Why these British soldiers never say 'yes' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Much of the world knows the Grenadier Guards from their roles as formal guards in London and at Windsor Castle. Their distinctive ceremonial uniforms are a symbol of the British Crown. They are also one of the world’s best light infantry units who joined the British Army in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But while they left their distinctive bearskin hats at home, they did bring many traditions to desert wars with them.


Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

“Make way for the Queen’s Guard.”

One of those traditions surrounds saying the word “yes.” Apparently, members of the Grenadier Guards find the affirmative to be redundant. According to one guardsman in a 1989 BBC story called the “Weird and Wonderful Traditions of the Grenadier Guards,” saying yes is redundant as a guardsman always obeys his orders. The only alternative would be saying “no,” something a guardsman would never do.

So in the Grenadier Guards, they simply respond to direct orders with “sir.”

The Grenadiers’ unquestioned obedience doesn’t limit their ability to communicate. According to a ranking Guardsman of the time, they can still pass different meanings through the word using different tones and inflections. If you’re given a bad assignment, you just say “sir.” It doesn’t mean you’re happy about it, but you accept it. If you’re told something you simply just can’t believe, you might say “sirrrrrr?” Or maybe you disagree with it entirely and don’t like it one bit.

A monotone “sir” is an acceptable response. Tune in to the above video at around 6:15 to hear the Guards tell it.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.

Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.


Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.

Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
He came in like a wrecking ball.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

People like this.

Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.

At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

“Ownership” being the operative word.

1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy

Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

These guys, remember?

2. They did not break the back of the resistance

While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.

The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.

Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.

In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.

The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.

3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people

A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.

Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.

The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”

4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force

The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.

Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.

The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.

This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Army is sending 20,000 troops across the Atlantic to see if they have the ‘bandwidth’ to fight a major war

US Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Benavidez and US-flagged merchant vessels MV Resolve and MV Patriot set off across the Atlantic for Europe last month, escorted by guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf through a path made by the Eisenhower carrier strike group.


Crossing the Atlantic isn’t new for the Navy, but this exercise — a convoy operation simulating an opposed transit — is the first of its kind since 1986.

“We may not have been doing it for the last 35 years, but we have had … to conduct convoy operations around the planet,” Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, told reporters last week. “So we’ve put some of those concepts and lessons learned into how we’re executing this particular operation.”

The convoy comes ahead of this spring’s Defender-Europe 20, a massive multinational exercise to which the US is shipping 20,000 troops and much of their gear — the largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe in 25 years.

Defender-Europe 20 will feature “a fictional near-peer competitor” in a future “post-Article V environment,” an Army planning official said last year, referring to NATO’s collective-defense provision.

Like the Navy’s convoy, the Army-led Defender-Europe 20 is about practicing old skills to confront new challenges.

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USNS Benavidez in the Atlantic, February 26, 2020.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Jordan R. Bair

The right bandwidth

Preparations for Defender-Europe 20 began in January, when US personnel loaded vehicles and equipment for rail transport to US ports.

The first combat power arrived on February 20, when US Army tanks and other vehicles rolled into the port of Bremerhaven in Germany. Participating countries will stage equipment at 14 air and seaports in eight European countries as the exercise gets underway.

Another 13,000 pieces of equipment will be drawn from Army Prepositioned Stocks in northwest Europe and deployed across 18 countries for training — ground convoys will cover some 2,500 miles to stage the exercise.

Defender-Europe 20 will end with US and partner forces cleaning training areas, returning equipment to those stocks, and for US troops, redeployment to the US.

Like crossing the Atlantic, getting around Europe isn’t new, but doing so now will test skills that haven’t been used much in the years after the Cold War, when the US presence in Europe dwindled and NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy atrophied.

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A M1 Abrams tank was the first piece of combat power to roll into Europe for Defender-Europe 20, in Bremerhaven, Germany, February, 20, 2020.

US Army/Sgt. Benjamin Northcutt

“I’m concerned about the bandwidth to be able to accept this large force,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, when asked what challenges he expects the exercise to present.

“I’m also concerned about road and rail from the center portion of Germany … all the way to the eastern border,” Wolters said.

