There has been no friendly fire incident in the history of the world like the 1788 Battle of Karansebes. The Austrian Army had been at war with the Ottoman Turks for more than a year when another contingent of Austrian soldiers stumbled upon another part of their army. What should have been a general misunderstanding turned into a full-on battle with more than ten thousand killed or wounded and the Ottoman capture of Karansebes anyway.
The story starts with a band of gypsies.
As every good story should.
It’s necessary to know that the Austrians of this time weren’t simply Austrian, they were fighting for the Hapsburg Empire, and their fighting force was comprised of several different languages, with no real common means of communicating between units. Still, units made up of these single language-speakers would regularly patrol by themselves, rather than joining other units to learn multiple languages or having a common tongue.
It was one of these units, a cavalry patrol, that was out looking for any signs of enemy Ottomans around. They didn’t find any Turks, but what they found was a group of Romani Gypsies who were just settling in for the night. The Gypsies offered the Austrians a good time with dancing and drinking, which the grateful cavalrymen eagerly took. Then, more Austrians showed up, but these were a group of infantry, and the cavalrymen refused to share.
Anyone who’s ever known infantrymen can probably guess what’s about to happen.
This started a fistfight, of course. As the rival groups started fighting over the booze, shots rang out from across the nearby river. All the fighting Hapsburg men stopped fighting and took cover, quickly making it back to their camp to warn the others that Turks were shooting from the other side of the river. The camp exploded in a frenzy of men who thought Turks were overrunning their camp. When the German officers tried to get their fleeing men to calm down and come back, they shouted “halt,” which in a German accent, was mistaken for “Allah.” part of the Ottoman’s battle cry.
All the sides fought one another until the camp commander believed he was being overrun, at which point he ordered the artillery to pound his own men.
Imagine this but with cannon fire landing everywhere around them.
When the Turkish Army did arrive to take the town two days later, it was completely deserted by the opposition. They rolled into the city immediately, and the Austrians didn’t talk about Karansebes for another forty years.
This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.
Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.
3-D printing is the future
“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.
The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.
“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”
The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.
‘Fix it forward’
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”
Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.
Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.
‘My most important commodity is time’
“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”
VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.
The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.
The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.
White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.
U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.
(U.S. Air Force)
First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.
In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.
As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.
But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.
The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.
Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.
Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)
But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.
But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.
This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.
And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?
Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.
But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.
And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)
And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.
Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.
And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.
Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?
Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.
One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?
Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.
Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.
But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.
Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.
The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]
Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.
As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.
Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).
There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.
Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.
But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.
Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?
Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.
Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.
Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.
Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.
The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.
There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB
Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.
He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.
But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.
Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)
And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.
While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.
The U.S. Air Force confirmed in mid-2019 that the AC-130U gunship (affectionately known as “spooky”) had finished its final combat deployment. The last Spooky gunship returned from a mission to Hulbert Field, Florida, on July 8. Spooky’s final ride ushers in the new era of the AC-130J Ghostrider. So as Spooky’s illustrious career pridefully rises to the rafters, we look back on some of the coolest facts about the AC-130U gunship.
Each one costs about 0 million
According to the USAF website, one Spooky AC-130U runs about 0 million. Compare this to the infamous “brrrrrt brrrrrt” A-10 Warthog’s total unit cost of million. This makes the AC-130U one of the single most expensive units in the Air Force. The rest of these facts make Spooky’s price tag make a bit more sense.
The cockpit of the AC-130U, 2016.
(Senior Airman Taylor Queen)
It takes a crew of 13 to operate
That’s right, it takes a baker’s dozen airmen to operate Spooky. The 13 crew members consist of: a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a fire control officer, an electronic warfare officer, a flight engineer, a loadmaster, an all-light-level TV operator, an infrared detection set operator, and finally—four aerial gunners.
It can attack two targets simultaneously
The “fire control system” in the AC-130U is capable of targeting two separate targets, up to one kilometer apart, and then engaging each target individually with two different guns. This versatile offensive advantage is referred to, simply as “dual-target attack capability.” And you thought your job required multi-tasking.
The AC-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon”, 1965.
It was originally nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon”
The original (and unofficial) nickname was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” This nickname came about for the predecessor of the AC-130U. The predecessor was the Douglas AC-47 Spooky. It was developed and utilized during the Vietnam War. “Puff” ran so that “Spooky” could walk.
It contains over 609,000 lines of software
The versatile functionality of the AC-130U Spooky gunship also calls for extremely advanced onboard computer processing. One single Spooky gunship has over 609,000 lines of software. For reference, a complicated iPhone full of apps would contain about 50,000 lines of software. The software on the AC-130U covers advanced sensor technology, fire control systems, infrared technology, global positioning, navigation, and radar.
