The world's two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of July 13th

It looks like the World Cup isn’t coming home to England. Such a shame to see the championship match of the sport you claim to have invented go to literally everyone else. Seeing as an estimated seven people from the United States give a damn about the World Cup — give or take six people — we’re finding it hard to care.

Meanwhile, American troops are about to do some dumb sh*t this weekend. Not for any particular reason — just that it’s a payday weekend and it’s Friday the 13th. Remember, if your weekend doesn’t involve you making the blotter and having your First Sergeant busting your drunk ass out of the MP station, did you really have a weekend?

No matter what you’ve got planned, enjoy these memes first.


The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Infantry Army)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

I guess screaming, “If you ain’t ordinance, you ain’t sh*t” is the Air Force’s way of feeling slightly less like POGs.

Fun Fact: Airman and Navy aviators have their own version of POG — “Personnel on the Ground.” But they’re all still POGs in the eyes of soldiers and Marines.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via ASMDSS)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Military World)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Discharged)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Private News Network)

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Articles

Music fans prove terror won’t win at One Love concert

More than 60,000 defiant music fans joined Ariana Grande at her One Love concert at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester June 4, as they stood together in the face of extremism and pay tribute to those killed in terror attacks.

The American singer’s manager Scooter Braun said the Manchester gig now has a “greater purpose” than ever after the country’s second terror attack in two weeks.


Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Take That, Robbie Williams, Mumford Sons and Little Mixtook to the stage and performed for free to raise at least £2m towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

Bono and his U2 bandmates sent an emotional video message to the huge audience at the One Love Manchester gig.

Currently in America on their Joshua Tree tour, which played Chicago June 4, he paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack and sent a message of support to those affected.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U2 at the United Center in Chicago, IL, June 25, 2015 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

“All our hearts are with you. All our hearts are with Manchester and with the UK and so many of our friends in this great city.

“We’re broken-hearted for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children from this senseless, senseless horror,” he said.

“There is no end to grief, that’s how we know, there’s no end to love, a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.”

On June 3 seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured after three men drove a van into a crowd on London Bridge and set upon people in a crazed knife rampage.

Despite the atrocities, fans including those injured in the Manchester Arena on May 22, headed to the venue in their droves, proudly wearing clothes emblazoned with the slogan, “We stand together”.

Mumford Sons’ Marcus Mumford was the first to take to the stage, asking for a minute’s silence in tribute to those who have lost their lives in the two weeks prior, including the 22 killed in the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

In between renditions of Giants and Rule The World, Gary Barlow told the crowd: “Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, thank you for everybody watching at home, thanks to Ariana for inviting us tonight.

“Our thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected by this.

“We want to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud.”

Barlow then introduced his former band mate, Robbie Williams. Williams serenaded the crowd with his song Strong, changing the words to, “Manchester we’re strong”.

Concert-goers began queueing outside Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground from 8.30am ahead of the One Love Manchester gig.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Ariana Grande at a 2015 Jakarta concert. (Photo by: Berisik Radio)

The event marked Ariana Grande’s first return to the stage since suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device.

All Grande fans who attended the gig on May 22 were offered free passes to the benefit concert.

Grande’s manager Mr Braun said all the acts involved had shown “unwavering” support.

Questions were raised by fans about whether the One Love benefit gig would still go ahead in the wake of the latest terror attack in London.

However in a statement Mr Braun said: “After the events in London, and those in Manchester just two weeks ago, we feel a sense of responsibility to honor those lost, injured, and affected.

“We plan to honor them with courage, bravery, and defiance in the face of fear.

“Today’s One Love Manchester benefit concert will not only continue but will do so with greater purpose.

“We must not be afraid and in tribute to all those affected here and around the world, we will bring our voices together and sing loudly.

“All artists involved have been unwavering in their support this morning and today we stand together. Thank you,” he added.

Articles

Photos from the US military’s major training exercise with Australia and New Zealand

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
An Australian Army soldier from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, moves across the ‘battlefield’ in the early hours of the morning during Exercise Hamel 2016, in Cultana training area, South Australia, on 6 July 2016. | Commonwealth of Australia


It’s summer and it seems like the perfect season for nations to begin training their troops with major operations. Australia is no exception as it launches its annual Army training, Exercise Hamel.

Named after The Battle of Hamel at France in 1918, the exercise takes its roots from its successful attack on German positions by Australian forces in conjunction with American units — paving the way for an allied victory of World War I.

Keeping up with this spirit, the Australians will host over 8,000 troops during its trilateral exercise in South Australia — including US Marines and soldiers, and the New Zealand Army.