“Because we have the appropriate resources, we now possess a white-team capability to examine our speed of move from west to east, and we also have enough white-cell individuals to assess how safely we get stuff through Bremerhaven and to the next point,” Wolters added. “Bandwidth with respect to size and speed are my greatest concerns.”

This exercise “will allow us to see ourselves at all three levels — tactical, operational, strategic,” Gen. Gus Perna, head of US Army Material Command, which oversees installations, maintenance, and parts, told reporters in February.

“It will reinforce where we think we are tactically as far as material readiness,” Perna added. “Can we mobilize ourselves out of the barracks and the motor pools, move to the ports and the airfields, and then strategically project ourselves to some place across the ocean?”

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Tracked vehicles are unloaded from US vessel ARC Endurance at Bremerhaven, Germany on February 21, 2020.

US Army/Jason Johnston

Counting every second

Since Russia’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine, the US military has boosted its presence in Europe and increased its logistical capability there, disembarking in new places and using new methods to get around.

“On the logistics side of the house, the environment in Europe has to be mature enough to be able to absorb 20,000 soldiers and get those soldiers to the right prepositioned locations to be able to grab the appropriate gear that they’re supposed to get to their foxhole and be able to execute,” Wolters said.

“What we want to do is count every second that it takes to get the soldier from the first point of entry all the way to his or her foxhole to be successful … and we anticipate that there will be some snags,” Wolters said.

Wolters credited the European Defense Initiative, started after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with making Defender-Europe 20 possible.

EDI has “funded the rotational brigade combat teams that go to Poland, and that teaches all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines how to lift and shift larger quantities of forces across the Atlantic and to do so without any harm,” Wolters told the committee.

EDI also funded “our emergency contingency air operations sets for the Air Force, and our deployable air base systems for the Air Force,” Wolters said. “We’ve also been able to dramatically improve our airfield infrastructure and the reception infrastructure in the eastern part of Europe to where it is equipped today to safely receive those resources and effectively get those resources where they need to go.”

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US Army troop carrier vehicles are put on railcars during an Army Prepositioned Stock movement, the first in support of Defender-Europe 20, at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany, January 28, 2019.

US Army/Spc. Elliott Page

But EDI funding has been particularly important for the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks.

Two years ago, “we weren’t mature enough with respect to the prepositioned stockpiles to have a soldier show up at location X and be able to grab resources. Today, we can do that,” Wolters said. “We know the fitness of the resources, and now we’ll be able to examine the speed at which they can get to the foxhole and be able to execute.”

Those stocks keep heavy equipment like tanks and critical supplies like ammunition at forward locations so troops can deploy, equip, and move to the front line.

Perna, head of Army Material Command, said last month that his command was working on another prepositioned stock to be located where Wolters and the head of US Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, felt it was needed.

“I can envision where Defender 2020 might illuminate several things” about those stocks, Perna said. “Is it in the right place? Do we need to adjust? Do we want to set up alternate sites to keep everybody guessing about what we’re doing? Is there a better place to put things for better advantage?”

“I also think coming out of Defender 20 might be a thought process of, ‘Hey, we need more … or we need different from what we have,'” Perna added.

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US Army Reserve soldiers check vehicles at Fallingbostel, 30 miles outside of Bergen-Hohne, Germany, for Defender-Europe 20, February 8, 2020.

US Army/Maj. Joseph Bush

‘Shoot, move, and communicate fast’

In his testimony, Wolters expressed concern about road and railways in eastern Germany, but transportation infrastructure throughout Eastern Europe has been a persistent worry.

In addition to a tangle of customs rules and transport regulations, railway sizes often vary between countries in that part of Europe, meaning delays as cargos cross borders. Roadways there are often narrow and, in some cases, can’t handle heavy vehicles — a particular problem for Eastern Europe’s many aging bridges.

All this would be complicated in wartime, as Russia, which used to control much of Eastern Europe, is familiar with the weak points. (Russia is “not overly pleased” with Defender-Europe 20, Wolters said.)

NATO and the European Union have also devoted resources to improving local infrastructure. NATO also set up two new commands to oversee movements like those underway for Defender-Europe 20. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, oversees operations in the Atlantic, while Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, oversees allied armor and troop movements in Europe.

Limitations on civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are “an issue that all of Europe was very, very aware of in the mid-’80s, and they are getting themselves reacquainted with it today,” Wolters said.

