar outposts and missile launchers in the South China Sea, home to a shipping corridor that sees $5 trillion in trade annually.
One area where the US and China have indirectly competed has been in combat aviation.
In November, China debuted the Chengdu J-20, a large, stealthy jet that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. But, according to experts, the J-20 is not a fighter, not a dogfighter, not stealthy, and not at all like the F-22 or F-35.
Davis characterized the J-20 as “high speed, long range, not quite as stealthy (as US fifth-gen aircraft), but they clearly don’t see that as important.” According to Davis, the J-20 is “not a fighter but an interceptor and a strike aircraft,” that doesn’t seek to contend with US jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “The Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS (airborne early warning and control systems) and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” said Davis. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula gave a similar assessment of the J-20 to Defense Aerospace Report in November.
“The J-20 in particular is different than the F-22 in the context that, if you take a look and analyze the design, it may have some significant low-observable capabilities on the front end, but not all aspects — nor is it built as a dogfighter,” said Deptula.”But quite frankly, the biggest concern is its design to carry long-range weapons.”
What the J-20 lacks in stealth and dogfighting ability, it makes up for by focusing on a single, comparatively soft type of target. Unlike the US, which has fielded extremely stealthy aircraft, China lacks the experience to create a plane that baffles radars from all angles.
Instead, the J-20’s design makes for a plane that’s somewhat stealthy from the front angle, as it uses its long range and long-range missiles to fly far out and hit tankers and radar planes that support platforms like the F-35 or F-22.
“They’re moving into an era where they’re designing aircraft not just as an evolution of what they used to have, but they’re going into a new space,” said Deptula of China’s J-20 concept.
However, the J-20 may still be a long way off.
In November, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that the models displayed at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.
Former F-35 and F-22 pilot Lt. Col. David Berke also questioned China’s progress in an interview with Business Insider, saying “it’s really, really, really hard to make an effective nose-to-tail platform in the fifth gen.”
Far from feeling threatened by the J-20, Berke seemed vindicated that the US’s potential adversaries have worked so hard to counter emerging US capabilities like the F-35.
“If the things we were doing [with the F-35, F-22] weren’t relevant, effective, the competition wouldn’t be worried about trying to match it,” said Berke.
Military service members are famous for their special lingo, everything from branch-specific slang to the sometimes stilted and official language of operation orders.
That carefully selected and drafted language ensures that everyone in a complex operation knows what is expected of them and allows mission commanders to report sometimes emotional events to their superiors in a straightforward manner.
But there’s a reason that Hallmark doesn’t write its cards in military style for a reason. There’s just something wrong with describing the birth of a first-born child like it’s an amphibious operation.
Anyway, here are seven life events inappropriately described with military lingo:
1. First engagement
“Task force established a long-term partnership with local forces that is expected to result in greater intelligence and great successes resulting from partnered operations.”
2. Breaking off the first engagement
“It turns out that partnered forces are back-stabbing, conniving, liars. The task force has resumed solo operations.”
“Partnered operations with local forces have displayed promising results. The new alliance with the host nation will result in success. Hopefully.”
4. Buying a first home
“The squad has established a secure firebase. Intent is to constantly improve the position while disrupting enemy operations in the local area. Most importantly, we must interrupt Steve’s constant requests that we barbecue together. God that guy’s annoying.”
5. Birth of the first child
“Task force welcomed a new member at 0300, a most inopportune time for our partnered force. Initial reports indicate that the new member is healthy and prepared to begin training.”
6. Birth of all other children
“Timeline for Operation GREEN ACRES has been further delayed as a new member of the task force necessitates 18 years of full operations before sufficient resources are available for departure from theater.”
“Task force operators have withdrawn from the area of operations and begun enduring R and R missions in the gulf area as part of Operation GREEN ACRES. Primary targets include tuna and red snapper.”
France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.
“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”
A French Dassault Rafale.
France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.
France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.
But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.
France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US
On the same day he touted the “Space Force” to veterans, President Donald Trump’s plan to create a sixth military branch hit a roadblock in Congress.
A House-Senate conference committee working on the $716 billion defense budget for fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018, left out money to start building the Space Force.
Early July 24, 2018, in address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Kansas City, Trump cited the Space Force as part of an unrivaled military buildup under his administration.
