Recently, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got a tank named after him. The actor/wrestler/producer took joy in being given the honors and posted the image onto his social media. Because you can’t go two days on the internet without some sort of backlash from people with nothing better to do than argue over some mundane thing that has absolutely no bearing on their life… people argued.
On one side, some people are upset that he felt honored for it because, you know, that has to mean he is advocating war or whatever. Counter-arguers are also quick to jump at the chance to point out that it is a high honor for such a beloved figure because he’s always been a friend and supporter to the military and veteran community.
In reality, the process of naming tanks, artillery guns, and rocket launcher systems isn’t as grandiose as the people arguing are making it out to be.
Naming your HIMARS doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. But it doesn’t hurt to at least enjoy your time cramped in with your crew.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Hernandez)
When it’s time for a crew to take command of a new vehicle, they need to give it a name.
With some exception, you name it entirely for the purpose of easily identifying it. When you’re walking through the motor pool, reading the name stenciled on the gun or rocket pod is going to be a lot easier to read from a distance than its serial number.
Unlike with Humvees or other troop carrying vehicles often forgotten until it’s time to use them, artillerymen and tankers take pride in what is theirs. The name has to be something that the crew could proudly sit in for hours until the FDC finally gets around to approving a fire mission.
The name itself is generally something that invokes strength, humor, or holds sentimental value to one member of the crew – like a loved one. The command staff usually doesn’t bother as long as it isn’t (too) profane and it typically follows the guideline of the first letter being the same as your company/battery/squadron for uniformity.
So an MLRS in Alpha Battery could be named “Alexander the Great” or “Ass Blaster.” Bravo Battery gets something along the lines of “Betty White” or “Boomstick.” Charlie gets names along the lines of “Come Get Some” or “Cat Scratch Fever.” And so on.
As for the tank named “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” well, just happens to be in a Delta Squadron, the crew were probably fans of his work, and his name invokes strength. I can attest, entirely anecdotally of course, that Dwayne Johnson isn’t that uncommon of a name within Delta Batteries/Squadrons.
In case you were wondering, here’s The Rock’s post.
I keep using “typically” and “usually” because there are plenty of exceptions. The name, the naming convention, and even the ability to name it are ultimately up to the chain of command’s discretion.
(United States Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)
The crew comes up with the name, submits it to the chain of command, and if it gets approved, they spray paint the name prominently on the gun. If the commander wants it to be all people’s names, then they’re all people’s names. If they give the troops free rein, then that’s their prerogative.
It should also be noted that some commanders may forgo the entire process of naming their vehicles and guns altogether. It is what it is, but some tankers and artillerymen may see it as bad luck to not give their baby a name and troops can be particularly superstitious. That, or they may just be saying it so they can spray-paint “Ass Blaster” on their tank’s gun.
In the years since the west’s most hated terrorist was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many new details have emerged. From Twitter leaks during the raid to the surprising conduct of Osama bin Laden’s fifth wife, here are 7 surprising and surreal details from the raid:
1. The Situation Room was catered by Costco
Apparently, the White House is into getting a deal because they decided Costco sandwiches were the best finger foods for the table in the Situation Room where the senior leaders would watch the raid play out.
2. The first leak of the raid was a local on Twitter
Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, heard the helicopters hovering over the compound and decided to mention it on Twitter. He didn’t know that he was live-tweeting the raid that would kill the world’s most notorious terrorist.
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
3. Osama bin Laden’s porn stash was a terrorist cliche
According to an extensive description of the 2011 raid in The New Yorker, Osama bin Laden’s famous porn stash was actually a common find in terror raids.
A special operations officer quoted in the piece said, “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan.”
4. The top-secret helicopter was first destroyed with a hammer
A helicopter notoriously crashed during the bin Laden raid, partially because of a difference in temperature between where pilots rehearsed the raid and the actual site. The temperature difference accelerated a loss of lift when the helicopter ended up in its own rotor wash.
The pilot completed a masterfully controlled crash and then got to work destroying classified parts. While the helo would eventually be burnt with thermite and other incendiaries, the first wave of destruction was completed with a common hammer kept on board for that purpose.
5. One of bin Laden’s wives was talking sh-t the whole time like a spouse on “Cops”
According to testimony in the New Yorker article, Osama bin Laden’s wife was all about attacking the SEALs. When bin Laden went to hide behind her and another wife, Amal al-Fatah made a motion to charge the Americans. She was shot in the calf.