“They understand the imperative of making sure that we have bridging programs in the regions in the northeast and the southeast of Europe to ensure that we can shoot, move, and communicate fast.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens countries that host U.S. missiles

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that, if the United States deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will have to target the countries hosting them.

The Oct. 24, 2018 statement follows U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear arms control pact over alleged Russian violations.

Putin spoke on Oct. 24, 2018, four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty over alleged Russian violations.


The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.

Trump and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Putin said he hoped the United States wouldn’t follow up by positioning intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

“If they are deployed in Europe, we will naturally have to respond in kind,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“The European nations that would agree to that should understand that they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike. These are obvious things.”

He continued: “I don’t understand why we should put Europe in such serious danger.”

“I see no reason for that,” Putin said. “I would like to repeat that it’s not our choice. We don’t want it.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Oct. 24, 2018, that European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to the alleged violations of the INF treaty.

“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies, for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.

Putin rejected Trump’s claim that Russia has violated the INF treaty, adding that he hoped to discuss the issue with Trump in Paris when they both attend Nov. 11, 2018 events marking the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I.

“We are ready to work together with our American partners without any hysteria,” he said. “The important thing is what decisions will come next.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Where the middle finger got its meaning & a great POW use of it

Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?

While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.

Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.


Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

(Photo by Natã Figueiredo)

For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.

Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.

Socrates: Well, to begin with,
they’ll make you elegant in company—
and you’ll recognize the different rhythms,
the enoplian and the dactylic,
which is like a digit.
Strepsiades: Like a digit!
By god, that’s something I do know!
Socrates: Then tell me.
Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this!
[Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]

For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.

[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”

(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
Giphy

Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:

Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.

Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.

Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).

At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:

Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.

By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”

Bonus Facts:

  • Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
  • American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
  • As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Humor

7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

Old school veterans are easy to spot; just look for the guy or gal wearing their retired military ball cap or that dope leather vest covered in customized patches.


If you ever get a chance to speak with one of them, we guarantee you’re in for a pretty good story.

Related: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

 

With pride streaming from their pores and a sense of realism in their voice, most vets don’t hesitate to speak their mind — and we love them for it.

The next time to get the chance to hear their tales of triumph, count how many times they say a few these phrases:

1. “We had it harder.”

For some, levels of accomplishments of service is a d*ck measuring contest. Don’t be offended, but let’s face it, you probably should be.

2. “Keep your head and your ass wired together.”

If you have a mom or dad who is a vet, you’ve probably heard this at one time or another when you’ve made an immature mistake. The human ass is considered the body’s anchor point; keep your head wired to it and you’ll have fewer chances of losing it.

 

3. “Back in my day…”

A lot has changed over the years; we have fast internet, text messaging, and first world problems now. Many older vets are don’t rely on the pleasures of technology to help them with their daily lives. They tend to stick with they know best for them.

You may hear this line when a former service member fumbles with his credit card while paying for an item at the checkout counter or just sitting with one as they recall a moment from the good ole’ days.

4. “It’s a free country. You’re welcome.”

Face it, they can be grumpy old men too.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a disgruntled Korean War veteran in 2008s Gran Torino and plays him well. (Warner Brothers)

 

5. “I miss killing Nazis.”

Mostly spoken by WWI and WWII vets — let’s hope anyway.

6. “Baby-wipes? We only had sand paper.”

Being deployed these days, you can still have many of the comforts of home, including a music player, a laptop, and video games. We even receive care packages from home containing candy, snacks, and baby wipes.

Baby wipes are man’s second best friend when fighting in any clime and place. The soft sanitizing sheets can clean just about anything — or at least feel and look clean.

Back in the day, grunts packed a few extra smokes and a photo of their hometown girlfriend, Barbara Jean, and then had to wipe their butts with what came folded and cramped in their MREs, which was a piece of coarse, square paper.

 

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Standard issue toilet paper. One size wipes almost all.

Although wet naps debuted in the late 1950s, it wasn’t until 2005 when wet/baby wipes came on the market as the more bum friendly product we know today.

7. “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.”

Probably the most common phrase in a vet era. This phrase is usually spoken in a sarcastic tone to inform others how much of a p**** they are if they want to quit an outdoors activity when the rain starts coming down.

