The South China Sea has been a maritime flashpoint for years, becoming the subject of the Dale Brown novel “Sky Masters” and Tom Clancy’s SSN video game and tie-in book.
It’s a seven-way Mexican standoff between the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Vietnam.
And you thought Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” had it bad in that final standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!
But the United States Navy has been willing to challenge the PRC’s claims in the region. A recent U.S. Navy release discussed how the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the South China Sea. That region has recently become hotter with the ruling by an arbitration panel in favor of the Philippines, who were objecting to China’s claims.
The problem, of course, is that the ChiComs took a page from everyone’s favorite sociopath from “Game of Thrones” — one Cersei Lannister. They didn’t bother to show up for the arbitration proces, even though they had to have known the consequences. And they probably didn’t care.
In essence, what the McCain did was a freedom of navigation exercise. This sounds innocuous, but in reality it is only slightly less touchy than an invite from a samurai to take part in a “comparison of techniques.”
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) fires its MK-45 5-inch/54-caliber lightweight gun. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alonzo M. Archer/Released)
You see, a “freedom of navigation” exercise usually involves the American vessel operating in international waters that a certain country may not recognize as international waters. In essence, the United States is asserting: “No, these are international waters.”
What happened to the USS Yorktown was mild, though. Let’s go back more than 30 years to see how rough those exercises can really get.
In March of 1986, the Navy was sent to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises to push back against Moammar Qaddafi. In 1981, similar exercises had resulted in the downing of two Libyan Su-22 “Fitter” attack planes that took some ill-advised shots at Navy F-14s.
The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), the Republic of Korea navy destroyer ROKS Eulji Mundeok (DDH 972), and the Ulsan-class frigate ROKS Jeju (FF 958) participate in a joint exercise during Foal Eagle 2015. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
That was why three carriers, the USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66) were involved in the 1986 round of “Freedom of Navigation” exercises.
On 23 March, the exercises began. The next day, the shooting started.
The Libyans started by firing SA-2 and SA-5 missiles at Navy F-14s. Shortly afterwards, MiG-23 “Floggers” tried to engage some Tomcats, but broke off after an intense dogfight.
By the end of the day, Libya had lost a new Nanuchka II-class corvette, a Combattante II-class missile boat, saw a Nanuchka and a Combattante II disabled, while several surface-to-air missile sites ended up being live-fire tests for the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).
Fast forward to January 1989.
American forces were operating near the Gulf of Sidra when two MiG-23s came looking for a fight, and got shot down by a pair of F-14s. Once again, the “freedom of navigation” exercises had lead to shots being fired.
Something to keep in mind the next time you hear of such exercises. When sailors are sent there, they could find themselves in a fight.
In January 2018, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier’s continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.
Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.
“Today’s Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. “[We’re] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment.”
Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.
In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.
Improvements to the combat uniform
To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry-time of the current uniform.
In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:
mandarin collar eliminated.
shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides.
zipper closures replaced by buttons.
breast and back trouser pockets removed.
crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts.
knee articulated for better maneuverability.
Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.
Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.
Jungle Combat Boots Version 2
In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a “Version 2” of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on “Version 1” of the boot Soldiers field-tested earlier this year.
After field testing Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.
The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.
Come January, the Version 2 boots — 150 from each of five manufacturers — will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.
The United States has warned Iran not to proceed with “provocative” plans to launch three space vehicles, claiming they are “virtually identical” to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and would violate a UN resolution.
“The United States will not stand by and watch the Iranian regime’s destructive policies place international stability and security at risk,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Jan. 3, 2019.
“We advise the regime to reconsider these provocative launches and cease all activities related to ballistic missiles in order to avoid deeper economic and diplomatic isolation,” he said, without specifying what steps the United States would take should Iran pursue the launch.
Pompeo said a launch of the three rockets, called Space Launch Vehicles (SLV), would violate UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of 2015.
The resolutions called on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
The resolutions were tied to the 2015 nuclear accord signed by Iran with six world powers — the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia. It provided Tehran with some relief from financial sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled out of the deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and began reimposing sanctions, a move that has hit the Iranian economy and its currency hard.
Trump said Tehran was violating the spirit of the accord by continuing to develop nuclear weapons and by supporting terrorist activity in the region — charges Iran has denied.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Jan. 3, 2019, also denied Pompeo’s newest allegations, saying the space launches and similar missile tests are vital for defense and not nuclear in nature.
He added that the United States itself was in breach of the nuclear accord and was “in no position to lecture anyone on it.”