But she wasn’t done. Even as she and other survivors were left in the courtyard near the burning helicopter and the SEALs were exfiltrating the compound, al-Fatah was screaming insults at the Americans like she was telling the police not to take her man away on an episode of “Cops.”
6. The President met the SEAL dog after the operation, and that scared the Secret Service
When President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to meet the SEALs and other operators on the mission, the Navy SEAL military working dog who was on the raid was closed in an adjoining room because of a request by the Secret Service.
7. Because no one thought to bring a tape measure, bin Laden’s height was measured by a SEAL lying next to him
When Adm. William H. McRaven called the CIA headquarters to try and make sure that the man killed in the raid really was Osama bin Laden, one of his questions was the exact height of the body. Bin Laden was between 6 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 5 inches tall.
No one at the site had a tape measure handy, so a SEAL laid down next to it. Reports vary on whether the SEAL was 6-foot or 6-foot, 4-inches. Regardless, the final verdict was that the body matched bin Laden’s height. DNA evidence would later prove that it really was the terrorist who was killed.
A single weapon used predominantly in World War I and with a limited deployment in World War II was so effective and so terrifying that Germany lodged a diplomatic protest against its use by American forces. It wasn’t the flamethrower or the machine gun. It was shotguns, especially the Winchester Models 1897 and 1912.
The two shotguns were first entered into combat after America realized how brutal trench warfare really was. The soldiers and Marines serving on the Western Front needed a way to clear attackers from the American trenches as well as to quickly clear defenders from enemy trenches during assaults.
Standard shotguns were civilian versions of the weapon, often with a sling added for easy carrying. Riot guns were similar but with shorter barrels. The most heavily modified versions were the trench guns which featured shorter barrels — usually 20 inches or shorter, heat shields, and bayonet lugs.
The Model 97 quickly became one of the most popular shotguns issued, partially because of how well it stood up to the rigorous conditions on the Western Front. Operators could quickly clean mud and water from the weapons and get them ready to fire after a mishap, and the weapon continued to function even if it was dropped or slammed against trenchworks.
But the big reason that the Model 97 became so popular was that it could be “slamfired.” Typically, an operator readies a pump-action shotgun by pumping it to feed a round into the chamber and eject any empty casing currently in it. Then, they pull the trigger while aimed at their target to fire. Repeat.
But when slamfiring, they keep the trigger held back while pumping the weapon. When the new round feeds into the chamber, it will automatically fire. This meant the weapon could be fired as quickly as the operator could pump the handle.
The Model 97 held six rounds of 00 buckshot, each shell of which held nine pellets. A trained soldier slamfiring could fire all six rounds, 54 total lead pellets, in approximately two seconds. At the close ranges in many World War I trenches, the effect was devastating.
The Winchester Model 97 and Model 1912 would go on to serve similar functions in World War II, again clearing German defenders from trenches and bunkers as well as operating in the Pacific. The two Winchester shotguns were deployed to Korea and Vietnam, though the U.S. was slowly transitioning to newer shotguns by that point.
If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.
Turns out, there’s more to Amazon Prime than just free shipping. Here are 6 other benefits to this incredible service. Alexa, sign me up.
If you are a Prime member, you can set up Amazon Household. You can add one other adult and up to four teenagers and four children on your Prime Household. That means everyone gets to take advantage of the awesome perks. Here’s how to create your Household.
Through Household, your teens can shop til they drop without actually spending any money. That’s right: you have approval powers. We both know a trip to the mall with the fire-monster that is your 15-year-old daughter will be an entree of eye-rolling served with a side of teenage angst. Skip the dressing room battles and let that person who used to love you pick out her own damn clothes. And then veto and approve with the judicious powers that only a mother or father could have and love.
So your teenager has picked out eight pairs of jeans, and you’re going to let her keep one. With Prime Wardrobe, she can try all of them before she buys.
Mandatory fun coming up? Order all the dresses or pants in the land without spending a dime. Yep, order up to eight items at a time, only pay for what you keep, and the returns are free and easy. And you never have to leave your house.
With more than two million songs and curated playlists, listening to your favorite tunes just got easier. Download the Amazon music app and listen offline.
Set your shopping guilt aside and tell yourself that you’re doing it for a good cause with AmazonSmile.