“My thinking is always on military and military strength. That is why I’m proud to report that we are now undertaking the greatest rebuilding of our United States military in its history. We have secured 0 billion for defense this year, and 6 billion next year — approved,” he said to applause.
President Donald Trump
“And I’ve directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating the sixth branch of our military. It’s called the Space Force,” Trump said to more applause. “We are living in a different world, and we have to be able to adapt, and that’s what it is. A lot of very important things are going to be taking place in space.
“And I just don’t mean going up to the moon and going up to Mars, where we’ll be going very soon,” he added. “We’ll be going to Mars very soon. But from a military standpoint, space is becoming every day more and more important.”
However, the conference report of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees left out funding for the Space Force in the National Defense Authorization Act. The conference report must still be approved by the full House and Senate.
Instead, the report directs Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to come up with a plan for how the Defense Department would organize for warfighting in space.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
(DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The House version of the conference report was also leery of Trump’s vision for the creation of a new military branch for space, instead calling for the establishment of “a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.”
In June 2018, Trump appeared to give the job of creating a Space Force as a separate military branch to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
At a White House meeting of the National Space Council, the president said, “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”
“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal. It’s going to be something,” he said.
Trump then looked around the room to find Dunford and said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Today is the mighty Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday! In honor of this landmark (uh, how is this not a national holiday?) day, we wanted to go back to the good old days of the internet. Before arguing over the color of a dress or if Jordan or Lebron is better (don’t start), we bonded over Chuck Norris facts. Those statements that if attributed to another person would be unbelievable but totally plausible when it referred to the great Norris.
So, we wanted to share our top Chuck Norris facts! Make sure to share any of your favorites too.
Before we do, we also want to shout out Chuck for his amazing life. He was born Carlos Norris in Oklahoma and his family eventually settled in California. After high school, he joined the Air Force and ended up being stationed in South Korea where he picked up both martial arts and the nickname Chuck.
Coming home, he opened his first martial arts studio and started participating in tournaments. After winning multiple karate world championships, he opened more studios and became a trainer for the stars. He taught Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, the Osmonds and Bob Barker (that’s how he beat up Happy Gilmore so easily).
He also gave us the Total Gym and Chuck Norris jeans.
And with that, our favorite Chuck Norris facts!
1. Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded. 2. Chuck Norris’ leg was once bit by a cobra. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died. 3. Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies do. 4. Chuck Norris can kill your imaginary friends. 5. Chuck can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.
6. Chuck Norris once went to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life. 7. Chuck Norris knows Victoria’s secret. 8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is. 9. Chuck Norris created giraffes when he uppercutted a horse. 10. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death. He wins fair and square.
11. Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter.” 12. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird. 13. Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records. 14. Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi. 15. Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.
16. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear. 17. Chuck Norris can delete the Recycling Bin. 18. Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone. 19. Chuck Norris can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon. 20. Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but Jack still couldn’t dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.
The 150 TAP was a creative and cost-effective vehicle for a post-WWII French Army. (Photo from ridingvintage.com)
In the struggle of armed conflict, victory is best achieved by stacking the odds in your favor. In the effort to constantly outdo each other, militaries around the world have innovated and invented some strange contraptions. We give you seven of the strangest vehicles from seven different categories that were actually built:
The 150 TAP was a creative and cost-effective vehicle for a post-WWII French Army. (Photo from ridingvintage.com)
1. Vespa 150 TAP
Representing motorbikes, the Vespa 150 TAP was an anti-tank scooter designed for use by French paratroopers. First introduced in 1956, the scooter was built by Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles, the licensed assembler of Vespa scooters in France. The scooters were equipped with a U.S.-made M20 75mm recoilless rifle, capable of penetrating 100mm of armor out to its maximum range of 3.9 miles.
Designed for airborne operations, the scooters would be dropped in pairs along with a two-man team—one scooter carried the gun while the other carried the ammo. Without any sights, the gun was not designed to be fired from the scooter. Instead, it was designed to be mounted on an M1917 Browning machine gun tripod which was also carried on the scooter. In an emergency, and ideally at close range, the gun could be fired while the scooter was moving. The scooters were cheap, costing only 0 at the time. 600 150 TAP’s were built between 1956 and 1959.
