Astronauts travelling aboard Elon Musk’s Dragon Capsule will wear form-fitting white-and-black spacesuits that bear little resemblance to their NASA forebears, the SpaceX founder revealed on August 23, a pivotal development in his quest to launch crewed missions to and from the International Space Station and beyond.
Although he offered few details in his sneak-peek Instagram post – “More in the days to follow,” a brief message promises – the tech billionaire, who is also chief executive of automaker Tesla, indicated that his spacesuit is functional and tested to withstand pressure loss while traveling through space. And in a nod to the design, he noted how “incredibly hard” it was to marry aesthetics and survivability.
The unveiling comes as SpaceX and aeronautics giant Boeing each have struggled to meet deadlines for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a cost-savings partnership between the agency and private industry focused on facilitating travel to the space station. It could be 2019 before either is certified to fly astronauts there, although both hope to conduct their first crewed test flights next year.
A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Aug 23, 2017 at 12:59am PDT
Boeing, maker of the Starliner space capsule, unveiled its minimalist “Boeing Blue” spacesuit in January. Like the new SpaceX suit, Boeing’s product is lighter, and more tailored and flexible than the cumbersome gear NASA astronauts have worn since the 1960s.
That’s because they’re built for a distinctive mission. For commercial flights to and from the space station, these suits will be worn during launch and reentry, or if a problem occurs causing the capsule to depressurize. As Thuy Ong notes for the Verge, this gear is specifically not intended for spacewalks, so it doesn’t need to provide the same bulky protection from dust and debris, or temperature fluctuation.
Photos of the SpaceX suit (or an early incarnation) first surfaced many months ago on Reddit, where observers were struck by its futuristic appearance. Like science fiction, some said.
Musk might disagree. The image he released August 23 is refined, exhibiting the considerable attention he gives not only to his products’ function but to the sophistication and simplicity of their design.
Consider, for instance, some early feedback on his newest electric car, the Tesla Model 3, in which nearly all functions – from the wiper blades to the air conditioning and stereo – are controlled via a small touch display beside the steering wheel. Musk has called the car “a very simple, clean design.” That’s deliberately so, he said in July, an effort to recognize that “in the future – really, the future being now – the cars will be increasingly autonomous.”
Indeed, after a three-minute test ride in the Model 3, The Washington Post’s Peter Holley observed the following: “It’s not so much that Tesla is ushering in the future… I’m more inclined to think that Tesla is single-handedly pulling the automotive industry into the present.”
The SpaceX Dragon was built to shuttle cargo into space, which it accomplished for the first time in 2012. It can be configured to carry a crew of seven.
Beyond the space station, Musk has said he wants to launch a human mission to Mars by 2025, a much more ambitious schedule than NASA envisions.
Perfecting the spacesuit technology was seen as a vital benchmark.
Memphis Belle was the first Eighth Air Force bomber to complete 25 missions with her entire crew (Miguel Ortiz).
The idea of putting weapons on aircraft to strike ground targets is not a new one. Although the concept has culminated in the deadly AC-130 gunship today, it was employed to great effect in Vietnam with the AC-47 Dragon and ACH-47 Chinook gunships. During WWII, air forces even experimented with mounting tank cannons on planes. But what about modifying bombers into gunships to take on fighter planes? They tried that too.
Bombing campaigns against Nazi Germany were a critical part of the Allied war strategy. If Germany’s industrial capacity and infrastructure could be crippled, it would seriously impact the military’s ability to fight the war. However, the British RAF quickly learned that the Germans would not let these bombing raids fly through uncontested. German anti-air and fighter plane defenses were so deadly that the British switched exclusively to night bombing to protect their aircraft and crews.
While this meant that German defenses had a harder time shooting down the bombers, it also made it that much more difficult for the bombers to hit their targets. The accuracy and effectiveness of the RAF’s bombings dropped considerably at night. But, because the Allied fighter planes at the time did not have the range to escort the bombers all the way to Germany and back to England, this was seen as the only viable option. Enter America and the most American solution.
How do you protect a bomber formation from enemy fighters without your own fighter escort? Put more guns on your bombers. British aircraft like the Vickers Wellington medium bomber and Avro Lancaster heavy bomber were defended by a maximum of 8 and 10 .303-caliber Browning machine guns, respectively, and these were early variants. Later variants of these bombers both stripped two machine guns to save weight. On the other hand, American aircraft like the Consolidated B-24 Liberator medium bomber and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber carried 10 and 13 .50-caliber Browning machine guns, respectively. With deadlier guns, and more of them, American bomber doctrine believed that fighter escorts would not be necessary.
