What was intended as a photo for the wall of a nursing room at Fort Bliss’ headquarters has exploded across social media after the Air Force vet who took the shot posted it to her Facebook page.
“Support for breastfeeding moms wasn’t even an option to consider,” photographer Tara Ruby wrote on Facebook. “To my knowledge a group photo to show support of active duty military mommies nursing their little’s has never been done. It is so nice to see support for this here at Fort Bliss.”
It’s doubtful Army officials will be as enthusiastic. In June 2012, photos of two Air National Guardsman breastfeeding their children went viral and stirred up a national debate over breastfeeding in uniform. Though military officials said the airmen violated a policy against “using the uniform to further a cause,” they were not disciplined.
However, Crystal Scott, the civilian organizer of the 2012 photo shoot, was fired from her job.
According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.
These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.
“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .
The Danish film ‘A War’ is about an officer who had to make a hard decision under fire and the legal charges he faced when he returned home. It’s an unflinching look at military families, the strains of separation during deployment, and the unforgiving nature of commanding troops under fire while wrestling with restrictive rules of engagement.
The film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and will be released in limited theaters starting February 12.
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.
The Navy needs a new fighter to replace the Super Hornet by the 2030s, and that means moving a whole lot faster than the F-35’s development.
The U.S. Navy joined the Air Force in garnering attention for their Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program recently, but just because they’re using the same acronym as the Air Force doesn’t mean they intend to field the same aircraft. In fact, it seems the Navy is open to looking broadly at potential replacements for its workhorse 4th generation fighter, as well as its electronic warfare counterpart, the EA-18G Growler.
This new fighter, which some have assumed will qualify for a “6th generation” moniker, will have its work cut out for it as the United States military pivots back toward deterring nation-level foes with increasing technological parity like China. In fact, it’s likely that whatever the Navy’s new fighter is, it’ll require support from at least one un-crewed aircraft in order to maximize its capabilities.
“As we look at it right now, the Next-Gen Air Dominance is a family of systems, which has as its centerpiece the F/A-XX – which may or may not be manned – platform. It’s the fixed-wing portion of the Next-Gen Air Dominance family of systems,” Rear Adm. Gregory Harris explained.
Admiral Harris’ suggestion that the Navy’s next fighter might not have a pilot may not be indicative of where the program currently sits developmentally, but rather, it likely suggests that the U.S. Navy is willing to consider a variety of potential solutions to the problems facing the nation’s fleet of flat-top fighters.
China, widely seen as America’s most militarily potent adversary, has already begun fielding hypersonic anti-ship missiles with operational ranges in excess of a thousand miles. Because of the incredible speed in which these weapons fly (greater than Mach 5), the U.S. currently does not have any reliable means of intercepting or defending against such an attack. As a result, America’s supercarriers would have to remain outside the thousand-plus mile reach of these weapons, creating what’s known as an “area denial bubble” extending from Chinese shores with these weapons in place.
Currently, America’s Navy fighters have a combat radius reaching up to 750 or so miles, making them unable to cover the distance required to fly combat sorties over China without putting their carriers at risk of hypersonic missile strikes. You can read a more complete explanation of this area denial bubble and the Navy’s fighter fuel range woes in our in-depth discussion on it here.
But these new jets will need more than just range in order to dominate a 21st-century battlespace. The Navy’s Super Hornet replacements will need to leverage at least some degree of stealth in order to be survivable, and in fact, will likely need improved stealth capabilities over jets like the F-35 and F-22 in order to be seen as a truly 6th generation fighter. Improved avionics and data fusion capabilities are also all but certain–but the element that may make these new fighters really stand out from Lockheed Martin’s existing stealth jets is their use of drones for a variety of support roles.
“But we truly see NGAD as more than just a single aircraft. We believe that as manned-unmanned teaming comes online, we will integrate those aspects of manned and unmanned teaming into that,” Harris said.
“Whether that – we euphemistically refer to it as our little buddy – is an adjunct air-to-air platform, an adjunct [electronic warfare] platform, discussion of could it be an adjunct advanced early warning platform. We’ll have to replace the E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye] at some point in the future, so as we look to what replaces that.”
The U.S. Air Force drew headlines the world over last year when they announced that they had already built and tested a prototype for their NGAD fighter program, prompting many to wonder if a new jet is right around the corner. Of course, the truth is, that prototype was likely a demonstrator for some elements of new fighter technology, like operating while interlinked with a constellation of support drones. In other words, the Air Force’s tests might have been about proving something was possible, moreso than moving into production.
But the progress the Air Force has made in the NGAD realm will almost certainly benefit the Navy’s NGAD efforts, despite both branches being clear that they have no intention of repeating mistakes made during the F-35’s acquisition process. The Joint Strike Fighter program that berthed the F-35 required a single fighter platform that could fill the disparate needs of multiple military branches and allied forces. The result was an incredibly complex, expensive, and slow development process that hasn’t been fully completed to this day, even in its 14th year of flying.
With the Navy’s stable of Super Hornets and Growlers expected to age out of service within the next two decades, the F-35’s timetable just won’t cut it. The Navy needs a new, more capable, longer-range fighter–and it needs it sooner rather than later. That’s where some degree of cooperation between the branches can still be viable, even as the Navy and Air Force pursue different airframes with different specialties.
By using an open system architecture in designing these aircraft, the Navy and Air Force will be able to leverage new sensors and other digital technologies in both aircraft. Fielding the same modular systems would reduce costs, increase interoperability, and importantly, make it similarly inexpensive to replace those systems with newer ones as technology allows.
“So if you think about it, a contractor may have a particular sensor – let’s just use the radar as an example – and over time, perhaps the performance of that radar isn’t what you want, either from a sustainability standpoint or purely from a capability standpoint,” he said.
“With that open mission system architecture, you have an ability to more rapidly replace that without getting into vendor lock. And we’ve seen vendor lock create problems for us before. We firmly believe that competition will give us a better reliability, lower sustainment costs and lower the overall costs.”
The Navy is taking a two-step approach to replacing its 4th generation jets, first focusing on a replacement for the F/A-18 Super Hornet, and then for the EA-18 Growler, which is fundamentally the same or very similar, but is equipped with a suite of electronic warfare systems instead of kinetic munitions. The next-generation platforms in these roles may not be two similar jets. Instead, some roles will likely be filled by drones, as the Navy works toward fielding a larger uncrewed fleet.
The Navy is currently developing the MQ-25 Stingray as part of this very endeavor. Boeing’s prototype was originally intended to serve as a carrier-based UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), but the Navy pivoted toward a fuel carrier in order to begin picking away at China’s area denial bubble. The MQ-25 will be able to refuel manned aircraft in contested airspace, allowing for greater range. It stands to reason, however, that the MQ-25 could find other uses aboard the Navy’s flat tops, including the kinetic one it was originally designed for.
“Right now – notionally – looking at driving towards an air wing that has a 40-60 unmanned-manned split and overtime shift that to a 60-40 unmanned-manned split. So to try to drive an air wing that is at least 50 percent or more unmanned over time,” Harris explained.
“Again, a lot of that’s going to be dependent on the success we see with the MQ-25 Stingray, on our ability to truly learn how to operate around the aircraft carrier and safely execute that both on the flight deck and then airborne.”
Despite an increased focus on using artificial intelligence to aid in decision making aboard drones, it seems unlikely that the Navy’s next fighter will come without a cockpit. Dogfights between aircraft are considered to be among the most complex situations pilots could contend with, and the technology isn’t quite mature enough to hand those life or death decisions off to an AI system yet. Further, before we can field such platforms, America will have to contend with the idea of giving a machine the decision to choose a target and execute. Currently, human operators manage those decisions. However, using drone platforms as “arsenal ships” or “missile magazines” that support stealth aircraft may indeed be feasible.
“Having an unmanned platform out there as an adjunct missile carrier I see as not a step too far, too soon. I could have an unmanned friend. I typically say a flying Dorito chip when I’m thinking about it – doesn’t have to be that, right,” Harris continued.
“An unmanned system with missiles I can clearly in my mind envision a way to say, ‘fine defensive combat spread. Shoot on this target.’ And I will squeeze the trigger or I will just execute – enable that unmanned platform to shoot the designated target. That doesn’t stretch beyond my realm of imagination.”
