Some of the top robots in the world competed last week in a competition that tested their ability to respond to disasters. There were some contenders that succeeded and will be remembered as trailblazers in disaster response. These other robots performed … well, Skynet will need to keep looking before it builds its army.
He joined the military to escape a bad situation, and the rest is like something out of a Hollywood script. Benavidez walked into certain death when he volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team caught under extreme fire behind enemy lines.
Benavidez would serve 13 years before receiving the Medal Of Honor. When asked if he’d do it again, he said, “There would never be enough paper to print the money nor enough gold in Fort Knox for me to have, to keep me from doing what I did.”
As it turns out, kidnapping is big business. Between 2008 and 2015, terrorist groups have reportedly collected more than $125 million in ransom payments. But terrorists don’t just kidnap to make money, they can make way more selling oil — roughly $3 million per day.
This TestTube News video explains other reasons they abduct people and the pros and cons of negotiating with terrorists:
The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”
In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.
Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.
The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.
An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.
Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”
In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.
The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.
Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.
The technology behind these rifles takes a shooter’s experience, skill, and environment factors out of the equation. Simply tag your target and squeeze the trigger. It’s that simple. The same tracking and fire-control capabilities found in advanced fighter jets are incorporated into these rifles, according to TrackingPoint.
“Being proficient at Call of Duty or Battlefield takes more practice and skill than firing a weapon in the real world does now,” reported Timothy for Engadget. “This is the future we live in.”
The rifle also has a password-protected firing mechanism, which doesn’t fire until you’ve aligned the rifle with your target. It also features the ability to video stream, which allows you to share the view from the scope to any device connected to the Internet.
This three-minute video demonstrates how the rifle works:
After two decades of counter-terror operations, America’s Department of Defense, or DoD, is pivoting back toward great power competition with a slew of new programs and proposals that seemingly blur the line between science fiction fantasy and legitimate military capability.
America’s combat operations in places like the Middle East have afforded its defense apparatus a great deal of experience, but that benefit doesn’t come without a price. Aside from the significant wear and tear on equipment (and the associated maintenance costs), America’s defense apparatus has also offered its competition in nations like Russia and China a perfect opportunity to study and assess Uncle Sam’s military capabilities. While neither Russia nor China currently possesses truly peer-level military capabilities when compared to the United States, it’s important to remember that they don’t need to in order to pose a significant risk to American interests, or indeed its very safety.
With America’s combat playbook open for all to see, China and Russia have both devoted significant portions of their defense spending to leverage gaps in the U.S.’s proverbial armor. As a result, the United States now finds itself falling behind the technological power curve in a number of important ways, including hypersonics and potentially even anti-satellite weapons.
But despite the strategic advantage America’s defense commitments have offered its competitors in recent years, it wouldn’t be wise to count the U.S. out quite yet. In fact, the DoD already has a number of groundbreaking programs underway, and in recent months, the Defense Department has gone even further, soliciting proposals for advanced technology so unusual that practically read like science fiction.
Of course, soliciting proposals and even funding programs doesn’t mean every one of these efforts will result in an operational weapon or mature strategic capability. Some of these programs are sure to fail or to be pulled apart and devoured by other broader reaching efforts. Like SOCOM’s Ironman-like TALOS armor or the stealth RAH-66 Comanche, a DoD program doesn’t have to cross the finish line to benefit the force.
Here are 6 crazy-seeming DoD programs that are currently in development.
Fusion Reactors and “Spacetime Modification” weapons
In 2019, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) filed a number of seemingly out of this world patents that could, in theory, revolutionize not only military aviation, but just about everything. Among these filings were patents for a High Energy Electromagnetic Field Generator, which if functional, could produce massive amounts of power with far-reaching military and commercial implications and would practically result in the world’s first highly efficient fusion reactor.
But if near-limitless clean energy isn’t crazy enough, another offshoot of this work led by U.S. Navy aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais would see the creation of a “spacetime modification weapon” that would, in his words, “make the Hydrogen bomb seem more like a firecracker, in comparison.”
You can read a thorough breakdown of Pais’ work, as well as a similar effort led by Lockheed Martin, in our coverage of this story here.
Plasma Holograms that can fool missiles (and maybe even people)
New technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds of survival further into the favor of stealth aircraft by leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.
According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.
These “laser induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light.
You can read more about this effort in our full coverage of it here.
Drone Wingmen and “Skyborg”
The 2005 movie “Stealth” depicts a team of 6th generation fighter pilots who are assigned a new wingman: an AI-enabled drone. The movie may not have gotten much right about military aviation, but the premise has proven not just viable, but likely. With programs underway like the Air Force Research Laboratories Skyborg and Boeing’s Loyal Wingman, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing data-fusing jets like the F-35 flying with their own constellations of support drones that can be used to extend their sensor reach, engage targets on the fighter’s behalf, or even sacrifice themselves to prevent a missile from reaching the crewed aircraft.
Recently, the U.S. Air Force successfully flew a Kratos Valkyrie UCAV alongside both of America’s 5th generation fighters, with an active data link connecting the F-35 to the drone. While still a rudimentary test, this flight was truly just the beginning.
You can learn more about this effort in our coverage here.
Artificial Intelligence in the cockpit
In August of last year, Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeated not only its industry competitors, but went on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot even scoring a single hit. It was a significant success for the endeavor to get AI into the cockpits of American fighters, even if the competition was technically stacked in the AI’s favor.