A Mini Moke aboard H.M.S. Aurora(Photo from shipsnostalgia.com)
2. Mini Moke
Representing four-wheeled vehicles, the Mini Moke was a small utility and recreational vehicle. Prototyped as a lightweight military vehicle, the British Motor Company hoped to take a portion of Land Rover’s military vehicle profits. The Moke was pitched to the British Army and US Army as a parachute-droppable vehicle. However, its low ground-clearance and underpowered engine led to the Moke’s rejection. Instead, it was adopted by the British and New Zealand Royal Navies. The Moke’s small size (10 feet long and 4 ¼ feet wide) made it ideal for driving on the deck of an aircraft carrier and around crowded docks.
Some concepts are best left unbuilt. (Photo by Alan Wilson/Posted on worldwarwings.com)
Representing tanks, the Kugelpanzer translates literally to “spherical tank.” A derivative of the 1917 Treffas-Wagen, the Kugelpanzer was a German solution to the problem of crossing the open killing fields of No-Man’s land. Following the adoption of Blitzkrieg and the evolution of maneuver warfare, the Germans abandoned the concept. Measuring at 5 x 5.5 ft, the tank had a top speed of 8 kph via its two hemispherical wheels and was stabilized by a single rear wheel. Having only 5mm of armor at its thickest point and carrying just one machine gun, the tank would not have fared well in WWII. The exact circumstances regarding the capture of the only surviving example remains unknown. It was captured in 1945 by the Soviets either in Manchuria after it was sent by the Germans to the Japanese, or at the Kummesdorf testing grounds where the Soviets also captured the Maus tank (ironically, the heaviest fully-enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built). The Kugelpanzer is on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia.
The XCH-62 between a CH-47 Chinook (left) and Soviet Mi-24 Hind. (Photo from xenophon-mil.org)
4. BV XCH-62
Representing rotary-wing aircraft, the Boeing Vertol XCH-62 was an experimental aircraft built from the existing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. The Chinook’s lift capacity of 28,800 lbs was dwarfed by the Soviet Mi-26 and Mi-12 helicopters (44,000 lbs and 88,000 lbs respectively). In an effort to catch up to the Soviets, Boeing added a third engine to the Chinook, larger rotors, and converted its fuselage to a flying crane to create the XCH-62. These modifications allowed the helicopter to straddle heavier cargoes like armored vehicles while still carrying up to twelve troops in its slender fuselage.
One example was built in 1974, but challenges in harnessing the torque of the three engines led to delays—Congress cut the program’s funding the next year. The XCH-62 remains the largest helicopter ever built in a western country. The prototype was displayed at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama until it was scrapped in 2005.
The VVA-14 used detachable, inflatable pontoons at one point. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)
5. Bartini Beriev VVA-14
Representing fixed-wing aircraft, the VVA-14 was a Soviet wing-in-ground-effect aircraft built in the early 1970s. The VVA-14 was designed to take off from water and fly at high speed just above the water over long distances. Its mission was to skim the surface of the ocean in order to detect and destroy U.S. submarines. Two prototypes were built, though development was marred by flotation problems, engine issues, and the death of the aircraft’s designer. The project was scrapped after 107 flights and 103 flight hours. One example survives today in a dismantled state at the Soviet Central Air Force Museum in Moscow.
The last surviving example of the VVA-14. (Photos from warhistoryonline.com)
Sailors of the USS Supply load a camel. (Illustration by U.S. War Department)
6. USS Supply
Representing surface ships, the USS Supply initially appears to be an error on this list—the fully-rigged ship looked like most other warships that sailed in the latter half of the 19th century. The story that makes the Supply an oddity begins in 1855, when Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis) conceived the bright idea for the U.S. Army to use camels during operations in the Southwest. In order to bring the humped creatures to America, Supply was converted into the U.S. Navy’s first and only camel carrier. She was refitted with special hatches, stables, hoists, and a camel car in order to load and unload the dromedaries.
Supply picked up a herd of camels in North Africa, where it was discovered that she still could not accommodate the towering camel humps. In order to fit the camels in the hold, the crew had to cut away sections of the deck where the humps could stick out. Supply accomplished her mission, delivering the camels to Indianola, Texas in 1856. The camel cavalry concept was scrapped at the onset of the Civil War and Supply‘s service as a camel carrier ended.