Air Force AC-130U Gunship Close Air Support Live-Fire Training
In a testament to both the maintainers quality of work, and the exorbitant price tag—only 47 AC-130s (of any variant) have ever been built… since the Vietnam War. Another reason why so few have been built is because their role in nighttime counter insurgency is incredibly specific. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
And only 7 AC-130s have been lost
Six of these were lost during the Vietnam conflict, when the AC-130s humble beginnings were just recently developed. In modern conflicts, the most significant lost AC-130 was the Spirit 03 that was tragically lost in the Iraqi conflict on Jan. 30, 1991, from a lone shoulder-fired surface to air missile. The attack came after the ship had battled through the cloak of night, but doubled back after refueling to defend ground forces after dawn had broke. There were no survivors, but the bravery and service of the Spirit 03 lives on.
Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik recently ripped China’s J-15 fighter jet for its many failings.
In 2001, China purchased a T-10K-3 (a Su-33 prototype) from Ukraine and later reversed engineered it into the J-15 fighter jet.
And Moscow, apparently, is still a little sour about it.
The J-15 is too heavy to operate efficiently from carriers, has problems with its flight control systems, which has led to several crashes, and more, Sputnik reported, adding that Beijing doesn’t even have enough J-15s to outfit both of its carriers.
“The J-15’s engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters,” Sputnik reported, adding that “The US Navy’s F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons.”
“The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways,” Sputnik added, “including referring to it as a ‘flopping fish’ for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship.”
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Kuznetsov-class carrier like the Admiral Kuznetsov, and both use short-take off but arrested recovery launch systems.
Sputnik then piled on by interviewing Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin.
“Years ago the Chinese decided to save some money and, instead of buying several Su-33s from Russia for their subsequent license production in China, they opted for a Su-33 prototype in Ukraine,” Sputnik quoted Kashin.
“As a result, the development of the J-15 took more time and more money than expected, and the first planes proved less than reliable,” Kashin added.
But as The National Interest pointed out, the former Soviet Union regularly copied Western military concepts and products.
“Considering that China has the same habit, there is a poetic justice here,” The National Interest’s Michael Peck wrote.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fort Bragg-based paratroopers recently concluded an intensive training exercise requiring them to test what may be the U.S. Army’s next step in Mission-Command technology.
Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in cooperation with the Joint Modernization Command, recently executed Network Integration Exercise 18.2 from late October to early November 2018.
“The best way to test a paratrooper and his or her equipment is to replicate the demanding crucible of ground combat,” said Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “NIE provided the brigade an excellent environment to evaluate the Army’s future Mission Command Systems and associated technologies, with the purpose of creating shared understanding and enabling the BCT to be more lethal”.
A paratrooper assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division launches a PUMA Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Vehicle during the recently concluded Network Integration Exercise at El Paso, Texas.
(Photo by Sgt. Cody Parsons)
Network Integration Exercise, spearheaded by JMC, examines concepts and capabilities addressing three of the six Army modernization priorities — soldier lethality, long-range precision fires, and the future network.
Paratroopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a tethered drone during the Network Integration Exercise 18.2 in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 30, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Andrew Garcia)
“Our main objectives are to facilitate the execution of operationally realistic warfighting assessments for over two weeks and assess multi-domain operations while obtaining feedback from paratroopers on the ground,” said Rodger Lemons, Chief of Strategic Plans at the JMC.
Paratroopers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a security check, Nov. 2, 2018, during Network Integration Exercise 18.2 at El Paso, Texas.
(Photo by Cpl. Deven Waller)
The exercise’s keystone concept focused on equipping 3rd Brigade paratroopers and units with emerging technology and equipment while setting them through a series of combat scenarios. Those using the equipment were then encouraged to provide candid criticism of the shortfalls and benefits of the technology.
“Paratroopers on the ground are able to give developers immediate feedback,” said Lieutenant General Bruce T. Crawford, the Army’s chief information officer. “This allows the Army to move away from the monolithic programs of record and move into a more iterative approach that allows us to keep up with technological advancements.”
We are pushing towards a culture of innovation and the role these Paratroopers are playing is a game changer, continued Crawford.
Theresa May will hold a crunch Cabinet meeting on April 12, 2018, in which she and her ministers will decide whether to join military action in Syria.
The prime minister will seek her Cabinet’s approval to join with Donald Trump’s US in launching airstrikes against the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad, the war-torn country’s disgraced president.
May wants to launch airstrikes without first securing parliamentary approval, the BBC reports, in a move which would be opposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and numerous other opposition MP across the House of Commons.
This means Britain is on the cusp of joining the US in another military foray in the Middle east. Here’s how we got here.