It seems clear that the next fighters America fields will be just one piece of a larger “family of systems,” blending crewed and uncrewed aircraft, fusing data from air, ground, and sea-based sensors, and engaging targets with its own munitions as well as weapons carried by other assets. This networked interoperability will allow decision makers a broader set of options and pilots a great degree of awareness and capability.
The only question is, can they do it in time to beat the Super Hornet’s final flight off into the sunset?
President Trump caught a lot of flak for sharing intel with the Russians last year. Specifically, in May when he shared classified info from Israel with Russian envoys Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov.
What Trump shared was information regarding a new ISIS weapon and the Saudi bomb maker who developed it — laptop computer bombs that are undetectable at airport security.
Vanity Fair detailed how Sayeret Matkal forces — elite Israeli counter-terror troops — flew undetected across Jordan and then north into Syria. The helicopters dropped the troops and Syrian Army jeeps a few miles away from their target. They then drove on toward their objective.
According to latest intel, hey were on their way to a meeting house of an ISIS cell. The Israelis wanted to ensure it was tapped so they could hear every word. An operative in the field guaranteed them valuable information would come from there. At first it sounded like the bug was a bust — no one was saying anything.
Then it happened. The ISIS troops started talking about how to build the laptop weapon that couldn’t be detected at airports. The bombs would cause airplanes to fall from the sky in huge fireballs. Once the Mossad had the info, they quickly shared it with other potential targets, namely the United States.
Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker in Yemen and Saudi Arabian national Ibrahim al-Asiri was thought to be the mastermind behind the weapon.
That’s what President Trump shared with the Russian Foreign Minister.
Only the Mossad knows what happened to Israel’s inside man in Syria as a result of his location being leaked. An Israeli official told Vanity Fair that, “whatever happened to him, it’s a hell of price to pay for a president’s mistake.”
It’s no secret that the U.S. spends more on its military than any other nation and over four times what the second place country, China, spends. So it’s no surprise that the U.S. has the largest presence outside of its borders.
While the rest of the world maintains about 30 overseas bases combined, the U.S. has 800 that we know of. These range from huge installations with thousands of troops to tiny airfields on remote islands.
This Vox video explains how these bases were set up, how they’re funded, and more.
North Korea is an enigmatic place with a virtually unknown leader, though tales often slip out of the tyrannical domination of the ruling Kim family.
Through snippets of information leaked from the Hermit Kingdom (as North Korea is commonly known), experts have gleaned a picture of the country, its society and its leader, 37-year-old Kim Jong Un.
A new National Geographic documentary, “North Korea: Inside the Mind of a Dictator,” examines the country and the people who live there and delves into the psychology of its young leader.
The series is full of interviews with experts, childhood friends, escaped bodyguards and even former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who sat down with Kim during his summits with President Donald Trump.
Before you watch, here are some fundamental things to know about the country and its equally closed-off leader, courtesy of North Korea expert B.R Meyers and his book, “The Cleanest Race.”
1. North Korea has its own brand of communism.
Much to the chagrin of other communist countries, North Korea slowly developed its own kind of “socialist utopia,” seen in the symbolism used by its ruling party. Where most communist countries use the hammer and sickle to symbolize the union of the peasantry and the working class, the Korean Workers Party integrates a Korean calligraphy brush, to incorporate Korean intelligentsia.
In traditional Leninism, intelligentsia were considered part of the bourgeoisie, and many found themselves jailed, deported or executed in other communist states. After the fall of the Soviet Union, North Korea purged itself of any link Marxism-Leninism in favor of its own policy, “Juche.”
2. “Juche” is North Korea’s guiding philosophy — and it’s bunk.
In the earliest days of North Korean nationalism, founder Kim Il Sung needed to come up with a guide for his people, similar to Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book.”
North Korea expert B.R. Meyers says Kim’s official ideology, “Juche,” reads like a college term paper, designed to fill a certain amount of space while ensuring no one actually reads it. The result, he says, is thick books with little substance.
In short, the doctrine pushes for North Korea’s total self-reliance and independence from the outside world. Forget that the country was completely dependent on the Soviet Union for the first 50 years of its existence, Meyers says. North Korea isn’t anywhere close to self-reliant.
