How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

While spies typically try to hide as much of their communication as possible, there is one method of intelligence communication that is literally broadcasted so that everyone for thousands of miles around can listen in to the messages, but no one else can understand the message.


The Secret Radio Stations Used to Communicate with Spies

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These were known as “numbers stations,” an apt name since they exist solely to broadcast number sequences to spies operating in the area. Governments dispatch their spies with books of codes, and then the numbers broadcasted are used with these books to assemble messages years after the spy was dispatched.

These are typically done with “one-time pad” encryption where the message cannot be cracked without the book of numbers. The list of numbers is compared to a single line of numbers in the book, and comparing the numbers will give the spy the message intended for them. But, importantly, each line in the book is used a single time.

So, someone listening in cannot piece together messages through careful listening or tracking, only through stealing the book, if they can find it. So, governments can broadcast their numbers in the clear, usually from a radio station bordering the country they are spying in, without worry.

America has suffered spies that listened to these stations, like Ana B. Montes, one of the highest ranked spies in U.S. history. But we’ve also used the method ourselves especially during the Cold War. Our allies in Britain had done so, running a station in Cyprus for years.

Some spies during the Cold War, including some from the U.S. and Britain, were captured with their code books intact. America had its own numbers coup in the 1980s when it turned a source in the Soviet Government that fed them the codes used to instruct communists in the U.S. at the time.

To listen in yourself, you need to live in range of a broadcasting station and to have a “shortwave” radio, a receiver that listens to high-frequency signals. Few places still track the broadcasts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Hitler’s train was a rolling fortress named after America

Hitler, oddly enough, seemed obsessed with America in many ways. He admired Henry Ford and American industrialization. He liked American films and Mickey Mouse cartoons. And, perhaps most oddly for a man of Hitler’s obsession with perception and propaganda, he even named his rolling fortress of a train after the rival country, calling it “Amerika.”


Führersonderzug – Hitler’s Steel Beast (WWII Documentary HD)

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Hitler had a few iconic pieces of transportation, from a famous Mercedes to the SSS Horst Wessel sailing vessel, but his headquarters train was one of the most famous during the war. Nazi soldiers would march along routes ahead of the train to make sure no one was lying in wait for it, and there were multiple decoy trains that would run up to 30 minutes ahead of or behind Hitler’s train.

And each train was a beast. Hitler had a car for meetings as well as a living car with space for his bath and sink, complete with gold-plated faucets, according to the above documentary about it. There was also a communications car and multiple cars for defense against air and land attacks. It could house up to 200 leaders, staff, and soldiers.

Hitler set an example by rolling out his train, and other Nazi leaders began buying their own top-tier trains complete with command wagons and defenses. They all had individual names, but only Hitler’s was named for a future Allied power. But it wasn’t out of respect for the American nation or people. Hitler had named the train for the destruction of Native Americans by western settlers.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Hitler holds a meeting in his personal train during World War II.

(YouTube/World at War)

Keeping these trains moving required regularly changing out the engines. After all, Hitler couldn’t be left cooling his heels on a train platform as wood and water was loaded onto the train when it ran low. Instead, the train would pull into a station, and railway workers would quickly swap out the nearly empty engine with fully fueled cars. The Fuhrer could be back on his way in minutes instead of hours.

And these swaps were required multiple times per day. Every 30 miles or so, the train would run low on fuel, partially thanks to the massive weight of all the armor on some of Amerika’s cars.

Of course, the train had to be renamed when America entered the war on the side of the allies. The name changed from Amerika to “Brandenburg,” and Hitler reduced his use of the train for meetings, instead primarily using it as secure transportation. The meetings that were held on the train were held in bunkers instead.

As the Allies started to retake territory from 1942 to 1944, the trains themselves got bunkers. One is still in decent shape in Poland, an enormous concrete bunker surrounded by grass and trees in southeastern Poland. These bunkers were primarily needed for protecting the trains from attack by air.

After all, the Allies developed tools to crack apart sub pens by using bombs that mimicked the effects of earthquakes, cracking the concrete foundations of the structures. Destroying a train is relatively easy, needing just a few lucky bomb hits to destroy even an armored engine or the tracks themselves.

For security reasons, crews were required to destroy much of the paperwork generated in support of the train; everything from supply paperwork to schedules. And the train itself was partially destroyed in May 1945. The surviving components of the train passed into civilian use after the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What exactly is Iran’s shadowy Quds Force?

For many Americans, it can be tough to understand exactly how Iran’s military apparatus stacks up against our own. Both nations manage their defense efforts in fundamentally different ways due to necessity, cultural differences, and internal politics. The U.S. Military does not operate within America’s borders except under very specific circumstances, it receives its funding through Congress, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no question as to where its loyalties lie.


The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, function in a very different way, with its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) overlapping many of the roles occupied by the nation’s formal Army and garnering the vast majority of the nation’s defense budget. The IRGC also operates a number of legitimate Iranian businesses, securing alternate funding sources while compounding power and influence over the nation’s economy and government. When Iranian citizens take to the streets to protest, it’s the IRGC that suppresses their efforts with brutal precision.

In April of this year, the United States chose to designate the IRGC as a terror group, but deep within the organization’s structure, a small sect of the IRGC has already carried that distinction for over a decade: the IRGC’s secretive foreign intervention arm, the Quds Force.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Quds Force operations are divided into 8 directories, shown here in different colors.

(WikiMedia Commons)

The Quds Force are tasked with clandestine operations outside of Iran

Because Iran isn’t capable of fielding a large and modern military that can stand toe to toe with giants like the U.S., the IRGC’s Quds Force has adopted a unique approach to projecting the nation’s power beyond Iran’s borders. The Quds Force operates entirely within the shadows, supporting foreign terror groups and militias, conducting attacks and assassinations, gathering intelligence, and doing anything else Iran needs to keep hidden behind a veil of plausible deniability.

Some Quds Force operatives could be compared to CIA handlers tasked with developing local intelligence assets. Others are more like American Green Berets, tasked with training and equipping foreign military forces. These troops are also known to engage in unconventional warfare operations themselves, often in the form of terror attacks, assassinations, and kidnappings.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Quds Day celebration in Iran, 2017.

(Mohammad Ranjbar via WikiMedia Commons)

They get their name from the city of Jerusalem

Iran’s long-standing beef with Israel permeates throughout the nation’s military apparatus, but none so directly as the Quds Force, also commonly referred to in Iran as Al-Quds. In Arabic, Al-Quds actually means Jerusalem, or literally translated, “The Holy One.” They didn’t adopt this name as a respectful nod to the ancient city under Israeli control, but rather as a lasting reminder of their long-standing goal to recapture Jerusalem for the Arabic People.

Iran also celebrates Quds Day, though not as a direct affirmation of support for the military unit. Quds Day, which has now spread throughout like-minded groups of the Middle East and even as far off as London, is a day dedicated to parades, fiery speeches, and other demonstrations meant to denounce Israel and Zionism. This year, Iran’s Quds Day celebrations also included burning American flags and effigies of President Donald Trump.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Iran can’t go toe to toe with the U.S. and they know it, so they found a way around it.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

They specialize in asymmetric warfare because they know the U.S. is stronger

Asymmetric warfare is, in a nutshell, a war between opponents with vastly different levels of resources or capabilities. Iran lacks the technological, diplomatic, and financial strengths the United States leans on to both deter and win armed conflicts, and as a result, they’ve opted not to fight on those terms.

In the modern era, this asymmetric approach has earned the Quds Force close friends in the form of terror organizations with similar extremist goals. Some, like Hezbollah, were even founded through Quds Force interventions. Even the Taliban, a group the Quds Force once fought side by side with American force against, has become an ally, bolstering Iran’s defenses along Afghanistan’s Western Border.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

We’re pretty sure they make their ghillie suits out of confetti though.

(Javad Hadi via WikiMedia Commons)

No one is sure exactly how many troops are in the Quds Force

America’s Special Operations Command (USASOC) maintains a total force of about 33,000 troops, but it’s nearly impossible to tell how those numbers stack up against the Quds Force. Because of the secretive way in which subset of the IRGC operates, estimates have ranged from the low thousands to as many as 50,000 total troops, but to a certain extent, either number would be misleading.

Because a primary role of the Quds Force is to establish friendly militias and fighting forces inside the borders of other nations, the Quds Force total number doesn’t actually reflect the group’s force projection capabilities. With operations ranging from Syria to Venezuela, Iran’s influence over loosely affiliated fighting organizations the world over makes the danger presented by the Quds Force more difficult to quantify than conventional, or even many unconventional, military units.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Specialized IEDs purpose built to penetrate armor began appearing in Iraq as a result of Quds Forces.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Quds Force is already responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of American deaths

Declassified defense documents have linked the Quds Force to a rash of IED attacks in Iraq that claimed the lives of hundreds of U.S. service members during combat operations in recent years. These attacks utilized an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, designed specifically to be effective against armored vehicles like American troops utilize in combat zones. Iran’s special operations troops have also been involved in a number of insurgent attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq since 2003.

The Quds Force was implicated in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, annex, and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and 1984, along with a long list of other terror attacks. It’s important to note, however, that the Quds Force tends to advise and support rather than directly participate in these operations, granting Iran the deniability they need to avoid open war with the United States.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This ‘M*A*S*H and the Coronavirus’ episode is must-see TV

We knew the members of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M*A*S*H) were well-equipped to handle any situation, but this new hybrid from five episodes of the popular 1970s series is showing us how to handle COVID-19 as well.

While the sun may have set after 11 seasons on the beloved characters stationed in South Korea during the Korean War, their advice on everything from how to wash your hands, hoarding in a time of toilet paper shortage and social distancing seems almost prophetic.


In the M*A*S*H montage put together by Frank Vaccariello, we see unbelievably timely themes: How to wash your hands from the episode, “Fade In, Fade Out,” social distancing from the episode,”Cowboy,” don’t touch your face from the episode, “War of Nerves,” working from home from the episode, “Hepatitis,” and yes, even a toilet paper shortage from the episode,”Crisis.”

When asked what prompted his creativity, Vaccariello said that he started comparing the guidance the nation is receiving on protecting ourselves from COVID-19, to scenes from M*A*S*H in his head. “I have been a M*A*S*H fan since the days it originally aired,” he said in an interview with WATM. “I loved the show, the writing and the acting. I can actually be said to be more of a M*A*S*H freak,” he admitted. “I had intended just to make a couple memes, but then last Saturday morning I woke up and decided to create the video.”

MASH and the Coronavirus

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Mash and the Coronavirus

Vaccariello has a soft spot for M*A*S*H and the military community. His dad was an Army veteran and Vaccariello served on the board of directors for a veteran-focused charity.

In his Facebook post where he first published the video, Vaccariello commented, “No matter what question or problem comes up in life, M*A*S*H always has the answer.”

Ain’t that the truth. Bravo, Frank!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s weapon designers are the best science-fiction authors

Russia has the world’s best tanks, top-tier fifth-generation aircraft, and weapons that can zap enemy munitions from the sky or burn out their guidance systems.

Or at least, that’s what Russia wants you to think, despite a horrible track record of actually creating and manufacturing top-tier weapons for actual deployment.


How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Russia’s Su-57 isn’t a bad plane, but it is far from what was promised on paper.

(Dmitry Terekhov, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Take, for instance, Russia’s new-ish plans for a sixth-generation fighter. It’s supposed to destroy the guidance systems of missiles chasing it, take photo-quality radar images of enemy planes, and be nearly impervious to many forms of jamming. It would even have an advanced “multi-spectral optical system” that can take photos using visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light.

Sounds awesome, right? Before you start practicing the Russian anthem to welcome our technological overlords, remind yourself that this is coming from a country that has a fifth-generation stealth fighter which is likely not very stealthy and doesn’t feature supercruise, so, you know, not really a fifth-generation fighter.

And Russia can’t even afford this underwhelming aircraft, declining to put it into serial production under the flimsy excuse that it’s too good of a plane to bother buying en masse. India was part of a deal to develop its own version of the fighter, but India declined to follow through in the face of weak performance.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

The T-14 Armata tank might be awesome, but few outside of Russia know for sure, and Russia can’t buy enough of them for it to matter anyway.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The T-14 Armata tank is the Su-57 of land forces, just not in a good way. It’s also supposed to be full of game-changing technology like active protection from missiles, but most of the tech remains unproven, and Russia can’t afford to buy it in sufficient quantities, either.

Meanwhile, the Shtorm is going to be Russia’s new supercarrier. It’ll be the same size as the Ford-class supercarrier and have four launching positions and electromagnetic catapults. But while they say it will begin construction sometime soon after 2025, Russia lost most of its experts in carrier design and construction after the fall of the Soviet Union. They haven’t launched a carrier since 1985. So going straight out the gate with a massive, futuristic design is optimistic.

Also, the flashy Peresvet Combat Laser System hasn’t been fired publicly, the KH-35U anti-ship missile has a woefully short range, and the nuclear-powered missile with an unlimited range actually flew about 22 miles before breaking down.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

The Peresvet Combat Laser System has made a few splashes online, but almost none of its supposed capabilities have actually been publicly demonstrated.

(Presidential Press and Information Office, CC BY-SA 4.0)

So when Russia starts making big claims about its sixth-generation fighter, don’t worry too hard. Sure, they say it will fly in swarms with 20-30 drones accompanying it. And they say it will carry directed energy weapons. And they say the swarms will be capable of electronic warfare, carrying microwave weapons, and suppressing enemy radar and electronics.

But they use propaganda to fill in the gaps in their actual defenses. And this new fighter, like the carrier, tank, laser, missiles, and prior fighters, is likely a dud.

But let’s clap our hands for the propaganda masters who’ve been making all this stuff up. They’re churning out futuristic novel ideas faster than most prolific authors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time that the British conquered Manila

The Philippines is a diverse country that draws from an eclectic mix of cultures. Much of the Filipino culture and heritage was influenced by trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as occupation by foreign countries like Spain, America, and Japan. In the Philippines, you can eat Chinese rice noodles, hear Indonesian, Malay, and Spanish words in the same conversation, and ride a jeep that’s been converted into a public bus to visit WWII historical sites. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Pearl of the Orient was once under the control of the British Empire.

The Seven Years’ War lasted from 1756-1763 (fighting in the Americas started in 1754 with the French and Indian War, but fighting didn’t begin in Europe until 1756). The conflict between the great European powers spanned the globe, making it the first true world war. During this time, the Philippines was a wealthy Spanish colony made famous by its grandeur and the Manila Galleon Trade. Eager to take a piece of this wealth, Britain planned an invasion of Manila with four store ships, three frigates, eight ships of the line, and 10,300 men.


The invasion force sailed from India and anchored in Manila Bay on September 23, 1762. Not expecting the European war to come to the Philippines, the 9,356 Spanish and Filipino defenders were caught off guard. Outnumbered and unprepared, the Spaniards enlisted the help of native Kapampangan warriors to resist the British invasion. The fighting was fierce, with the British firing more than 5,000 bombs and 20,000 cannonballs on the city. Spanish resistance did not last long and a formal surrender ended hostilities on October 6. The greatest Spanish fortress in the Western Pacific capitulated after just two weeks.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

A map depicting the British attack on Manila (Source: Library of Congress)

The Spanish defeat resulted in the sacking and pillaging of Manila. Houses and buildings were pillaged and burned, people were killed, tortured, and raped, and countless treasures were looted, lost, or destroyed. Not even the churches of the archbishopric in Manila were spared from the violence. To spare the city from further destruction, the British demanded a ransom of four million Mexican silver dollars which acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra agreed to, preventing further loss of life.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

The British occupation of Manila (Source: The Filipinas Heritage Library)

With the help of the Kapampangan, Spanish forces retreated from Manila to the Bacolor, Pampanga where they established a new colonial capitol. There, the Spanish organized a resistance to contain the British invasion. An army of over 10,000, most of them natives, was raised for this cause. Although they lacked sufficient modern weapons, resistance forces managed to keep the British confined to Manila and Cavite.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

British troop movements during the Occupation of Manila (Source: Malacanang.gov.ph)

During its occupation of Manila, Britain took advantage of its location to increase trade with China. The British were unable to capitalize further on their conquest, since the Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. That said, news of the peace agreement did not reach the Philippines until early 1764. The British ended their occupation, departing Manila and Cavite, in the first week of April 1764.

Over a century later, the Filipino nationalist and vocal opponent of Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal, lived in London from May 1888 to March 1889. He was astounded to find Filipino artifacts in the British Museum. Among the cultural treasures were the Boxer Codex (c. 1590) and a rare copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). According to Kirby Araullo, author and co-founder of the Busolan Center for Filipino Studies, the two artifacts are among the most important primary sources of early Philippine history.

The Spanish defeat was also a turning point for the Spanish Empire; it showed that Spain was no longer the dominant world power that it once was. The Spanish vulnerability emboldened many uprisings against Spanish occupation, including an ill-fated revolt by the national hero couple, Diego and Gabriela Silang. The Sultan of Sulu, a former Islamic state that controlled islands in the present-day southern Philippine Islands and north-eastern Borneo, was also freed from Spanish imprisonment during British occupation. He aligned with the British against the Spanish and increased pirate raids by the Sultanate of Sulu against Spanish colonies.

The Battle of Manila was a major military, political, and financial blow to the Spanish Empire. Although the British were unable to carry out a full conquest of the islands, the Spanish defeat was the catalyst for continued Filipino uprisings and resistance to Spanish occupation.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This was America’s first operational supersonic strategic bomber

America has seen some supersonic strategic bombers serve. Notable among these is the FB-111A Switchblade and the B-1B Lancer. But one bomber blazed the trail for these speedsters with a pretty huge payload.


The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first operational supersonic strategic bomber in American service. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that Strategic Air Command was looking for a high-performance bomber.

 

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets
Convair B-58 Hustler at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

The B-58 made its first flight in 1956, but didn’t enter service with the Strategic Air Command until 1960, due to a number of hiccups, and wasn’t ready to stand alert until 1962. However, when the supersonic strategic bomber entered service with the 43rd Bomb Wing, it was soon proving it had a lot of capability.

However, in 1961 and 1962, even as it dealt with the teething problems, it set numerous aeronautical records. The plane had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude, a maximum range of 4100 nautical miles, could carry five nuclear bombs (it never had a conventional weapons capability), and reached an altitude of 85,360 feet.

It also had a M61 Vulcan cannon in the tail with 1,200 rounds of awesome.

 

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

 

A 1981 Air University Review article outlined that the Hustler had a lot of problems. To load the weapons, the plane actually needed to be de-fueled and then re-fueled. And before the loading, the ground crews would need to hand a four-ton weight on the Hustler’s nose. Forget that step, and the plane would tilt back onto its tail.

Maintenance crews also came to dislike the plane, due to the complexities the plane’s high technology imposed on them.

The plane’s teething problems, the development of surface-to-air missiles like the SA-2 Guideline, and the increasing costs killed hopes for newer versions, especially since the B-58 was optimized for high-altitude operations.

One of the proposed new versions, the B-58B, was to add significant conventional capabilities to the Hustler. Proposed passenger/cargo versions never took off, either, and a planned export sale to Australia didn’t happen (the Australians did eventually get the F-111).

 

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets
Hustler memorial plaque in Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Ultimately, the B-58 was retired, and replaced by the FB-111A. The FB-111A not only was supersonic, but it was able to operate at low altitudes and carry conventional bombs – addressing the B-58’s two shortcomings.

Most B-58s went to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where they entered the boneyard and were eventually scrapped.

MIGHTY FIT

Four simple tactics to build massive grip strength

If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.

Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?

If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?


Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.

For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.

Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.

If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson

Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs

If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.

Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.

Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.

When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.

Not to mention that dead hangs are great for your low back pain.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.

U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik

Dead holds

The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.

Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.

The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?

Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.

U.S. Army Courtesy Photo

Plate holds

If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.

Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.

Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.

It’s going to suck, but your grip will thank you.

Towel Pull-up Variations

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Use a towel

No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.

If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.

The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.

You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.

Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.

Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.

If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)

If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.

Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ just explained a classic ‘Empire Strikes Back’ line

Remember how awesome The Empire Strikes Back was? You can stream that particularly great Star Wars movie on Disney+ right now. And, as of Nov. 15, 2019, Disney+ just added some context to one classic Boba Fett and Darth Vader beef. In the latest episode of The Mandalorian, we finally understand why Darth Vader said “no disintegrations.”

Spoilers ahead for The Mandalorian Chapter 2: The Child.


In the second episode of The Mandalorian, our titular bounty hunter continues his make-it-up-as-you-go-along journey to protect a little baby Yoda-looking creature. Throughout his misadventures in this episode (which culminate in getting a giant space rhino egg) the Mando tangoes with a bunch of Jawas who have stripped his spaceship of much-needed parts. In an effort to get his stuff back, the Mando busts out his nifty rifle, which, as it turns out, turns anyone he points it at into a puff of smoke. He vaporizes a few of the on the lizard-like Trandoshans who ambush him at the top of the episode, and later on, a few pesky Jawas.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

The Mandalorian gets ready to disintegrate some punks.

(Lucasfilm)

Later, when he has to make peace with the Jawas to barter for some of his parts back, he mentions “I disintegrated a few of them.” In terms of what we’ve seen in the Star Wars movies so far, this specific tech hasn’t been witnessed, but it has been mentioned. When Vader hires a bunch of bounty hunters to capture the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back, the Dark Lord very pointedly shakes his finger at Boba Fett (a dude who rocks Mandalorian armor) and says “no disintegrations.”

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Boba Fett and IG-88 in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

(Lucasfilm)

So, there you have it. Vader was well-aware that this weapon was probably in Boba Fett’s arsenal, and now, just a about six years after the events of Empire Strikes Back, in The Mandalorian, we get to see what that weapon looks like. The most surprising thing? In The Mandalorian, the disintegrations are shockingly mess-free. Less like a blaster, and more like a civilized vacuum for a more elegant bounty hunter.

After every episode of The Mandalorian you watch on Disney+, it invariably suggests you watch The Empire Strikes Back. Kind of makes sense now, right?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US and Norwegian forces prepare for winter warfare

Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.

The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.

“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.


How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019

(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.

“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.

“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.

“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.

“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”

MIGHTY FIT

How to actually use that back extension machine

It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.

The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.


How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Don’t write a check your back can’t cash…

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When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.

Using the back extension machine to work abs

Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.

Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.

The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.

The GHD Sit-Up

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Using the machine for your posterior chain

When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.

Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.

In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.

It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.

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The muscles of the back extension.

(@weighttrainingguide)

The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.

The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.

  • Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
  • Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
  • Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)

Let’s take a look at these three setups.

All About Back Extensions

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Hamstring-focused back extensions

In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.

Glute-Ham Raise

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How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

Pick your profession wisely.

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Glutes-focused back extensions

To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:

  • Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
  • Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
  • Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).

Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.

Back Extension Instructional Video

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Back-focused back extensions

As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.

Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.

Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.

Lift with your back.

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Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…

Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.

Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.

Allow reason to prevail.

How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets

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How spies use radio stations to communicate secrets
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Special Operations Command now wants its own light attack aircraft fleet

The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.


According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.

“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.

If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.

The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.

In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.

The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.

The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.

He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”

But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.

The service first held a series of light attack experimental fly-offs and maneuvers at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in 2017 in a two-phase approach. The experiment involved four aircraft: The AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine. The second phase of the experiment was canceled following a fatal crash in June 2018.

A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.

The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.

“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.

“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

John Krasinski will make you forget all about the old Jack Ryan

Actor John Krasinski has been on a steady five-year come up. Even before acclaim was heaped onto both his acting and directorial performance in the 2017 horror movie A Quiet Place, Krasinski had successfully stepped out of the shadow of his more awkward and decidedly less muscular role as Jim Harper on The Office. Give him props, you can only count on one hand how many actors left The Office and convincingly did something that wasn’t comedic. Now Krasinski is doubling down on his newly badass vibes in the first trailer for his new show Jack Ryan where he plays the titular character.



Jack Ryan is set to debut on Amazon Prime and is yet another take on the character from author Tom Clancy’s classic spy novels. Though the character of Jack Ryan has been played by a bunch of actors— Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears; Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, and most notably Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games— no one but Ford has ever mustered a performance that was compelling enough to warrant more than one shot at playing Ryan. Krasinski though, he might have what it takes.

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See, the cool thing about Krasinski as an actor sort of mirrors the cool thing about Jack Ryan as a character. Jack Ryan is an ex-soldier, yeah, but by profession, he’s an analyst— the guy who tries to dodge boring meetings, not bullets. But in the novels, Ryan is constantly thrust out of his comfort zone and forced to carry on like a spy, which, even for a soldier, is not remotely the same. HEll, in one of Clancy’s books Ryan even become president of the United States. The duality of Ryan as this brilliant desk jockey with a badass streak in him is what makes the character so good. Similarly, as an actor, Krasinski can be convincingly comical, normal-looking, and smart while also (per his performance in 13 Hours) having the ability to come off like he could kill you with a spork.

Similar to the Chris Pine and Ben Affleck entries into the Jack Ryan canon, the show for Amazon will be an origin story that shows Ryan make his first transition from behind his desk to behind enemy lines as a spy. Unlike other takes on the character though, this will be an episodic show which is good for Krasinski. Because it’s a show, he’ll have the space to come up short sometimes or not always hit the mark, but also to redeem himself episodes later. Movies are so much less forgiving in this regard, you just don’t get another chance at anything if it doesn’t work. Still, Krasinski has proven himself more versatile in the second act of his career, and Jack Ryan looks to be another exciting entry in it.

Jack Ryan debuts on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 31, 2018.

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

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