Here's how a fight in space would go down - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

President Donald Trump is ordering the Pentagon to create the first new US military service branch in seven decades to establish “American dominance in space,” and while experts quickly knocked the idea as premature — there’s no doubt that space is a warfighting domain.

As it stands, Russia and China both have tested missiles that could bring the US to its knees by crippling its satellites.

Satellites power GPS, which powers most civilian navigation and US military equipment. Satellites also time stamp transactions at US stock exchanges. Commercial satellites also relay internet, telephone, and radio communciations. The US, without its space assets, could suffer societal collapse at the hands of its rivals before a single terrestrial battle is fought.


For this reason, experts assess that space absolutely has become a warfighting domain, and one that may soon see lasers on space ships duking it out in a war above the clouds.

How a space war would go down

Here’s how a fight in space would go down
U.S. Navy ships have already knocked satellites out of the sky.
(U.S. Navy photo)

“If there was a war between a US and a China, for example, each side would likely try to take away the commanding heights of space from each other,” Peter W. Singer, a strategist at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.

But instead of starships chasing each other in dogfights and “Star Wars” like duels in zero gravity, Singer said that most of a space fight would actually take place on plain old earth, though lasers are on the table.

The US and its adversaries would fire missiles at their adversary’s satellites powering navigation and trade, possibly from traditional land launchers or from ships at sea. The US has plans to streamline the launching of satellites, and hopes any future space attacks can be thwarted by quick, cheap launches of constellations of small satellites.

Singer pointed out that the US has observed Russian “killer or kamikaze satellites” maneuvering out in space in ways that suggest they could attack or block US satellites.

“They also might be using directed energy of some kind to either blind or damage a satellite. That directed energy might be laser, ground based or space based,” said Singer.

The real fighting is still on earth

Here’s how a fight in space would go down
United State Cyber Command
(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

But much of the fighting wouldn’t be as flashy as space-fired lasers knocking out killer satellites, instead, it would likely take place in a “cross between space and cyber” warfare, according to Singer.

US and rival cyber warriors would start “trying to go after the communication links between space and earth on the ground. They might be trying to jam or take control of the satellites,” he said.

But therein lies the problem.

Many in Congress have spoken out about the proposed Space Force, calling it premature. The Air Force, in its measured language, seems to hate the idea. Singer called it “absurd” and a “joke.” Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, also a a former Navy pilot, combat veteran, and four-time space-flyer called it a “dumb idea.”

Basically, all the jobs the space force would do are already being done by the Air Force, and Navy, so making a costly new service this early into the space age could prove foolish.

“Yea space is a clear part of national security,” said Singer, “but it’s hard to imagine a better waste of time energy and budget.”

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

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How to address military members as a military spouse

Pop quiz time!

Read the scenarios below and guess the answer.

You are at a squadron picnic where you have just PCSed. You are slightly apprehensive because you are meeting many new people. Your spouse points out her boss and is going to introduce you.

“Paul, this is Col. William. Col. William, this is my husband, Paul.”
Col. William says, “Nice to meet you Paul. Please call me Sarah.”

What do you say?


You have stopped into your spouse’s office to meet him for lunch. You see a young Airman with one stripe on his shoulder sitting at a desk. He says, “Hello, ma’am.” And then your spouse tells you that Airman’s first name.

How do you complete the introduction?

You are at a promotion ceremony and across the room you see a 4-star General whom you met when she was a Lieutenant Colonel. Back then, you called her by her first name, but now she is wearing stars on her shoulders. You turn to your spouse and ask him, “Do I call her Ma’am or by her first name?”

What is the correct answer?

You are at WalMart shopping for odds and ends when your spouse spots her Chief walking down the aisle toward you. Your spouse introduces you to Chief Barney. The Chief gives his first name.

How do you reply?

