USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship - We Are The Mighty
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USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—Feb. 10, 2021—Today, USAA and the Call of Duty League™, the official esports league of Call of Duty®, announce a multi-year deal that will see USAA become the League’s Official Insurance Sponsor, the presenting partner of the League’s match day pre-show program and its first-ever Military Appreciation Week.

Call of Duty League, which launched in 2020, returns with the start of its 2021 season on Feb. 11. This season, fans around the globe will watch as the world’s greatest Call of Duty players compete in the newly released “Call of Duty®: Black Ops®  Cold War” in exciting 4 vs. 4 competition.

As part of the sponsorship, USAA will be the exclusive presenting partner of the Call of Duty League’s match day pre-show segment – titled the “USAA Pre-Show” – streaming live at the beginning of each League match broadcast throughout the season.

USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship
Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

USAA will also be the exclusive presenting partner of the League’s inaugural “Military Appreciation Week.”

“We understand how gaming can strengthen bonds and connect friends and families across the world. We are excited to join the Call of Duty League as an ally in the trenches for our military community gamers, and young currently serving and veterans in particular,” said Eric Engquist, USAA vice president of enterprise brand management and U.S. Army veteran. “This partnership will allow us to meet military members where they are and provide them with unique experiences and benefits through the Call of Duty League.”

The upcoming Call of Duty League season will be highlighted by several high stakes ‘Majors,’ or tournaments that will feature all 12 teams competing in double-elimination competition. Like the inaugural season, teams will earn CDL Points for each match win throughout the season – with these points determining 2021 season standings, giving them a shot at becoming one of eight teams to qualify for the 2021 Call of Duty League Playoffs, to be hosted later in 2021. As part of the new sponsorship, USAA will be the presenting sponsor of the ‘Major’ to occur in May.

“The Call of Duty franchise continues to deliver, amassing over the years an enormous and passionate fan base that extends to the Call of Duty League, and to esports fans around the globe,” said Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports. “USAA is a world-class brand, building its sterling reputation on taking care of U.S. service members and their families – a mission close to the hearts of the Call of Duty community. We look forward to working together to create meaningful, engaging moments for fans throughout the 2021 and 2022 seasons.”

USAA marches into the esports scene with new Call of Duty League Sponsorship
Photo courtesy of Call of Duty

The Call of Duty League’s 2021 season begins with the Atlanta FaZe Home Series, Feb. 11-14. For more information on the new Call of Duty League, sign up for updates at callofdutyleague.com or tune in to the action at youtube.com/codleague

About USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com

About Call of Duty League

Call of Duty League™ is the official esports league of the Call of Duty® franchise, from publisher Activision. The Call of Duty League includes 12 teams from four countries and spotlights the best Call of Duty esports players from around the world. The Call of Duty League launched in 2020 and features fresh ways for pro players, amateurs, and fans to come together around one of the world’s most beloved games. To learn more about the Call of Duty League, visit callofdutyleague.com.

About Activision Blizzard Esports

Activision Blizzard Esports (ABE) is responsible for the development, operation, and commercialization of Activision Blizzard’s professional gaming properties including the Overwatch League™, the Call of Duty® League™, and Hearthstone® Grandmasters, among others. It is ABE’s vision to be the most innovative, scalable, and valuable developer of competitive entertainment. 

About Activision

Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision is a leading global producer and publisher of interactive entertainment. Activision maintains operations throughout the world and is a division of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), an S&P 500 company. More information about Activision and its products can be found on the company’s website, www.activision.com or by following @Activision.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements: Information in this press release that involves Activision Blizzard’s expectations, plans, intentions or strategies regarding the future, including statements about the availability, dates, programming, features and functionality of the Call of Duty League, including the 2021 season, Playoffs and Majors, are forward-looking statements that are not facts and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause Activision Blizzard’s actual future results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements set forth in this release include unanticipated product delays and other factors identified in the risk factors sections of Activision Blizzard’s most recent annual report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. The forward-looking statements in this release are based upon information available to The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing and Activision Blizzard as of the date of this release, and none of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard assumes any obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements believed to be true when made may ultimately prove to be incorrect. These statements are not guarantees of the future performance of The Call of Duty League, LLC, Activision Publishing or Activision Blizzard and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond its control and may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations

CALL OF DUTY, CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS and CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE are trademarks or registered trademarks of Activision Publishing, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.  The CALL OF DUTY LEAGUE team names, logos and other team trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.

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This is the German general who inspired a terrifying ‘Wonder Woman’ villain

“Wonder Woman” hit theaters on June 2nd and has been a massive critical and box-office success. It’s a comic book/superhero movie, but it also happens to be a historical movie taking place in Europe during World War I.


So, while this movie’s main character is a bad-ass woman made of clay (she can also fly) who fights bad guys with a magical lasso, there are some things that are actually very real about who she’s fighting.

In the movie, General Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston, is a general in the Imperial German Army. He’s ruthless, ambitious, and will do whatever it takes to win the war for Germany, including using chemical weapons.

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Gen. Erich Ludendorff. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

General Eric Ludendorff was a real German general in World War I. According to Uproxx, he was an advocate for “total war.” And from 1916 to 1918, he was the leader of Germany’s war efforts.

The real Ludendorff has been credited for coining the “stab in the back” myth. After World War I, right-wing Germans believed that the Germans didn’t lose the war on the battlefield, but instead that they lost the war because other Germans betrayed them on the homefront. Ludendorff blamed the Berlin government and German civilians for failing to support him.

In the 1920s, he became a prominent right-wing leader in Germany, serving in Parliament for the National Socialist Party. He also had associations with Adolf Hitler and other Nazis.

Ludendorff stood for war, and Wonder Woman stands for peace, so it makes sense that director Patty Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg turned to Ludendorff for their villain.

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Here’s who would win if Russia, China, and America went to war right now

With the rhetoric about global trade deficits heating up on the campaign trail, it might appropriate to momentarily shift our focus away from the asymmetric threats of the Taliban and ISIS and look at the world of conventional warfare. Here’s how the world’s three most powerful militaries stack up in 4 major categories:


1. Stealth fighters

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

While America holds the current stealth jet lead with the only fielded fifth-generation fighter, Russia and China are both gunning for it. There are only 187 F-22s, and the F-35 that is supposed to be joining them is running into all sorts of problems in the test phase, including the hi-tech helmet that is supposed to put all kinds of info in the pilot’s visor that doesn’t work right yet.

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Photo: Xinhuanet

Meanwhile, China is developing four stealth fighters. The J-31 debuted in air shows in 2014 and is the most advanced current threat, and the J-20, which may have just entered full-scale production, is probably a match for the F-35 if not the F-22. The two newest designs, the J-23 and J-25, are mostly rumors and Chinese propaganda right now.

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Photo: Rulexip CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing only one stealth fighter but it has capabilities that some put on par with the F-22. The T-50 will likely enter service in late 2016 or early 2017. Also known as the PAK FA, it’s less stealthy than the Raptor but more maneuverable. The F-22 would likely get a jump on the Russians in a war, but would be in serious trouble if it was spotted first.

Likely winner: As long as the other planes are still more hypothetical than real, the F-22 remains the clear victor. Still, Raptor drivers can’t rest easy knowing that multiple aircraft are being developed with the primary mission of bringing them down, and those planes are being developed with engineers who have the F-22’s schematics.

2. Tanks

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Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy J. Fowler

The U.S. Army fielded the first M-1 Abrams in 1980. But the tank has undergone so many upgrades, including those to the armor, drivetrain, and weapons systems, that everything but the shell is new. It has a 120mm main gun, great electronics, remote-operated weapon stations, and an armor configuration that incorporates uranium, kevlar, reactive, and Chobham armor layers.

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Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin CC BY-SA 3.0

Russia is developing the prototype T-14 on the Armata platform, but right now it relies on the T-90A, which is still an awesome tank. One even survived a direct hit from a TOW missile in Syria. Originally fielded in 2004, the T-90A features an autoloader, reactive armor, a remotely-operated machine gun, and a 125mm cannon. The crew can fire anti-tank guided missiles from the main gun.