Unfortunately, the increased firepower meant little to the German Luftwaffe who shot down American daytime bombing raids in much the same way they did British raids. Still, America insisted on bombing by day while the British bombed at night. Although long-range fighters like the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang were in development to escort bombers over the entirety of their missions, a quick fix solution was needed. So what do you do if the guns you have aren’t enough? You add more guns of course.
In 1942, Lockheed’s Vega company converted a B-17F Flying Fortress into the YB-40 Flying Fortress. Living up to the name carried over from its forerunner, the new plane bristled with defensive armament. A second manned dorsal turret was added where the radio compartment was, the single .50-caliber waist-mounted machine guns were replaced with dual guns, and the bombardier’s equipment was replaced by a remotely-operated twin .50-caliber machine gun chin turret. With 16 guns, a bomb bay converted into an ammunition magazine, and additional armor plating, the YB-40 was designed to add extra protection to American bomber formations.
Although 13 YB-40s were ordered for operational testing, one was lost on delivery and crashed in Scotland. A gunship version of the B-24, called the XB-41 Liberator, was also ordered. It carried 14 .50-caliber machine guns and was intended to fly as a gunship in bomber formations, the same as the YB-40. However, testing at Eglin Field in Florida found flaws with the aircraft and the conversion of further B-24s into XB-41s was cancelled. These flaws included reduced speed and climb rates as a result of the extra weight. Unfortunately, these problems were also present on the YB-40s.
Still, the gunships are credited with a total of 48 sorties over Europe. They scored five confirmed kills on German fighters with another two probables claimed. Only one YB-40 was lost in combat. Overall though, the gunship concept proved to be relatively ineffective. Plus, with the operational introduction of the P-47 and P-51 Thunderbolt, the gunship bombers became obsolete. Although Consolidated continued to work on their XB-41 concept, the project was ultimately abandoned once the military lost interest.
However, some good did come from the YB-40 project. The remote chin turret in the bombardier’s position was carried over into some of the last production B-17Fs and became part of the standardized modification on the B-17G, the final production variant of the bomber.
Suspected Taliban insurgents attacked a US-operated base in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost April 24, officials said, but gave few immediate details of an assault that coincided with a visit to Kabul by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The attackers had detonated a car bomb at an entrance to Camp Chapman, a secretive facility manned by US forces and private military contractors, said Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
But he had little immediate information on any damage or casualties.
“I am aware of a car bomb attack at one of the gates in the US base, but we are not allowed there to get more details,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, Capt. William Salvin, confirmed the car bomb attack. He said there appeared to be a number of Afghan casualties but none among US or coalition personnel at the base.
The attack came just three days after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their base by Taliban fighters disguised in military uniforms.
Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.
The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.
The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.
The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.
Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.
When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”
The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.
McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.
At first, McMillan was unruffled.
“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”
McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.
She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.
“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”
That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.
McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.
“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”
The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.
“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.
This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.
Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.
“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”
Since taking office, President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO over how the alliance is funded and pressured other member states to increase defense spending.
In the process, he has made a number of misleading claims about NATO, distorting how it works and why it exists in the first place.
On July 12, 2018, Trump reiterated his criticism of NATO in a tweet, stating, “Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!”
Trump added, “All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”
The North Atlantic Treaty was signed by US President Harry S. Truman in Washington, on April 4, 1949, and was ratified by the United States in August 1949.
NATO is an alliance that was formed in the wake of World War II as the US and its allies sought to counter the Soviet Union’s growing influence in Europe and beyond.
The alliance was founded upon the notion of collective defense, meaning an attack on one member state is considered an attack on all of them. This is precisely why NATO, for example, rallied behind the US in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks and has sent many troops to fight and die in places like Afghanistan over the years.
Collective defense requires collective spending
Accordingly, every NATO member state contributes to a relatively modest direct budget: a roughly id=”listicle-2586418750″.4 billion military budget and a 0 million civilian budget.
Overall, the US provides about 22% of this budget based off a formula that accounts for the national income of member states.
Beyond the direct budget, NATO came to an agreement in 2014 that each member state will increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective gross domestic product by 2024.
At present, NATO has 29 members and few have reached this goal — only five NATO members are expected to meet the 2% target by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the US spends roughly 3.6% of its GDP on defense, as its military budget in 2017 was approximately 8 billion.