You are at a dining out. You are dressed to the nines and are feeling fine. Social hour is in full swing and as you step up to the bar to order a drink, you notice that the gentleman standing next to you is none other than the SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe). Your spouse says, “Hello Sir.” He says hello back. The SACEUR extends his hand to you and says, “Hello, I’m Philip and this is my wife, Cindy.”

How do you respond?

Answer key for all: You call the military member by their first name.

This is one of the areas of military protocol that I have a passion about.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

There is nowhere that states that we have rank as military spouses. Because we don’t have rank, there is no hierarchy that we must adhere to. This means that you speak to people as if they are people, which they are.

Now that’s not saying that you can’t call someone “Chief” or “General” or even “Airman” but there is no penalty if you choose to call them by their first name. That is what their parents named them, after all.

There are a few exceptions to this “rule.”

Sometimes the service member may have a “call sign.” A call sign is a nickname given to rated officers during a naming ceremony. During that time, there is a group of people who decide on the new person’s nickname. It is usually an homage to a character trait or it coordinates with their first or last name. Once they are given their new name, they may choose to use it always.

For example, I have a friend who was named “Pumba” during his naming ceremony. He introduced himself by his call sign so I didn’t know his real first name until many years later. A reason for this may be that your significant other only knows that person by their call sign. So that is how you are introduced to them. Even today, it is funny to hear “Fuzzy’s” spouse call him “Ryan” because I can’t connect the two names to that one person. It takes a lot of mental math when speaking to family members about them.

The other exception is when a military member is attached to his rank. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes not. When I was first introduced to Chief Woolridge, our wing chief, he told me to call him “Avery” so I did. Most just called him “Chief.” After all, he’d earned that rank. I called him “Chief” but also by his first name because that’s who he was. He said that I was the first person in his career to call him by his name. I am still not sure if that was a good or bad thing.

But then there is the officer who give all officers a bad name. That’s the person who insists that you call them by their rank, no matter who they are talking to. I have only met one such person in our 24+ years of service. (Let’s say that we avoid that person as much as possible.) And that’s another etiquette lesson in itself.

The biggest takeaway from this is that while there are protocols in place for the military, there are no written ones for you as a civilian. Civility is your compass for all interactions. The hardest part is remembering someone’s name. And that may be where your only faux pas comes into play.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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That time US soldiers pretended to be vampires and ghosts to scare the hell out of the enemy

Psychological operations is known mostly for their leaflets and posters designed to demoralize the enemy or convince local populations to stay away from combat areas. But sometimes, those troops go full “spook” and complete crazy missions — like when they became vampires and ghosts to scare America’s enemies.


The vampire mission was led by Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale. He was sent to the Philippines in September 1950 to help dislodge Communist rebels in the area. The rebels, known as Huks, were known to be superstitious so Lansdale had his men study their local legends.

After an early mission to convince locals they would be cursed if they supported the communists helped force the surrender of some Huk units, Lansdale knew he was in business. He then turned his attention to a local vampire legend, the “asuang.”

Lansdale and his men circulated a rumor in a village that an asuang vampire lived in the hills nearby. They waited for the rumor to make its way up the hill, and then swooped into action. A covert team snuck into the hills and waited for a patrol. When it was nearly past them, they snatched up the last man, poked two holes in his neck, and drained him of his blood. Seriously.

 

Here’s how a fight in space would go down
Artist’s rendition of an asuang. No thanks.

They then put the body back on the trail. When the Huks found it, they believed the rumors of the asuang and fled from the area, allowing government forces to take the region.

Soldiers tried a similar trick in Vietnam by capitalizing on the belief that the souls of dead people not buried are forced to wander the world. Soldiers made a series of “Ghost Tapes” that were commonly called “Wandering Soul.”

The audio tapes began with Buddhist funeral music followed by a girl’s cries for her father. A wandering ghost then responds, crying with regret that he chose to die on a far off battlefield rather than staying with his family.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down
Psychological operators broadcast messages during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo: Defense Visual Information Center

Soldiers with backpacks, ships, and aircraft all broadcasted the message at different times. There is little evidence that anyone believed they were hearing actual ghosts and the tapes seemed to have mixed effects.

