Army and Air Force veteran Wil Willis arrived in Los Angeles in 2009 to pursue a job as a TV show host for the Discovery Channel. His time as an Air Force pararescueman and the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion qualified him to debut in the military reality show “Special Ops Mission.”
Willis recounts his unusual transition during a photo shoot with photographer Cedric Terrell:
While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.
“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”
Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.
Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:
Based on a similarly-named book by Mitchell Zuckoff, the film will focus on the CIA officers, contractors, and Navy SEALs who fought on the ground against a group of Islamic militants. It stars James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, and Toby Stephens, and is directed by Michael Bay.
On September 11th, 2012, Islamic militants attacked two American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, killing two CIA contractors, a US foreign service information management officer, and a US ambassador — Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens became the first US ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since the late 1970s. Following the attack, State Department officials received continued criticism for failing to provide additional security support before the attack, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still embroiled in controversy among some right-wing critics over unreleased internal emails.
Though there has been intense debate over what went wrong and who was to blame for the attack, Deadline Hollywood notes that the film will likely not get into that part or the aftermath. “Like the book upon which its based, it probably won’t get into the conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks,” Ross A. Lincoln writes. “Going instead for an on-the-ground view of the attacks through the eyes of serious badasses.”
How does a runner on second know when he should steal third? Does a batter automatically know when to bunt? When does a quarterback call an audible – and how can he communicate that play without the other team knowing just what he saw in their defense? Hand signals and codes are simple ciphers designed to communicate a simple message. It’s no different from what intelligence agents have been doing since days of Julius Caesar.
Sports teams have been using encrypted signals since before World War I. Most famously, the 1951 Giants put a man with a telescope in center field to read the opposing teams calls and signals. The Giants overcame an almost 14-game deficit that year to force a playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers. From the Giants’ center field manager’s office, coach Herman Franks relayed the opposite teams’ signs to the bullpen using an electric buzzer system. The catcher’s call would then be relayed to the batter.
The scheme was simple intelligence tradecraft.
“These are simple messages being sent,” says Dr. Vince Houghton, the curator and historian of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. “They take a basic step of encryption, the way an army encrypts tactical plans to attack or defend. You can let the enemy know what you’re going to do next, so you can’t send these messages in the clear.”
The reason the ’51 Giants encrypted their signals was the same reason they climbed back into the playoffs: unencrypted messages were easy to intercept, which made it so their hitters knew what the pitcher would do, giving them a huge advantage.
The relationship between sports cryptography and the military can go the other way, too. In Vietnam, Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down in an EB-66 near the North-South Vietnam Demilitarized Zone. This was literally the worst situation for military intelligence. Hambleton not only had the intelligence vital to the Vietnam War, but the U.S. military’s entire Cold War-World War III contingency plans. If he was captured by the North Vietnamese, they would be able to give the Soviets the entire Strategic Air Command war plans.
Hambleton survived and the NVA knew exactly how valuable he was. While looking for extraction, he had to evade the NVA patrols looking for him while making his way to the rescue area. The problem was he had to be told how to get there over the radio – and an unencrypted radio was all he had.
Knowing Hambleton was crazy about golf – perhaps the best in the U.S. Air Force – the military fed him the info he needed to move using a simple substitution cypher. It took Hambleton a half-hour to figure out what they were doing.
“Instead of telling him to move south 100 meters, they would tell him to walk the first hole on Pebble Beach,” says Dr. Houghton. “He was tracked by using descriptions of golf course holes he knew well.”
Other codes included playing 18 holes, starting on No. 1 at Tucson National.
“They were giving me distance and direction,” Hambleton later explained. “No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards running southeast. They wanted me to move southeast 400 yards. The ‘course’ would lead me to water.”
Unlike using a radio, sports code has to be done in plain sight — that’s where the hand signals come in to play.
For tickets to visit the exhibits and see the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display, visit https://www.spymuseum.org/tickets/. Also, there’s a $6.00 military discount!
New Jersey Air National Guardsman Tech. Sgt. Justin Gielski is a contestant this year on “American Ninja Warrior.” He competed in the San Pedro, California, qualifiers and finals filmed in front of the USS Iowa.
In the qualifying round, Gielski placed 14th and was invited back the next night for the San Pedro finals where he placed 5th. He will compete in the Las Vegas National finals which begin airing on NBC this Monday night. Gielski told Kent Reporter journalist Heidi Sanders that, “Going into it I thought it would be a one-time thing, but now I am going to try to come back as many years as they let me.”
See him describe what drove him to ANW and how he trains for the competition in the video below.
The TOW missile has been the go-to weapon for blowing up tanks since the Vietnam War.
The Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile was made by Hughes Aircraft and was initially deployed in Vietnam on Huey helicopters.
Unlike the Javelin with its fire-and-forget capability, the TOW missile system uses wires to guide its payload to targets. When the missile is launched, the optical sensor on the tube continuously monitors the position of the missile during flight, correcting its trajectory with electrical signals passed through the cables. This means that the target must be kept in the shooter’s line of sight until impact. The weapon quickly evolved into a portable system that could be fired by infantry units in the field and mounted on jeeps and other vehicles.
In 1997, Raytheon purchased Hughes from General Motors and continued to improve the TOW line. Under Raytheon, the TOW missile has evolved into a wireless version that uses a one-way radio link for guidance. It’s currently used by the Army and the Marine Corps.
Of course, tankers on the other side of the missile hate it for how it cuts through their armor. Watch:
In a rare security breach, a man broke into Joint Base Andrews last month and went unnoticed for about five hours until his strange headpiece that appeared to resemble “mouse ears” blew his cover, severalnewsoutlets reported Thursday.
The 36-year-old trespasser from Maryland, whose name has not been disclosed, was unarmed and wore “a bright red or pink cap that partially covered his ears and had distinctive balls on top that looked a little like mouse ears,” according to an Air Force investigation of the February 4 incident reported by The Associated Press.
An employee at the base saw the man on the flight line and was suspicious of the intruder partly because of his cap, and notified security, according to AP. The Air Force report blamed the unusual security failure on “human error.”
The Air Force first reported the security breach last month and released its investigation on Thursday. Military officials handed him over to local law enforcement at the time because he had two outstanding warrants.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said said that a “distracted” security guard had let the unauthorized man drive through an entrance gate and onto the military base located in Maryland, which is home to the presidential aircraft, Air Force One.
Afterward, the intruder slipped past another fence and entered the flight line, walked aboard a parked plane and stayed for a few minutes then left. He was stopped and arrested as he walked back on the flight line toward the security gate, AP reported.
The man went aboard a C-40 aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing, sometimes referred to as the “President’s Wing,” which is used by senior military and government officials. He never got close to the highly-protected Air Force One, officials said.
The report concluded that the intruder was “simply wandering” and did not harm anyone nor have plans to meet anyone. He told officials that he came to the base “because he wanted to see airplanes,” the report said.
The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
The Greek town of Vrontados on the island of Chios has an Easter tradition they call Rouketopolemos, which literally means Rocket War.
This annual event pits two rival parishes against each other by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets at the opposing side’s bell tower. The next day, both congregations count the direct hits to determine the winner, but no matter the results, each parish claims victory. Since both sides end in disagreement, they agree to settle the score next year, thus perpetuating the rivalry.
The origins of this tradition are unclear, but one popular story states that it was born from the Turkish occupation of Greece. People from the island were prohibited from celebrating Easter the way they used to. So, the Christians from the churches of San Maria and San Marco decided to have a fake war with rockets to keep the Turkish away. Frightened by the sudden violence, the Turkish kept their distance. In the meantime, the communities celebrated Easter they way they were accustomed to, according to Rocketwar.
The midnight rocket war is truly a spectacle, the action begins at 3:40 of this video:
A simple glance at a map would tell you all you need to know. Camp Pendleton is on the southern California coast with San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange County just a short drive away. By contrast, Twentynine Palms is in a remote desert location akin to being stuck on Tattooine.
But there’s more to like about Camp Pendleton than fun outside the base.
Without an immediately adjacent staging area from which to launch an invasion American and its allies will have to build up forces in the region once a fight comes. This means that for the first time since World War II, American troops will have to invade a country from over the horizon.
The Fifth Fleet, based at NSA Bahrain, would have the initial task of fighting off Iranian naval forces. With Tehran’s limited power projection this would be the largest impediment to building up forces near Iran.
With the natural bottleneck at the Strait of Hormuz, this is likely where the Iranian’s would make their stand. Iran’s conventional navy has little means of dealing with the powerful American fleet. Bested by America before, they would likely suffer a second ignominious defeat.