Check out the photos of what went down down-under.

US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia. Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

An Australian Army soldier moves across the mock battlefield in the early hours of the morning.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

A platoon sergeant looks at a map of Cultana Training Area in order to complete his objective.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marine officers pass information by radio.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

Marines press forward for patrol.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

Troops found themselves moving in and out of rocky trenches.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A rifleman scans the area outside of the objective.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A US anti-tank missileman looks for activity from the trenches.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marines clear trenches in the harsh terrain of South Australia.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A New Zealand Army soldier drags a “wounded” enemy soldier to safety during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia, as part of Exercise Hamel.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

A New Zealand Army infantry soldier patrols the perimeter of an internally displaced persons camp.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

A Combined Anti-Armor Team HMMWV moves into a screening position in the foliage.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

Australian Army soldiers identify mock enemy positions during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

Australian Army soldiers push forward through the town using cover.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

A United States Army soldier engages the enemy forces scattered throughout the town.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

An Australian Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter takes off from the Battlegroup Griffin position at Port Pirie, South Australia.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Commonwealth of Australia

US Marines set a 360 degree security for a simulated aircraft wreck site.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

US Marines prepare for a possible attack in the cover of darkness.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

Articles

These roving robots are helping to improve hostage rescue training

Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.


One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.

But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:

Articles

This Georgia congressman was the father of the modern Navy

Georgia Democratic congressman Carl Vinson supported the Navy and the rest of the armed forces from the House of Representatives from 1914 to 1965. On the road to World War II, he pushed through the legislation that turned the U.S. Navy from a small, neglected force into a behemoth capable of fighting in two oceans at once.


Vinson took office in late 1914 and was named to the House Naval Affairs Committee soon after. He served there throughout World War I and became friendly with then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

687px-Carl_Vinson_(D–GA)-house-armed-services-committee-house-committee-naval-affairs Rep. Carl Vinson as a young Democrat from Georgia. (Photo: Library of Congress)

After the end of World War I, a number of treaties sought to limit the size of navies maintained by the major powers. The U.S. was a signatory to these agreements and Vinson didn’t seek to outgrow them.

But when American naval might shrank too far below the treaty limits, he fought hard to grow it to its maximum allowed size.

He struggled for years against three presidents — including Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover — before being reunited with Roosevelt. When Roosevelt rose to the presidency, Vinson co-authored the Vinson-Trammell Act which passed in 1934 and allowed the Navy to grow to its fully allotted size.

Vinson spent the next few years continuing to advocate for increased air power, especially in the Navy. When the “war in Europe” showed signs of becoming a second World War, Vinson pushed for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold R. Stark to speak in front of the Naval Affairs Committee.

Stark called for 200 new combatant ships and 20 auxiliaries. The plan had been put together by Vinson and Stark and, luckily for those two, news of France’s surrender to Germany had reached American newspapers that very morning.

Congress, galvanized by the fall of France, pushed the bill through both houses and Roosevelt signed the “Two-Ocean Navy Bill” barely a month after Vinson had put it in front of the committee.

This allowed the U.S. Navy just over a year to prepare for World War II before it was hit at Pearl Harbor. The shipyards that churned out battleships, carriers and other vessels to attack the Japanese and defend against the Germans were stood up and manned before the war with ship orders that Vinson had lobbied for.

After the Axis surrender, Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz was asked what factors allowed America to win World War II. He replied, “I do not know where this country would have been after December 7, 1941, if it had not had the ships and the know-how to build more ships fast, for which one Vinson bill after another was responsible.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Retired Rep. Carl Vinson, at center-right, accepts a model of the aircraft carrier that will bear his name from President Richard Nixon. (Photo: Jack E. Kightlinger via the National Archives and Records Administration)

Adm. William D. Leahy wrote in his book, I Was There, “In my opinion, the Georgia representative had, in the past decade, contributed more to the national defense than any other single person in the country except the president himself.”

Vinson’s contributions to the Navy and, later, the Department of Defense, earned him monikers like the “Father of the Navy,” “Backstage Boss of the Pentagon” and the “Patriarch of the Armed Forces.”

At Vinson’s 90th birthday party, President Richard Nixon told the crowd, “As you know, we have just begun to develop nuclear carriers. The first one was named the Eisenhower, the second one was named the Nimitz, the great naval commander of World War II. The third is just beginning, and it will be named the Carl Vinson.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

Vinson was also honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Special Distinction, awarded by President Lyndon Johnson.

Vinson died in 1981, but the USS Carl Vinson still sails the waves. It is most often called to patrol the Pacific.

Articles

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.


“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”

He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.

