When retelling stories of war, our focus tends to fall where the action was. Tales of battlefield bravery have been around for as long as there has been language and battlefields, but securing victory over a powerful foe requires more than the strength of will and courage under fire. Often, it takes the calm, calculating mind of strategic leaders, the tireless efforts of scientists and researchers, and as was the case in the skies above World War II… the unusual approach of an Austrian mathematician.
Abraham Wald was born in Austria-Hungary in 1902, and by 1931 he had completed his Ph.D. in mathematics. However, despite possessing a gifted scientific mind, Wald couldn’t find work in his home country upon his return. The problem? It was 1931, and Wald was Jewish.
By 1938, the Nazis were invading Austria and Wald and his family were on their way to the United States, where Wald had no trouble securing a job at the Cowles Research Commission in Economics, and then with the American government assisting with the war effort.
(Konrad Jacobs via WikiMedia Commons)
Wald quickly proved to have a powerful analytical mind, making a name for himself with the U.S. government’s Statistical Research Group (SRG) where he worked on classified programs despite his status as a “potentially hostile immigrant.” Just as his Jewish heritage made him a pariah in Austria, his Austrian heritage made Wald a bit of an outcast in Uncle Sam’s ranks. He wasn’t even allowed to look at his own equations after submitting them, as the programs Wald worked on were classified. Wald’s secretary was even known to joke that her job was to yank Wald’s pages away as soon as he finished writing them “for the sake of national security.”
Despite this looming prejudice, Wald thrived in his role as a mathematician for the allies, contributing to multiple programs over the years and securing a place in history thanks to his groundbreaking work in “survivorship bias.”
Allied forces were feverishly working on ways to help their B-29 bombers survive anti-aircraft fire, but knew that limitations on weight and available resources would bar them from adding armor to the entirety of the aircraft. So they began collecting data on returning B-29s in hopes that the data would eventually produce a working theory. Soon enough, it did.
This graphic shows where the majority of holes were recorded on returning B-29s.
Officials took note of how the B-29s that made it back were often riddled with holes in specific areas. Some of these bombers were even described in official documents as looking like “swiss cheese,” but the heaviest concentration of holes were always all over the aircraft’s fuselage. By the time they had translated their observations to hard data, they had confirmed that the fuselage and wings of the aircraft took rounds at nearly twice the rate of the aircraft’s engines.
The data seemed to be pointing at a clear answer to their problem: if the fuselage was taking the brunt of the of damage, they should add armor to that portion of the aircraft. After all, it housed all of the plane’s internal systems and its crew, it made perfect sense that taking so much fire to the fuselage must be what was bringing these bombers down.
Wald, however, knew immediately that placing armor on the fuselage of these bombers wasn’t going to solve the problem. He asserted instead that additional armor needed to be placed on the parts of the aircraft that had the smallest number of recorded bullet holes, rather than the highest. His assertion, and the premise of “survivorship bias,” was basically that these airplanes could survive taking a great deal of fire to the wings and fuselage because they were making it back riddled with holes all over both. Instead, Wald posited, it’s the places they didn’t see holes that couldn’t handle direct fire.
Like this but with more holes.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)
Wald believed that these planes were getting hit in the engines just as often as the fuselage or wings, but because the bombers that got hit in the engines didn’t survive, no data could be collected from them. Lacking data from the aircraft that didn’t make it back had skewed the numbers to show the exact opposite of what they had been looking for.
Wald proposed adding armor to the engines, rather than the fuselage and his premise was swiftly adopted, and soon that premise was proved true. Bombers that had additional armor added to their engine shrouds saw much higher rates of return, and before long, armoring the engines of B-29s became standard practice.
In fact, Wald’s approach continues to be employed in military aircraft design today, making it hard to even guess just how many aircraft, missions, and lives Abraham Wald is ultimately responsible for saving… all through his unique combination of perspective and arithmetic.
Remember when 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi came out and everyone joked that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) got bored of his office job at Dunder Mifflin so he left and became an operator? Well, that’s basically what Koshiro Tanaka did in 1985. He hated communists, so he went to Afghanistan to fight them.
After WWII, the Soviet Union retained the historically Japanese Kuril Islands, a major point of contention for Tanaka against both the Soviet and Japanese governments. He believed that Japan should have fought to at least preserve its cultural land. By the 1980s, he saw the growing Soviet presence as an existential threat to his country. Because Japan only had a 250,000-strong Self Defense Force, not a military, Tanaka feared the result of a possible Soviet invasion. “If Japan started fighting a war now, 50 million Japanese would die,” he said. “They [the Soviets] don’t want peace, they want land.”
Tanaka worked in a typical office job in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district when he decided to take up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, the 44-year-old was not without any training. Though he never served in the JSDF, Tanaka was a sixth-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate and an instructor in the martial art. He brought his skills with him to Afghanistan and taught hand-to-hand combat to the U.S.-backed mujahideen.
Though he fought alongside them, Tanaka did not adopt the tenets of Islam that the Afghan guerillas fought under. Rather, he went into battle with the mindset of a samurai. Tanaka found that there were parallels between the two cultures. Where a mujahideen fighter could earn a spot in Heaven through martyrdom in the holy war, Tanaka sought glory and honor in combat like the samurai warriors of old. “I hope in my mind that I will have the samurai spirit when it is time to die,” he said. He even carried an extra grenade at all times to martyr himself rather than suffer the shame of capture.
Tanaka’s first combat experience in Afghanistan was a shock. He accompanied a mujahideen raid on a communist Afghan government post near Jadladak, 25 miles east of Kabul. “I didn’t know how to fight, how to move,” he recalled. “I felt a bullet go by my ear. I got a shot of adrenaline.” After that experience, Tanaka applied the same discipline he used in karate to learning how to fight with a Kalashnikov. He developed a reputation as a foreign fighter and even had numerous propaganda reports of his death published by the Afghan government. During his time in Afghanistan, Tanaka endured malaria, jaundice, kidney stones, and a broken foot bone.
Between 1985 and 1987, Tanaka made at least seven trips to Afghanistan. However, his actions were frowned upon by his own government and were denounced. “His characteristics are beyond our understanding,” said a Japanese Foreign Ministry representative. “He is kind of strange as a Japanese.” Though Tanaka’s views were shared by some of his countrymen who donated funds to his mercenary trips, he largely paid for them out of his own pocket.
In 1987, Tanaka wrote a book detailing his experiences in Afghanistan called Soviet Soldiers in a Gun Sight, My Battle in Afghanistan. He used the proceeds from the book to fund another trip to Afghanistan and purchased supplies for the mujahideen. “[They] need help, any kind of help,” Tanaka said in a plea for Japanese support. “They need weapons, bread, food, anything.”
Tanaka’s next trip took him to the Panjshair Valley where he linked up with the famous Afghan commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The mujahideen leader had taken up karate, but Tanaka reported that, “he’s not so good.” Massoud became a military and political leader in the Northern Alliance alongside Abdul Rashid Dostum of 12 Strong fame, but was assassinated two days before 9/11 in an al-Qaeda/Taliban suicide bombing.
Tanaka’s fight in Afghanistan ended with the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. He returned to karate and has taught in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Hawaii, and Germany. He remains an outspoken supporter of a democratic Afghanistan, often sporting a pin of the Japanese flag alongside the Afghan flag.
U.S. Army aviation leaders offered details on Oct. 10, 2018, about recent solicitations to industry designed to advance the attack-reconnaissance and advanced drone aircraft programs for the service’s ambitious Future Vertical Lift effort.
Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is the Army’s third modernization priority, intended to field a new generation of helicopters such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), by 2028.
The FARA will be designed to take targeting information from FVL’s Advanced Unmanned Aerial System and coordinate “lethal effects” such as long-range precision fires to open gaps into a contested airspace, Rugen said.
Released Oct. 3, 2018, the RFP for the FARA asks industry to submit proposals for competitive prototypes.
“All the offerors will basically get us their designs by Dec. 18, 2018; we will down-select up to six in June 2018 and, in 2020, we will down-select to two,” Rugen said.
The Army plans to conduct a fly-off event in the first quarter of fiscal 2023 to select a winner, he added. “It’s a tremendous capability … that we think is going to be the cornerstone for our close combat control of contested airspace.”
UH-60 Black Hawk.
The service also released a Sept. 28, 2018 Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems RFP for industry to present platforms to conduct demonstrations for Forces Command units.
“Future Tactical UAS is really something that we have been asking for; it’s a [Brigade Combat Team]-oriented UAS,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd III, commander of Program Executive Office Aviation. “It isn’t necessarily a replacement for the [RQ-7] Shadow, but it could be, depending on how it goes with industry … so we are ready to see what you’ve got.”