The intent behind the competition wasn’t to embarrass a human pilot, but rather to improve both the AI’s ability to make decisions and develop a level of trust between human operators and future AI co-pilots. By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand.
You can read more about this effort in our coverage of it here.
6th Generation Fighters
Last September, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and flown a prototype of the next generation of fighters. Details released by the DoD are scarce, but there are a number of assertions we can make about this program based on publicly available information.
In order to justify the creation of a new fighter generation, this new jet will need to offer all the capabilities found in 5th generation jets like the F-35, along with a slew of entirely new capabilities. It seems feasible that the fighter that has already been tested by not be a mature platform destined for service, but may instead be a technology demonstrator used to assess the efficacy of some of these state-of-the-art systems.
You can learn more about what exactly makes a 6th generation fighter in our coverage here.
Using shrimp to track enemy submarines
DARPA’s effort to track undersea life’s behavior as a means to detect enemy submarines has just entered its second phase. In the first phase, DARPA’s Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program sought to prove that sea life would respond to the presence of a submarine in a measurable way. With that seemingly confirmed, the second stage of the program will focus on developing sensors that can identify that behavior and relay a warning back to manned locations aboard a ship or onshore.
Undersea life tends to behave in a certain way when it senses the presence of a large and foreign object like a submarine. By broadly tracking the behavior of sea life, PALS aims to measure and interpret that behavior to make educated guesses about what must be causing it. In other words, by constantly tracking the behavior of nearby wildlife, PALS sensors can notice a significant change, compare it to a library of known behaviors, and predict a cause… like an enemy submarine, even if a submarine was stealthy enough to otherwise evade detection.
You can read more about this program in our full coverage here.
It’s no secret the military is committed to drones, and manufacturers from around the world are coming up with crazy designs to capture defense dollars. To wit, at this year’s Atlanta Unmanned Systems conference, drones that resembled everything from miniature death stars to flying saucers were showcased. Check out this video to see some of them in action:
Since the early VHS days in the late ’80s squadron music video production quality has kept getting better and better. Here’s one from the Hornet (and Super Hornet) community circa 2013 that takes viewers into the cockpit for a spin around “the boat.”
It’s perfectly legal for Dutch citizens to join the fight against ISIL.
Since late last year, members of the “No Surrender” biker gang have joined Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Klaas Otto, the leader of the group, has confirmed that at least three of the gang’s members were in Syria, according to The Daily Mail.
However, to be clear, you can’t join a foreign force — i.e. ISIL — against the Netherlands.
The story of Dutch citizens wanting to fight against ISIL seems natural, according to The Daily Beast:
So many lunatics from Europe, including from The Netherlands, have joined the head-choppers of ISIS, and here was a group of badasses on choppers out to kill those bastards. It was promoted on what might be called not-quite-mainstream or, indeed, axe-to-grind media. It cropped up on a Kurdish channel and on a local German channel. Then RT, Russian Television, fell in love with it. So did the British tabloids. And a New York one. And the story just keeps rolling.
Here’s a two-minute BBC interview with the leader of “No Surrender” explaining their involvement in the fight against the terrorist organization:
These are 10 of the most memorable scenes in movies that feature nuclear bomb explosions.
Ever since the advent of nukes, Hollywood has been fascinated with its destructive force. The big explosion is usually the climax of any movie featuring these doomsday weapons. From 1964’s Dr. Strangelove to the latest installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, here are some of the best nuclear blasts in movies, according to WatchMojo.
In his last few weeks in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and the U.S. Embassy in Havana was shut down.
On Jan. 4, 1961, three U.S. Marine security guards were there, lowering the American flag for the last time over the embassy grounds. After 54 years, these same Marines will be with Secretary of State John Kerry to raise the flag once more on Friday.
The re-raising of the flag comes after President Obama ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with the island nation, a historic deal that would reopen the embassy and bring home an American government contractor who had been imprisoned since 2009, The New York Times reported.
In a video produced by the Department of State, the three Marines talk about serving in Cuba on that day, and how they felt about the Cuban people.
“That was a touching moment,” said Gunnery Sgt. F.W. Mike East. “To see ‘Old Glory’ flying the last time in Cuba, that just didn’t seem right. It just seemed like something was wrong, something was missing.”
There’s a common misconception of life in the Marine Corps being filled with action-packed activities and explosions. However, reality doesn’t always live up to expectations. For instance, there are things that sound awesome, like the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), which one would expect to be filled with roundhouse kicks and other Street Fighter moves.
And then there’s reality, which involves no roundhouse kicks and a lame peer evaluation.
The boys of Terminal Boots put together this short video with four scenarios showing what Marines expect in a situation followed by what really happens.
For a country notorious for its censorship, North Korea has an active Internet presence. It has a state-run website, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook fan page under the username of Uriminzokkiri, which means “on our own as a nation.”
The Uriminzokkiri Facebook fan page first appeared in August 2010 and currently has over 4,100 followers. There are only 12 posts on the account, the profile claims that its publishing rights have been revoked but managed to include this in the about section:
The imperialist Amerikan censors have blocked publishing rights, please keep up good fight for dear leader!
The Twitter account gained more than 8,500 followers in one week, according to The Telegraph. It currently has more than 18,900 followers. Most of the tweets praise the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and criticize Japan and the United States.
The YouTube channel has more than 11,300 videos and is constantly updated with a mix of news, propaganda and children’s shows. The channel’s most popular video is this propaganda film claiming to take 150,000 American hostages during a raid in Seoul, South Korea, according to the Daily Mail: