The US's military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane - We Are The Mighty
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The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

Since World War II, the US has dominated the skies in any region in which it wishes to project power — but recent competition from countries like Russia and China threaten to erode that edge, and only a small group of elite pilots maintain the US’s edge in air superiority.


Russia has deployed powerful missile-defense batteries to Syria and its European enclave of Kaliningrad. The US Air Force can’t operate in those domains without severe risk. US President Barack Obama himself has acknowledged that these missile deployments greatly complicate and limit the US’s options to project power in Syria.

Also read: Here’s how support drones will make the F-22 deadlier than ever

China has undertaken the breathtaking feat of building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, outfitting them with runways and radar sites that could allow Beijing to establish an air defense and identification zone, the likes of which the US would struggle to pierce.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. | Wikimedia Commons photo by Aleksey Toritsyn

Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, speaking during the State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, said of the Air Force’s dwindling dominance: “I believe it’s a crisis: air superiority is not an American birthright. It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”

The US has the world’s largest Air Force, but it’s important to remember that it’s a force stretched thin across the entire globe. In the Pacific or the Baltics, smaller, more concentrated powers have reached parity or near parity with the US’s gigantic fleet.

Only one US airframe remains head-and-shoulders above any and all competition — the F-22 Raptor.

The F-22 is the first fifth-generation jet fighter ever built, and it is like nothing else on earth. The plane can execute mind-bending aerial maneuvers, sense incoming threats at incredible distances, and fly completely undetected by legacy aircraft.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

The coming F-35 Lightning II, a stealthy technological marvel in its own right, has an impressive radar cross section approximately the size of a basketball. The F-22 however, blows it out of the water with a cross section about the size of a marble.

For this reason, the F-22 Raptor remains the US’s only hope for breaching the most heavily protected air spaces on the planet. Even so, an expert on Russian air defenses told Business Insider that F-22 pilots would have to be “operationally, tactically brilliant” to strike against Russian-defended targets and live to tell the tale.

However, a recent article by The National Interest’s Dave Majumdar seems to confirm that the US’s Raptor pilots are indeed brilliant.

“Typically, we’ll train against the biggest and baddest threats because we want to train against the newest threat on the block,” one F-22 pilot told Majumdar.

“We’re fighting against the most advanced operational threats we can,” said another.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
F-22A Raptors with the 94th Fighter Squadron drop joint direct attack munitions. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II

Even though the stealthy F-22s hold an overwhelming advantage at long range, because they can target enemies long before those enemies can see them, the Raptor pilots train for up-close-and-personal conflicts as well. While close range confrontations hugely disadvantage the F-22 pilots, they continue to train uphill and achieve impressive results.

As the most capable plane in the world, the F-22 pilots exist as a kind of “insurance policy” against the most advanced threats in the world, according to Majumdar.

“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats—advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400—it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,'” an F-22 pilot told Majumdar.

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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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5 stunning photos that show how a crippled Marine Hornet made it to safety

On a November 9, 2016, two US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets collided during a routine training flight off the coast of California.


As reported August 10 on Military.com, one of the aircraft erupted in flames — the pilot safely ejected — and the other was damaged but still able to fly home to Naval Station North Island, San Diego.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

USMC photo

An investigation into the incident concluded the pilots failed to see that they were on a collision course, a failure attributed in part to inexperience and not getting enough flying time.


The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

Despite all that, the pilot who landed this aircraft got high praise from Col. William Swan, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11, who reviewed the report.”[The pilot] displayed exceptional airmanship when he successfully landed [the aircraft] after significant portions of its flight control surfaces were destroyed,” Swan wrote.

The pilot himself, whose name was redacted on the investigation, was understated about his own accomplishments.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

“I … realized we were on a collision course and I immediately pushed the stick full forward in a last-ditch effort to miss his aircraft. Our left wings struck each other in a low-to-high merge,” he wrote of the mishap.

He saw an explosion from the other aircraft, he said, and pieces falling off — it wasn’t clear from which of the two fighter jets. He assessed the damage to his own plane and saw that the “entire outboard section” of the left wing was gone. All the while, he kept a lookout for the other Hornet to see what happened to the pilot.


The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

The pilot called in to base and had his commander read the procedures for controllability checks, allowing him to ensure the aircraft was still good to fly. Then, on advisement from the skipper, he made contact with another aircraft, which flew in to inspect and confirm that the other pilot, who had ejected from his Hornet, had successfully deployed his parachute:

“After inspection, I selected flaps half and could feel the jet change configuration but had no indication of flap position on my display. Next selected the gear down. With 3 down and locked indication, I continued to slow the jet in 10-knot increments and determined the jet was stabled at 180 knots at 15,000 feet. However, due to some light turbulence down low and the feel of the jet I made my approach at 200 knots. [The other aircraft called in] coordinated an arrested landing for me on Runway 36 at [Naval Air Station North Island, Halsey Field]. We discussed our hook-skip game plan and commenced approach. I utilized a 3-degree descent on approach for about 13 [nautical miles] straight in. At approximately 12:40 [Lima] I made a successful arrested landing which concluded the event.”
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Today in military history: US drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima.