While there were reports of Communist forces surrendering or deserting after hearing the tapes, sailors and soldiers who broadcast the messages reported coming under increased fire when they started playing the tapes.

Friendly forces used this hatred to their advantage. After a C-47 came under extreme fire while broadcasting the tape, the commanding officer of the plane swore he’d never play it again. He was sent back the next night to play it anyway, but this time with an AC-130 flying in support, targeting everything that fired at the C-47. One of the more widely known versions of the tape, “Ghost Tape Number 10,” can be heard here.

(h/t i09.com)

NOW: A bunch of U.S. troops think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Dutch intelligence agents fooled Communists for almost 40 years

By 1968, global Communism was very much a threat to Western Europe. In Czechoslovakia, a massive invasion of Warsaw Pact forces saw a revolution crushed under the communist boot. Eurocommunist parties were popping up in Spain, Finland, and Italy. In China, Mao Zedong had rejected reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping and re-enacted the repressive policies that led to the Cultural Revolution there. Unlike the Americans, who faced the spread of global Communism with force, the Dutch decided to found the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands – a group with which China cooperated.

The Chinese didn’t know its pro-China party in the Netherlands was a run entirely by Dutch spies who just wanted information on Chinese intentions.


Here’s how a fight in space would go down

Beijing even paid for the party newspaper, also run by Dutch spies.

A Dutch intelligence agent named Pieter Boevé set up the MLPN in 1968, gaining the trust of its Chinese Communist allies through the publication of its newspaper. Its timing was also fortuitous, as China and the Soviet Union had long before began to split in their view of what global Communism should look like. Since the MLPN embraced Maoist China and rejected the Soviet Union, that was even better for the Chairman. Using his MLPN, Boevé was able to expand his influence deeper into the party in Beijing.

His supposedly 600-member Communist party in a deeply capitalist society was the toast of the Communist world while Boevé ran the MLPN. In truth, there were only 12 members, but no one in the party or in the rest of the world knew that. Boevé could go anywhere in the Eastern Bloc, and China welcomed him with open arms so much, Zhou Enlai even threw a banquet in his honor. More importantly, they would brief him on the inner workings of the Chinese mission at the Hague.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

The math teacher who outsmarted global Communism.

After attending a Communist youth seminar in Moscow in 1955, Boevé was recruited by the BVD, the Dutch intelligence service, to play up his Communist bona fides. He accepted and soon visited Beijing for a similar congress. The Sino-Soviet Split played right into the BVD’s hands, and after he embraced Maoism, his fake party practically built itself. The Dutch were able to know everything about China’s secret workings inside their country, and the Chinese paid for it, all of it orchestrated by Boevé, who was never paid as a spy. He was a math teacher at an elementary school.

“I was invited to all the big events – Army Days, Anniversaries of the Republic, everything,” Boevé told the Guardian in 2004. “There were feasts in the Great Hall of the People and long articles in the People’s Daily. And they gave us lots of money.”

The secret was kept until after 2001, when a former BVD agent wrote a book about the agency’s secret operations. Boevé and his fake party were outed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 6th

Did you guys hear the story of the staff sergeant in Afghanistan who raised $8k to bring a stray cat he took care of back to America? Literally everything about that story is great. He rescued an innocent kitten, took it to an animal rescue shelter on base, gave it all the shots and whatnot, and even had more money left over to help out other animals at the shelter.

I don’t care who you are. That’s a heart-warming story. Good sh*t, Staff Sgt. Brissey. If you ever decide to start taking a million photos and upload them to Instagram in an attempt to turn your new kitten into a meme… I’ll be behind you 110% of the way on that one.


Anyways, here are some memes.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Once you’ve done sh*t, everything else is a cake walk. There’s nothing that can be so bad that you can’t look back on and say “well, it was much sh*ttier then and I didn’t give up. Why stop now?” 

Then again… Pot is really good for PTSD and that might also have something to do with it.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Not CID)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

MIGHTY TRENDING

We still don’t know how many Raptors were damaged in hurricane

The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018, that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Oct. 14, 2018. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.


“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Joseph Pick)

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Oct. 15, 2018. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Oct. 15, 2018. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

Here’s how a fight in space would go down

Airmen build shelters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2018, during reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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5 good reasons you can’t have pets in the barracks

Animal companions are a highlight of the post-service life of veterans. Loyal, trained to take care of your health needs and they keep depression at bay. Watching your dog get into mischief and then freezing in place when you catch them red-handed is priceless. Pets are best reserved for the transition into civilian hood. Pets are not allowed in the barracks for 5 valid reasons.

1. The quad would be a biohazard

Imagine morning formation followed by the routine physical fitness time. The detail leader rounds the group over to the quad and everyone stretches. The group assumes the push up position when suddenly you feel something very warm, oozing between your fingers. Not everyone picks up after their animals — that’s why we passed laws forcing people to do it. Now imagine 5,000 troops in a battalion with a furry friend.

pets in the barracks
Do his business on the lawn? Pugsly would never.

The benefit of those pristine training areas is that you do not have to worry about animal waste like you would in a park. The threat of slipping on a log that is an incubus of viral plague would become an everyday occurrence. Most people would pick up after their animals but enough people would not that it would affect the readiness of our warfighting organizations.

2. Field Ops

The animal’s health and wellbeing are also a concern when troops have to go on weeklong field ops. Other times troops train across state lines for months at a time. Who is going to feed the pet? Pets get lonely too. Pets, like people, become resentful when they feel abandoned. A person can be made to understand why you are absent from their life but an animal, in their innocence, cannot.

3. Not everyone is a pet person

Let’s face the ugly truth head on, some people aren’t meant to raise an animal. How many times have you seen a pet owner do the bear minimum to keep their pet a live? Why even have one at all. Statistically speaking, an increased rate of pet ownership is going to increase the rate of abuse. Neglect is a type of abuse, just feeding an animal subpar food with no attention or exercise is cruelty. Now, I’m not saying service members would intentionally neglect pets. However, the opportunity for that problem to exist in a barracks setting is a realistic concern.

Imagine the noise of all those cats, dogs and birds housed closely together. Now imagine every time the duty roves his post he sets off every single one of them into a barking frenzy at 0300.

4. They would escape

Animals are curious and full of energy. Naturally, some would want to explore the world by any means necessary. Room inspections would become near impossible. Troops would go UA and AWOL looking for their pets not caring about the consequences. It would present a new kind of discipline problem. Never underestimate the loyalty an active duty troop would have to their pet.

5. Troops would be happy

Troops would be happy, especially Marines. We can’t have Marines getting off work happy — it would be pandemonium. The world would end, there would be peace on earth, even Jesus would come back. No one would end their active service or retire. America needs her troops to be mean and lethal. No one is going to be angry enough to invade another country when they feel fulfilled in life.

Veterans

Country music star Chris Young is asking for your help this Veterans Day

USAA is stepping forward to honor the nation’s nearly 18 million veterans with its #HonorThroughAction challenge. Country music star Chris Young, who has close ties to the military community, is joining forces with the organization for Veterans Day.  

Young has had an impressive career in country music. But despite number one hits, world tours and numerous awards, he remains a humble man, deeply appreciative of America’s service members. Early in his career he spent a lot of time playing on military bases throughout the United States and had friends who were closely connected to the military growing up. But it hits home for him, too. His grandfather served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and then later in Young’s music career, his sister joined and served as a Marine herself. 

When USAA approached him to help lead and promote its campaign, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. The goal of the campaign is to flood the internet with images of people with the letter “V” on their hands and messages of gratitude for America’s veterans. Young shared that he felt it was a visible way to truly say thank you by overflowing social media with personal messages, reaching even more veterans. “It’s an awesome way to use social media as an outreach platform to really make it a huge day of thanks for their sacrifice and service,” he explained. “I normally have my name talked about much more than my sister and this is a way for me to use all of my platforms to say thank you to her, too.”

Young has spent considerable time overseas performing for the troops, something he said he truly enjoys. He’s gone to Iraq multiple times, Kuwait and even as far as Japan. Young also shared how he once had the opportunity to go to a Forward Operating Base on the border of Iran, which was impacting in more ways than one. “Their PX was a tractor trailer… It was a small FOB. I was playing acoustic with another guitar player because that’s really all we had room for, since it was a much smaller base,” Young explained. “Everybody was very thankful and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ because it was over the top saying thank you. But then a service member told me I was the only non-military entertainment that had ever played for them. That just blew my mind.”

This experience was pivotal for Young, he said. Although he’s spent time playing at bases throughout the world and inviting service members to shows, playing for those service members in particular was different. It cemented for him that any opportunity he has to say thank you, he’s all in. “I am very honored that USAA wanted to partner with me to not only say thank you to the 18 military US military veterans but also do something like this where people can actually take part in it too,” he explained.

USAA’s third annual #HonorThroughAction challenge is really easy. Participants can simply draw a V on their hand – for veterans – and then add the initials of anyone in particular who has served that they want to highlight. Then simply snap a picture and share on social media along with the hashtag, #HonorThroughAction. It only takes a moment and is an actionable way to make your thank you more meaningful. The goal is to flood all social media platforms with these posts, reaching as many veterans as possible. “This might be the most important thing someone sees on their [social media] feed that they didn’t expect to,” Young explained. “I just really encourage anyone who sees my posts or reads this article to go do it.” 

This Veterans Day, pause for a moment and truly breathe in the sacrifice of our country’s heroes. Let us use our collective power to ‘break’ the internet with images of gratitude for those who willingly raised their right hands to die for us. They are worth that and so much more.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Rise of Skywalker’ photos reveal huge ‘Force Awakens’ callback

The baddest bad guy in all of Star Wars is also, perhaps, the most famous fictional father of all time: Darth Vader AKA Anakin Skywalker. But, after Vader was out of the picture in Return of the Jedi, newer Star Wars movies have struggled to introduce family drama into the saga that was as meaty and as frightening. Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, the primary villain of new Star Wars has mostly been Kylo Ren, previously known as Ben Solo, before he turned evil and killed his dad, Han Solo. But, back in 2015, it was hinted that Kylo Ren had some muscle to help with his dirty work; the mysterious Knights of Ren. Now, like the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python, they’re back! Nobody expects the Knights of Ren!

Thanks to newly released photos from The Rise of Skywalker, it finally looks like we’ll get some answers about who the hell these dark knights really are.


On May 22, 2019, Vanity Fair released its latest cover story, a huge preview of The Rise of Skywalker written by Magicians novelist, journalist and all-around cool dad, Lev Grossman. As with most Star Wars films, this feature was accompanied by beautiful photos from legendary photographer Annie Lewbowitz. Chewbacca is reunited with Lando, Luke Skywalker’s ghost (maybe?) stands proudly with R2-D2 and Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out again with their lightsabers. But, for fans thinking about the villains of the new saga, one minor detail was confirmed by the photos, which has major implications: The Knights of Ren are back!

In one early photo, evildoers, dressed all in black are depicted with the following caption:

“J.J. Abrams, alongside Stunt Coordinator Eunice Huthart, directs the Knights of Ren; elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”

Up until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear if the Knights of Ren would actually return in The Rise of Skywalker, or, like, at all. After being introduced in a flashback in The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and regular people alike have been scratching their heads for four years now about who these people could be. Like Kylo Ren, are they also former students of Luke Skywalker’s turned to evil? Are all of them men? Could another, long-lost member of the Skywalker/Solo family be chilling under those creepy masks? How come they don’t all get lightsabers?