Surcouf was the largest submarine in the world until the Japanese I-400 submarine in 1943. (Photo from warhistoryonline.com)
Representing submarines, the French cruiser submarine Surcouf was built as a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty. Following WWI, strict limits were placed on the warships of the world’s major naval powers like displacement and gun caliber. However, these restrictions were applied to battleships and cruisers, not submarines. Intended to be the lead ship in her class, Surcouf was the only cruiser submarine built by France. Commissioned in 1934, Surcouf was equipped with ten torpedo tubes, six anti-aircraft guns, and two 8″ guns, the largest placed on any cruiser submarine. She also featured a hangar which housed an observation float plane used for gun calibration. Surcouf escaped Nazi capture, but sunk in the Caribbean Sea after a collision with an unknown ship in February 1942.
Many children grow up with parents in the military. It usually means frequent moves, a parent being gone for long periods of time. And there is the possibility that some day an officer and chaplain might turn up, bearing bad news.
Whether the parent is a Green Beret, constantly deploying to a foreign country on missions they can’t talk about, or someone who pushed papers at a desk in a building at a military installation – they all served, and they all knew that there was some measure of risk. And when the parents pass on, what’s left behind are medals, uniforms, photos, and in some cases, films.
In this clip, Fred Linden discusses the memorabilia left behind by his late father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Frederick “Bud” Linden, of his service during World War II. His dad flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina – one of the famous “Black Cats” that made the life of many Japanese sailors miserable during the fighting in the Pacific.
Linden’s memorabilia included a map showing the route his father took to the theater he served in, as well as medals.
The two rolls of 16mm color film included in the memorabilia collection showed a wide variety of events during his father’s tour, including bombing raids. The film was preserved through the involvement of Film Corps, an outreach organization that seeks to preserve records like Linden’s.
“The stuff – the medals and so forth – is not something he’d care about, but he would love to be able to sit down in front of that movie and point out the names of the guys and what they did and things he remembered about them, what happened at the time with the people he was with,” he says. “That would be the most important thing for him”
At a parade touting Beijing’s massive military might on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, China rolled out it’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-31AG.
Another upgrade to the survivability and lethality of the missile comes from the truck that carries it. Like the DF-31, it’s mobile and therefore can evade attacking forces, hide, and fire from surprising locations. But unlike the previous model, the DF-31AG can actually go off road, further complicating any plans to neutralize China’s nuclear might.
Watch the rollout of the DF-31AG below:
China’s new DF-31AG intercontinental missiles make public debut at military parade in Zhurihe base in Inner Mongolia pic.twitter.com/PaTeQp4TPN
Saddam Hussein once famously believed that the United States was a country whose people couldn’t handle 10,000 dead in a war. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen because no one has been able to inflict those kinds of losses on the U.S. since Vietnam. But we all know Saddam was a-okay with taking those kinds of losses.
Still, he really didn’t believe he would have to take those losses when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He honestly believed the United States gave him the green light for the invasion.
In the late 80s and early 90s, Iraq was heavily indebted to the rest of the world after its disastrous war with Iran failed to achieve much of anything at all, let alone seizing Iranian oil production and revenues. But what it did leave Iraq with was the world’s fifth largest army – the means by which Saddam Hussein could pay his debts.
If you just failed to take another country’s oil fields, the solution must be to take another country’s oil fields, amirite?
(Kuwait News Agency)
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Saddam wanted to increase oil revenues by getting OPEC member countries to reduce production and raise the price of oil. Kuwait didn’t even pay lip service to this idea, producing more than the OPEC quota and keeping the price lower than Iraq wanted. The two countries were in a border dispute at the time and Kuwait was using the oil price as leverage. This infuriated the Iraqi dictator, and his overtures toward raising the price of oil irked his American allies.
To make matters worse for Hussein, the dictator believed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait should forgive the billion Iraq owed them for the Iran-Iraq War because he believed Iraq was keeping Iranian Shia influence out of their countries and protecting their governments. The fact that they wouldn’t forgive the debt further flamed tensions.
President George H. W. Bush continued many of his predecessor’s policies toward Iraq and the Middle East. His ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein halfway between Bush’s term in office. She stressed to the dictator that the United States had no interest in a trade war with Iraq.
“Guys, I just got a great idea. Hear me out…”
In the same meeting between Glaspie and Hussein, the U.S. Ambassador told the Iraqi dictator that the United States had no opinion on its border dispute with Kuwait, and its chief interest in the matter was the price of oil.