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Photo: Max Smith Public Domain

Like Russia, China fields a few varieties of tanks and has new ones in development. It’s go-to for tank-on-tank engagements is the Type 99. It features a 125mm smoothbore gun with auto-loader that can also fire missiles. The tank has been upgraded with reactive armor and is thought to be nearly as survivable in combat as Western or Russian tanks.

Likely winner: Strictly looking at the gear in a one-on-one fight, it’s a draw. But America has more top-tier tanks and a better history of training crews, plus (Ukraine notwithstanding) U.S. forces have more recent combat experience than their rivals.

3. Surface ships

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

With the largest Navy in the world, America has any surface fight in the bag if it happens in the middle of the ocean. The crown jewels are the Navy’s 10 full-sized aircraft carriers and 9 landing helicopter docks. But the Navy’s technological advantages and sheer size might not be enough to overcome China’s missiles or Russia’s diesel subs if it had to fight in enemy waters.

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Photo: Public Domain George Chernilevsky

Russia still struggles with force projection, but the launch of Kalibr cruise missiles at ground targets in Syria proved that Russia has found a way to give even their small ships some serious bite. An anti-ship version of the missile is thought to be just as capable and, if fired in a large enough salvo, may be able to overcome U.S. ship defenses like the Phalanx. Russia also fields the Club-K missile system, a land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile system that can be hidden in shipping containers.

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A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales

China is pushing for a maritime revolution in both its Coast Guard and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The Coast Guard is used to establish sovereignty in contested waters and is getting the world’s largest and most heavily armed Coast Guard ships. The Navy features hundreds of surface ships with advanced missiles and other weapons in addition to great sensors.

Likely winner: The U.S. Navy is still the undisputed champ across the world but it would take heavy losses if it fought China or Russia at home. A full-scale invasion might even fail if planners aren’t careful.

4. Submarines

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds

The U.S. Navy has a staggering 14 ballistic missile submarines with a combined 280 nuclear missiles that can each wipe out an enemy city, four guided missile submarines with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, and 54 nuclear attack submarines. They’re technologically advanced, heavily armed, and stealthy.

Russia has only 60 submarines but those are very capable. Russia’s nuclear subs are at or near par with their Western counterparts for stealth while their diesel boats are some of the quietest in the world. Russia is also working on new submarine weapons including a 100-megaton, city-killing nuclear torpedo. To top it all off, their crews were already good but are getting better.

China has only five nuclear attack submarines, 53 diesel attack submarines, and four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but they’re working on more. China’s subs are easy to track, but the U.S. and its Pacific allies are deploying sophisticated listening devices to keep track of them anyway.

Likely winner: The U.S. submarine fleet wins for both power projection onto land and sub-on-sub combat, but the gap is narrowing. Chinese and Russian innovations and the rapid construction in new shipyards will make the ocean a more dangerous place for American submariners.

Bottom line: ‘Merica!

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This is how the USS Arizona memorial made Elvis the King

In the early hours of Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, killing 2,403 service members and launching President Roosevelt’s decision to enter World War II.


Although the event was catastrophic, only two ships were beyond repair — USS Oklahoma and Arizona. The Oklahoma was eventually refloated to the surface, but the battle damage was too overwhelming to repair and return to service.

However, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.

Related: This American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932

Talks of constructing a permanent memorial started as early as 1943, but it wasn’t until several years later that the effort would take shape. After the creation of Pacific War Memorial Commission, plans of how to commemorate the ship’s memory began rolling in.

Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag to be installed on the wreck site and have a colors ceremony conducted every day.

In 1950, requests for additional funds were denied by the government, as their top priority was to focus on the war efforts in Korea.

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USS Arizona after being struck by Japanese in Pearl Harbor.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower inked Public Law 85-344 allowing the PWMC to raise $500,000 for the memorial construction. But after two years of fundraising, only $155,000 in total proceeds had been collected — they needed a lot of help.

Little did they know, they were about to get it.

Tom Parker read about the PWMC’s struggling endeavor and came up with a genius plan. Parker just happened to be Elvis Presley’s manager and was looking for ways to get his client back on top after being drafted by the Army in 1957 — Elvis was discharged from service in 1960.

Reportedly, Parker approached Elvis to perform at a benefit to help boost the memorial campaign — and his music and acting careers.

Elvis, who was not only patriotic but loved the idea of performing for a cause, agreed to help with the campaign. The PWMC agreed to Parker’s plan, and a performance date was set — March 25, 1961.

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The flyer for Elvis’ fundraising performance.

Also Read: 5 times the US was attacked at home during WWII (besides Pearl Harbor)

Although the performance brought in $60,000 in revenue, the campaign was still well short of its goal. But from the publicity of Elvis’ show, donations from outside sources rolled in, and the PWMC finally raise the $500,000 they needed.

On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial officially opened thanks to Elvis and the PWMC.

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This is what it means to make a ‘Fini Flight’ in the US Air Force

The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.


US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.

Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’

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Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel

The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.

Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.

“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Lauren Main

Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.

Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.

Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht

Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.

“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”

Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.

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Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

When a soldier is wounded on the battlefield, medics get the call.


Medics are sort of like paramedics or emergency medical technicians in the civilian world, except paramedics and EMTs are less likely to carry assault rifles or be fired at by enemy forces. When everything goes wrong, soldiers count on the medics to keep them alive until they can be evacuated to a field hospital.

Also Read: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

Ninety percent of soldier deaths in combat occur before the victims ever make it to a field hospital; U.S. Army medics are dedicated to bringing that number down.

To save wounded soldiers, the medic has to make life or death decisions quickly and accurately. They use Tactical Combat Casualty Care, or TCCC, to guide their decisions. TCCC is a process of treatment endorsed by the American College of Surgeons and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

First, medics must decide whether to return fire or immediately begin care.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Since the Geneva Convention was signed, the Army has typically not armed medics since they are protected by the international law. But, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have mostly been fought against insurgencies who don’t follow the Geneva Convention and medics have had many of their markings removed, so they’ve been armed with rifles and pistols.

When patients come under fire, they have to decide whether to begin care or return fire. The book answer is to engage the enemies, stopping them from hurting more soldiers or further injuring the current casualties. Despite this, Army medics will sometimes decide to do “care under fire,” where they treat patients while bullets are still coming at them.

Then, they treat life-threatening hemorrhaging.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Major bleeding is one of the main killers on the battlefield. Before the medic even begins assessing the patient, they’ll use a tourniquet, bandage, or heavy pressure to slow or stop any extreme bleeds that are visible. If the medic is conducting care under fire, treatment is typically a tourniquet placed above the clothing so the medic can get them behind cover without having to remove the uniform first.

Now, they can finally assess the patient.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Evan V. Lane

Once the medic and the patient are in relative safety, the medic will assess the patient. Any major bleeds that are discovered will be treated immediately, but other injuries will be left until the medic has completed the full assessment. This is to ensure the medic does not spend time setting a broken arm while the patient is bleeding out from a wound in their thigh.

During this stage, the medic will call out information to a radio operator so the unit can call for a medical evacuation using a “nine-line.” Air evacuation is preferred when it’s available, but wounded soldiers may have to ride out in ambulances or even standard ground vehicles if no medical evacuations are available.

Medics then start treatment.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Medics have to decide which injuries are the most life-threatening, sometimes across multiple patients, and treat them in order. The major bleeds are still the first thing treated since they cause over half of preventable combat deaths. The medics will then move on to breathing problems like airway blockages or tension pneumothorax, a buildup of pressure around the lungs that stops a soldier from breathing. Medics will also treat less life-threatening injuries like sprains or broken bones if they have time.

Most importantly, Army medics facilitate the evacuation.

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Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Army medics have amazing skills, but patients still need to get to a hospital. Medics will relay all information about the patient on a card, the DA 7656 and the patient will get on the ambulance for evacuation. The medic will usually get a new aid bag, their pack of medical materials, from the ambulance and return to their mission on the ground, ready to help the next soldier who might get wounded.

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Channing Tatum moans about the pre-gender-integrated Navy in this song from ‘Hail, Caesar!’

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(Photo: Universal Studios)


“Hail, Caesar!,” the latest movie from the Coen Brothers, hits theaters on Friday, February 5. Here’s a sneak peek at one of the military parts of the film (cause that’s how we roll at WATM), a song where Navy man Channing Tatum complains that there ain’t gonna be no dames on his upcoming deployment.  The song also contains veiled sexual references using sealife (octopus and clams), which is in line with what audiences have come to expect from the Coen Brothers in terms of hilarity.

So the next time you complain about gender integration, think about this poor sailor with clams in his rack.

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Break out the rulers because the Marine Corps’ new tattoo policy is here

After some consultation between senior leaders and their ink’d subordinates, the Marine Corps has just hit the company street and deckplates with a new tattoo policy.


“The Commandant and I have been talking with Marines throughout the Corps during our visits and we’ve taken their questions and comments to heart because it continues to be important to Marines,” said Sgt. Major Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.  “The Commandant said it best in the Marine Corps Bulletin in that we’ve attempted to balance the individual desires of Marines with the need to maintain the disciplined appearance expected of our profession.  I think we have accomplished just that with MCBUL 1020.  We took the time we felt this policy deserved, we wanted to make sure we got it right.”

Here’s a graphic that highlights the details of the new reg:

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(Graphic: USMC)

Note that officers are limited to no more than four tats visible in the PT uniform. (And just when Justin Bieber was thinking of heading to OCS.) Also, the width of a single tattoo standard is defined by the width of an individual’s hand, which — according to campaign rhetoric — means that if Donald Trump was a Marine he’d have relatively small tattoos.

The regulation reinforces the overall intent that “any tattoo, regardless of where it is cannot express sexism, nudity, racism, vulgarity, or anything that is offensive and is of nature to bring discredit to the Marine Corps or damage the nation’s expectations of them.” No ruling on where “Nickleback” logos fit within those guidelines.

“There is a reason why Marine Corps Recruiting has remained so successful throughout the years, when you ask Marines why they chose the Corps, most will tell you because they wanted to be different,” Green said. (Really . . .)

And nothing says “different” these days than some killer ink. Tribal armband, anyone? Just keep it under three inches wide, Devil Dog.

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The US Navy is upgrading these Cold War-era cruise missiles to hit enemy ships at sea

The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.


The US Navy’s destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land-attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out-ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian systems.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

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USS Princeton fires an RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out-range and beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, US Naval Institute News reports.

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USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile,” Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, USNI News reported at the time. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”

With missiles out-ranging China and Russia’s fleets many times over, the US could engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access and area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and the Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.

While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don’t expect their ship-based missile defenses to hold a candle to the US’s Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.

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A UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

But also don’t expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.

“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News.

USNI News estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.

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This VA official fired for poor leadership just got his job back

A former director of the veterans hospital in the nation’s capital who had been fired for poor leadership has been rehired.


Brian Hawkins was put back on the Department of Veterans Affairs payroll after he appealed the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Hawkins was let go last month after audits found mismanagement at the facility.

The board is requiring the VA to keep Hawkins as an employee until the Office of Special Counsel reviews his claim.

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David J. Shulkin visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications

In a statement August 9, the VA says Hawkins had been reassigned to administrative duty at VA headquarters in Washington and would not work directly with patients.

It says VA Secretary David Shulkin will explore other ways to fire Hawkins under a newly enacted accountability law signed by President Donald Trump.

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How Russia keeps Lenin looking young

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Lenin’s tomb | Photo via Wikimedia


When a country’s founder dies, they become a lasting national symbol. But rarely has a founder’s actual corpse been the symbol.

That’s because it’s hard to keep a dead body looking good year after year, decade after decade. Just ask the Russians.

Immediately following communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s passing in 1924, scientists and technicians injected the corpse with embalming fluid and squeezed it into a rubber suit containing preservatives. The Russian government built a wooden tomb and put the revolutionary on display in Moscow’s Red Square.

The tomb has changed since then, but Lenin’s body looks as good as ever. But such unearthly beauty comes at a high cost — almost $200,000 a year.

That figure comes from an official notice from Russia’s procurement agency. It cites an annual cost of 13 million rubles for the “biomedical” procedure that keeps Lenin in a “lifelike condition.”

The cost of upkeep has fluctuated since 1924. Russian taxpayers have mostly been on the hook for the bill — except for a brief period following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Private donations kept the body beautiful until Moscow could once again take over the ghastly duty.

Attitudes toward Lenin have also changed over the years. During the Soviet years, Russians viewed Lenin as a kind of communist saint. Millions visited his tomb. But after the ’91 collapses, people were free to express opinions they’d long kept to themselves.

That catharsis culminated in a 1998 art exhibit for which artist Yury Shabelnikov baked a lifesize cake replica of Lenin’s interred body and filmed local school children devouring it. The still extant communist party called for an investigation, but its pleas fell on deaf ears.

The science behind preserving Lenin’s corpse is impressive and bizarre. According to Scientific American, upkeep requires a team of five or six scientists.

Every other year, the scientists re-embalm the corpse, “submerging the body in separate solutions of glycerol solution baths, formaldehyde, potassium acetate, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, acetic acid solution and acetic sodium.”

“They have to substitute occasional parts of skin and flesh with plastics and other materials,” University of California, Berkeley social anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak told the science magazine.

Lenin’s death-bath takes a month and a half.

Damage happens and science can only do so much. During the height of the Soviet era, more than 200 people worked to keep Lenin looking fresh. Technicians sewed artificial eyelashes on to the leader, swapped decaying chunks of the man’s face and nose with a mix of paraffin, glycerin and carotene and once replaced portions of his foot when it went missing in 1945.

Today, Russians overwhelming favor burying Lenin. But Pres. Vladimir Putin has pushed back against the idea. In 2001, he told the public that interring the corpse would send a signal to the Russian people that they’d lived under false values during the Soviet era.

Questioned about the expensive embalming in 2012, Putin deflected. “We can see holy remains in the Kiev-Pechora Monastery and in other places,” he said, implying that it’s totally normal to keep historical figures’ bodies on display, well, forever.

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These glasses can turn any location into a simulated battlefield

Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.


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Four viewpoints of exercise participants during an AITT test. In this GIF, Marines engage simulated enemy tanks near an objective. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.

Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.

All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.

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This is the view a participant sees when a truck is destroyed during an augmented reality training mission. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 on a golf course after a series of upgrades and other tests. The goal is to allow Marines to practice engaging each other in force-on-force exercises without the cost or risk associated with training using live munitions and vehicles.

Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.

See the system in action in the video below:

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These Afghan moms are taking up arms to fight the Taliban and ISIS

As radical terrorist groups continue to wreak havoc around Afghanistan, a group of women are taking up arms against them.


The Afghan National Police have resorted to arming and training local women to fight the Taliban and Islamic State militants. In many cases, the women had lost their sons, husbands, and other loved ones to the ongoing violence.

“If we fear [ISIS] and the Taliban today, our future will be ruined tomorrow,” one unnamed woman told Al Jazeera.

Female members of the Afghan National Police train the local women in small arms and basic tactics, specifically in the northern reaches of Afghanistan.

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Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“Every week, around 40 or 50 people join,” said Najiba, a female police officer.

Some Afghans do not approve of women fighting in the army or police, but the increasingly desperate situation has forced the security forces to take desperate measures. Afghan forces only control or influence approximately 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

ISIS’s Afghan branch, known as Islamic State-Khorasan province, holds significantly less territory, but the group has been able to engage in several deadly terrorist attacks across the country.

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Army photo by Sgt. Chloé Barnes.

“It’s been forced on us,” Gen. Rahmat of the Jowzjan province police told Al Jazeera in an interview. “It’s not a woman’s job to fight. But that’s the situation now. Women have joined the police and army, too.”

Fighting the Taliban and ISIS is a risky proposition for the women, but many see it as their duty. Sara Khala, one of the women training to fight the militants, lost her son to the Taliban, forcing her to care for his orphaned children.

“I have to take revenge for him,” she told Al-Jazeera. “I’ll cook dinner and give it to them. Then I’ll go wherever the Taliban and Daesh are. I’ll take my gun and fight them.”

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