A little rain never hurt anybody.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How enemy aircraft get their American nicknames

So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.


Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
This painting shows ground crews loading AS-16 Kickback air-to-surface missiles on a Tu-22M Backfire. (DOD painting)

In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
When it first was encountered in the Pacific, the A6M3 version of the Zero was given the code name ‘Hap,’ drawing the ire of ‘Hap’ Arnold. (Japanese Navy photo)

The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
This modernized MiG-21 Fishbed in service with the Indian Air Force is armed with AA-12 Adder and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sheeju)

When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.

For a comprehensive list, go to designation-systems.net.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
Chinese Communist planes, like the J-8 Finback — shown here flying a little too close to a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries — were also given NATO code names. (DoD photo)

The system also covered missiles: Air-to-air missiles start with the letter A, air-to-surface missiles start with the letter K, surface-to-surface missiles start with the letter S, and surface-to-air missiles start with the letter G. NATO even began to use code names for Soviet and Chinese Communist submarines and surface ships.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
Code names were also assigned to ships, submarines, and missiles. This Indian Navy Osa-class missile boat is firing an SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile. (Indian Navy photo)

McCoy retired as a two-star general in 1968, but what he did in World War II still helps pilots and troops today. So, that’s why they call a Flanker, a multisyllabic fighter jet, a Flanker.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China is getting away with ‘the greatest intellectual property theft in human history’

China’s intellectual property theft of both civil and military information is no secret.

From alleged attempts to hack into Swedish telecom provider Ericsson to the theft of information related to the F-22 and F-35, there are several instances of China gaining access to foreign technology or trying to do so.

There are also examples of Chinese military systems looking suspiciously like US systems — the F-22 and the MQ-9 Reaper drone among them. Other elements of those Chinese systems — the software, technology, and manpower used to operate them — aren’t on par with the US military yet.


But they might not be far behind, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. At the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Summit on Sept. 19, 2019, he warned that China is perpetrating “the greatest intellectual property theft in human history.”

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

A US F-22, left, and a Chinese J-20.

Esper told attendees that he had cautioned European allies against allowing Chinese companies to build 5G cyber networks in their countries, warning that to do so would risk sensitive national security information.

“Every Chinese company has the potential to be an accomplice in Beijing’s state-sponsored campaign to steal technology,” he said, highlighting China’s integration of civil and military technology, an area in which Beijing surpasses the US.

“China has systematically sought to acquire US technology both through traditional espionage means, as well as through legal investments in companies,” Daniel Kliman, director of the the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Insider.

“The United States very much still retains a military technological edge, but it’s clear that edge is eroding,” Kliman said.

Read on to see how China’s carbon copies stack up to US weapons systems.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Chinese air force J-20 stealth fighters.

The PLA’s J-20 looks extremely similar to the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

As Popular Mechanics reports, the Chengdu J-20 is one of the aircraft that was designed using information from the US.

Su Bin, a Chinese national and aerospace entrepreneur, pleaded guilty to cyber espionage in 2016. He and coconspirators spied on US plans for the C-17 Globemaster, the F-35, and the F-22.

But while the J-20 looks like the F-22, it’s not quite in the same league.

Michael Kofman, a senior research analyst at the CNA think tank, told Insider last year that he suspected “the J-20 probably has great avionics and software but, as always, has terrible engine design. In fact, Chinese low-observation aircraft designs like J-31 are flying on older Russian Klimov engines because the Chinese can’t make an engine.”

Kofman also expressed doubt about the J-20’s stealth capability.

“It’s got so many surfaces, and a lot of them look pretty reflective from the sides too. I’m pretty skeptical of the stealth on that aircraft,” he said.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

A Chinese Shenyang J-31.

The Chinese Shenyang J-31 is strikingly similar to the US F-35.

The Shenyang J-31 is still under development but will likely replace the J-15 fighter, at least on aircraft carriers. The J-15 has been plagued with issues, including multiple fatal crashes and problems with its engine, the South China Morning Post reported last year.

The J-31 is the People’s Liberation Army’s second stealth aircraft and was first seen in 2014. There is widespread speculation that the J-31 is based on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 plans, although China has denied those claims.