“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from over one million organizations to support.”
See, shopping for yourself is a good thing.
Jack Ryan isn’t going to watch itself. Neither will the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the entire Suits series, countless Disney movies, or thousands of other shows, all included with your Prime membership. Best part? With the app you can download all of these to watch offline. Alexa, book me a cross-country flight.
More of a binge-reader than a binge-watcher? Good on ya. Prime has something for you, too. Prime Books gives you access to thousands of books that you can read on your Kindle (or through the Kindle app if you don’t have a separate device). You is smart.
There are countless benefits to having an Amazon Prime account. Take advantage of this weekend’s discount and live your best life, one Prime perk at a time.
Warning: Contains spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5.
After last week’s sh*t show, Khaleesi fans have been waiting for her revenge against Euron Greyjoy. Who knew that the secret to destroying the Iron Fleet would be found in the Bloody Red Baron’s playbook?
(Maybe we all should have — there’s a reason he’s the most infamous fighter pilot of all time…)
One move in particular was the key to her success:
Daenerys attacking Iron fleet with dragons | Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
Baron Manfred von Richtofen has been credited with 80 kills, most of which were won in planes painted bright red — not exactly the camouflage used on military aircraft today. He faced many obstacles in his military ambitions, but he had one major thing going for him: he was recruited by Lt. Oswald Boelcke, one of the most skilled fighter pilots of his time.
In World War I, Boelcke codified 8 rules for rookie combat pilots. The Red Baron — and the Mad Queen, it turns out — would secure victory through number 1: keep the sun behind you.
When target acquisition is accomplished through a visual scan of the skies, keeping the sun to their back blinds an aviator’s adversary. Just ask Euron Greyjoy.
Oh wait. You can’t.
There were many ways Daenerys could have attacked those ships. The nice thing about airpower is that gravity will really step up when taking care of your enemies. I always envisioned staying out of range and dropping barrels of burning pitch onto the ships, but of course she’d lose accuracy.
Instead, she chose to reward his ambush with one of her own, popping in from the clouds to overwhelm the naval sharpshooters. She then took advantage of their slow recovery time and destroyed them at close range as they attempted to re-load.
Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.
The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.
“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.
“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.
The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.
“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.
On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.
“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.
But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.
“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.
The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fabian Hambüchen knew from childhood that he was going to compete in the Olympic Games — and he knew that he was going to get gold.
In 2016, his dream came true at the Olympic Games in Rio where he won gold on the high bar. But the path to gold was anything but easy: the life of a gymnast is characterized by the pressure to perform, setbacks and injuries, and experiences that demand a lot of mental strength.
At the Fibo 2018 sports fair in Cologne, Fabian Hambüchen told Business Insider about his most excruciating defeat and how he fought his way back to the top mentally.
How your brain can scupper your plans
As reigning World Champion, Fabian Hambüchen travelled to Beijing in 2008 to go for gold.
“I was the favourite. I had the opportunity to win several medals and it was expected that I’d get gold on the high bar,” he said.
His chances were good — but his thought process sabotaged him and he ended up with a bronze medal.
“When I qualified, it went great. I was in the best starting position possible. But then these thoughts went through my mind: I really want to become an Olympic champion. This is my big dream. I want this, I want this, I want this.” These thoughts “set him on a completely wrong track” and led him to slip up.
The disappointment was immense. “I compensated by training harder and harder until my body told me its limits,” he describes the time after the games. “I hurt myself, yet I carried on. In the end, I injured myself even more severely: I tore my Achilles tendon.”
That was when Fabian Hambüchen realised he had to change something: his way of thinking. He had to get stronger not physically but mentally.
“I didn’t respond sensibly. I trained too much, I was too ambitious, and my injury stopped me in my tracks — but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was then that I began to realise that there are other ways of moving forward.”
Hambüchen’s tips for mental strength
Gymnastics is a tough scene, in which Hambüchen started training very early. He received mental support from his uncle, a qualified teacher who had specialised in mental coaching.
Hambüchen now has some of his own tips for mental strength. One thing he learned after winning bronze in Beijing was to focus only on what was essential. Question why it actually is that you’re doing what you’re doing.
“I remind myself that the reason I’m doing this sport is that I love gymnastics and I enjoy doing it. When we do sport as kids, we all do it because we enjoy it; not because we’re training to become world champion or to get rich off it,” he said.