“But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 1960s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”
The situation between Iraq and Kuwait kept deteriorating, to the point that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to step in to mediate the disagreement and prevent a war. When that failed, Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait to settle the matter by force. The entire time, he emphasized that he wanted good relations with the United States and was genuinely surprised to find his actions condemned by the Bush Administration.
When prompted about the meeting in Congressional testimony, Glaspie simple explained, “we had no idea he would go that far.”
“I’ve made a huge mistake.”
Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and rolled over the Kuwaitis in just two days. Iraq then annexed Kuwait as its 19th province with Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka “Chemical Ali”) as governor. They were expelled by a U.S.-led multinational coalition after a 40-day air war and a 100-hour ground campaign.
When the Army asked industry about three years ago if they could come up with a new, lightweight scout vehicle that could move in and out of enemy territory quickly but carry a deadly bite if backed into a corner, several companies answered the call.
But one of the most badass options offered up to Army commanders was the Northrop Grumman Hellhound.
It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby. (Photo from Northtrop Grumman)
Just looking at the thing makes you say “hooah,” and it was the star of the show at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington.
With a top speed of 70 mph and a crew compartment that fits six fully-equipped soldiers, the Hellhound is still small enough to fit in the belly of a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter. The vehicle is designed with enough power and room inside the crew compartment to accommodate a remote control weapon system and a host of high-tech defense and protective equipment, the company says.
It’s like a dune buggy and a Humvee met and had a baby.
“The high performance, highly mobile Hellhound is designed to allow users to easily gain access to highly restrictive terrain and capable of operating worldwide on primary and secondary roads, as well as trails and cross country in weather extremes,” the company says. “The Hellhound also introduces the capability of providing expeditionary power generation as well as an unparalleled capacity for powering on-board equipment.”
The Hellhound features a roof-mounted M230LF 30mm cannon, and designers also showed off a high-energy laser equipped one on the AUSA show floor. The cannon stows inside the vehicle for transport and the suspension can be lowered and raised based on terrain.
It is unclear whether the Army will ever buy the Hellhound, but clearly the company has pushed the envelope for all-terrain capabilities with a heck of a ballistic punch.
Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.
But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.
“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”
Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.
Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.
On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.
That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.
On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.
“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”
Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.
Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.
A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.
“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”
Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.
“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.
Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) — the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent — and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.
The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.
“We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.
Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies, which built on the foundational work of co-author and JPL chemist Michael Russell, looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.
Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.
This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.
Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets — worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes — may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.
“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”
This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s JPL Icy Worlds team.
Featured image: An image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon’s icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.
On Sunday, May 19, 2019, a rocket tore through the night skies across Baghdad near a museum by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It did no major damage, but the sound of the rocket explosion was almost heard around the world, amid increased tensions and a buildup of troops between the United States and Iran.
The Islamic Republic and all of its proxies want the world to know it had nothing to do with such an attack.
The only thing damaged by the attack was the security guard shack near the museum. If it hadn’t exploded, it might have gone entirely unnoticed. But it did explode, and it was fired near the U.S. Embassy in a country known to be controlled by Iran. No group claimed responsibility, but a mobile rocket launcher was found in the area. Now militias aligned with Iran in and around Baghdad are publicly denouncing the attack, an unusual move for the Islamic Republic, who usually doesn’t seem to care who thinks they did anything.
Iran’s military projects power to maintain Iran’s regional military power by keeping the instability and the fighting outside of Iran. Like the United States Army Special Forces, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force will go into a nearby country, mobilize sentiment against a common foe, then teach people to fight their enemy. Iran-backed militias were on the front lines against ISIS, and many Shia insurgents fighting U.S. troops in the Iraq War had Iranian backing.
Not this time.
Iran-backed Shia militias were even incorporated into Iraq’s state security forces. How do you like those Humvees?
As the United States evacuated diplomatic personnel and President Trump warned Iran about its forthcoming total destruction, Iran was quick to backpedal away from the tense talk of recent days. Even its supporters in Iraq were quick to distance themselves.
“If war is ignited, everyone will be burned,” said Hadi al-Ameri, a militia commander and politician who represents militias, including Iran-backed factions, from across the spectrum. Even the most hardline, pro-Iran political parties denounced the attack.
But even if Iran or a pro-Iranian militia did not fire the rocket attack, it still leaves the question of who did fire the rocket and why.