The collision of guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a tanker near Singapore was the fourth accident involving ships from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in less than a year.
Two of the incidents — collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald earlier this summer — have left a total of 17 sailors dead or missing, more than the 11 service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year.
But the number of accidents involving warships in the western Pacific — during “the most basic of operations” — has stirred concern that outside factors are affecting the ships and their crews.
“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances” when transiting the Strait of Malacca, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway the McCain was approaching, Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy.
“I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues,” said Stutzman, who is now chief intelligence officer for cyber-intelligence service Wapack Labs.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted on August 21 that there were “no indications right now” of “cyber intrusion or sabotage.” But, he added, the “review will consider all possibilities.”
2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
The admiral said the McCain’s collision with the tanker was the second “extremely serious incident” since the Fitzgerald’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in mid-June. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred “gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at.”
Experts have downplayed the likelihood of such attacks on US warships, noting that infiltrating Navy guidance systems would be very hard to do and instead citing human negligence or error as likely causes. Others have dismissed the likelihood of state-directed attacks on ships at sea, noting that such efforts would be a misuse of resources, strategically unwise, and generally harmful to maritime conduct.
But recent high-profile cyberattacks around the world have brought new attention to the security of maritime navigation, which is highly reliant on computer networks.
The US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack or deceive, and there’s no sign satellite communications were at fault in the McCain’s collision. But there is technology out there to misdirect GPS navigation — typically through a process known as “spoofing” that leaves the system thinking it is somewhere it’s not.
The software and electronic gear needed to spoof a GPS system has become easier to get in recent years, particularly for private or nonstate actors.
In 2013, a team of graduate students led by Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and satellite-navigation expert, were able to spoof the GPS on an $80 million yacht, directing it hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting the change.
In late June, GPS signals for about 20 ships in the eastern Black Sea were manipulated, with navigation equipment on the ships, though seeming to be functioning correctly, saying the ships were located 20 miles inland. An attack on thousands of computers later that month also disrupted shipping around the world.
Global commercial shipping is more vulnerable to such attacks and cargo ships are more exposed — the number of them plying the high seas has quadrupled over the past 25 years. And causing a collision by hacking or hijacking a commercial vessel’s GPS is seen as increasingly possible.
Most commercial and passenger ships use the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to locate other ships and avoid collisions. But the AIS has weaknesses, and hackers could in theory send out a signal claiming to be a phantom ship, affecting navigation decisions by other ships in the area.
Dana Goward, former chief of Marine Transportation Systems for the US Coast Guard, said hackers could go after the unsecured navigation system on a commercial or private ship while simultaneously jamming a Navy ship’s guidance systems. Or they could misdirect the commercial ship’s guidance system, sending the ship off-course.
In the aftermath of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, the demands facing the US Navy, and the Pacific fleet in particular, have gotten renewed focus. Greater operational demands on fewer ships have cut into time for rest as well as time dedicated to training (and the nature of that training has changed as well).
In light of such demands, experience suggests that in high-traffic areas mistakes by humans manning the ships remained a likely culprit, said Goward, a former Coast Guard captain. “It’s a difficult environment to be in and human error is always present,” he told USA Today.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.
Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.
Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?
The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.
Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.
Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.
So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.
Charles R. Walgreen, Sr. was more than an innovator and business owner — he was also a veteran.
The son of Swedish immigrants, Walgreen interrupted his budding pharmacy career to enlist with the Illinois National Guard and fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. His primary assignment was working in a hospital dispensary, which exposed him to yellow fever, complicated by malaria, a combination that was nearly fatal to him.
In time he recovered, returned to civilian life, and spent the following years working in various Chicago drugstores, sometimes for short periods at each. Thus he gained knowledge of the practice of pharmacy and experience with business techniques that distinguished the successful drugstore from the less so. He learned a lot about the art and value of good customer service. Before long he wanted to be his own boss and, in 1901, bought the pharmacy he worked at in Chicago. Walgreens, the company, was born.
In its first few years, Walgreens became known for its “two-minute stunt.” Customers who were in the immediate vicinity of the drugstore would call to order non-prescription items, and Walgreen would slowly repeat the order and delivery address back to the customer, loud enough for an assistant to take down the details. Walgreen would then chat up the customer long enough for the assistant to make the trip to the delivery address. Sometimes, with Walgreen still on the phone, the customer would excuse him or herself from the phone to answer the door, and return in amazement at how quickly the order had arrived. It was a feat of sufficient theatricality that it earned good word-of-mouth advertising.
Eight years after the first Walgreens opened its doors, the second location in Chicago opened.
By 1916, there were nine stores and by the time of the company’s 25th anniversary of service, 92 stores were operating in the Chicago area alone, many featuring soda fountains.
During World War II, more than 2,500 Walgreens employees served in the military, 20 percent of its workforce. Forty-eight did not survive the war.
In 1943, Walgreens supported the war effort by opening a nonprofit, 6,000-square-foot store inside the Pentagon. Elsewhere, stores around the country sold $41 million in war bonds and stamps.
Walgreens continued to grow with the post war boom, and by 1975, hit $1 billion in sales. By 1984 Walgreens opened its 1,000th store.
Over the decades, the community and civic engagement for which Charles Walgreen was known evolved with the company to become a corporate-wide commitment to social responsibility. In addition to supporting numerous philanthropic causes, Walgreens has shown innovations in environmental sustainability, mirrored the diversity of America through its employment and vendor policies, and earned an international reputation as a model employer of people with disabilities.
From its humble early aspirations to make a name in Chicago, to its current aspiration to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, wellbeing and beauty retailer, Walgreens in 2016 boasts a total of over 8,100 stores in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands.
After 115 years of service to the country, Walgreens is honored to also serve those in the military who have defended our country.
As part of the Express Scripts network of pharmacy providers, Walgreens stands ready to give Tricare members the excellent service for which it is famous. With over 8,000 in-network pharmacies from which to choose, Walgreens is well-positioned to champion every Tricare members’ right to be happy and healthy.
A small contingent of Japanese troops and armored vehicles engaged in military exercises with the US and the Philippines in the Philippines on Oct. 6, 2018, assisting in a humanitarian role during an amphibious exercise simulating recapturing territory from a terrorist group.
A total of about 150 troops took part in the landing on Oct. 6, 2018. Fifty Japanese troops, unarmed and in camouflage, followed four of their armored vehicles ashore, moving over beach and brushland while picking up Filipino and US troops playing wounded.
Japanese Maj. Koki Inoue stressed that Japanese personnel weren’t involved in the combat portion of the exercise but added that the drills were the first time the Japanese military’s armored vehicles had been used on foreign soil since World War II. After being defeated in that war, Japan adopted a pacifist constitution.
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force prepares to embark on the USS Ashland in assault amphibious vehicles during KAMANDAG 2 in Subic Bay, Philippines, Oct. 3, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)
“Our purpose is to improve our operational capability, and this is a very good opportunity for us to improve our humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training,” Inoue said, according to AFP.
The exercise, called Kamandag — an acronym for the Tagalog phrase, “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea” — started in 2017 and has focused on counterterrorism, disaster response, and interoperability.
2018’s iteration of the exercise runs from Oct. 2 to Oct. 11, 2018, and the US has said it is not directed at any outside power.
“It has nothing to do with a foreign nation or any sort of foreign army. This is exclusively counter-terrorism within the Philippines,” 1st Lt. Zack Doherty, a Marine Corps communications officer, told AFP.
US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jovanny Rios guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill during KAMANDAG 2, in the Naval Education Training Center, Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 2, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)
But the drill’s timing and location put it in the middle of simmering tensions between China and its rivals in the region.
The landing took place at a Philippine navy base in the province of Zambales on the northern island of Luzon. The same base hosted an expanded annual US-Philippine military exercise in early 2018.
China has ignored a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal that rejected its expansive claims in the South China Sea and found that it violated the Philippines’ territorial rights.
China has built up other islands and reefs it claims in the South China Sea, adding military outposts and hardware. It has not done that on Scarborough, and doing so would have strategic implications for the US and the Philippines. Manila has said such activity would be a “red line.”
The exercise also kicked off after a series of shows of force by US and Chinese forces in the East and South China Seas, including numerous flyovers by US bombers and a close encounter between US and Chinese warships.
Japan’s presence was one of several recent firsts for that country’s military, which has looked to increase its capabilities and readiness.
Early October 2018, British troops became the first non-US military personnel to be hosted by Japan for military exercises, joining members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force for Exercise Vigilant Isles.
In spring 2018, Japan stood up an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II. Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, and that force, which has carried out several exercises already, would likely be called on to defend those islands.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
North Carolina National Guard soldiers escorted four WWII veterans and their families to 75th-anniversary liberation celebrations Sept. 11-17, 2019.
The veterans served in the 30th Infantry Division, known as Old Hickory, and helped to liberate Belgium and the Netherlands from German occupation in September 1944.