In November 2018, Brigadier General Ghasem Taghizadeh, Iran’s deputy defense minister, said Tehran would launch three satellites into space “in the coming months.”
“These satellites have been built with native know-how and will be positioned in different altitudes,” he said.
News agencies in Iran have reported the satellites are for use in telecommunications and suggested a launch was imminent.
U.S. officials have consistently condemned Iranian missile tests and launches.
Pompeo on Dec. 1, 2018, assailed what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads.”
Few details of the test were released by Tehran or Washington, but an Iranian spokesman reiterated that “Iran’s missile program is defensive in nature.”
On July 27, 2018, Iran launched its most advanced satellite-carrying rocket to date, the Simorgh, angering the United States and its allies.
U.S. officials said that type of technology is inherently designed to carry a nuclear payload, and the Pentagon said the technology can be used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, in a letter to the Security Council at the time, said the launch “represents a threatening and provocative step by Iran.”
A woman is suing the Naval Hospital at Jacksonville, Florida, after discovering a portion of an anesthesia needle was left in her spine before a C-section at the facility in 2003, according to The Florida Times-Union.
Her lawsuit claims that hospital staff improperly administered the anesthesia, which caused the needle to break, then covered up the incident. According to the suit, about three centimeters — just over an inch — of the broken needle were left inside her body.
According to the Times-Union, medical records from the time make no mention of the needle breaking but do say that “the anesthesia did not take.”
Amy Bright, whose husband was a Navy corpsman stationed at the hospital, suffered from leg and back pain for several years, according to attorney Sean Cronin, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf.
(Flickr photo by Nathan Forget)
Cronin told the Times-Union that the needle was discovered when Bright underwent a CAT scan in 2017. He told the newspaper that removing the needle is no longer an option, as Bright could suffer from further damage and even become paralyzed. Bright was reportedly never told about the needle.
“From our perspective this is a double failure,” Cronin told the newspaper. “It is a cowardly, unethical cover-up.”
Cronin told the Times-Union that hospital staff did not report the broken needle to Bright or the chain of command because “they did not want to get in trouble.”
In a statement issued to the Times-Union, representatives of the hospital said they could not provide comments regarding the lawsuit or Bright’s situation, citing patient confidentiality and privacy laws, but said they were “deeply committed to providing the best care to every patient entrusted to us.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Possibly one of the most pervasive yet irritating missteps that the media and public in general makes about the military is the use of the terms ‘Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) and Special Forces (SF) interchangeably. In a day and age where special operations units have a growing presence in the media due to the increase of their importance in the asymmetric, non-conventional combat environment that our country has found ourselves in, the mistake has become all too common in headlines on news channels as well as newspapers and magazines. Consider this article a primer for anyone in the media that even remotely cares about their journalistic accuracy, as well as the curious citizen.
Special Operations, or sometimes referred more accurately to as Special Operations Forces, include any unit that falls under the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Naval Special Warfare, Air Force Special Operations Command, Army Special Operations Command, and Marine Special Operations Command are all included under this umbrella. I won’t go further down the ladder and list every unit under those commands, but they cover everything from the 528th Sustainment Brigade and Civil Affairs to the SEAL Teams and Ranger Regiment.
The shadowy Joint Special Operations Command also falls under SOCOM as a sub-unified command but often reports directly to higher authorities due to their unique and often sensitive missions. Who is not covered by the term Special Operations? Anyone who does not fall under the SOCOM umbrella. For example, although Force Recon companies in the Marine Corps are highly trained and undergo a selection process similar to many SOF units, they are not considered Special Operations as they belong to the Marine Corps, not SOCOM.
Now, what about the term “Special Forces”? Special Forces is not a generic term in the U.S. military and refers to a very specific unit. The 1st Special Forces Regiment falls under the command of the Army Special Operations Command (mentioned above) and includes the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 19th, and 20th Special Forces Groups.
They are most often referred to by their distinctive headgear, the Green Beret, or simply as “SF.” The Army’s Special Forces are capable of a wide variety of missions but were designed to be the premiere experts on unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense.
As an example of a classic unconventional warfare mission that happened in recent history, after the terror attacks of 9/11 small elements of the 5th Special Forces Group embedded with indigenous fighters from Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance and lead them into battle. Within a matter of weeks, they had effectively neutralized the Taliban threat – accomplished not with brigades and divisions of soldiers, but with only a couple dozen Special Forces soldiers. This is the capability that the 1st Special Forces Regiment brings to the table, and makes them very unique in the larger SOCOM picture.
To summarize, Special Operations Forces is a generic term that you can use to refer to any and all special operations units. Special Forces is the title of a very specific unit and is not a generic term for other units. If you don’t know what unit did something, refer to them as SOF or Special Operations. If you know for a fact that it was a unit from one of the seven Special Forces Groups, then refer to them as Special Forces.
With some recent upgrades to medals for heroism during the War on Terror, perhaps it is time to take a closer look at some awards from Desert Storm. During that conflict, no Medals of Honor or Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded, but there were two Navy Crosses and two Air Force Crosses.
Without further ado, here are six people whose awards may warrant an upgrade:
1.William F. Andrews
Awards to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross
Then a captain flying the F-16, Andrews received three awards for valor during Desert Storm. Two of them were the Distinguished Flying Cross, one was the Air Force Cross.
The DFC awarded for his actions on Jan. 23, 1991, looks like it should be upgraded – Andrews pressed his attack through heavy fire to put ordnance on the target.
The other medal warranting an upgrade should be the Air Force Cross for his actions on Feb. 27, 1991. After ejecting from his damaged F-16, Andrews was injured upon landing. Despite his injuries, Andrews chose to remain in the open and warned fellow pilots of threats until he was captured by Saddam Hussein’s forces.
2. Richard A. Cody
Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross
The pilot of an AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade fires AGM-114 Hellfire missiles during the combined arms live fire training exercise for Saber Strike 16 at the Estonian Defense Forces central training area near Tapa, Estonia on June 20, 2016. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)
Then a lieutenant colonel commanding an attack helicopter battalion, Richard Cody drew the tough task of leading Task Force Normandy to forcibly open a gap in Iraqi radar coverage. It was a very high-stakes mission – if Cody failed, Saddam’s regime would have plenty of time to give Coalition pilots warning. Task Force Normandy succeeded, and the Coalition lost only one aircraft on the opening night.
3. Randy S. Wenzel
Award to upgrade: Distinguished Flying Cross
At the time, Wenzel was a major, and took part in a massive strike on Jan. 18, 1991. Wenzel pressed his attack despite heavy fire from enemy surface-to-air missiles, putting his bombs on the Habbiniyah artillery mission. According to his citation, the successful strike “severely reduced” the ability of Saddam’s regime to produce replacement artillery pieces.
4. Richard Balwanz
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
Over a decade before the events that would be described in the book and movie Lone Survivor, Richard Balwanz faced the same situation Michael Murphy did. He made the same decision. As the Daily Caller notes, Balwanz brought his entire team back.
As an interesting trivia note, William Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross flying support for Balwanz’s unit.
5. Keith Dewayne Andrews
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
Andrews was with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of the “left hook” that flanked the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait, when he received the Silver Star for rescuing five troops who were pinned down by two Iraqi machine gun positions. According to his citation, Andrews made his way through a minefield to take out the first position with a hand grenade. Then, like Brian Chontosh did during Iraqi Freedom, he grabbed an enemy weapon and took out the second position.
Pure badass stuff.
6. Thomas J. Trask
Award to upgrade: Silver Star
While he is a three-star general today, Thomas J. Trask was a captain when he received the Silver Star as a MH-53J Pave Low pilot. While it is not exactly unarmed (GlobalSecurity.org notes it has three .50-caliber machine guns or 7.62mm miniguns), it’s not exactly the best option if you face off against enemy SAMs or AAA. Yet Trask went within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot.
John Wayne never served a day in the military, but he certainly was one very vocal supporter of the troops.
During World War II he tried to enter the military, but between a series of old injuries from his acting career and a bodysurfing incident, his family situation, and the maneuverings of a studio head, his efforts were thwarted, according to the Museum of Military Memorabilia.
Wayne did make USO tours in the South Pacific in 1943 and 1944, well after the fighting there had ended. But he made a number of iconic World War II films, including “They Were Expendable” in 1945, “The Sands of Iwo Jima” in 1949 (where he was nominated for an Oscar), “The Longest Day” in 1960, and “The Green Berets” in 1968. In “They Were Expendable,” the producers of the film worked with Medal of Honor recipient John Bulkeley.
One film that doesn’t get the attention of these other classics is “Operation Pacific,” released in 1951, which featured retired Adm. Charles Lockwood, the former commander of the Pacific Fleet’s submarines during World War II. Wayne played the executive officer, then the commanding officer, of the fictional submarine USS Thunderfish in this film.
Given Lockwood’s involvement, it’s no surprise that the film features some of the notable submarine exploits of World War II, compressed into one story — including Howard C. Gilmore’s famous “Take her down” orders, and the effort to fix the badly flawed torpedoes that dogged the U.S. Navy’s submarines for the first portion of the war.