“Juche” was meant to be worshipped, not read.
3. North Korea makes money like the Mafia because it has to.
When news stories report that North Korea lives under “crippling sanctions,” that’s both true and misleading. It’s true that the country lives under sanctions that block everything from military equipment to coal. It can’t even get foreign currency. To get around that, North Korea reportedly operates an underground crime syndicate.
It allegedly runs black markets in human trafficking; illegal drug production and smuggling; counterfeiting foreign currency and legal drugs; wildlife trafficking; and arms dealing. There’s even a special office designed just to create a slush fund of cash for Kim Jong Un’s personal use.
4. The North Koreans think they’re better than you.
Not in so many words, but that’s what it amounts to. North Korea’s propaganda machine finds its origins in an ideology similar to that of the Japanese before and during World War II. One of the central tenets of that ideology is that Koreans have a moral superiority above that of all other races.
According to Meyers, this innate goodness is the reason they’ve been invaded and mistreated by foreign powers so often over the years. The goodness of the Korean people is exactly why they need a powerful, charismatic leader to protect them. Someone like, say … the Kims.
5. Each Kim had his own personality cult.
In “The Cleanest Race,” Meyers describes the pillars that hold up the legitimacy of each successive North Korean ruler. Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and founder of the North Korean state, had a cult of personality that relied on protecting the good Korean people from the excesses and evils of outsiders. His strength and military skills kept them safe from being killed by invaders or starving to death.
His son, Kim Jong Il, took over with an entirely different set of issues. He rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union and amid a growing famine in North Korea. His personality cult centered around his military ability. The famine would undermine his economic abilities, so instead his cult created the idea of a looming threat from outside North Korea — America.
He implemented the infamous “military first” policy that left many North Koreans to fend for themselves, redirecting what few resources the state had to what was then the fourth-largest army in the world and a developing nuclear program.
The famine lasted four years and killed somewhere between 2 million and 3.5 million North Koreans.
6. Kim Jong Un was expected to be a reformer.
After Kim Jong Il’s 2011 death, his son Kim Jong Un took over. Given his extensive experience with the West, many thought he would be more willing to open North Korea up to Western culture and ideas. Others thought he might abandon the country’s nuclear program and turn North Korea into a Chinese-model economy. Others, Like Foreign Policy Magazine’s Victor Cha, weren’t so certain.
Instead, Kim Jong Un developed a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States. He also consolidated his power by executing rivals. Kim even told Trump about how he executed his own uncle and displayed the body. It’s now believed that Kim Jong Un is empowering his sister Kim Yo Jong to do the dirty work, while he works on becoming more of a world leader.
Learn more about the life and regime of Kim Jong Un by watching “North Korea: Inside the Mind of a Dictator” on Monday, Feb. 15, on the National Geographic Channel.
Once a war kicks off, it’s generally easy to recognize. But war planners want to know about these things ahead of time so they predict what might be coming. While moves like large military exercises on a border are a dead giveaway that an invasion might be imminent, smaller things can give intel analysts a clue as well.
Here are 6 surprisingly minor things that can predict a major conflict:
1. Industrial diamonds and mineral prices
Who knew diamonds could predict wars? Back when World War II was just a fight between Germany and Poland about whether Poland got to keep being a country, Hitler was promising everyone that it was a limited, one-time thing. But the other countries knew he was full of it because, among other things, diamond prices were climbing.
Industrial diamonds are ugly things used in heavy duty drills, grinders, and other machinery. They’re essential to properly machining large weapons of war and the price was high because Germany was buying a lot of them plus tons of metals, like enough to create a blitzkrieg-capable army. A short time later, that army was rolling across Dutch fields.
David E. Walker wrote “Adventure in Diamonds” about the rush by British and Japanese teams to secure Amsterdam’s diamond stocks during the German invasion.
2. Missing uniforms and other supplies
Another thing the Dutch found suspicious ahead of the Nazi invasion was a higher than normal disappearance rate of uniforms and other supplies. Some items always go missing and sometimes things really do fall off of trucks, but a sudden jump should get analysts worried.
When German paratroopers started landing in the Netherlands, some of them were wearing Dutch uniforms that had gone missing. Wearing an enemy’s uniform is a war crime, but that only matters if the side guilty parties are on loses. If your uniform is missing, it may be forgetfulness, or it may predict something scarier.
3. Suspicious demonstrations
One of the things Ukraine noticed before of the shadow invasion of the Donbas region was a sudden increase in Pro-Moscow agitation in the east of the country and apparent ties between the agitators and Russian propaganda outlets.
Russian special operators and soldiers now cross into the area from time-to-time to make sure separatists forces are able to resist Kiev’s military, keeping the nation off-balance and allowing Russia a generally free hand.
4. Increased tourism
A spike in tourism is usually just a good sign for the economy, but combined with any other indicators that a war is looming, it’s a decent bet that some of those tourists are spies.
When it comes to local conflicts, warlords and smaller armies are sometimes equipping their forces right before the fight. This drives up the costs of weapons, especially AK-47s. Intel analysts and concerned citizens can watch those prices and see if a brush fire war or uprising is likely.
For larger nations, observers watch the overall size of the arsenal. If Russia starts producing more cruise missiles than normal, they’re probably going to be firing some soon.
6. Computer activity
In the modern day, hacking is a tool of war that is sometimes used on its own or in conjunction with a kinetic attack. Either way, the cyber assault is usually preceded by the tests of cyber defenses and the collecting of information on targets.
There’s a veteran’s service initiative in Chicago that is literally saving children’s lives.
As part of the “Safe Passage” program, a non-profit called Leave No Veteran Behind deploys veterans to troubled areas of Chicago to watch over kids on their way to and from school. The organization repays student loan debt for service members in exchange for community service projects like this one, and also helps with employment and transitional jobs.
“We’re here faithfully; we’ve been here since day one,” veteran Bernard Cooks told NPR. “Our intention is to be here until the last day so kids can figure out that, ‘Hey, there’s somebody that actually cares about our safety,’ and they can feel confident going up and down these streets.”
In response to the widespread violence among youth in parts of Chicago, LNVB approached the Chicago school system to see if veterans could help. Tipped off about repeated violent incidents on the corner of 35th and Martin Luther King Drive, LNVB deployed 20 veterans to the location to stand guard, positively engage with youth and maintain the peace. Several weeks of calm led to expansion, and now, more than 400 veterans have participated in the Safe Passage program, positioned at several hot spots for crime in tough Chicago neighborhoods. On any given school day, about 130 veterans patrol the streets. As a result, the Chicago police has seen a significant decline in violence in the communities served.
114 children were murdered in Chicago from 2010 to 2014, CBS News reported. Many were injured or killed by gangs. Watch how Leave No Veteran Behind is helping to bring these numbers down:
We never get tired of seeing the tricks pilots can pull off, but this video is particularly impressive.
The following footage was captured inside the cockpit of a Pakistan Air Force F-16 BM Block 15, an aircraft under the PAF 11th Squadron “Arrows.” In the video, Turkish Aerospace Industries test pilots Murat Keles and Murat Ozpala take the plane from parked on the runway to an altitude of 2.5 miles in only 45 seconds — insane by any military’s standards.
The actual flight time is less than 20 seconds, so you may want to watch this more than once. Buckle up.
An animated video claiming to be a new U.S. military weapon concept to target T-90 and T-14 Armata tanks has gotten a lot of attention on the Internet. The video titled “US Military SNEAKY SURPRISE for T-90 Armata Tanks” was published on December 10, 2015, and has more than 1.2 million views on the popular YouTube channel ArmedForcesUpdate.
While cool in concept, we were more surprised by the video’s creators, RT News—Russia Today—who’s logo and spinning globe appear at 3:16 of the video. The video’s animation, music and naming convention is also strikingly similar to the Russian transformer video WATM published in November 2015 called “Russian military NASTY SURPRISE in a box for US Military.” RT is a Russian government-funded television network directed to audiences outside of its federation. The network is based out of Moscow and broadcasts around-the-clock programming in different languages across the world.
It’s unclear why would Russian state media make a video destroying its new main battle tank. In the meantime, check out the video. (Russia paid good money for it.)