Throughout the week, the Old Hickory veterans were honored with ceremonies, dinners, hugs, and a parade through Maastricht in the Limburg Province.
The soldiers and WWII veterans enjoyed the festivities, as well as the smaller, more personal moments.
“The most emotional part for me was when George Ham visited the spot where his battle buddy was killed,” said Maj. Kevin Hinton, deputy commander for the NCNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “George served in Charlie Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, and that’s who I served with in Iraq in 2004.”
WWII Veterans who served in the 30th Infantry Division, and North Carolina National Guard soldiers visit the graves of 30th Inf. Div. soldiers buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands on Sept. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
Hinton, vice president of the 30th Infantry Division Association, said he felt a connection to what the WWII veteran was going through.
“Part of George’s emotion is that he was supposed to be that guy, but he switched positions,” Hinton said. “There’s probably some survivor’s guilt on his part, and I’ve been there. I understand that feeling.”
The N.C. Guard soldiers were all veterans of the same unit, having served in Iraq with the now reorganized 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and acted as representatives of the Guard and the 30th Infantry Division Association, a membership group for veterans of the unit.
The trip affected not only the 30th Infantry Division veterans but also currently serving soldiers who were part of the liberation celebrations.
“It gives value to my own sense of service and what I’m doing now by serving,” said Col. Wes Morrison, the North Carolina Army National Guard chief of staff. “I see that folks appreciate, across the world, what the United States Army has done for the world at different times. Your service means something and it means something to not just Americans, but people across the world.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division were honored with a ceremony and parade through the City of Maastricht in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands that ended in a festival on Sept. 14, 2019, in celebration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Limburg Provence by 30th Inf. Div. soldiers in September of 1944.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
The group was able to visit the same places where the 30th Infantry Division fought back the German occupation and other places where they were able to rest after almost 90 days of being on the front lines.
One of those places was the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, a rest center for soldiers after the liberation. While there, some of the current Soldiers took a photo in the same courtyard where a formation of Old Hickory soldiers took a photo 75 years ago.
Hinton hoped this trip would help build a bond between the new generation of Old Hickory veterans and the people of the Limburg province to continue the tradition.
“It’s a part of the history of the 30th and the North Carolina National Guard,” Hinton said. “We need to educate our young soldiers on the history of what the 30th has done. When the WWII veterans are long gone, the U.S. and the Netherlands will still exist, and we have to maintain this and remember what they did. Like someone said in one of the speeches, the beginnings of the European Union started with the liberation and the desire for Europe to never go through that again.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division, visit the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium on Sept. 15, 2019, where more than 300 Old Hickory soldiers who died during WWII are buried.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
As the soldiers, veterans, and their families prepared to travel home, many were heard to say “see you in five years,” anticipating the 80th anniversary of the liberation.
Even though the WWII veterans may no longer be able to make the trip, Morrison thought it was important the tradition continues.
“If we honor the veterans of the past, we bring more value to the service that we have today,” Morrison said. “You wear the uniform in the current unit, you’re wearing Old Hickory. You now have the responsibility of that lineage and history of that unit on your back. We can’t let them down. The history they created here, the high bar, high standard for performance of duty and what they did here, 75 years ago is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time.”
The official announcement was expected to come later in the day the additional troops, who were expected to operate as trainers and enablers mostly out of the logistics hub for the offensive at the Qayyarah West airfield about 40 miles southeast of Mosul.
Army Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, also said that ISIS was attempting to turn Mosul into a “living hell” for the attacking force by setting out extensive fields of improvised explosive devices and even filling trenches with oil.
The troops would be in addition to the 4,647 currently authorized for Iraq by President Obama and were requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
In a statement, Abadi said “American President Barack Obama was consulted on a request from the Iraqi government for a final increase in the number of trainers and advisers under the umbrella of the international coalition in Iraq,” Reuters reported.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for some of the world’s most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
DARPA has had a hand in major inventions like GPS, the internet, and stealth aircraft. And it’s always developing new technologies — military or intelligence-related systems that could end up having a huge impact outside the battlefield as well.
We’ve looked at some of DARPA’s active projects, and found some of the more astounding systems that are currently in the works.
Generally, surface-to-air missiles are faster than the plane they’re targeting, making it difficult for an aircraft to evade fire. The HELLADS program attempts to use lasers to disable incoming missiles.
DARPA is also planning on increasing the strength of the HELLADS laser in order to make it an offensive weapon capable of destroying enemy ground targets.