The J-31 is lighter and has a shorter range than the F-35 but may beat it with maximum speed of Mach 1.8 to the F-35’s Mach 1.6, Popular Science reported in 2017.

The question of how well these aircraft actually match up to their US competitors remains, and, Kliman said, appearances are only part of the equation.

“Sometimes superficially the designs do look similar — it could be, in part, from some of the attempts China’s made to acquire good technology, but I would just caution that at the end of the day, it’s hard to know how similar it is or not,” he told Insider.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

An MQ-Reaper over Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, June 25, 2015.

( Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/US Air Force)

The Caihong-class unmanned aerial vehicle, including the CH-4 and CH-5, look unmistakably like US MQ-9 Reaper drones.

While there’s no concrete evidence that the Chinese design is the result of espionage or theft, the visual similarities are unmistakable — nose-mounted cameras on the CH-4B, as well as locations for external munitions are just like those on the Reaper, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, calling the two aircraft “identical.”

Breaking Defense reported in 2015 that, in addition to the same domed nose and V-shaped tail, the UAVs both have 66-foot wingspans.

Drone designer Shi Wen, of the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told China Daily three years ago that the CH-5 model “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency.”

But again, Chinese technology and specifications likely don’t match up to US counterparts.

For starters, the Reaper can carry roughly double the munitions of the CH-5. And while the CH-5 can travel farther, with a range of about 1,200 miles, its flight ceiling is about 23,000 feet, compared to the Reaper’s nearly 50,000-foot ceiling, according to the Center for Strategic International Studies’ China Power project.

The Reaper also has a heavier maximum takeoff weight and can travel at twice the speed of the CH-5, due to persistent challenges with Chinese-made engines.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

The Chinese air force’s Y-20 transport aircraft has design similarities to the US Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III.

Su Bin pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring to steal technical data related to the C-17 from Boeing and the US Air Force.

That data likely was used to build the Xian Y-20, China’s large transport aircraft, nicknamed the “Chubby Girl.” As Garrett M. Graff notes in Wired, Su helped pilfer about 630,000 files related to the C-17.

Whether China used information about the C-17 to build the Y-20 is unclear — Beijing has denied stealing US technology for its weapons systems — but the similarities are apparent, from the nose to the tail stabilizer, as Kyle Mizokami points out in Popular Mechanics.

The Y-20 has a smaller empty weight and payload than the C-17, Popular Mechanics reported in 2016, but the Y-20 is the largest transport aircraft in production. The Chinese military lacked a large transport carrier prior to the development of the Y-20, making it difficult to quickly mobilize large numbers of supplies and troops to battlefields or disaster areas, Wired reported in 2012.

“Just because something looks somewhat similar doesn’t mean it has equivalent capabilities,” Kliman cautioned, particularly where human capability is concerned.

“It’s not the technology alone. It’s the quality of the pilots in a fighter airplane. It’s the quality of the systems that are feeding the aircraft information,” Kilman said.

China hasn’t fought a foreign war since the brief Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. US service members and systems have much more battlefield experience than Chinese forces.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] has made a long-term effort to improve its human capital, including through training but also through education … but at this point, the US, our pilots, our operators get, certainly, the real-world experience,” Kilman said.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

Where does China go from here?

If Esper and retired Navy Adm. William McRaven are to be believed, China is rapidly closing the technology and defense gap with the US, through both legal and illegal means.

Whether China is pouring money into research and development or committing outright intellectual-property theft, US officials have cause for concern about the future.

In August, Chinese national Pengyi Li was arrested on his way to Hong Kong after an undercover investigation by the Department of Homeland Security into the smuggling of components for missiles and surveillance satellites from the US to China, Tim Fernholz and Justin Rohrlich reported in Quartz.

Chinese nationals have also been found guilty of trying to smuggle accelerometers, which are necessary for guided missiles and spacecraft.

In terms of hypersonic technology, which “does seem pretty game-changing,” China is ahead of the US, said Kliman, who stressed that it’s important not to be alarmist.

“I think those statements are certainly well-intended and grounded in reality,” he said, referring to Esper and McRaven’s warnings.

Outside of military technology, Kliman said, China certainly is a leader in information technology. But when it comes to systems, allies, and people, the US still has a leg up on the competition — for now.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Air Force addresses key areas to readiness recovery

After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.