“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
VA photo

Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.

“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”

Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.

“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”

Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.

What is retinitis pigmentosa?

“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”

In 2014, the National Eye Institute generally estimated that the rare disorder affected roughly 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S. and worldwide.** This genetic condition results from a mutation in more than 100 genes and can present in individuals without family history of the disorder. It usually develops gradually either early or later in life and eventually causes significant visual impairment, according to Gregori. In severe cases, the disorder can cause a complete loss of vision, forcing people like Catalan to find ways to cope and emotionally adjust to life with the condition.

Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.

“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”

The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.

“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.

Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
VA photo

Moving to Florida

In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.

“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”

Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.

In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.

One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time

When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.

“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”

Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.

“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.

It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present

Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.

“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”

“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”

Catalan’s progress

Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.

“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
VA photo

At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.

During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.

“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”

About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System

The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.

According to the Second Sight website, more than 200 patients worldwide have now received the prosthesis. To learn more about the Argus II, visit the Second Sight Medical Products Inc. website.

Articles

Soldiers could get this ‘Aliens’-like 3rd arm

There is a proverbial 800-pound gorilla that the United States Army is facing. Well, more like 110 pounds. That’s the weight some soldiers have to haul on their backs. And it’s a big problem.


The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
(GIF: Maple Films via YouTube)

“We [now] have Soldiers in their late teens and early 20s and they’re getting broken sometimes in training before they see a day in combat,” Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the Army Research Laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, was quoted in an Army release as saying during the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

How to prevent this? One solution is to give the troops a third arm. Yeah, you read that right. The Army Research Lab has a prototype third arm for troops that will hang off their body armor.

The device, which weighs about 4 pounds, is currently in testing at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Currently, the third arm is being used to help re-direct the weight of weapons, currently M4 carbines, onto a soldier’s body.

“With this configuration right now, we can go up to 20 pounds and take all of that weight off of the arms,” mechanical engineer Dan Baechle said.

During the testing, troops have been wearing sensors to determine how much muscle activity is occurring. Eventually this system could be used with other weapons, like the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon or the M240B machine gun. But it might not end there – troops could be able to carry more powerful systems, since the recoil won’t be directly impacting them.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

“We could potentially look at very high recoil systems that aren’t going to beat up on the soldier like they normally would,” Baechle said. There are also application for other tactical needs, like shooting around corners, close-quarters combat, and other fighting techniques.

But it might not just be about helping to shoot a weapon. Troops could also use the third arm to hold shields or keep a weapon ready while using other tools to breach barricades.

That said, before this system goes into the field, they will try to make sure it can be rugged enough to handle whatever the battlefield throws at it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump hints at breaking with generals on Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump appears increasingly willing to defy some of his top generals, as his administration grapples with how best to deal with Iran.


Trump is facing a May 2018 deadline to recertify the Iran nuclear deal and signaled again March 20, 2018, that he is not afraid to pull the U.S. out of the agreement unless other signatories are willing to make major changes.

“A lot of bad things are happening in Iran,” the president said during a visit to the White House by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Also read: How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

“The deal is coming up in one month, and you will see what happens,” he added.

Trump has long been critical of the 2015 Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aimed to contain Tehran’s nuclear program and block the country’s pathway to building nuclear warheads.

In January 2018, Trump said he was waiving nuclear sanctions against Iran for the “last time,” demanding U.S. lawmakers and Washington’s European allies “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

But since then, top U.S. military officials have pushed back, repeatedly describing the deal as mostly beneficial, even as they continue to voice deep concerns about Tehran’s aggressive behavior across the Middle East.

“As I sit here today, Iran is in compliance with JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action],” the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General John Hyten, told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 20, 2018.

“From a command that’s about nuclear [threats], that’s an important piece to me,” he said. “It allows me to understand the nuclear environment better.”

Related: Why Russia, Syria, and Iran are no match for just 2,000 US troops

Hyten’s comments follow those made to the Senate Armed Services Committee by the commander of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. operations in the Middle East.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principal threats that we deal with from Iran so, if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said CENTCOM’s General Joseph Votel.

“Right now, I think it is in our interest,” Votel added. “There would be some concern [in the region], I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA.”

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
General Joseph Votel.

Both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, have argued that staying in the deal is in the best interest of the U.S.

But despite having expressed confidence in his military advisers and officials early in his presidency, Trump has slowly been pushing aside those who have argued in favor of keeping the deal, most recently firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thinks it was OK,” Trump told reporters after announcing Tillerson’s removal. “I wanted to break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently.”

‘Destabilizing influence’

The man tapped to replace Tillerson, current U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, has gained a reputation for favoring a much tougher approach to Iran.