Not, it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is poised to answer this question. It may be a small thing, but considering the fact that Kylo Ren could seemingly turn back to the light side of the Force at any point, then it feels likely any of the Knights of Ren could become the latest scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. (We don’t know who Kylo is fighting in those trailers, after all.)

Star Wars loves to have a good role reversal when it comes to evildoers. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father. In, the prequels, a kindly senator was really a Sith Lord. Even in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a dreaded gang leader — Enfys Nest — is secretly a revolutionary woman in disguise.

So, now that we know the Knights of Ren are back, we should be prepared for some answers about them, but also, some twists, too.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China practices plan to defeat U.S. missiles in a war

Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy ships drilled in the East China Sea in August 2018, practicing honing its skills and countering missile threats from rivals like Japan, the US, and other potential combatants.

More than 10 naval vessels from three different command theaters participated in an air-defense and anti-missile live-fire exercise on Aug. 11, 2018, according to Chinese media reports.


“Intercepting anti-ship missiles is an urgent task as the surrounding threats grow,” Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told Global Times, specifically referring to the potential threats posed by the US, Japan, and other countries that engage in military activities near China.

“Anti-missile capability is indispensable to building a fully functional strategic PLA Navy. Such exercises are aimed at ensuring the PLA is prepared for battles,” the expert explained.

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PLAN Type 056 corvette.

During the drills, the Meizhou, a Type 056 corvette with the South Sea Fleet armed with both anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, gunned down an incoming anti-ship missile, according to Asia Times. The Tongren, another ship of the same class with East Sea Fleet, reportedly missed a missile on purpose to demonstrate the ability to follow with a successful second shot.

The drill comes on the heels of two other naval drills in the Yellow Sea and South China Sea.

China’s naval exercises appear to be, at least in part, a response to part of the most recent iteration of the Rim of the Pacific maritime drills. On July 12, 2018, aircraft, submarines, and land-based missile systems manned by US, Australian, and Japanese military personnel opened fire on the former USS Racine, a decommissioned ship used for target practice during the sinking exercise.

For the “first time in history,” Japanese missiles under US fire control were used to target a ship and sink it into the sea.

China is actively trying to bolster the combat capability of its naval force, the largest in the world today. China is producing new aircraft carriers, as well as heavy cruisers to defend them. China’s growing power is becoming more evident as it attempts to flex its muscles in disputed seas, such as the East and South China Sea.

The sinking exercise during RIMPAC “demonstrated the lethality and adaptability of our joint forces,” US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Phil Davidson said of the drill in a statement published on Facebook.

“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them,” he said, adding, “Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea naval firepower can do the same.”

In response to Chinese drills in the East China Sea, where China and Japan often feud over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Japan will deploy an elite marine unit for drills before the end of 2018. The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which has not been in service since World War II, was reactivated in March to counter potential Chinese threats to Japanese territory, according to Taiwan News.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened to the USS Constitution’s original guns

If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.

In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.


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The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.

(USS Constitution Museum Collection)

USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.

The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.

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The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.

It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.

In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.

The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part two

In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.

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Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.


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Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.

What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”

That’s a Commander-In-Chief.

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Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.

When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.

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Franklin Pierce

The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.

What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.

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Called “Old Buck” in his later years.

James Buchanan

Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.

In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.

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Finally, a President with a beard takes office.

Abraham Lincoln

The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.

When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.

Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.

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“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.

The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.

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Ulysses S. Grant

Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.

Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.

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Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.

Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.

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At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.

James A. Garfield

The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.

But he was shot in the back on a train.

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No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.

Chester A. Arthur

Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.

Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.

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It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.

Grover Cleveland #1

Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.

Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.

Looking to go back in time? Check out part one.

Looking to visit the future? Check out part three.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

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It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

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Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

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

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