U.S. President Harry Truman decided to use the atom bomb to force an unconditional surrender from Japan. At 8:16AM on Aug. 6, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay (named for her pilot’s mother) dropped the bomb known as “Little Boy” over Hiroshima, killing eighty thousand people instantly and another sixty thousand over the following weeks from the effects of the fallout.

Hiroshima was selected as a target to deliberately demonstrate the power of the weapon by causing the most physical destruction but also as a psychological attack against the people and decision-makers of Japan. 

The blast was so intense, human shadows are marked permanently on the ground and walls left standing. Radiation poisoning caused a significant number of deaths in the weeks following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of radiation are varied, ranging from milder symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, fever, headaches and hair loss, but up to and including death. Because radiation can cause a drop in the number of blood cells produced, wounds heal more slowly than normal.

The effects were devastating but it would take a second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki several days later before Emperor Hirohito finally surrendered, ending World War II. 

The pilot of the Enola Gay, Paul Tibbets, died in January 2007, after having retired from the Air Force in 1966. Instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel. The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread where he had flown so often during the war.

Featured Image: An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped. (509th Operations Group)

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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


AIR FORCE:

Members of the Alaska Air National Guard’s 212th Rescue Squadron participate in a mass casualty training event on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 4, 2016. The exercise consisted of a tactical foot patrol in the woods, where rescue team members reported casualties. During the movement, the team was ambushed by opposition forces, causing them to react to contact, suppress enemy fire, and call for close air support. This training prepares the Air Force’s elite rescue personnel for the types of high-risk rescue missions they conduct when deployed in defense of their nation.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton

Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training April 25, 2016. The 459th AS frequently trains on a multitude of scenarios in preparation for potential real-world contingencies and operations.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Air Force photo/Yasuo Osakabe

ARMY:

U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, supported 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, with medical evacuation support during Operation Wolfpack Thunder, Fort Bragg, N.C. April 28, 2016.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

A U.S. Army Reserve military police Soldier shoots an M240B machine gun during night fire qualification at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, May 3, 2016.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S.Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

NAVY:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (May 5, 2016) Sailors participate in a low light small arms gun shoot aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) May 5, 2016. Porter is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (May 3, 2016) Sailors from USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) attempt to stop a flood using multiple plugging techniques during the Damage Control Olympics held during Fleet Week. The event provides an opportunity for the citizens of South Florida to witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services and gain a better understanding of how the sea services support the maritime strategy and national defense of the United States. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are war fighters first who train to be ready to operate forward to preserve peace, protect commerce, and deter aggression through forward presence.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shelby Tucker

MARINE CORPS:

An MV-22B assigned to Marine Tilitrotor Squadron-165 (VMM-165), Marine Air Group (MAG 16), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing (3d MAW) takes off during Wildland Firefighting Exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, San Diego Calif, on May 5, 2016. Wildland Firefighting Exercise 2016 is part of an annual training exercise to simulate the firefighting efforts by aviation and ground assets from the Navy, Marine Corps, San Diego County and CAL Fire. This event is aimed at bringing awareness to this joint capability while also exercising the pilots and operators who conduct firefighting missions.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy

Marines assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, board a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 for extraction from Landing Zone Canes, Hawaii, April 29, 2016. HMH-463 conducted personnel extraction and insertion in support of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during their Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian A. Temblador

COAST GUARD:

William Porter, a Houston, Texas native, gets his head shaved as part of his transformation from civilian volunteer to Coast Guardsman at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Long hours and a strenuous work routine are the cost of maintaining constant readiness. Halibut family members wave goodbye as the crew leaves for patrol.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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5 reasons why (some) hazing should be okay in the military

Every service branch has its own ways of messing with the new guys. The military has been compared to fraternities and sororities because of the bond forged with those we serve with. Similarly, both have off the book traditions and a purpose behind them. No one wants anyone to get seriously hurt. Hazing needs to be kept within reason; we’re the military, not barbarians.

1. Not all unofficial traditions are harmful

There are some traditions such as ‘Pinning’ chevrons or blood stripes that are understandably outlawed because people took it too far. The act of Pinning is done when someone gets promoted and they have new chevrons placed on the collar of their uniform. The backs of the chevron, bearing the rank insignia, has sharp spikes. The spikes have caps to prevent the service member from being poked while executing his or her duties.