There is no penalty for not reaching the 2% goal; it’s simply a guideline, and most member states have increased defense spending even if they haven’t reached that goal quite yet.
Moreover, NATO estimates collective defense spending among all member states will total more that 6 billion in 2018. US defense spending accounts for roughly 67% of this, but it’s also true the US has the highest defense budget in the world by far and this is linked to both its strong economy and internal politics.
President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stolenberg participate in a joint press conference, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Here’s Trump’s big issue with NATO
Trump wants other NATO member states to increase defense spending — and soon.
On July 11, 2018, he tweeted, “What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? Why are there only 5 out of 29 countries that have met their commitment? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
There is an underlying truth to Trump’s criticism of NATO that the US spends a significant amount of money and provides an extraordinary amount of resources and manpower to the protection of Europe and Asia. But the US benefits a great deal from this, and US involvement in NATO has long helped it solidify its role as one of the globe’s leading powers, if not the most powerful country in the world.
Moreover, Trump’s remarks on NATO seem to suggest that Europe must pay the US for protection from Russia, when this is not how the alliance is meant to function. Not to mention, Trump already has a dubious relationship with Russia at a time when much of the world, especially Europe, is concerned about its aggressive military activities.
In this context, Trump’s criticism of NATO has been condemned by politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US as well as by other world leaders and foreign policy experts.
Trump caused a crisis at the NATO summit over the issue of defense spending
Trump reportedly broke diplomatic protocol on July 12, 2018, by referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel by her first name, and his intense demands regarding defense spending saw NATO leaders enter a special emergency session.
After the session, Trump said NATO member states had agreed to quickly increase spending.
“We’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO. Much stronger than it was two days ago,” Trump said in an unscheduled statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The veteran community has always shared a general sense of the positive elements of what they brought to their communities as a result of their experiences in uniform, and now a new report has quantified the value of them.
The 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index, created by Got Your Six and a handful of other veteran-focused organizations, was released to the public today at an event at The National Press Club featuring Secretary Robert A. McDonald of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D – Hawaii). Key findings include the following:
Veteran volunteers serve an average of 160 hours annually – 25 percent more than non-veteran volunteers.
Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to attend community meetings, fix neighborhood problems, and fill community leadership roles.
7 percent of veterans are involved in civic groups compared to just 5.8 percent of non-vets.
48 percent of veteran always vote in elections – 16 percent more than non-veterans.
62.5 percent of veterans trust their neighbors compared to 55.1 percent of non-veterans.
The report defines “civic health” as “a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems” and goes on to say that it impacts local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, among other benefits that strengthen communities.
VA Secretary McDonald wasn’t surprised by the report’s positive findings and attributes the results to veterans’ sense of respect for others over themselves.
“Deep down we all feel a sense of inadequacy which we deal with by associating with others we respect,” he said. “And among veterans there’s always someone who commands more respect than ourselves. If you’re a clerk it’s the infantryman. If you’re an infantryman, it’s the combat veteran. If you’re a combat veteran, it’s the wounded warrior. And if you’re a wounded warrior, it’s the fallen soldier.”
Got Your 6 officials said they released this study as part of their ongoing effort to combat common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.
“The civilian population has a misconception that veterans are ‘broken,’ disconnected, and unable to cope with civilian life,” Got Your 6 managing director Chris Marvin said. “The reality is much more complex.”
The public perceives that veterans are unemployed, homeless, and undereducated, but the report claims that over the past eight years, veterans have consistently earned more than their non-veteran counterparts, that veterans only comprise 8.6 percent of the current homeless population, and that veterans who participate in the GI Bill program complete their degree programs at a similar rate to the general population’s traditional postsecondary student.
“As a combat wounded veteran I’ve experience many different reactions to my service,” Marvin said. “The ones that rub me the wrong way are ones that focus on my deficits or treat me like a charity case. The ones that resonate the most are the ones that challenge me.”
An infographic of the entire report can be seen here.
U.S. Navy pilots off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, spotted Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) during recent training missions, which has true believers and Space Force enthusiasts grabbing their tinfoil hats and “I told you so” smirks.
But just because the objects aren’t identified (publicly, anyway), that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re extraterrestrial.
So what are they?
Ten bucks says they’re Amazon same-day shipping drones…
If the Navy knows, they’re not saying, but similar sightings in the past have turned out to be tests the pilots weren’t briefed on, foreign aircraft, or “weather balloons.”
Video shot by U.S. fighter pilots on a training mission off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, is making even skeptics do a double take. The incident gained enough attention to merit a a congressional briefing. On Wednesday, June 19, a group of senators received a classified briefing about the series of encounters.
“Navy officials did indeed meet with interested congressional members and staffers on Wednesday to provide a classified brief on efforts to understand and identify these threats to the safety and security of our aviators,” Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, told CNN.
Politico first reported the story, who spoke with the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern Senator Warner believes we need to get to the bottom of,” said Warner’s spokesperson, Rachel Cohen.
No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents. But the objects have gotten the attention of the Navy.https://nyti.ms/2I0QubS
Single Barrel whiskey was first sold in 1997 and was such a success that the distillery created the ‘By The Barrel‘ program a year later.
“Over the entire span of when the program has existed, the US military is the largest purchaser. It has been represented by base exchanges, individual units, as well as other on-base military entities like Officers’ Clubs,” Arnett told Business Insider.
The buyer samples whiskey from 3 handpicked barrels along with the expert. After the tasting, a buyer selects a barrel and then later receives the empty barrel along with approximately 250 bottles.
The bottles are individually numbered and personalized with a custom metal hang tag. The top of the barrel is also engraved before it is shipped to the buyer.
And in the distillery’s Single Barrel room, the buyer gets their name engraved on a plaque.
Those who buy more than one barrel are given a medallion on their tablet.
MacDill Air Force Base’s plaque reflects the purchase of 7 barrels of Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskey.
A little bit about Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel
According to Arnett, Jack Daniel’s derives all of its’ color and most of the flavor from the handmade charred oak barrels.
Single Barrel whiskey sits on the highest level of the distillery’s barrelhouses where temperatures can reach up to 120-degrees Fahrenheit, the fluctuations in temperature give this whiskey the most interaction with the barrel, and therefore a darker color and more robust flavor.
The following four bottles show the impact time and temperature have on each whiskey product. The first bottle is whiskey directly from the still, next is Jack Daniel’s Green Label kept on the lowest floor of the barrel house, Old No. 7 comes from the middle floor, and Single Barrel Whiskey is kept on the top floor of the barrelhouses.
It’s no secret that service members don’t make a whole lot of money compared to the intense workload they face every single day. Since this lack of funds can limit things we like to do during our days off, we have to find little ways to compensate our cash to make sure we pay our bills.
Every few weeks, veterans should sit down and create a budget plan and adequately manage their incoming cash flow. These charges typically account for rent, groceries, and entertainment. The costs add up quickly, and it doesn’t feel like there’s much left over to put in savings.
But what if we told you that you can save some real coin if you just decided to it start hitting the gym on a daily basis?
Working out regularly has been proven to amplify your immune system — which means you won’t get as sick throughout the year. This also means you’ll save money from going to the doctor and paying that crappy co-pay. According to Tech Insider, people who exercise at least 30 minutes a day five days a week save an average of $2,500 a year.
That’s a sh*t load!
Researchers tracked heart health and annual medical expenses of 26,239 men and women for two whole years. Those who had all around poor health shelled out the cash for all those doctor visits. However, those who stuck to an exercise regiment saved $3,000 more a year than those in poor health.
Keep in mind this study includes hospitalization, prescription medication, emergency room visits, and outpatient visits. All because they spent time doing some sort of aerobic activity. Being able to save $3,000 a year may not seem like a whole lot, but divide that by 12, and you’re looking around keeping an extra $250 in your pocket a month.
Now, this study only focused on those with heart problems, but daily exercise can reduce the can of developing cancer, losing bone density, and type 2 diabetes. Acquiring these ailments isn’t as fun as looking jacked down at the beach.
Check out the Tech Insider video below if you want all this information repeated all over again.
The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.
This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.
“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.
McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.
“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.
(McMurdo Group photo)
Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.
McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.
“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.
The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.
The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.
The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Six years ago, Dutch intelligence agents reportedly infiltrated a malicious group of hackers working out an office building not far from the Kremlin. Dutch agents hacked into a security camera that monitored people entering the Moscow building, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant; they also reportedly monitored in 2016 as the hackers broke into the servers of the U.S. Democratic Party.
The hackers came to be known as APT-29 or The Dukes, or more commonly, Cozy Bear, and have been linked to Russia’s security agencies. According to the report, the Dutch findings were passed onto U.S. officials, and may have been a key piece of evidence that led U.S. authorities to conclude the Kremlin was conducting offensive cyberoperations to hack U.S. political parties during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Fast forward to 2020: the Cozy Bear hackers are back — though for those watching closely, they never really went anywhere.
British, American, and Canadian intelligence agencies on July 16 accused Cozy Bear hackers of using malware and so-called spear-phishing emails to deceive researchers at universities, private companies, and elsewhere.
The goal, the agencies said, was to steal research on the effort to create a vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
“APT-29 is likely to continue to target organizations involved in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as they seek to answer additional intelligence questions relating to the pandemic,” the British National Cyber Security Center said in a statement, released jointly with the Canadian and U.S. agencies.
“It’s totally unacceptable for Russian intelligence services to attack those who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations “unacceptable.”
“We can say only one thing: that Russia has nothing to do with these attempts,” he told reporters.
The advisory did not name which companies or organizations had been targeted, nor did it say whether any specific data was actually stolen. The head of the British National Cyber Center said the penetrations were detected in February and that there was no sign any data had actually been stolen.
The advisory did say the hackers exploited a vulnerability within computer servers to gain “initial footholds” and that they had used custom malware not publicly associated with any campaigns previously attributed to the group.
Russia’s main intelligence agencies are believed to all have offensive cybercapabilities of one sort or another.
According to researchers, the group’s origins date back to at least 2008 and it has targeted companies, universities, research institutes, and governments around the world.
The group is known for using sophisticated techniques of penetrating computer networks to gather intelligence to help guide Kremlin policymakers.
It is not, however, known for publicizing or leaking stolen information, something that sets it apart from a rival intelligence agency whose hacking and cyberoperations have been much more publicized in recent years — the military intelligence agency known widely as the GRU.
GRU hackers, known as Fancy Bear, or APT-28, have been accused of not only hacking computer systems, but also stealing and publicizing information, with an eye toward discrediting a target. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused GRU hackers of stealing documents from U.S. Democratic Party officials in 2016, and also of leaking them to the public in the run-up to the November presidential election.
“The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in a July 2018 indictment that charged 12 GRU officers. “These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Three months later, U.S. prosecutors in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, issued a related “Fancy Bear” indictment accusing some of the same officers of conducting a four-year hacking campaign targeting international-sport anti-doping organizations, global soccer’s governing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and other groups.
A GRU officer named in the Mueller indictment has also been named by German intelligence as being behind the 2015 hack of the Bundestag.
But unlike the GRU and the Fancy Bear hackers, there has never been any public identification of specific Cozy Bear hackers or criminal indictments targeting them.
The U.S.-based cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, which was the first to publicly document the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee, said in its initial report that both the Cozy Bear and the Fancy Bear hackers had penetrated the committee’s network, apparently independently of each other.
It’s not clear exactly what the motivation of the Cozy Bear hackers might be in targeting research organizations, though like many other nations, Russia is racing to develop a vaccine that would stop COVID-19, and stealing scientific data research might help give Russian researchers a leg up in the race.
Russia has reported more than 765,000 confirmed cases. Its official death toll, however, is unusually low, and a growing number of experts inside and outside the country say authorities are undercounting the fatalities.
In the past, Western intelligence and law enforcement have repeatedly warned of the pernicious capabilities of Russian state-sponsored hackers. In the United States, authorities have sought the arrest and extradition of dozens of Russians on various cybercharges around the world.
As in the Mueller indictments, U.S. authorities have used criminal charges to highlight the nexus between Russian government agencies and regular cybercriminals– and also to signal to Russian authorities that U.S. spy agencies are watching.
For example, the Mueller indictment identified specific money transfers that the GRU allegedly made using the cryptocurrency bitcoin to buy server capacity and other tools as part of its hacking campaigns.
As of last year, those efforts had not had much effect in slowing down state-sponsored hacking, not just by Russia, but also by North Korea, Iran, China, and others.
“[I]n spite of some impressive indictments against several named nation-state actors — their activities show no signs of diminishing,” Crowdstrike said in a 2019 threat report.
Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political consultant and former top Kremlin adviser, downplayed the Western allegations.
“We are talking about the daily activities of all secret services, especially regarding hot topics like vaccine secrets,” he told Current Time. “Of course, they are all being stolen. Of course, stealing is not good, but secret services exist in order to steal.”
In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers signaled that the findings would add further momentum to new sanctions targeting Russia.
“It should be clear by now that Russia’s hacking efforts didn’t stop after the 2016 election,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.
According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.
This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)
Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.
The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.
According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.