The film’s climax featured an incident that composited the attacks on Japanese carriers during the Battle of the Philippine Sea with the actions of the submarines USS Darter (SS 227) and USS Dace (SS 247). The film is notable for showing the many missions the subs of World War II carried out, from evacuating civilians to rescuing pilots to, of course, sinking enemy ships (the Thunderfish’s on-screen kill total included a carrier, destroyer, a Q-ship, and a submarine).
There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.
On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.
1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.
Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.
Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.
Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”
“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”
As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.
Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)
VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.
Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.
As the war raged on, infantry units began dominating the battlefield as troops increased their use of the rifled muskets and Gatling guns. These new deadly weapons caused the need for entrenchments as a form of cover.
Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban — the first known architect of trench warfare.
Jane Fonda is a star of stage and screen whose career began in 1960. She is the daughter of legendary actor and WWII Naval Officer Henry Fonda. Jane, now 83, is long regarded as enemy #1 among Vietnam veterans (because Ho Chi Minh is dead and even if he weren’t it would be a close vote).
Fonda was a prominent antiwar protestor in the 70’s, focused on the rights of troops while in the military and of those who wanted to resist being drafted. She was primarily associated with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to which she gave a lot of time and money. Fonda was no more or less a lightning rod for criticism than any other celebrity who spoke against the war during that time, but that all changed in 1972.
She went to Hanoi that year to tour villages, cities and infrastructure. A series of photos of her sitting at an NVA anti-aircraft battery earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and the undying spite of Vietnam veterans everywhere. There were also rumors she turned over secret messages from POWs to their captors. This is not true, but still, her father was probably more than a little disappointed in her.
“There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day. I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun,” she wrote in 2011. “It happened on my last day in Hanoi. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced.”
To this day, Fonda feels the scorn of the military veteran community. If you want to get a feel for how much scorn the community feels, just Google “Jane Fonda Vietnam.” I’ll wait.
The hatred persists, even among non-Vietnam veterans and people who weren’t even born in 1972. Despite her attempts at apologies, and given the level of vitriol levied at her even 40+ years later, the anger and hatred is not likely to end any time soon.
“Whenever possible I try to sit down with vets and talk with them, because I understand and it makes me sad,” she told the audience, according to the Frederick News-Post. “It hurts me and it will go to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers.”
1. Why did the availability of spacesuit sizes affect the schedule?
Spacesuits are not “one size fits all.” We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes.
In a tweet, McClain explained: “This decision was based on my recommendation. Leaders must make tough calls, and I am fortunate to work with a team who trusts my judgement. We must never accept a risk that can instead be mitigated. Safety of the crew and execution of the mission come first.”
To provide each astronaut the best fitting spacesuit during their spacewalks, Koch will wear the medium torso on March 29, 2019, and McClain will wear it again on April 8, 2019.
3. How come you don’t have enough spacesuits in the right size?
We do have enough torsos. The spacesuit takes into account more than 80 different body measurements to be configured for each astronaut. The suit has three sizes of upper torso, eight sizes of adjustable elbows, over 65 sizes of gloves, two sizes of adjustable waists, five sizes of adjustable knees and a vast array of padding options for almost every part of the body.
In space, we have two medium hard upper torsos, two larges and two extra larges; however, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require 12 hours of crew time for configuration.
Configuring the spare medium is a very methodical and meticulous process to ensure the intricate life support system – including the controls, seals, and hoses for the oxygen, water, and power as well as the pressure garment components – are reassembled correctly with no chance of leaks.
Nothing is more important than the safety of our crew!
Astronaut Anne McClain gets assistance putting on her spacesuit during her ASCAN EVA Skills 3 Training.
12 hours might not seem like a long time, but the space station is on a very busy operational schedule. An astronaut’s life in space is scheduled for activities in five minute increments. Their time is scheduled to conduct science experiments, maintain their spaceship and stay healthy (they exercise two hours a day to keep their bones and muscles strong!).
The teams don’t want to delay this spacewalk because two resupply spacecraft – Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX cargo Dragon – are scheduled to launch to the space station in the second half of April 2019. That will keep the crew very busy for a while!
4. Why has there not already been an all-female spacewalk?
NASA does not make assignments based on gender. The first female space shuttle commander, the first female space station commander and the first female spacewalker were all chosen because they the right individuals for the job, not because they were women. It is not unusual to change spacewalk assignments as lessons are learned during operations in space.