ARES will be a dual-mode vehicle capable of both driving on the ground and achieving high-speed vertical takeoff and landing. Twin tilting fans will allow the vehicle to hover and land. The vehicle can also configure itself for high-speed flight.
DARPA hopes that the ARES will be especially resistant to IEDs — while also being able to evade aerial threats, like air-to-air missiles.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) introduced by DARPA and in development by Boston Dynamics is a mobile, semi-autonomous, four-legged robot that can function as a beast of burden on the battlefield.
Boston Dynamic’s AlphaDog can currently go70% to 80% of the places that troops are capable of walking. The prototype can carry hundreds of pounds of gear, lightening the burden for soldiers. It is currently taking part in testing trials alongside Marines in Hawaii.
DARPA’s One Shot XG program aims to improve the accuracy of military snipers through a small mountable calculation system that can be placed either on a weapon’s barrel or on its spotting scope.
The One Shot system is designed to calculate a number of variables, such as crosswind conditions, the maximum effective range of the weapon, and weapon alignment, using an internal Linux-based computer. The system would then indicate an ideal aim point for the marksman.
The One Shot XG began testing in March 2013.
A system that provides almost immediate close air support
The tactic of close air-support — in which soldiers call in attack aircraft to gain advantage in the midst of a ground engagement — has remained relatively unchanged since its emergence in World War I. In conventional close air support, pilots and ground forces focus on one target at a time through voice directions and a shared map.
US soldiers must operate in ever condition imaginable, including environments rife with physical obstacles that require soldiers to rely on ropes, ladders, or other heavy-climbing tools.
To overcome this challenge, DARPA has initiated the Z-Man program.
Z-Man seeks to replicate the natural climbing ability of geckos and spiders. One of the main products of the Z-Man program is “Geckskin,” a synthetically produced high-grip material. In a 2012 trial, a 16-square-inch sheet of Geckskin successfully attached to a glass wall — and managed to hold a static load of 660 pounds.
The initial phases of the program are aimed at aiding soldiers and officials with active translation of English into a listener’s native language and vice versa. DARPA plans on eventually expanding BOLT into a tool that could allow everyone to communicate fluidly without having to learn each other’s language.
DARPA awarded a $89 million contract to Boeing to develop the Solar Eagle unmanned drone.
Part of DARPA’s Vulture II program, the Solar Eagle is designed to stay in the air for a minimum of five years using solar energy. The drone will have a 400-foot wing span, equivalent to a forty-story building, and can fly at stratospheric altitudes.
The drone will have intelligence, communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions.
A system that gives soldiers enhanced optical awareness
The Soldier Scentric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) began in 2011 but is still at an early point in development. The program imagines a final system comprised of optical sensors that are both soldier and drone-mounted, allowing a synthesis of information that greatly increases battlefield awareness.
The program could provide soldiers with second-by-second information relating to their missions using a completely hands-free system.
The program aims to create an autonomous, unmanned high-altitude airship capable of conducting persistent wide area surveillance, tracking, and engagement of air and ground targets for a ten-year period. The airship will be fully solar powered as well.
Naval supply payloads hidden at the bottom of the ocean
Re-supply in remote sections of the ocean is one of the key difficulties that the Navy faces.
The Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program envisions the deployment of supply stockpiles throughout the bottom of the earth’s oceans. These supplies will be placed in capsules that can survive for years under extreme ocean floor-level pressure.
When needed, a passing ship would be able to send a signal to the supplies, causing them to rapidly rise through the water to the ship.
The VTOL X-Plane further pushes the boundaries of hybrid-wing aircraft beyond what the V-22 Osprey can already accomplish.
DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane envisions a new type of aircraft that can maintain a flight speed of 345 to 460 miles per hour, but is still capable of super-efficient hovering while carrying at least 4,800 pounds of cargo.
The X-Plane is scheduled for three phases of development between October 2013 and February 2018.
The SeeMe program would consist of a number of satellites that travel in a set band across the earth. This satellite constellation would provide precise imagery for any location within the pre-set band within a 90-minute time frame, making the program a potentially invaluable asset for military intelligence.
The constellation satellites would fly for 60-90 days before burning up in the atmosphere, leaving behind no space debris behind.
A precise lightweight laser weapon
The Pentagon is constantly attempting to reduce combat risk in urban situations where less-precise conventional weapons may cause unintended collateral damage.
DARPA’s Excalibur program is aimed at allaying these fears through light-weight laser weapon. Eventually, DARPA hopes the program will produce a 100-kilowatt laser that could be used in precision strikes against ground and air targets.
Having a baby is supposed to be a happy and joyous time. You imagine having a perfect delivery with your spouse by your side, and grandparents filling the waiting rooms. Within our military community as we understand all the change of plans that may happen, we are often forced to plan for a different scenario. A plan that includes giving birth to our sweet bundle of joy while our husband is half a world away on deployment.
As a first-time mom it can sometimes be devastating to think that you won’t have everyone together during this time. You will be angry and upset and wonder if there is any miracle that can happen to bring your husband home to join you. Sometimes it can happen, but other times the timing just does not work out. This is something that my family has now experience twice during our military journey.
My husband was deployed in 2007 as part of the troop surge in Iraq on a 15-month deployment when we welcomed our oldest into the world. While I was giving birth, my husband was patrolling the streets of Baghdad. I had this huge fear with this being our first child that my husband would be home for the birth, but I would not deliver in time before he went back. If that happened, then our son would be 8 months old by the time he returned home. Due to this fear of mine, we opted to have my husband come home on his RR after the due date to ensure he had time with his son and to meet him. So, when it came time to deliver, two of my friends and my mom joined me in the delivery room.
In 2010, my husband would again be on deployment when we were due with our second son. This time we planned for my husband to be home for the birth on his RR during his 12-month deployment to Iraq again. We had this perfect plan about him being home a week before hand to make sure there was adequate time for us to all be together. In true military fashion I would go into labor early this time and have our child 2 days before my husband landed back on US soil. This time I would call a friend who lived an hour and a half a way to come join me during labor and delivery. My husband would learn of the birth of our new son when he called me right before boarding his plane from Kuwait to Germany on his way home.
Twice my husband met his children as newborns next to airport security.
While giving birth without your husband with you is not a plan anyone wants to prepare for, it is often one we need to consider. While it does completely suck, there are things you can do to lessen the hard blow of your spouse not being with you.
First, know it could be a possibility. Knowing that this scenario might happen will help lessen the disappointment blow if it becomes reality. Having that realistic expectation can help put other plans in place so you will not be giving birth alone.
Make your contingency plan. If your spouse cannot be there with you then who can be? Having a close friend, sister or your mom as your support person can make a big difference and makes sure that you will not be by yourself. Find someone who either already plans to be in town during the time or has a flexible schedule to be there.
Use that technology. We have come a long way since my experiences in giving birth without my husband. Now we have the ability of facetime, video chat, and other apps that can allow you to skype your husband in and have him still be apart of the moment. Worst case is that you video it for them to watch later.
Make your husbands presence known in the room. I had several pictures of my husband throughout the room, and one taped to the side of the plastic clear crib the hospital uses. I also had several of his shirts that smelled like him – one I wore at times, and the other was used as a sheet, again in the hospital’s plastic clear crib. For me, it was important for our sons to know their dad was still with them.
As a military spouse we are used to planning, making a back up plan, and a back up to the back up plan. If you think there is any chance of the possibility that your spouse might miss the birth due to a deployment or even a school (because we know flights can be delayed), make the plan now. Having it in place and never needing it will be much easier than scrambling at the end.
In whatever plan that happens, just know that it will make for a beautiful story!
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon patrol the sandy streets of Djibouti, the hot East African sun scorches their path with temperatures upwards of 115 degrees. Passing through impoverished villages, Rodriguez began to notice a devastating trend — most of the children are barefooted.
It was during his visit to an orphanage that, Rodriquez immediately thought of his own two daughters and made it his personal mission to do something about the shoeless orphans.
“While on patrol, every few weeks we passed a local orphanage where children gather for their meals,” Rodriguez said. “Children aged 5-8 sleep along the walls outside and wake up to shower in the orphanage. They eat cups of peanut butter for protein with crackers. Since there is no refrigeration, that is the most protein they are able to get. That’s their lunch — crackers. So I thought you know what? This would be a great mission for my church back home.”
While on emergency leave due to his father’s passing, Rodriguez pushed past his grief to talk to students and coordinate a sandal drive with the school that his daughters attend, Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Laredo, Texas. Their Catholic school is part of the parish that Rodriguez and his family belong to.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with several of the children in Djibouti. Rodriguez gifted 500 sandals to barefoot orphans and children during their deployment.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“I am very active in my daughter’s school and I wanted to get my daughters involved and proactive in something in Africa as well,” Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, said. “I talked to the principal, who said she would talk to Father Wojciech, the priest in charge of his church in Laredo. The school sent out flyers thru the National Junior Honor Society asking parents to donate one pair of sandals.”
On Veteran’s day, Rodriguez who is completing his fourth deployment, visited his daughter’s school to talk about his service in the military and the children in Djibouti.
“I described how the weather was there, how hot it was and asked them to imagine standing outside, barefooted in Laredo,” Rodriguez said. “My daughters and their classmates are at that age where they are learning to help others and how to ask for help as well. I want them to learn a sense of compassion.”
From September to December, his daughter’s school collected six boxes filled with roughly 500 sandals of varying sizes. After the sandals were collected, the students raised money to send the two by three-foot shipping boxes to Djibouti for Rodriguez and his unit to deliver to the children.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez, a platoon sergeant for the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, hands out sandals to barefoot orphans and children with his platoon during their deployment, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
“This is the first time that we have done something so big that reaches out of the country,” Cynthia Sanchez, math and science teacher at Blessed Sacrament School. “It’s a trickle-down effect, from parents, and at school they are learning how to help others so that they can teach their own kids.”
Normally, the school participated in blanket, canned food and sweater drives, and periodically will make trips to feed the homeless.
“They feel good and warm inside about helping others with no incentives but because they want to give it,” said Sanchez. “We weren’t expecting that amount. A lot of parents and kids wanted to do their part and National Junior honor Society members went outside of the school into their communities to get donations.”
Anxiously waiting for the packages to arrive, Rodriguez received the sandals in February.
In order to distribute the sandals in the community, Rodriguez coordinated with the local orphanage and the village elder for approval.
After he received approval, Rodriguez and his platoon set out to deliver the sandals to the children of the community.
“When we handed out the sandals the children were so surprised,” Rodriguez said. “Their happiness turned into overwhelming joy, to trying to be next, I made sure they all were good. It got chaotic at times but these children had nothing but what they were wearing and most were barefooted.”
Rodriguez, who kept close contact with his daughter’s school immediately alerted the school, via e-mail, that he had handed out the sandals to the children.
Children from Djibouti pose for a photo after receiving sandals from Texas Army National Guard Soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rodriguez and his platoon, February 2019 in Djibouti.
(Photo by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura)
In response, Anacecy Chavez, a Blessed Sacrament School teacher wrote:
“When I read this my heart jumped. You are a super hero for me and many others for serving our country and helping those around you.”
The Director of the orphanage, Caritas Djibouti, also thanked Rodriguez and his daughter’s school for their donation.
“We had the good surprise a few days ago to receive, through Mr. Rodriguez, a nice and generous donation of shoes for the street children here at Caritas,” said Francesco Martialis, director of Caritas Djibouti. “It was such a generous support which will be usefully used for sure! And also many thanks for the Church support that we feel, from here Djibouti, an isolated place, through your donation. It is precious to us.”
Rodriguez, who has been a soldier on the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force for 18 years, is no stranger to getting involved into the community. Task force members routinely support local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in an effort to detect, interdict and deter illicit drug activity.
In addition to being an involved member of his church, Rodriguez said that his experience as a task force member enhanced his ability to build relationships on an international level, communicate and coordinate with partners in order to make the drive a success.
Although Rodriguez’s tour is coming to a close, he has continued to solidify the connections of his church at home with the local Djibouti church — which coincidentally are both named Blessed Sacrament.
Rodriguez spoke to the Bishop of the Djibouti Catholic Church about maintaining contact in the case that they may be able to provide more donations for the children.
“It is great to hear that our young youth are striving to be humanitarians as that is something this world is missing more of,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me great pride to know that the sacrifices we make as soldiers to protect our country is giving our youth the opportunity to grow into caring, responsible and giving citizens of our communities.”
Wars should be like taking off Band-Aids: If a country can’t get it over with fast, maybe it shouldn’t think about shedding blood.
When a country is this bad at war, it probably runs the risk of just slowly bleeding to death. There are many, many examples of this in both history and in today’s newspapers — and we’ve collected our favorite examples.
This episode of “Fixer Upper: Armed Forces Edition” has seen a lot of changes since 2015.
There are also a few new faces on this updated list. When considering this year’s candidates, I actually created some criteria. It was important to consider what the armed forces of a country needs versus what it has and what a country’s priorities really are. I also considered how much sh*t the country (or its leadership) talks versus what it actually accomplishes.
But keep in mind this is not about criticizing the people who fight wars on the front lines. For the most part, it’s about criticizing the governments and policymakers who fund, train, and equip these armies and then expect them not to get annihilated once they go into battle.
There are many countries with extremely substandard defense forces, but most of those aren’t going around rattling sabers, either. For example, Gambia has about 2,000 troops with old weapons and uniforms that don’t match, but they spend most of their time fighting HIV and wizards, not threatening to invade Senegal.
And though there are many armed forces engaged in fighting around the world, many of those aren’t actually from a recognized country.
This year’s list gave Mongolia a break for going the extra mile and having a Navy despite being totally landlocked. We also said goodbye to the Philippines. After the Manila Standard called our 2015 assessment of the Philippines’ armed forces “spot on,” incoming President Rodrigo Duterte decided to spend $6.6 billion upgrading the AFP.
To be clear, no one here is taking credit for this.
Also leaving this year’s list is “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea. At the time of this writing, the country is looking to end its war with Ethiopia and maybe even stop “drafting” all of its men to work in forced labor.
Also missing from the list is Somalia, whose armed forces is pretty much subsumed by U.S. special operations along with Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.
These are the forces that make the KISS Army seem even more formidable than they already do.
The latest hand-me-downs from Russia to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan include two classes of helicopter from the 1960s, tanks from the 1970s, and personnel carriers from the 1980s. This is still a big step up from the absolutely nothing they got from the fall of the Soviet Union. That’s just the equipment. It doesn’t get much better for the troops on the ground in an army where even the doctors will haze them to death.
But congrats to the Tajik armed forces, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. This is only weird because independent Tajikistan is 27 years old.
Many might be surprised to see Russia on a “worst armies” list, but the country’s biggest wins of the last few years include:
Not starting World War III in Syria.
Air strikes on poorly-armed Syrian rebels.
Fighting Ukraine to a draw.
Building a Navy it can’t crew.
Annexing a peninsula with no electricity, fresh water, or money.
Hypersonic missiles that fly only 22 miles.
Finally building a robot tank after 30 years and failing at it.
Russia seems strong because it doesn’t let anyone tell it what to do. But all it wants to do is beat up on its weaker neighbors and generally be an asshole to Washington — and this is the source of its true power. It can fight a war. It can conquer countries.
President Erdoğan is a lot more aggressive with Turkey’s armed forces than he used to be, both in use of force and imprisoning generals he thinks started a coup against him in 2016. That’s what dictators do. But as ISIS fighters approached the Turkish border with Syria, Turkey did very little about it. Erdoğan only cared about consolidating power, (something he finally did with the most recent election) while Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds, cleared ISIS from the area.
Fast-forward to when Turkey did act in Syria, months after the U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters defeated ISIS in northern Syria. Turkey invaded and immediately started attacking – you guessed it – the Kurds. Turkey has always had a reason to hate Kurds, but it’s poor timing to exercise those demons on a de facto ally in the middle of a war they were winning to help protect Turkey.
The only goal of the Turkish invasion is to keep the Kurds from getting their own country, the ultimate geopolitical dick move.
If you thought it was bad that Nigerian military members were fired for making a strategic retreat or that Nigerian troops could only run away from Boko Haram because neither their weapons nor vehicles worked, remember: it can always be worse. Especially for Nigerian women.
As for the troops’ welfare, senators are more likely to have armored cars than front-line troops. And when the country did decide to invest $2 billion into its military, it was immediately funneled into personal bank accounts of government ministers – to the tune of $2.2 billion, more than the original investment.
First of all, let’s understand that the U.S. is never, ever going to leave Afghanistan — ever. If we really planned to leave Afghanistan, we’d give them something more effective than old prop planes and uniforms we don’t want. When U.S. troops do give the ANA reasonably modern equipment, the ANA turns right around and deserts them in the next Taliban attack. So the U.S. then has to go destroy their own Humvees. And while some call the Afghan Air Force a win for U.S. training, they should remember that when the Taliban get its hands on those planes and laser-guided munitions and the U.S. has to blow those up, too.
Most of the funding for the ANA goes toward salaries, essentially begging ANA troops not to kill their fellow troops or NATO allies. This is a game the ANA can’t win when the Taliban is offering three times as much to do the opposite. So, even though the ANA called the 60mm mortar a “game changer” for ground troops, the Taliban will still pay a king’s ransom for them to fire it into a friendly base. The United States has sunk billion into an Army that can’t win — or even fight. Hell, they pass basic training just by not going AWOL.
To top it all off, the older generals are being forced to retire from the Afghan Army. Remember what happened the last time the U.S. pushed to fire a whole big chunk of another nation’s army? The Iraq War and, eventually, ISIS.
The number one PT score for Venezuela’s army is probably in running, because that’s all they’ve been doing lately. When a Venezuelan soldier’s choices are limited to either working for free and potentially starving to death or to desert entirely, the choice becomes clear.
So, what does an embattled President do when his army starts crumbling? Tell civilians the U.S. is going to attack and then show them how to defend the country.
Mexico militarized its law enforcement then sent its military into Mexico to fight of violent drug cartels… and still lost. The country was divided into five security zones and then invaded by the armed forces. Then they became just as corrupt and criminal as the local law enforcement they replaced.
To make matters worse, when the army takes out any kind of cartel leadership, it creates a power vacuum and then a war among the cartels. The strategy of removing high-level kingpins has resulted in a 60 percent increase in violence that the Mexican military can’t control, despite fully occupying its own country. They’ve been at this since 2006 and it’s taken a heavy toll on the Mexican military and Mexican people. In the last few years, Mexico quietly became the second deadliest conflict, surpassed only by Syria.
That means you’re actually safer in Kabul than in Cabo.
3. North Korea
Of course North Korea makes the list again. Despite the recent Singapore Summit, there is no one better at rattling a saber than a North Korean named Kim. In fact, Kim Jong Un is really just following the North Korean game plan to get concessions from the United States:
Create a scene
Threaten all-out war with the South
Get talked down at the last minute
Get rewarded for not starting the war you had no intention of starting in the first place.
But to make step two seem plausible, North Korea needs to have a credible threat. So while it does have hundreds of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, a city with 9.8 million people, it also has the world’s oldest air force and trains its pilots using the power of imagination, mostly because it can’t afford jet fuel. Its navy is just considered a “nuisance” and we would all be amazed if its army had enough food for the time it takes to actually kill those 9.8 million people.
Syria’s armed forces are so awful, they can’t win a civil war with the help of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the U.S. and Kurds fighting ISIS for them. In fact, anyone can feel free to violate Syria’s sovereignty. Turkey, the GCC, Europe, and Israel are doing it without repercussions on an almost daily basis. So, naturally, what do Syria’s armed forces do? Threaten to attack the U.S. and Israel. As if they didn’t have enough problems.
And when they do win, it’s not exactly clean. Chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and starvation are the primary tactics used for the now-seven year long civil war there. It’s not exactly the way to convince the civilian population that Assad is the right leader for them. Seven years down, five to go.
1. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia talks a lot of smack about a war with Iran but even when it brings its full military might to bear, it can’t keep a coalition together, let alone finish off an Iranian proxy. They’ve been fighting the Houthi-led insurgents in Yemen since 2015 and with the help of half of Yemen, all of Sudan, Morocco, the U.S., the UAE, Senegal, France, Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain, they still fail to win the war.
This coalition has every numerical and technological advantage on sea, land, and air and they’re just being manhandled, the result of overconfidence and a dash of hubris. The Saudis thought 150,000 battle-hardened Houthis would just roll over after a few airstrikes. “Winning” was the extent of their plan and, if it didn’t work for Charlie Sheen, it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Saudi Arabia.
Not only have they failed to win after three years and heavily outnumbering and outgunning the Houthis, they’ve lost coalition partners and turned the entire country into a humanitarian disaster. That’s what you get for relying on another country’s military to bail you out of everything for 20 years.
Career Incentive Pay is another part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the Services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that otherwise pay them significantly more in the civilian sector.
Each career incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.
Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1 outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a, 301c, 304, 305a and 320 address incentive pays that are career specific.
1. Aviation Career Incentive
Who: Military pilots
How much: $125 to $840 per month, dependent on number of years serving as an aviator. This lasts the duration of the pilot’s aviation career.
2. Submarine Duty Incentive (SUBPAY)
Who: Navy personnel aboard submarines.
How much: The Secretary of the Navy has the ability to set SUBPAY up to $1,000 per month, but it is currently between $75 and $835 per month.
3. Diving Duty
Who: Service member divers.
How much: $340 for enlisted personnel and $240 for officers per month.
4. Career Sea
Who: Naval officers who’ve been assigned duties above and beyond what might be typical for an officer in the same rank and which are critical to operations.
How much: $50 – $150 per month, dependent on rank. There is a limit on payments made to O-3s to O-6s, and only a certain percentage of personnel in each rank can qualify for the pay.
5. Career Enlisted Flyer
Who: Enlisted personnel on flight crews for the Air Force and Navy.
How much: $150 – $400 depending on years in the aviation field.