The Army plans to pick three vendors to provide “future tactical UAS platforms to FORCOM units, and they are going to go and basically demonstrate their capabilities,” Rugen said, adding that the Army is looking for features such as lower noise signature and better transportability.
The service plans to “do a fly-off in the next couple of months and down-select in February,” he said. FORCOM units will then fly them for a year in 2020.
The results of the demonstrations will inform future requirements for the FVL’s Advanced UAS, Rugen said. “If it’s something we really, really like, we may move forward with it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.
Sadly, his mother did too.
From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.
No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.
Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.
Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.
Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.
Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.
Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
On this day in 1985, two-hundred and forty-eight Screaming Eagles and eight crew members were on their way home for Christmas after a six-month peacekeeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula. Their plane stalled due to iced wings and crashed less than a mile from the runway at Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. There were no survivors.
This horrific plane crash resulted in single largest loss of life the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has ever endured and December 12th has since been a solemn day at Fort Campbell. The citizens of Gander donated a sugar maple tree for each life lost, planting a total of 256 trees in Kentucky in their honor. The trees stand in formation, each before a plaque bearing the name of a fallen soldier. For more than thirty years, this memorial has remained in the median separating Airborne Road.
After much consideration and with an extremely heavy heart, it was decided that the memorial needed to be moved to the nearby Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.
As a Screaming Eagle soldier who had to police call the park because Blue Falcons tossed litter out of their cars, I can attest to how this change will be a positive change.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula)
The sugar maples serve as a living monument in a location that’s visible to everyone. Any time you drive on or off post, you’ll see the rows of trees and be reminded of the sacrifice of those we lost. But that resting spot may not have been the best place for the memorial.
All 256 trees are nestled into a tightly-packed space that spans just 1.5 acres. Sugar maples are hardy trees, but they need plenty of room to grow. This wasn’t a concern when they were originally planted, but after thirty-three years of growth, the roots are becoming intertwined, which may cause them whiter and die. A typical sugar maple tree can live up to 400 years, but those planted in memoriam are already showing signs of weakening.
As much as it hurts to more then, it’d be more disrespectful to the fallen to let their trees die.
(U.S. Army photo by Sam Shore)
The decision to move the memorial was not made lightly and it will require a major undertaking. All of the monuments will be moved less than a mile away in a much larger, 40-acre plot next to the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum. This will give every tree the room it needs to grow into a mighty maple that can withstand the test of time.
Trees will be excavated gently to ensure that they can be replanted successfully. The trees that don’t make it — and the trees that have already started to whither — will be replaced by new trees, again gifted by the citizens of Gander.
All 248 soldiers who died that day were a part of the 3-502nd Infantry Regiment.
The same, annual ceremony honoring the lost soldiers will still occur, just as it always has, only now it will be in a wider, more open space that doesn’t have traffic buzzing by.
In a statement to the Army Times, Col. Joseph Escandon, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 110st Airborne Division (Air Assault) said,
“We will always honor the memory of our Gander fallen. Maintaining this annual tradition at a living memorial is essential to ensuring that the memory of those lost will never be forgotten. The Gander tragedy affected not only the Fort Campbell community but countless others across the United States and Canada.”
“Every year on Dec. 12, we take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in service of their nation. While we are saddened by the need for the relocation of the original memorial, one thing will not change: our commitment to honoring their sacrifice and the sacrifices of their families, friends and fellow Soldiers.”
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.
Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.
Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.
Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”
While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.
“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”
Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.
“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”
He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.
“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”
The big shift came in 1994.
Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.
“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”
Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.
“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”
Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.
Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”
Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.
(Department of Defense Photo)
“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.
The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.
He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.
“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”
He was also a hit at the Pentagon.
“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”
Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.
“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.
Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.
In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.
For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.
“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.
“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
What appeared to be a contact-style naval mine was detected mysteriously floating off the coast of Washington state Aug. 28, 2018, prompting the US Navy to send in a team to destroy it, according to local reports.
Images of the mine, which was first discovered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, showed a round, rust-covered object with rods protruding from it floating in the water near Bainbridge Island, located across the way from Seattle and near Naval Base Kitsap, which is home to one of the Navy’s most important shipyards, Puget Sound.
The Navy sent an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team to deal with the mine while the Coast Guard and local authorities set up a safety zone, encouraging nearby residents to shelter in their homes.
“Upon initial inspection, the unidentified moored mine was found to have decades of marine growth,” the Navy revealed. After lassoing the mine and dragging it out to open waters, the Navy EOD team detonated the mine at around 8 pm Aug. 28, 2018.
The Navy noted that because there was no secondary explosion, the old mine was most likely inert, according to local media. The Navy detonated the mine at sea because it was initially unclear whether or not there were explosives inside.
Exactly how the mine ended up off the coast of Washington remains a mystery.
Featured image: Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2, assigned to Commander, Task Group 56.1, conducts floating mine response training with the Kuwait Naval Force, Nov. 9, 2014.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.
DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.
So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.
And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.
In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.
A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.
Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.
Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.
Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.
The C-47 is a classic transport plane — it flew with the United States Air Force in World War II and remained in service until 2008. It’s been used by dozens of countries as a transport. A re-built version, the Basler BT-67, currently serves in a half-dozen air forces, from Mauritania to Thailand, in both transport and gunship versions. In fact, classic C-47s are still around — either under civilian ownership or as warbirds.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Over 10,000 C-47s were produced by the United States alone. Japan and the Soviet Union also built this plane — and these durable, reliable birds don’t just disappear. Versions of this plane also served as electronic warfare assets, either listening in to enemy communications or serving as jammers.
The 6th Special Operations Squadron operated the C-47 as late as 2008.
(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ali Flisek)
The baseline C-47 has a top speed of 230 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,600 miles. It can carry 27 combat-ready troops or up to three tons of cargo. The latter might not sound like much when compared to modern cargo-carrying birds, but again, over 10,000 of these planes were produced. With those kinds of quantities, you’re able to move a lot of volume on demand.
The C-47 was used in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. C-47s helped drop the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in Normandy and also dropped supplies to besieged troops in Bastogne.
C-47s were used in all theaters of World War II – and training the tens of thousands of pilots was an immense task.
(Imperial War Museum photo)
The fact that so C-47s remain many out there in the world means that, one day, you might just get the chance to own one. Then, like tens of thousands of pilots before you over the last nearly 80 years, you will have to learn how to fly this legend.
A Rasmussen poll released at the end of June 2018 revealed a fear among voters that political violence is on the rise, with one in three concerned a second US Civil War is on the horizon. The poll was conducted among likely American voters who were asked via telephone and online survey how likely that war would be.
The poll also revealed that 59 percent of voters are fearful that those opposed to President Trump will resort to violence to advance their cause and another 33 percent were very concerned. A similar poll was conducted in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency that revealed similar fears in similar numbers.
The difference this time around lies in the recent public confrontations of Trump Administration officials, something neither Obama nor Bush officials faced during their Presidents’ tenures. Media outlets posture that the public pressure is backlash from this administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy that pulled migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
By no means did civility rule the day for Obama officials. By this time in President Obama’s presidency, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson interrupted the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress with a shout of, “You lie!” The heretofore unheard of interruption earned him a public rebuke in the House, and also led to his constituents chanting the same at him less than a decade later.
Obama’s first two years as President dealt largely with the global financial crisis of 2008, automaker bailouts, and financial regulations. As the Brookings Institution points out, no one in power thrives when the economy suffers and the Democrats lost their Congressional majority in the 2010 midterms.
A Second American Civil War would not be as clean cut as the pro-slavery vs. anti-slavery arguments or the federal authority vs. states’ rights arguments of the actual Civil War. The United States is now almost three times the size it was in the 1860s and belief systems and population are very different than they were back then. The issues facing the country are also much different, separated by more than 150 years.
The solution to this is to simply let your vote speak for your beliefs instead of your fists, or worse, a weapon. The peaceful transition of power ensures American democracy will endure, no matter who wins in 2020. The only Civil War sequel America needs is another Captain America movie.
“Women have served in the defense of this land for years before our United States was born. They have contributed their talents, skills and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond,” said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, chief of staff of the Army, 1991-1995.
1. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783)
Mary Ludwig McCauley gained the nickname of “Molly Pitcher” in 1778 by carrying water to the men on the Revolutionary battlefield in Monmouth, New Jersey. She replaced her husband, Capt. John Hays, when he collapsed at his cannon. Since then, many women who carried water to men on the battlefield were called “Molly Pitchers.”
2. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse (1861 – 1865)
Clara Barton witnessed immense suffering on the Civil War battlefield and did much to alleviate it. She was on the scene ministering to those most in need, taking care of the wounded, dead, and dying.
Barton became a “professional angel” after the war. She lectured and worked on humanitarian causes relentlessly, and went on to become the first president of the American Association of the Red Cross. At the age of 77, she was still in the field taking care of Soldiers in military hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
3. Susie King Taylor, Civil War (1861-1865)
Born a slave in Georgia in 1848, Susie Baker, who later became known as Susie King Taylor, gained her freedom in April 1862. Baker was initially appointed laundress of the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, re-organized from the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Due to her nursing skills and her ability to read and write, her responsibilities with the regiment began to multiply. More than a few African-American women may have provided service as the Union Army began forming regiments of all black men. After the war, Taylor helped to organize a branch of the Women’s Relief Corps.
4. Dr. Mary Walker, Union Army contract surgeon (1861-1865)
Dr. Mary Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855 and later earned a second degree in 1862 from Hygeia Therapeutic College in New York. During the Civil War, she worked at first as a volunteer in Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Later she worked as a contract physician for the 52nd Ohio Infantry Regiment. Walker is the only woman ever granted the Medal of Honor.
5. Mary Catherine O’Rourke, Telephone operator and interpreter (1917-1918)
Mary Catherine O’ Rourke was one of 450 “Hello Girls” who served in the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit during World War I. They were bilingual female switchboard operators recruited by Gen. John J. Pershing to improve communications on the Western Front.
The Signal Corps women were given the same status as nurses, and had 10 extra regulations placed on them to preserve their “status as women.” They had the rank of lieutenant, but had to buy their own uniforms.
Mary Catherine O’Rourke was in the fourth group of these women who shipped off to France during World War I. She studied French with instructors from the University of Grenoble. She was assigned to Paris and served as interpreter for Gen. John J. Pershing during months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.
6. Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, First WAC director (1942-1945)
Col. Oveta Culp Hobby was called upon to serve as the chief, Women’s Interest Section, Bureau of Public Affairs for the War Department. She served in this position for one year before becoming the first woman sworn into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC in 1942 and appointed as its director. The WAAC was converted to the Women’s Army Corps in July 1943 and Hobby was appointed to the rank of colonel in the Army of the United States as she continued to serve as director of the WAC.
After setting the stage for the creation of the WAC, Hobby built the corps to the strength of over 100,000 by April 1944. She established procedures and policies for recruitment, training, administration, discipline, assignment, and discharge for the WAC. She surmounted difficulties in arranging for the training, clothing, assignments, recognition, and acceptance of women in the Army. Hobby made it possible for women to serve in over 400 non-combat military jobs at posts throughout the United States, and in every overseas theater.
Hobby was later called upon by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1953-1955.
7. Col. Bettie J. Morden, WAC deputy director, 1971
Bettie J. Morden had a long, distinguished career in the Army that took many turns. She enlisted in the WAAC on Oct. 14, 1942. She receiving basic and administrative training at the First WAAC Training Center, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She served throughout World War II at the Third WAAC Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as an administrative noncommissioned officer of the Publications Office. Morden later served as a first sergeant with Headquarters Company on the South Post. After the war ended, Morden was discharged in November 1945.
In September 1949, she entered the WAC, U.S. Army Reserve, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1950. In November 1966, she was assigned as executive officer, Office of the Director, WAC, at the Pentagon and was promoted to full colonel on June 9, 1970. She assumed the position of acting deputy director, WAC, on Feb 1, 1971. She retired on Dec. 31, 1972, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
In July 1973, Morden was elected president of the WAC Foundation, now the U.S. Army Women’s Museum Foundation, a private organization formed initially in 1969 to support the museum. Morden resigned from the presidency in June 2001.
8. Jacqueline Cochran, Pioneer female aviator (Pre-World War II to 1970)
After developing a successful line of cosmetics, Jacqueline Cochran took flying lesson in the 1930s so that she could use her travel and sales time more efficiently. She eventually became a test pilot. She helped design the first oxygen mask and became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one. She set three speed records and a world altitude record of 33,000 feet — all before 1940.
She was the first woman to fly a heavy bomber over the Atlantic. She volunteered for duty as a combat pilot in the European Theater during World War II, but her offer was rejected. She trained American women as transport pilots in England for the Air Transport Auxiliary of the Royal Air Force.
Upon return to the United States, she oversaw flight training for women and the merging of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in July 1943. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 for her service in World War II.
After the war, she was commissioned in 1948. She became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet in 1953 and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964. She retired from the Air Force Reserve as a colonel in 1970.