During a ‘pinning’ tradition, soon after a troop is promoted, the caps are left off. Those of a higher rank punch it once and are supposed to congratulate you. It was intended to be love tap. A light jab, ouchies, let’s grab a drink. Pinning is not a blank check to start whaling away at someone causing them to bleed all over the place or break their collar bone.

That’s not hazing, that’s a crime. Go straight to prison.

When I was new to the Marine Corps fleet my seniors banged on my door at four in the morning. When I opened the door, they had a six pack and told my roommate and I to chug them all immediately. After we completed the task, they left as suddenly as they came. Is that hazing? No. Does the Uniform Code of Military Justice consider it hazing? Yes. Did we shut the hell up? Absolutely.

2. Hazing identifies who can be trusted

Lets say my roommate and I told on our seniors when we went to formation that day. It not only would’ve been a sh*t storm, they would’ve been sent to jail and demoted. What man is really a man who can’t keep a secret? If no one can trust you with their careers no one will ever trust you with their lives.

3. The knife hand is not hazing

On April 1, 2013 an article in the Marine Corps Times came out titled No More Knife Hands, Leaders want you to play nice with junior Marines. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Marines were confused about the new standards, as is tradition. There were motivators who accepted and enforced it immediately. Others were knife handing each other jokingly in defiance. I strongly suspect it was an April fools joke but ever since Marines have refrained from using them.

4. It’s different for the infantry

In the infantry we need to know that you can take it. When deployed to combat zone, we use the F word like a comma. When you’re on a live fire range and someone tells you to move the hell over at the top of their lungs, move. If your gear is improperly packed and you’re forced to dump it and repack it. Dot it.

It’s for your own good.

For example, you’ll start dropping gear, evidence of troop movement. Your balance is off and you can injure yourself, affecting the platoon’s combat effectiveness. Lost essentials like food or water. The list goes on and that’s just for packing. Is a corporal going to be patient with a private and refrain from using colorful language and a knife hand in the middle of a field op? No. That’s part of one’s pre-combat checks and pre-combat inspections before going to the field. Does the UCMJ consider it hazing? Yeah.

From YouTube original post: I know, took me long enough! Here is the complete, uncut video of the Last Day Hazing Ritual of Ramstein Fuels as it pertains to me. I gotta say, if it seems cruel to you, consider this: Being tied up and soaked in the grass is an act of love. The only time you should get really upset is if they don’t care enough about you to do it. I even got wrestled WHILE soaking wet, so I choose to take it as a compliment! Besides, I’m a civilian now! WHOOO!

5. You knew what you were getting into

Finally, this is the military. From the Marine Corps to the Air Force, they’re war fighting organizations. Our purpose is to find bad guys and turn them to pink mist. There is a reason the world fears America’s military strength and its not because of our shiny toys. Its because of the men and women in uniform are tougher than the enemy. If someone can’t take a little rough housing in the most powerful military in history then they shouldn’t be here.

Featured image: Tacking ceremony.

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This is how a decorated PJ found ‘love at first sight’ after he retired

“Just be quiet for a second. You hear that?” retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rob Disney asks a visitor. When she nods, he says, “Absolutely nothing. That’s what I love the most about this place.”


Disney’s life wasn’t always so tranquil. A 21-year pararescueman in the Air Force, Disney was often being sent in when Army Green Berets, Marine Force Recon, or Navy SEALs had gotten into a situation where they couldn’t get out without help.

During one of his deployments Disney was shot in the face with an AK-47 and lost all feeling in his face for several months. Disney received the Purple Heart for his injury and has a host of awards to show for his bravery.

But to help those combat memories fade, Disney bought an amazing mountain retreat after retirement, saying it was “love at first sight,” with the deal being sealed when he went out on the porch with a cup of coffee.

“It definitely was my destiny,” Disney told the host of the video. The house, built with both log and drywall, has three bedrooms and a finished basement. While the house in the mountains may have been Disney’s destiny, it’s not the first house Disney has owned. The experience of buying homes and closing “quite a few mortgages” during his 21 years of service has given him some valuable insights.

“Something that is very very important in anybody who is going to buy a home is that they need to find a mortgage company that they can absolutely trust and have a rock-solid foundation with,” Disney said, adding that Veterans First was the one he trusted most.

Disney closed on his house of destiny 13 years to the day after he was shot, and moved there exactly a year later.

“I took one of the worst experiences of my life and turned it into one of my best memories,” he said.

Disney also demonstrated some guitar skills. He started playing at age 15, shifting from the banjo, which didn’t attract the attention he sought from girls.

“Still play all the time, every day,” he said, describing it as an emotional release.

The full video from Veterans First mortgage is embedded above.

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The US military may soon get an R2-D2 of its own to help fix combat equipment

With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.


SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.

Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
R2D2 fixing a spaceship in Star Wars Episode I (Photo Star Wars via YouTube screengrab)

Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.

Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo US Air Force)

The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.

If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.

SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pulls away from harbor in Singapore in 2016 (Photo US Navy)

Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.

By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.

Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.

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Marine vet killed in Syria was passionate about fight against ISIS

A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.


David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.

“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”

Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
David Taylor, Sr. (left) and former US Marine, David Taylor (right). Photo via NewsEdge.

“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.

A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.

The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.

Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.

“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.

Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.

Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
YPJ and YPG forces work together. Photo from Kurdishstruggle on Flickr.

Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.

After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.

Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Kurdish, American, and British YPG fighters. (Photo by flickr user Kurdishstruggle. CC BY 2.0)

Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.

The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.

“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”

 

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Today in military history: 14th Amendment defines citizenship

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” — United States Constitution

On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the U-S Constitution was adopted, finally guaranteeing citizenship to Black Americans.

The 1865 Union victory in the Civil War may have won over 4 million enslaved Africans their freedom, but the path to equality and the process of rebuilding the South was wrought with obstacles.

The period known as Radical Reconstruction saw the passing of the 14th Amendment, which stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States,” and was meant to grant every citizen “equal protection of the laws.” 

Segregation, racial discrimination, and white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan would inhibit true equality for another century, when Black people would raise their voices in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, demanding the political, economic, and social equality they deserve.

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

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


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

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

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

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

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

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

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

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

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

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

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

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
GIF: YouTube/PDSA

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

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

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

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This automatic shotgun fires 360 rounds of bad intentions per minute

Maxwell Atchisson’s automatic assault shotgun, dubbed the AA-12, delivers pure destruction to anything in its line of fire. The AA-12 can unload a 20-round drum of 12-gauge shotgun shells in under four seconds at a devastating 360-rounds-per-minute.


It’s in a class all its own as it provides troops with an insane rate of fire with relatively low recoil.

“The versatility of that gun is frankly amazing,” said John Roos from On-Target Solutions. “The absence of recoil means a light person, any military member, can fire that weapon and there’s no trepidation when you’re firing it. Sometimes a 12-gauge can be intimidating. This one looks intimidating, but it’s a pussy cat when you fire it.”

via GIPHY

The AA-12 excels in clearing rooms, reactions to ambushes, and many other combat situations. The stainless steel parts reduce maintenance and enhance reliability for the close-quarter urban and jungle fighting it was made for.

Anything within the 100-meter max effective range will be destroyed. If not, the AA-12 can still use less-than-lethal stun rounds to incapacitate hostiles. But if you absolutely need to get rid of whatever is in front of you, pop in a high explosive FRAG-12 round to make it like another automatic weapon we all know that fires explosive rounds.

via GIPHY

The modified AA-12 was tested by select U.S. military units in 2004 but has seen limited use. Maxwell Atchisson also makes a semi-automatic variant for civilian use.

The AA-12 may be the natural successor in a long line of terrifying shotguns, but the HAMMER is a proposed unmanned defense system which would have two of these bad boys attached on top of a remote-controlled ground drone.

via GIPHY

This “Ultimate Weapons” episode shows the awesome firepower of the AA-12 12-gauge:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQVyM1axPXU

YouTube, American Heroes Channel

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Still feeling the St. Patrick’s Day hangover? These memes are better than a 1-quart canteen and 800mg of Motrin.


1. You sleep soundly in your bed at night because dashing men are willing to ride horses on the beach for your freedom (via Coast Guard Memes).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Seriously though, top 10 military jobs stuff right here.

2. The only missions that got volunteers were the ones that went near a Green Beans-equipped base (via Air Force Nation).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

SEE ALSO: America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end

3. To spread democracy, squeeze trigger (via Military Memes).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Always keep your weapon pointed up and downrange. Really, you could accidentally destroy a car with this thing.

4. Not even for a Rip-It?

(via Marine Corps Memes)

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Would you do it for two Rip-Its?

5. Wait, Skateteers can get “Leave” rings?

(via Air Force Nation)

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Screw combining powers for SrA Scumbag, I would just rock my leave ring every morning.

6. Ain’t Ready to be a Marine Yet (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
And you never have to be ready. The Army is here for you.

7. False promises. You know he isn’t going to paint (via Coast Guard Memes).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
It’s a miracle he even walked on deck.

8. 75,000 pounds of Freedom at full load (via Air Force Nation).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

9. You can get a whole other layer of Marines on top of that one (Via Marine Corps Memes).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Send another squad over here.

10. When you have something in common with the galley vending machine:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

11. Yeah! The fascist overlord thinks your Facebook game is on point!

(via Artwork of Armies)

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane

12. A one-item aid kit would be simpler (via Artwork of Armies).

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
Hopefully, DARPA will figure something out soon.

13. The more important question is probably, “Why were you wearing a dress?”

(via Military Memes)

The US’s military edge over Russia and China has come down to one plane
But hey, good on you for making formation.

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