Today, more than 75% of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready. The service’s goal is for 80% of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – six years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.

“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard and reserve components.”

To do this, the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.


Cost-effective maintenance and logistics

The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.

“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”

Focused efforts in Conditions-Based Maintenance Plus, additive manufacturing and retention, are helping to create solutions to achieve a more combat ready force.

CBM+ represents a conscious effort to shift equipment maintenance from an unscheduled, reactive approach at the time of failure, to a more routine and predictive approach. The Condition-Based Maintenance Plus approach to maintenance is based on evidence of need before failure occurs. Evidence of a need forecasted by analyzing data collected automatically by sensors.

“We’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that (commercial airlines) are using and apply it into our inventory, and we’re starting to see some benefits,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Air Force Materiel Command commander.

Airmen at Travis Air Force Base, California, are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man-hours and increase mission effectiveness with the procurement of a 3D hand scanner, capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.

The scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike. Since then it has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.

“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”

The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.

“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it and within four to eight hours we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.

That capability, Smithling said, will decrease the time Travis aircraft are out of service.

Solutions to maintenance readiness are also being sought with advances in Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing. Traditional manufacturing is a subtractive process, beginning with cutting a lump of material to create a needed part. Three dimensional printing, one type of a larger set of techniques labeled additive manufacturing, extrudes or prints a base material in layers to create 3D solids.

For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers by adding 4,000 active duty maintainers.

Airmen at aircraft maintenance squadrons around the service began innovating with new scheduling, accelerated hands-on training courses and virtual reality simulators to get new maintainers proficient quickly; keeping more aircraft ready to fly and improving operational readiness.

Col. William Maxwell, chief of aircraft maintenance division at the Pentagon, has been charged in his new role with assessing the maintenance enterprise for the director of logistics in order to develop the strength of the maintenance career field and to share the best practices and solutions developed by the airmen on the flight line.

Maxwell said there are a lot of changes ahead for the aircraft maintenance community in order to develop and retain their airmen to sustain an aging fleet.

“The (aircraft maintenance community) is a passionate group of people and it’s fun to be a part of that,” Maxwell said, “because I love that passion I see in the airmen taking care of these weapon systems out there.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s anti-missile launch just worsened problematic space-trash

On March 27, 2019, India launched a missile toward space, struck an Earth-orbiting satellite, and destroyed the spacecraft.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a televised address shortly after the launch to declare the anti-satellite, or ASAT, test a success. He praised the maneuver, called “Mission Shakti,” as “an unprecedented achievement” that registers India as “a space power.” Modi also clarified that the satellite was one of India’s own, according to Reuters.

“Our scientists shot down a live satellite. They achieved it in just three minutes,” he said during the broadcast, adding: “Until now, only US, Russia, and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”


While Modi and his supporters may hail the event as an epic achievement, India’s ASAT test represents an escalation toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to crucial regions of the space around Earth.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


That’s because destroying the satellite created debris that’s now floating in space. Those pieces have the potential to collide with, damage, and possibly destroy other spacecraft.

The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles above Earth. That’s about 65 miles higher than the 185-mile altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.

Two astronauts are scheduled to conduct a spacewalk on March 29, 2019, (it was going to be the first all-female spacewalk, but that’s no longer the case) to make upgrades to the orbiting laboratory’s batteries. Spokespeople at NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for information about the risk posed by this new debris field.

Regardless of what happens next, tracking the debris is essential.

“The Department of Defense is aware of the Indian ASAT launch,” a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and catalogs objects in space, told Business Insider in an email. “US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is actively tracking and monitoring the situation.”

The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites only scratches the surface of larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.

Space debris begets more space debris

Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph. That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.

At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT explosives.

This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

A space-debris hit to the space shuttle Endeavour’s radiator found after one of its missions. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large.

(NASA)

The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. In such a situation, one collision in space would create a cloud of debris that leads to other collisions, which in turn would generate even more debris, leading to a runaway effect called a “collision cascade.”

So much high-speed space junk could surround Earth, Kessler calculated, that it might make it too risky for anyone to attempt launching spacecraft until most of the garbage slowed down in the outer fringes of our planet’s atmosphere, fell toward the ground, and burned up.