“Abhorrent” chemical attack shocks the world
The West is preparing to respond to a chemical attack which left at least forty people dead and hundreds more receiving treatment in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018. Douma is just a few miles outside the country’s capital, Damascus, and is controlled by rebels who want to overthrow President Assad.
The attack was the latest chapter in a civil war which has ravaged Syria since 2011. The conflict has left over 500,000 Syrians dead and around 6.1 million displaced, according to UN and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights data.
Prime Minister May, President Trump, and other western leaders believe Assad is almost certainly behind the attack. May described the attack as a “shocking, barbaric act” which cannot go “unchallenged” by Britain and its allies. The Assad regime denies being responsible for the attack.
British submarines are reportedly being moved within “missile range” of Syria with military action set to begin as early as April 12, 2018, if May secures the backing of her government ministers.
Doesn’t May need the permission of MPs?
Contrary to what many believe, the UK prime minister is not legally obliged to seek parliamentary approval before launching military action. In fact, they don’t even need to inform them.
The root of this misconception is the 2003 Iraq invasion. The then-prime minister Tony Blair asked Parliament to vote in favour of invading Iraq. This created an informal convention which was followed by David Cameron, who a decade later decided against taking action in Syria after MPs voted it down. Prime ministers may decide to look for parliamentary support to give their military action political authority. After all, going to war is one of the riskiest and most controversial decisions a prime minister can make.
However, this is nothing more than a convention. In 2011, for example, MPs didn’t get to vote on intervening in Libya until after the intervention had already got underway, meaning it was too late to vote it down anyway.
Does the public want another war?
If May does intend on ignoring convention, it will not be with the broad support of the British public. A YouGov poll released April 12, 2018, finds that just 22% of Brits support military action in Syria, while 43% oppose it.
Labour leader Corbyn previously told the BBC he supported a parliamentary vote before any action. It “should always be given a say on any military action,” Corbyn said. “We don’t want bombardment which leads to escalation and a hot war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria.”
Speaking today, Corbyn questioned how airstrikes would improve the situation in Syria. “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life,” he told reporters.
Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, signaled he supports military action against Assad but said it would require the support of MPs with “some strong conditions around it.”
The SNP’s defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, has warned that airstrikes “will not provide the long-term solutions needed to end the war.”
What would the ramifications be?
The Syrian conflict is one of the greatest challenges facing the world, not least because it is so fiendishly complex.
President Assad may be opposed by Britain, the US, France and other western nations, but is supported by Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. This means Syria has effectively become a proxy battleground for tensions between the West and Russia, which have been at the worst since the height of the Cold War.
A war of words is already underway. On April 11, 2018, President Trump told Putin to “get ready” for US missiles.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'”Trump tweeted April 11, 2018. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Russia had warned the US that any missiles fired into Syria would be shot down and its launch sites targeted.
Worryingly for Britain, one of the launch sites pinpointed by Russia could be a British military base in Cyprus, The Times reports. Eight cruise missile-armed Tornado fighter-bombers located at RAF Akrotiri, on the southern coast of Cyprus. These bombers are set to contribute to airstrikes and could be at risk of Russian retaliation.
Russia has already moved war vessels from to a base on the Mediterranean coast, within range of a US warship, according to satellite imagery of the region.
What is clear is that risk of war between nuclear-armed states is now at its highest for a generation. The decisions May’s government makes in next few days could be among the most important made by any UK government.
As NASA sets its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system.
For months, the agency has been studying an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s.
The platform will consist of at least a power and propulsion element and habitation, logistics and airlock capabilities. While specific technical and mission capabilities as well as partnership opportunities are under consideration, NASA plans to launch elements of the gateway on the agency’s Space Launch System or commercial rockets for assembly in space.
“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars.”
The power and propulsion element will be the initial component of the gateway, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the gateway’s position and can move the gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. As part of the agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element. NASA will leverage capabilities and plans of commercial satellite companies to build the next generation of all electric spacecraft.
The power and propulsion element will also provide high-rate and reliable communications for the gateway including space-to-Earth and space-to-lunar uplinks and downlinks, spacecraft-to-spacecraft crosslinks, and support for spacewalk communications. Finally, it also can accommodate an optical communications demonstration – using lasers to transfer large data packages at faster rates than traditional radio frequency systems.
Habitation capabilities launching in 2023 will further enhance our abilities for science, exploration, and partner (commercial and international) use. The gateway’s habitation capabilities will be informed by NextSTEP partnerships, and also by studies with the International Space Station partners. With this capability, crew aboard the gateway could live and work in deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time.
Crew will also participate in a variety of deep space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon. The agency recently completed a call for abstracts from the global science community, and is hosting a workshop in late February 2018, to discuss the unique scientific research the gateway could enable. NASA anticipates the gateway will also support the technology maturation and development of operating concepts needed for missions beyond the Earth and Moon system.
Adding an airlock to the gateway in the future will enable crew to conduct spacewalks, enable science activities and accommodate docking of future elements. NASA is also planning to launch at least one logistics module to the gateway, which will enable cargo resupply deliveries, additional scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.
Following the commercial model the agency pioneered in low-Earth orbit for space station resupply, NASA plans to resupply the gateway through commercial cargo missions. Visiting cargo spacecraft could remotely dock to the gateway between crewed missions.
Drawing on the interests and capabilities of industry and international partners, NASA will develop progressively complex robotic missions to the surface of the Moon with scientific and exploration objectives in advance of a human return. NASA’s exploration missions and partnerships will also support the missions that will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are the backbone of the agency’s future in deep space. Momentum continues toward the first integrated launch of the system around the Moon in fiscal year 2020 and a mission with crew by 2023. The agency is also looking at a number of possible public/private partnerships in areas including in-space manufacturing and technologies to extract and process resources from the Moon and Mars, known as in-situ resource utilization.
May 2, 2018 – Update
As reflected in NASA’s Exploration Campaign, the next step in human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars. The gateway is necessary to achieving the ambitious exploration campaign goals set forth by Space Policy Directive 1. Through partnerships both domestic and international, NASA will bring innovation and new approaches to the advancement of these U.S. human spaceflight goals.
NASA published a memorandum outlining the agency’s plans to collaboratively build the gateway. Learn more:
Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.
Still, here are five we wish would happen:
In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.
This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.
2. The EB-52C Megafortress
Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.
It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…
3. Blue Thunder
According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.
This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.
4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet
The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.
The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.
(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)
5. MiG-31 Firefox
No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).
According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.
Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.
Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)
Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)
Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.
Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)
Maynard James Keenan
Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)
Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)
Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)
Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t a headline at The Onion. In what seems like a fever dream cross between “The Scarlett Letter” and a Tom Clancy novel, two Montana men were ordered, by a judge, to wear “I am a liar” signs. Here’s the catch: that’s not the only creative punishment in store for the duplicitous men.
Judge Greg Pinski holds up the text for the “I am a liar” signs.
Judge Greg Pinski, of Cascade County District Montana, delivered the unorthodox sentence two weeks ago. The two men on the receiving end of the punishment, Ryan Patrick Morris (28) and Troy Allan Nelson (33), were also instructed to wear signs saying “I am a liar. I am not a veteran. I stole valor. I have dishonored all veterans” at the Montana Veterans Memorial. According to The Great Falls Tribune, they were also ordered to write down the names of Americans killed in the line of duty.
The two men had recent prior convictions from the same judge: Morris with a felony burglary charge, and Nelson with a felony possession charge. However, the two were ordered back to court for violating the conditions of their release. According to The Military Times, the two men lied about their military involvement in order to have their cases moved to a veterans court. Morris falsely claimed that he had done multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was afflicted with PTSD from an IED that supposedly exploded and injured him. While Nelson was falsely enrolled in a Veterans Treatment Court.
It was then that Judge Pinski offered them early parole, ifand only if they cooperated with a slew of stipulations. Pinski stipulated that every year, during the suspended portions of their sentences, they were to wear the signs about their necks, and stand for 8 hours on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day at the Montana Veteran’s Memorial.
Pinksi cited a Montana Supreme Court case that he said gives him jurisdiction for his unconventional punishment on account of his justified suspicion of stolen valor.
Judge Greg Pinski at the Montana Veterans Memorial on Veteran’s Day, 2015.
(Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson)
In addition, both men were required to hand-write the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as write out the obituaries of the 40 fallen soldiers from Montana.
The buck didn’t stop there. Judge Pinski also ordered the men to hand-write out their admissions of guilt and apologize in letters to: American Legion, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, The Vietnam Veterans of America, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The buck didn’t even stop there. In addition to all of the aforementioned tasks, the men were also required to perform 441 hours of community service each—one hour for each Montana citizen who died in conflict since the Korean War.
The men agreed to the terms, and if they complete all of the given tasks, they will be eligible for early release.
Morris was sentenced to 10 years with three years suspended in Montana State Prison, and Nelson was sentenced to five years, two years suspended.
According to The Military Times, Judge Pinksi was quoted saying “I want to make sure that my message is received loud and clear by these two defendants […] You’ve been nothing but disrespectful in your conduct. You certainly have not respected the Army. You’ve not respected the veterans. You’ve not respected the court. And you haven’t respected yourselves.”