McClain became the 13th female spacewalker on March 22, 2019, and Koch will be the 14th March 29, 2019 – both coincidentally during Women’s History Month! Women also are filling two key roles in Mission Control: Mary Lawrence as the lead flight director and Jaclyn Kagey as the lead spacewalk officer.
5. When will the all-female spacewalk happen?
An all-female spacewalk is inevitable! As the percentage of women who have become astronauts increases, we look forward to celebrating the first spacewalk performed by two women! McClain, Koch (and Hague!) are all part of the first astronaut class that was 50 percent women, and five of the 11 members of the 2017 astronaut candidate class are also women.
For three weeks in May 2020, the world speculated about the fate of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader. Many believed he was dead, some say of either complications during surgery or of a heart attack.
None of the rumors were true, however, and why Kim left the public eye is still up for popular debate among North Korea watchers. What everyone in the know can agree on, is, that North Korea without a Kim at the helm would certainly stumble and fall. Here’s why:
They’ve been selling the Kim family for too long
According to North Korea’s propaganda machine, Kim Il-Sung (Kim Jong-Un’s grandfather and founder of North Korea), pretty much single-handedly fought the Japanese and repelled them from the Korean Peninsula during World War II. Then he rebuilt North Korea after the disastrous Korean War, which North Korea definitely did not start. North Koreans see Kim Il-Sung as so divine, they can’t believe he poops. Even with his embalmed body lying in state eternally in Pyongyang, they angled it so no one can see the massive goiter on his neck.
That hardly compares to Kim Jong-Il, whose birth on holy Mount Paektu was heralded with a double rainbow and a new star appearing in the sky.
After spending their whole lives believing the demi-god Kims come down from an Asgard-like place and protect North Korea from evil America, would anyone believe that just any ol’ bureaucrat like Choe Ryong-hae can do that? Do you even know who Choe Ryong-hae is?
It’s basically a monarchy
Kings get their power from God, who gives them a divine right to lead the country. Kims also get their power from gods, which also happen to be them. The Soviet Union, who considered its brand of communism the original communism, from which all communism should be replicated. Kim Il-Sung didn’t care for all that and decided to hand-pick his successor; his son Kim Jong-Il, creating the first communist regime that also has a ruling family.
The Kims have ruled the country for three generations, which makes their rule a dynasty. Unlike Stalin in the USSR, Kim Il-Sung extended his personality cult to his family, clearing the path for this brand of communism that seems antithetical to the idea of communism.
Let’s see Choe Ryong-hae do that.
Even when things are bad, Kim makes everything better
When Kim Jong-Il came to power in 1994 after the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung, the elder Kim had been in power since 1948. Things had been pretty good for the DPRK while Kim Il-Sung was in power. Any shortcomings in the North Korean economy were filled in by subsidies from the Soviet Union. For a time, North Korea was the superior Korea.
When the USSR fell, all that fell apart with it. With Soviet aid gone, the country experienced a wide range of supply shortages, including food. A massive famine broke out and much of the population died. Still, support for the Kims never wavered. Under Kim Jong-Il, never as beloved as his father, the country secured nuclear weapons and guaranteed independence from the Yankee scum and their southern Korean puppets. To this day Kim Jong-Il is depicted in front of waves crashing on shore in North Korean art, a symbol of steadfastness in uncertain times. Choe Ryong-hae would have been useless in such a situation.
Everything the world does only backs up their claims
Imagine being told the world was full of American bad guys who want to pound North Korea again like they did in the 1950s. You remember your grandfather’s stories of the fighting. It sounds horrible. Then perhaps one summer your family gets to go visit Kaesong, near the demilitarized zone and actually tour the DMZ. You see first hand the giant American and South Korean soldiers just staring across the border, waiting for their moment.
If ever you doubt the Kims are truly divine or are the great leaders they claim to be, you simply have to go visit the International Friendship Museum to see all of the gifts the world has brought them for their patronage. There, you can also see all the historic world leaders that came to pay homage to the Kims, including other communist leaders and even American presidents!
There are always more Kims
The dynasty doesn’t stop at Kim Jong-Un. Kim Jong-Il has another son ready for the throne. Kim Jong-Un has a living brother, who has children of his own. Even one of Kim Il-Sung’s brothers is still alive, though he will soon turn 100 years old.
But no one is more visible right now than Kim Yo-Jong, the regime’s spokesperson, who both visited the South in 2018 and has met President Donald Trump. Her voice will be the loudest for the foreseeable future.
That is, unless she gets out of line. Two Kims have already met their fate for that.
F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.
Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.
“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.
“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.
The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.
A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.
ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.
However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.
Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.
“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.
The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.
Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
F-35 to Control Drones
As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.