9. Brig. Gen. Clara L. Adams-Ender, Army Nurse Corps (1961-1993)
In 1967, Brig. Gen. Adams-Ender became the first female in the Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She was also the first woman to earn a master’s of military arts and science degree .at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
On Sept. 1, 1987, she was promoted to brigadier general and appointed the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
In 1991, she was selected to be commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and served in this capacity as well as that of deputy commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington until her retirement in 1993.
10. Command Sgt. Maj. Yzetta L. Nelson, First woman command sergeant major (1944-1970)
Yzetta L. Nelson joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1944. In 1966, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant major. On March 30, 1968, she became the first WAC promoted to the new rank of command sergeant major. She continued to serve in the WAC until her retirement in 1970.
11. Brig. Gen. Sherian G. Cadoria, First African-American female general (1961-1990)
Promoted to brigadier general in 1985, Sherian G. Cadoria was the highest-ranking black woman in the Army until she retired in 1990. She entered the Army in 1961, with a direct commission as a first lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. In the 1970s, she transferred to the Military Police Corps.
12. Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson, First black female sentinel at Tomb of Unknowns
Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson became the first African-American woman to earn the prestigious Tomb Guard Badge and become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Jan. 22, 1997.
Born in 1974 in Montgomery, Alabama, Wilson joined the Army in February 1993. She was a military police officer assigned to the MP Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). She completed testing and a rigorous eight-month trial period and became part of the Honor Guard Company of The Old Guard.
14. Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, First command sergeant major of Army Reserve
In September 2003, Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones was selected by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, Army Reserve chief, to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve. She was the first woman to serve in that position and the first to be chosen as the senior NCO in any of the Army’s components. For some time, she was also the highest-ranking African-American in any of the military services.
Jones entered the Army in 1982. She attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. She was the first woman to serve as class president at the United States Sergeants Major Academy.
15. Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Surgeon general of the U.S. Army
Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West is the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command.
West is a graduate of the United States Military Academy with a bachelor of science in engineering. She earned a doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in the District of Columbia.
Her last assignment was as the Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon. In that capacity, she served as the chief medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and coordinated all health services issues to include operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness.
(Editor’s note: The above 15 are just a sampling of the many women who have contributed to shaping the U.S. Army.)
You’ve probably seen it plastered all over billboards by now. The Army is offering “up to $40k in an enlistment bonuses!” Some hopeful recruits will learn that they can, in fact, get that down-payment for a Corvette. Another guy could come in that same day and walk out with just the “honor of serving.”
What’s the difference here? Why does one guy get a ‘vette and the other nothing but a hardy handshake? The determination process is kind of convoluted, but it all comes down to the military trying to get the right people in the right places.
I mean, it’s better to have a brilliant lawyer become an infantry officer than to have an idiot defending troops at a court martial, right?
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ayana Pitterson)
Troops get a bonus based on what they bring to the military, how long they plan on staying in, and when they sign the contract.
So, if you have just a high school education and you want to enlist in a field that’s pretty crowded at a time when everyone is trying to get in for just the 3 years required to get full access to the GI Bill, your bonus prospects are looking pretty bleak. If you have a college degree and plan to use said degree to benefit the military at a time when it’s almost impossible to find others like you — the cash is yours.
With that being said, the stars need to align for everything to work out perfectly. Even if, say, you have a doctorate in law and decide to use your skills in JAG, if you arrive a time when the Army needs more infantry officers, you’re going infantry. Uncle Sam will always have the final say.
Obviously I’m making fun of water dogs (because they’re so used to enduring jokes by everyone that they won’t flip sh*t in the comments section).
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
Highly trained and highly skilled troops, like cyber security NCOs, often leave the service and jump into higher-paying, civilian-equivalent jobs. The troop that was once the backbone of their unit is now working the IT help-desk at Google, dealing with a quarter of the stress for double the pay. The civilian sector is gunning for these troops by offering sweet cash deals — and the military can’t sustain this kind of personnel hemorrhaging.
If the military didn’t offer retention bonuses, those cyber security NCOs would all jump ship. Suddenly, offering that bonus of 0,000 over a four-year period for an indefinite contract doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
All that being said — and this isn’t to diminish the service or need of anyone who didn’t get an enlistment or a reenlistment bonus — the more competitive your specific skill set is to the outside world, the more of an incentive the military will offer to keep you in.