Hambüchen said that if you keep reminding yourself of this and keep looking within yourself, searching yourself and asking yourself about why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, it can quickly ground you again, renew your energy, gratitude and motivation. And there’s a positive side-effect with gratitude: studies have shown that gratitude increases well-being and reduces the risk of depression.
“We tend to try and change situations we can’t,” said Hambüchen. Another trick for mental strength is to remember what is and isn’t in your hands.
“What’s the point in wasting energy on things you can’t control? I’m not walking up to the high bar wondering what kind of referees are sat there. They’re all just people, the rating is subjective and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
This applies not only to sport but, studies show, to work or to one’s personal life. Don’t allow others to take control of you — it’s up to you to give others the power to ruin your day.
“It’s important to focus on the self and to try to be the best version of yourself,” advised Hambüchen.
Of course, this is all a lot easier said than done. Hambüchen stresses that it took him years to mentally train himself into mastering this technique. But it paid off.
“Understanding what needs doing and then applying it to the situation with the right approach is a huge challenge. But if you internalise this message and are completely in touch with yourself, you can call on your maximum performance. None of this guarantees success but, rather, it serves as a technique to fall back on when your mind is getting in your way. And it works.”
Recovering from physical injury
“I’ve learned to learn from defeats, to analyze them and to think about what I can change to do better,” said Hambüchen. Even after that, not everything went well. “But I still thought differently, I wasn’t so dogged in how I went at things.”
It was this new way of thinking and mental strength that helped him win silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then gold in Rio in 2016, despite having a torn supraspinatus muscle.
These victories are largely due to his mental strength. With the help of his doctor he suppressed the pain and his health wasn’t constantly in the fore of his mind.
“The shoulder is a joint that’s very well supported by muscles. So you can do it without that one string. Everything beyond that was a matter of the mind.”
He was unable to train for three months due to the injury. Normally, after such a long break, it takes weeks and months to get fit again — but Hambüchen only had three weeks remaining before the national championships to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.
“During this time I gave my training my all, adjusted mentally and paid close attention to my diet. “I lost five to six kilos in two to three weeks and was really fit.” And he won the gold medal on high bar.
After winning gold, Fabian Hambüchen ended his international career. He’s learned an important lesson in life: there’s no point in allowing others to negatively influence you and in constantly worrying about things that aren’t in your hands.
With this newly acquired mental strength, he was able to call on his abilities precisely when he needed them and, as a result, was able to celebrate the greatest victory of his career.
“Another four years of giving it my all and to then be rewarded with gold is such an accomplishment … it was mad, and just awesome.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.
No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.
That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.
I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!
Carl Reiner, the comedic presence that was know for various roles across many generations passed away yesterday at the age of 98 according to a statement from his son, Rob Reiner via Twitter.
Reiner’s career spanned decades from TV to the movies and gave us all millions of laughs along the way. But before his legendary Hollywood career, Reiner, like many from his great generation served our country during one of its darkest hours and put a smile on soldiers’ faces while doing it.
Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1922 to an immigrant Jewish family. In 1943, Reiner joined the Army Air Forces. He was originally slated to be a radio operator but contracted pneumonia and was sent to the hospital to recover for several months.
After recuperating, Reiner was sent to train as a French translator. While there at Georgetown, he got his first taste of directing. After learning French, the Army decided to send Carl to the next best logical place…Hawaii. There, he worked as a teletype operator. One day before he was to be shipped off on assignment, he saw a Special Services production of Hamlet. He managed to do a quick audition and was immediately transferred into Special Services himself. He spent the rest of the war touring the South Pacific while performing for GIs in places like Guam, Saipan and Iwo Jima. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in 1946.
Reiner later wrote about his time in the military, including his famous audition and how his buddies almost got court martialed for passing on a message that Japan surrendered three days early.
After his time in military service, Reiner started two enduring partnerships. He was cast to work with Sid Caesar in “Your Show of Shows.” While working with Caesar, he also met another World War II veteran who was a writer on the show. Mel Brooks and Reiner hit it off and began a partnership that culminated in the legendary routine, “The 2000 Year Old Man.” The routine made its way into five comedy albums, numerous TV show appearances and an animated series.