“The orbital-debris problem is a classic tragedy of the commons problem, but on a global scale,” Kessler said in a 2012 mini-documentary.

Given the thousands of satellites in space today, a collision cascade could play out over hundreds of years and get increasingly worse over time, perhaps indefinitely, unless technologies are developed to vaporize or deorbit space junk.

A launch in the wrong direction

An ASAT test that China conducted in January 2007 showed how much of a headache the debris from these shoot downs can become.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

An illustration of the space-debris cloud created by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

(CSSI)

As with India’s test, China launched a missile armed with a “kinetic kill vehicle” on top. The kill vehicle — essentially a giant bullet-like slug — pulverized a 1,650-pound weather satellite, in the process creating a cloud of more than 2,300 trackable chunks of debris the size of golf balls or larger. It also left behind 35,000 pieces larger than a fingernail and perhaps 150,000 bits smaller than that, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) and BBC.

The CSSI called the test “the largest debris-generating event in history, far surpassing the previous record set in 1996.”

Years later, satellite operators and NASA are still dodging the fallout with their spacecraft.

Even without missiles, plenty of space debris is created regularly. Each launch of a rocket deposits some trash up there, and older satellites that have no deorbiting systems or aren’t “parked” in a safe orbit can collide with other satellites.

Such a crash happened on Feb. 10, 2009: A deactivated Russian communications satellite slammed into a US communications satellite at a combined speed of about 26,000 mph. The collision created thousands of pieces of new debris, many of which are still in orbit.

There are more productive ways to use rockets

To be clear, India’s Mission Shakti test likely was not as dangerous as these other debris-creating events.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

However, the forces involved a space-based crash can accelerate debris into higher and different orbits. So obliterating any satellite is not a step in the right direction. Nor is creating a capability that could one day, either intentionally or accidentally, spark a Kessler syndrome event.

Much like the idea of deterrence with nuclear weapons — “if you attack me, I’ll attack you with more devastating force” — deterrence with anti-satellite weapons is extremely risky. With either, an accident or miscalculation could lead to devastating and lasting problems that would harm the entire world for generations.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

Image made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

As a global society, it’d behoove us not to cheer the achievement of a weapons capability that edges the world closer to a frightening brink. Instead, we should rebuke such tests and instead demand from our leaders peaceful cooperation in space, including the development of means to control our already spiraling space-debris problem.

“If we don’t change the way we operate in space,” Kessler said in 2012, we are facing down an “exponentially increasing amount of debris, until all objects are reduced to a cloud of orbiting fragments.”

Rather than individual countries investing in missile-based weaponry, perhaps we should call on our leaders to spend that human and financial capital on our world’s most dire and pressing problems — or even work toward returning people to the moon and rocketing the first crews to Mars.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army found disease immunity secrets in bat genes

Scientists examining the genome of Egyptian fruit bats, a natural reservoir for the deadly Marburg virus, have identified several immune-related genes that suggest bats deal with viral infections in a substantially different way than primates. Their research, published online today in the journal Cell, demonstrates that bats may be able to host viruses that are pathogenic in humans by tolerating — rather than overcoming — the infection.

Bats are known to harbor many viruses, including several that cause disease in humans, without demonstrating symptoms. To identify differences between antiviral mechanisms in humans and bats, the research team sequenced, assembled, and analyzed the genome of Rousettus aegyptiacus, the Egyptian fruit bat — a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus.


Jonathan Towner, Ph.D., of the Viral Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the bats from which the DNA was extracted. Towner had traveled to Uganda to investigate the colony of Egyptian fruit bats implicated in a Marburg fatality there.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
An Egyptian fruit bat in flight.
(Photo by Zoharby)

“Using that DNA, we generated the most contiguous bat genome to date and used it to understand the evolution of immune genes and gene families in bats. This is classical comparative immunology and a good example of the link between basic and applied sciences,” explained co-senior author Gustavo Palacios, Ph.D., who heads the Center for Genome Sciences at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

In the process, Palacios and colleagues at CDC and Boston University made some striking findings. Specifically, they discovered an expanded and diversified family of natural killer (NK) cell receptors, MHC class I genes, and type I interferons, which dramatically differ from their functional counterparts in other mammals, including mice and nonhuman primates. A theoretical function evaluation of these genes suggests that a higher threshold of activation of some component of the immune system may exist in bats.

NK cells are immune cells that play a crucial role against viral infections. To be tolerant against healthy tissue and simultaneously attack infected cells, the activity of NK cells is tightly regulated by an array of activating and inhibiting receptors. In this publication, the authors describe finding genomic evidence of a bias toward the inhibitory signal in NK cells.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
An Egyptian fruit bat.

“Further evaluation of these expanded sets of genes suggests that other key components of the immune system like the MHC- and the IFN-loci in bats may have evolved toward a state of immune tolerance,” said Mariano Sanchez-Lockhart, Ph.D., of USAMRIID.

The team’s initial work focused on advancing the characterization of the bat animal model, as well as on generating antibodies that recognize bat-specific proteins and other reagents to characterize the bat animal model of infection. These tools will allow further characterization of the bat unique immune system.

According to Palacios, their next step is to build on the knowledge gained thus far to compare antiviral responses between bats and nonhuman primates. Ultimately, this information will be used to understand correlates of protection in bats and to develop therapeutics against Marburg virus and other lethal filovirus infections.

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army museum is shaping up to be an amazing tribute to all soldiers

Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.

This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.


Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)

The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.

The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.

Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.

This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.

It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”

The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.

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How troops learn to sleep anywhere, any how, any way

Sleep is, apparently, one of those things that medical professionals tend to claim is vital to not dying. While in the military, you’ll get so little sleep that your body grows accustomed to functioning at a high level with just four hours of non-continuous sleep.

For one reason or another, putting aside large chunks of time for that vital sleep just doesn’t happen. So, troops quickly learn how to rack out at the drop of a dime while smothered in their gear. Or they find a nice, cozy spot underneath a HUMVEE in the glaring Afghan sun with only their rifle and pebbles to keep them comfy.

It’s really an impressive skill — and it’s usually among the first truly mastered by even the most average of recruits.


Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
That’s not to say that calories are a good thing either. It’s a level of complication that can’t be footnoted into an article about sleep deprivation, though. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)

 

The biggest contributing factor to this mastery over snoozing is that troops are constantly on the move. The human body is only meant to exert so much effort and that limit is pushed daily by all troops. Normally, the body needs to both sleep regularly to rebuild damaged muscles and eat healthy foods to replenish what’s lost.

Troops supplement this by maintaining a higher-than-average caloric intake. It’s assumed that an average active male in their twenties should take in about 3000 calories to function normally. The average deployed troop takes in three MREs per day, which totals 3,750 calories.

Contrary to popular belief, eating calories is actually a good thing if you’re moving about as much as troops do. This intake means that the body has more to work with when it finally has time to recharge.

Troops exhaust themselves by being constantly in motion. When an opportunity to knock out arises, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will be seized.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
And you really don’t want to try that while on guard duty. That’s still punishable under the UCMJ.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Charles M. Willingham)
 

The next contributing factor is that troops are generally sleep deprived and have their sleep cycles interrupted constantly. Starting in basic training, a drill sergeant could wake everyone up at 0100 for sh*ts and giggles, have a special someone pull fire guard at 0300, and wake up for the rest of the day at 0500.

The body does most of its recharging during cycles of REM sleep, the first of which starts after roughly 45 minutes of sleep and again in another 45 minutes. The rigors of training, however, rarely permit troops to achieve multiple cycles of REM, so the body tries to recharge as much as possible during those first 45 minutes. As this pattern of interrupted sleep becomes the norm, the body adapts and requires less time to get into REM cycles.

In essence, this pattern resembles polyphasic sleeping — which is a terrible thing to try without adding in a solid, 6-8 hour chunk of rest into the mix.

Why these British soldiers never say ‘yes’
Even if it’s in broad daylight on a pile of sharp rocks. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

 

The body actually can’t handle this type of sleep deprivation but, by sheer power of will (and a metric f*ck-load of caffeine), troops can shut off their body’s warning signs.

Troops’ bodies can endure this for a few days, typical of a combat mission while deployed, but a dearth of sleep can’t last for weeks. There will have to be a time when that troop hits their rack to get a full night’s rest.

And when they do, it’s some of the best sleep they’ve ever gotten.

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