The real naval threat comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. The IRGC has procured numerous agile speedboats armed with ship-killing missiles. Manned by fanatical defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran their mission is to swarm a hostile force, unleashing a barrage of missiles, and hoping to score a victory with sheer numbers.
While the U.S. Navy will not emerge unscathed, their force of destroyers and patrol ships will utterly destroy the threat. Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems will deal with many of the missiles, though there is likely to be extensive damage to some ships. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will blow the boats not caught in the hellfire out of the water.
Those aircraft will also be actively engaging the Iranian Air Force as the battle for air superiority begins. Heavily outnumbered the planes will also have to rely on the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Navy ships below.
The Air Force will divert planes already operating in the area while other squadrons proceed to friendly bases within range of the fight. The Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bomber forces will also begin flying strikes against critical Iranian infrastructure, particularly Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
While this fight rages over the Persian Gulf, ground forces will begin deploying to fight. The 82nd Airborne will have the Global Response Force wheels up in 18 hours though they will not immediately jump into action. The rest of the division will soon follow.
The Marines will look to I Marine Expeditionary Force to be the backbone of their fighting capability. Elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force will bolster this force.
As the buildup of ground forces continues, and as the Navy eradicates Iranian naval resistance, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs – supported by Marine infantry – will assault and reduce Iranian naval forces on several islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This will clear the way for the invasion fleet to strike.
Launching from bases in Kuwait and Bahrain the invasion fleet will then steam towards the port of Shahid Rejeai, adjacent to the city of Bandar Abbas. Striking here will allow for the capture of a large port facility while simultaneously conducting a decapitation strike against the Iranian Navy headquartered at Bandar Abbas.
Prior to the landings at the port itself, Army Rangers supported by a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will conduct a parachute assault on Bandar Abbas International Airport in order to establish an airhead.
The remaining two brigades of the 82nd will secure the flanks of the invasion against counterattack by conducting parachute assaults onto critical road junctions and bridges.
At dawn, the Marines will spearhead the assault. The Marines’ armor will be critical in supporting the light infantry forces as they storm ashore to capture facilities for follow-on armor. Staged on numerous ships offshore Navy and Marine helicopters will carry troops in air assaults against positions while others land ashore in landing craft and AAVs.
By evening, armored units aboard roll-on/roll-off ships will be unloading in the ports while Marine units will have driven forward to link up with the paratroopers. Light infantry and Stryker forces will be airlanding at the recently secured airport.
With the beachhead established the invasion force will launch a massive sustained drive on Tehran. While an armored thrust storms up highway 71, the 101st Airborne, held in reserve until now, will conduct an air assault from NSA Bahrain onto Bushehr airport to open the way toward Shiraz, an important military city.
The Iranian military, long-suffering from embargoes and sanctions lacks the technology and wherewithal to put up serious resistance. Iranian armor will lay smoldering in the wake of American firepower.
The largest threat will come from the irregular forces of the IRGC and the Islamic militias, or Basij, which are prepared to defend Iran to the death. However, after years of counterinsurgency operations American forces will be ready to defend against such threats.
Light infantry and Special Forces will capture Shiraz eliminating a serious threat and providing a logistical support base for continued operations. Other special operations forces will be operating throughout Iran to bolster friendly forces.
The long supply line from Bandar Abbas to the front lines will mean the 82nd Airborne will be busy capturing more air bases to bring in more troops and sustain the prolonged ground assault.
Eventually, all necessary forces will be positioned around Tehran for a final push to destroy the Ayatollah’s regime. Thunder runs and air assaults will criss-cross the city as American and allied forces seek to drive out the last remnants of resistance.
With the Ayatollah deposed and victory declared American forces will settle in for a nation-building campaign while a new government gains its strength.
The suit, officially dubbed TALOS, or Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit, “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, commander of Special Operations Command, said recently.
The suit is a result of rapid prototyping between the Pentagon, academia, tech companies, and special operators coming together to build out the best platform.
Which means a focus on operator safety while maintaining freedom of movement.
The suit should offer helmets with heads-up display technology, while other prototypes may come with heating and cooling systems and sensors to monitor vital signs, according to DoD News.
This is a pretty early prototype, so there are definitely some changes to be made. But this video of where they are so far is pretty impressive.