“The deal put us in a marginally better place, with respect to inspection, but the Iranians have on multiple occasions been capable of presenting a continued threat,” Pompeo said during an appearance in Washington in October 2017.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Mike Pompeo (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“The notion that the entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism or their terror threat or their malignant behavior has now, what, two years on, proven to be fundamentally false,” he added.

Those concerns, both from the U.S. intelligence community and from defense officials, have only grown.

Top defense officials have criticized Iran for what they described as malign and destabilizing activities in places such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and even Afghanistan.

More: That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

“They [Iran] are not changing their behavior,” Mattis warned during a visit to the region. “They’re continuing to be a destabilizing influence.”

Other defense officials said such concerns cannot be discounted when contemplating U.S. policy toward Iran.

“We are taking a comprehensive look,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters March 15, 2018.

“We remain in the agreement, but we want our partners to understand that Iran is the source of chaos and confusion in the region,” she said. “Everywhere you look, Iran is there.”

Articles

Air Force begins massive high-tech F-15 upgrade

The US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.


The multi-pronged effort includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology, super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.

“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s.  Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior.

The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variantsA key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.

As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.

Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Advanced F-15 Eagle on St. Louis Flight Line | Boeing photo

Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.

“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.

The F-15 is also receiving protective technology against enemy fire with a system called the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System.

“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.

The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.

“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.

IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.

The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.

The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.

“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Single-engine Chengdu J-10 | Wikimedia Commons

Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.

However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.

For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.

The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.

“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.

Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.

“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.

Articles

The 6 most terrifying weapons of World War I

When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.


World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.

1. The Flamethrower

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
German flamethrowers during WWI (Photo: German Federal Archive, 1917)

The idea of being able to burn one’s enemies to death has consistently been on the minds of combatants throughout history; however, it was not until 1915 Germany was able to deploy a successful man-portable flamethrower.

The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.

The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.

The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.

These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants.

2. Trench Knife

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Even with the advent of the firearm, hand-to-hand combat was still a given on the battlefield. However, with the introduction of trench warfare, a new weapon was needed in order to fight effectively in such close quarters. Enter the trench knife.

The most terrifying trench knives were developed by the United States. The M1917, America’s first trench knife, combined three killing tools in one. The blade of the weapon was triangular which meant it could only be used for stabbing, but it inflicted terrible wounds.

Triangular stab wounds were so gruesome that they were eventually banned by the Geneva Conventions in 1949 because they cause undue suffering. The knife also had a “knuckle duster” hand guard mounted with spikes in order to deliver maximum damage with a punching attack. Finally, the knife had a “skull crusher” pommel on the bottom in order to smash the enemy’s head with a downward attack.

An improved design, the Mark I Trench Knife, was developed in 1918 but didn’t see use until WWII.

3. Trench Raiding Clubs

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
Crudely shaped trench club from World War I. (Photo: York Museums Trust)

Along with the trench knife the Allies developed other special weapons for the specific purpose of trench raiding. Trench raiding was the practice of sneaking over to enemy lines’ and then, as quietly as possible, killing everyone in sight, snatching a few prisoners, lobbing a few explosives into bunkers and high-tailing it back to friendly lines before the enemy knew what hit them.

As rifles would make too much noise, trench raiding clubs were developed. There was no specific design of a trench raiding club, though many were patterned after medieval weapons such as maces and flails.

Others were crude handmade implements using whatever was around. This often consisted of heavy lengths of wood with nails, barbed wire, or other metal attached to the striking end to inflict maximum damage.

4. Shotgun

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Marine carrying the Winchester M97 shotgun.

When Americans entered the fight on the Western Front they brought with them a new weapon that absolutely terrified the Germans: the shotgun. The United States used a few different shotguns but the primary weapon was the Winchester M1897 Trench Grade shotgun. This was a modified version of Winchester’s model 1897 with a shortened 20″ barrel, heat shield, and bayonet lug.

The shotgun, with 6 shells of 00 buck, was so effective that American troops referred to it as the “trench sweeper” or “trench broom.”

The Germans, however, were less than pleased at the introduction of this new weapon to the battlefield. The effectiveness of the shotgun so terrified the Germans that they filed a diplomatic protest against its use. They argued that it should be outlawed in combat and threatened to punish any Americans captured with the weapon.

America rejected the German protest and threatened retaliation for any punishment against American soldiers.

5. Poison Gas

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
British emplacement after German gas attack (probably phosgene) at Fromelles. (July 19, 1916)

Of course any list of terrifying weapons of war has to include poison gas; it is the epitome of horrible weapons. Poisonous gas came in three main forms: Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard Gas.