2000 Year Old Man Mel Brooks Carl Reiner Hollywood Palace 1966
Reiner also started working on a show based on his life. It was later turned into the massively popular Dick Van Dyke Show. He worked as a writer but also started cutting his teeth as a director. He worked on two incredible comedies, “Oh God” and “The Jerk” starring Steve Martin. Reiner directed and/or co-wrote three other Steve Martin films, helping him when his career took up in the late 70s.
The Jerk (7/10) Movie CLIP – He Hates These Cans! (1979) HD
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.
During a mock battle held in 2018, an “elite combined arms brigade” of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army was defeated, despite being armed with superior weapons, specifically China’s new main battle tank, the Type 099A, the Global Times reported Jan. 20, 2019, citing a report last week from China’s state broadcaster CCTV.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained in a recent assessment of China’s military power.
“In some areas, it already leads the world,” he added.
While the DIA assessment called attention to China’s advancements in anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons, China appears particularly proud of achievements like the Type 099A battle tank, the J-20 stealth fighter, and the Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, arms which advance the warfighting capabilities of China’s army, air force, and navy respectively.
The J-20 stealth fighter.
But the Chinese military is apparently still trying to figure out what these developments mean for modern warfare.
In the interview with CCTV, two senior officers reflected on why Chinese troops armed with the new tanks lost in 2018’s simulated battle. “We rushed with the Type 099A too close to the frontline, which did not optimize the use of the tank’s combat capability,” Xu Chengbiao, a battalion commander, explained. “We only studied the capabilities of older tanks, but have not completely understood new ones,” Zhao Jianxin, a second battalion commander, reportedly told CCTV.
A Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that weapons alone cannot win wars.
David Axe, a defense editor at The National Interest, argued that the Chinese media report indicates that China struggles with “inadequate” military doctrine due to the country’s lack of combat experience. The Chinese military has not fought a war since the late 1970s.
China is focusing more on the navy, air force, rocket force, and strategic support force than it is on the army, which his experienced a major reduction in personnel. This shift, according to some analysts, highlights an interest in power projection over home defense.
As the warfighting capabilities of the Chinese military grow, it will presumably need to adapt its military doctrine to emerging technologies to maximize capability, but that process may take some time.
The Chinese military is undergoing a massive modernization overhaul in hopes of achieving Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stated goal of building a world-class military that can fight and win wars by the middle of this century.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marvel’s Black Panther will notch another historic milestone in April 2018, as it is set to become the first movie to be publicly screened in Saudi Arabia following an end to the country’s 35-year ban on cinema.
Variety reported that Disney and Italia Film, the studio’s Middle East distribution partner, will release Black Panther on April 18, 2018, at the country’s new AMC-branded theater in Riyadh, the first theater to open since the country lifted the ban in December 2017.
Saudia Arabia’s conservative clerics instituted the ban on cinema in the early 1980s. In December 2017, the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lifted the ban as part of a push for social and economic reform.
According to Variety, AMC Entertainment plans to open 40 cinemas in Saudi Arabia in the next five years, and up to 100 theaters in the country by the year 2030.
Black Panther entered the top 10 of the highest-grossing films of all time at the worldwide box office this week. Its success has been bolstered by a surprisingly strong showing in international markets like China.
The US military conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile in a test that would have been banned prior to the recent collapse of a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement.
The missile was launched on Aug. 18, 2019, from a testing site on San Nicolas Island in California. “The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon explained in an emailed statement, adding that “data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”
Earlier this month, the US officially withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a 1987 agreement with Moscow that formally limited the development of ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, or about 300 to 3,400 miles. The US accused Russia of violating the agreement through the development of the Novator 9M729, which NATO refers to as SSC-8.
The White House said in February 2019 that Russia has, for too long, “violated the [INF Treaty] with impunity, covertly developing and fielding a prohibited missile system that poses a direct threat to our allies and troops abroad.” The president warned that the US intends “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged violations of the pact by Russia.
Following the end of the treaty, new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a statement that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling these moves a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”
The defense secretary has also said that the US is looking at developing these systems to counter China in the Pacific. “Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” Esper told reporters recently. It “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”
Both China and Russia have expressed opposition to US plans, and some observers have expressed concerns that a new arms race is underway.
While the US moves forward with plans to develop new ground-based intermediate-range missiles, it is still unclear where the US ultimately plans to deploy them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.