The first poison gas attack was launched by the Germans against French forces at Ypres in 1915. After that, both sides began to develop their chemical weapon arsenals as well as countermeasures.

The true purpose of the gas was generally not to kill — though it certainly could — but to produce large numbers of casualties or to pollute the battlefield and force the enemy from their positions.

Gas also caused mass panic amongst the troops because of the choking and blindness brought on by exposure causing them to flee their positions. Mustard gas was particularly terrible because in addition to severely irritating the throat, lungs, and eyes, it also burned exposed skin, creating large painful blisters.

6. Artillery

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
8-inch howitzers of the 39th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery conducting a shoot in the Fricourt-Mametz Valley, during the Battle of the Somme, 1916. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Though artillery had been around for centuries leading up to WWI, its use on the battlefields of Europe was unprecedented. This was because of two reasons.

First, some of the largest guns ever used in combat were employed during the war.

Second, because the world had never seen such concentrations of artillery before.

Artillery shells were fired in mass concentrations that turned the earth into such a quagmire that later shells would fail to detonate and instead they would simply bury themselves into the ground. Massive bombardments destroyed trenches and buried men alive.

Artillery bombardments were so prolific that a new term, shell shock, was developed to describe the symptoms of survivors of horrendous bombardments.

Articles

From Odysseus to Odierno, ‘Warrior Chorus’ revives the classics

Peter Meineck is a New York University professor who had the idea to get American combat veterans – from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan – to read classical literature. These are the Classics, with a capital C, stories from the ancient Mediterranean worlds of Greece and Rome. They are filled with tales of great wars, the men who fought them, their voyages home, and what they found when they got there. These are the tales of warriors whose names echo through history: Odysseus, Philoctetes, Ajax, Hector, and many more.


The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Who better to read and interpret them now than the warriors of today? The combination of modern warriors and Classical terminology is what gives Meineck’s project its name: Warrior Chorus. In a Greek tragedy, the chorus was a group of players who would comment on the main action. They could simply talk or they could sing and dance. It’s an apt summation of what veterans do at Meineck’s Warrior Chorus. The veterans relate to the stories very differently than a Classics student, or even someone with a Ph.D.

“The veterans interpret the stories based on their own experience of service,” says Nathan Graeser from the University of Southern California’s Department of Social Work. USC is an important partner in Warrior Chorus.  The success of the program at New York’s Aquila Theatre (where Meineck is the founder and Artistic Director) earned a large grant for its work from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It’s now a national initiative focused on three regional centers in New York, Austin, and Los Angeles. USC is the partner bringing it to Southern California.
“This is about a public conversation with these classics,” Graeser says. “To engage in a deeper conversation about how the ethics and dilemmas of war are still in existence and how we see those through our current veterans, from Vietnam and further on.”

Graeser is not just a social worker but also a member of the Armed Forces. As a chaplain in the National Guard, he sees the power of service and the need to make the unique experiences more meaningful to those in the military.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
A classical Greek Chorus as depicted on pottery from the era.

“The [Classical] chorus is interjected throughout a story. It doesn’t advance the story at all. It’s something that just comments on everything happening in the story,” Graeser explains. “The Warrior Chorus is really a way for warriors to one, have a voice in the public but also to offer some insights and their own perspectives to the public as a public.”

After the study period, the students produce live stagings, readings, workshops, lectures, and other presentations of their reflections based on their study of the books and their own interpretations. Warrior Chorus is centered around four themes, each of which are particularly insightful for present-day veterans to focus on and repaint their own understanding. They develop their own interest within the program and are guided by Warrior Chorus scholars. The most important aspect is that veterans present their own interpretation through their unique skills and interests.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
A Warrior Chorus performer at the Aquila Theater in NYC

“Those that serve in today’s context, where the majority of people have not served, get back and now they are able to share their voice and be the modern day chorus,” He says. “Their’s is a definitive commentary on what it’s like to serve.”

The Los Angeles program is nearly finished with its study period and its veteran students will soon be creating their classical pieces for public consumption.

“I have been amazed at the great sense of solidarity between [the veterans] them as they’ve explored,” Graeser recalls. “As they’ve put pieces together in their own lives based off of what had happened 3,000 years ago, they come to say to themselves thing like: ‘No one ever listens to your story when you come home. Crazy. Oh my gosh, it’s always been this way.’ There’s something wonderfully normative about that, that they just feel like they’re suddenly in good company.”

Articles

This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.


The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
The British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk when her magazines exploded in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.

The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.

Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria
U.S. Navy photo

Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.

Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”

Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below: