There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.
Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.
Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?
The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.
Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.
Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.
So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.
Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.
Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.
Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.
She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”
U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)
The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.
China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”
The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”
The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.
A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”
Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.
The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Both bones and the red stuff are fully organic, though vegetarians have been known to complain about produce grown with meat products.
Of course, while limited bayonet charges in a garden may provide plenty of fertilizer for the plants without causing too much destruction, full-scale battles do more harm than good.
Explosions and metal fragments destroyed large swaths of the European countryside in the world wars. Tanks driving over mushy fields can create long-lasting scars as the ground is torn up. Burning fuel and oil from destroyed vehicles poison the ground.
Still, it’s pretty great that the drill sergeants or instructors making recruits yell out, “Blood! Blood! Blood makes the green grass grow!” are actually teaching something.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a loved one, even if they may not understand what “goodbye” means. When the Harworth Family relocated to South Korea from Fort Bragg, they had to leave behind Zeus, the family dog. Putting Zeus under the care of a family friend, they took off for Asia in 2012 with the hopes that they would see Zeus again.
Just a few months later, the friend told Ben Harworth that his beloved Chow Chow-German Shepherd-Rottweiler-mixed best friend had died. The family was devastated.
Time went on and the Harworth’s pain over losing their family friend slowly eased and life continued as it always had — but that’s not where the story ends.
Much after the dog’s reported demise, Laura Williams of Durham, N.C., picked up what looked like a Rottweiler along the roadside. It was thin and gaunt but otherwise looked like a healthy dog. She picked him up and took him to the nearby Banfield Pet Hospital where veterinarians found the canine was microchipped. The information on the chip told them that the dog’s name was Zeus and that he belonged to the Harworth Family.
The Raleigh-based hospital called the Harworths — who were living in Washington State in 2015. When the family found out their beloved Zeus, presumed dead for three years, was actually alive, they were ecstatic.
“We all got chills,” Williams told Raleigh’s CBS affiliate WNCN. “The girl from the vet got chills. I got goosebumps and I almost started crying because, for the past three years, they thought their dog was dead.”
The hospital arranged a Skype reunion between the family and their dog – Zeus’ tail wagged furiously for the entire duration. Sadly, this was the only meeting they could arrange at the time. Zeus was suffering from heartworm and was unable to fly the 3,000 miles to the Harworths’ new home.
But don’t worry — the story doesn’t end there, either.
Banfield Pet Hospital covered the cost of treating Zeus’ heartworm, but the employees there went a step further. Banfield’s practice manager, Rachel Overby, decided to drive Zeus home. She took him nearly 3,000 miles to reunite Zeus with his family after three long years.
Zeus was met by Ben, Melody, and the entire Harworth family (along with a crew of reporters who followed the journey on Instagram with the hashtag #GetZeusHome). Tears no doubt filled everyone’s eyes as Zeus climbed out of the van that made the cross-country trip to get him home.
The only difference in the Harworth family was the addition of Bear, a nine-pound Chihuahua that joined the family after Zeus’ supposed death.
No one is sure why the Harworths’ family friend told them Zeus passed away or even how Zeus managed to make it from the Fayetteville area to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. The Harworths hadn’t spoken to that friend in the three years since Zeus’ alleged passing.
The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.
So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.
You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.
So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.
Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:
Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
They work best with natural light
This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.
Un-even weight distribution
Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.
They flood the hell out of your eye.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Unnatural light sources suck
If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.
Your field of vision is severely reduced
If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.
Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)
They eat batteries
Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.
On the scenic Thai island of Koh Sumai, tucked away in the Wat Khunaram temple is the mummified body of one of Thailand’s most famous monks- Luang Pho Daeng. Remarkably well preserved, Luang Pho Daeng’s body was put on display sometime in the 1970s and is still there today, virtually unchanged from the day he passed away, with the notable exception of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that were added later. So how does his body stay so naturally well preserved and why is he wearing Ray-Bans?
Born sometime in 1894 on Koh Sumai, Luang Pho Daeng first became ordained as a Buddhist monk in his twenties. However, he only remained a monk for a few months before he decided to abandon the pursuit to raise a family and live an otherwise normal life. That said, his brief time as a monk had a profound impact on Luang Pho Daeng’s life and guided his actions throughout the ensuing decades. For example, during WW2, Pho Daeng, who was a financially successful businessman during his adult life, donated large amounts of money as well as clothing and medicine to those in need and otherwise placed high value on all life.
(Photo by Per Meistrup)
It was also around this time, in 1944 at the age of about 50 years old that he, apparently with the support of his wife and six now grown children, decided to once again become a monk.
After being ordained, Luang Pho Daeng threw himself into studying Buddhist texts and became fascinated with various meditation techniques, soon becoming a master meditator, in particular of Vipassana meditation, which literally translates to “seeing clearly”.
His skill at meditation was such that he could reportedly meditate for upwards of 15 days at a time, during which period he’d neither move nor consume food or drink. Although the man himself claimed that he needed no nourishment during his marathon meditation sessions, he was frequently warned by physicians that he was causing severe harm to his body through his regular extended bouts of no fluid or food intake.
As you might imagine, during these sessions, he lost a great deal of weight through muscle, fat, and fluid loss and was often so weakened by his meditation that he needed to nursed back to health via fluid resuscitation and the like, before ultimately he would once again resume meditating.
The true extent of the damage Luang Pho Daeng did to his body while meditating was largely lost on his followers thanks to the decidedly monk-like stoicism with which he was able to endure the withering effects of severe dehydration and hunger. As a result, Luang Pho Daeng became something of a celebrity amongst the residents of Koh Sumai and many travelled to Wat Khunaram temple to learn from him.
In addition to his impressive meditative abilities, Pho Daeng was known for his strict adherence to a simplistic lifestyle, on a normal day eating only one, simple meal and apparently always eating from the same bowl.
According to the monks of Wat Khunaram where Luang Pho Daeng served as an abbot, shortly after his 79th birthday in 1973, Luang Pho Daeng foresaw his own death and made it known that he would mummify himself, which is totally possible if excruciating and an extremely time consuming process that, given the time of his eventual death, meant he must have started the process long before he made this announcement.
In preparation for his anticipated success at this, he requested that his disciples build him an “upright coffin” made of glass in which his body should be put on display if he was successful in his goal of achieving self-mummification. His ultimate aim being that his remains would serve as an eternal testament to the Buddhist belief in the transience of human existence if he was successful.
Unfortunately for those of us who like the details, exactly how he prepared himself for self-mummification was never recorded by the monks of his temple. That said, one known method used by certain types of Buddhist monks was a total of a nine year process, about six of which the monk would be alive for.
The monks would begin by ceasing eating any food except various nuts and seeds, with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat fruits and berries. They would also begin a regimented program of heavy physical exercise, which they would continue throughout this first period that lasted one thousand days.
During the next one thousand days, the monks would further restrict their diet by only eating bark and various roots, again with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat a limited amount of fruits and berries. Near the end of this period, they would drink a concoction made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This tree’s sap is mildly poisonous and is normally used as a natural lacquer. Ingesting the drink caused the person consuming it to vomit frequently, further restricting the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the sparse diet they ate. They would also rapidly lose bodily fluids due to vomiting. As a side effect, this sap also worked as a preservative in their bodies.
In the final stage of self-mummification, the monk’s body would be little more than skin and bones. If the monk survived to this point, he would lock himself into a stone tomb that was just large enough for him to fit in, sitting in the lotus position, which is a position he would not move from until he died. The tomb itself contained an air tube, so that the monk could live for a time after being entombed. It also contained a bell, which the monk would ring on a daily basis to let those outside the tomb know he was still alive.
While in the tomb, the monk would sit in the lotus position and meditate until death. Once the monk died and, thus, no longer rang the bell each day, the breathing tube would be removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual. At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If he was, the preserved body would be put on display in the temple. Having successfully demonstrated mastery over the physical, the priest would also then be declared a Buddha.
Whether some semblance of this was what Pho Daeng did or not isn’t known. Whatever the case, after his preparations were complete on an unknown date in 1973, he sat down and meditated for the final time of that particular life.
When his followers discovered that he’d passed away while meditating, they hastily constructed the upright coffin he’d requested and placed his body inside to wait and see if it would decompose or not. If it did decompose, he left instructions that his remains were to be cremated. If it didn’t, as mentioned, he requested they be put it on display.
In keeping with his final wishes, when his body failed to decompose normally, he was then put on display in Wat Khunaram.
Nearly three decades later, in 2002, his remains were still externally in remarkably good shape, spurring researchers at the Bioanthropology Research Institute to study the corpse. In the process, among other things, they performed a radiographic analyses on it.
Amazingly his organs, including brain, are all still remarkably well preserved, more or less having shrunk from dehydration, but otherwise still there and intact. In fact, one of the only parts of Luang Pho Daeng’s body that actually rotted away were his eyes, which sunk into his skull shortly after his death.
This became something of an issue for the monks of the temple wanting to display Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse as per his final wishes, because children who visited the temple were understandably terrified of his eyeless visage, rather than in awe of his self-mummification.
After contemplating the issue for some time, the monks of the temple came up with the rather novel solution of simply covering Luang Pho Daeng’s eye sockets with a pair of Ray-Bans, which would not just mask the eye sockets, but also make him look rather stylish.
Luang Pho Daeng has rocked this look ever since. And as a result of both his startlingly well-preserved state and timeless fashion sense, his former body has become the temple’s most famous attraction.
Incidentally, one other interesting thing the study by the Bioanthropology Research Institute discovered in examining the body was that at some point a Gecko or Geckos managed to lay eggs in his eye sockets and skull, as well as in his mouth and throat…
Moving swiftly on, the monks of Wat Khunaram don’t mind visitors taking pictures or even recording videos of Luang Pho Daeng body (so long as they do so in a respectful manner) and the temple is free to the public, meaning images of this fashion conscious mummy are plentiful for those who can’t make the trip.
On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. diplomatic facilities in a newly Qaddafi-free Libya were hit by a coordinated assault by an Islamic militant group. The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and two special operations veterans who responded to the attack as part of a volunteer CIA quick reaction force. The special operations community got their revenge, capturing ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya in 2014.
Khattala was accused of being the leader of an extremist militia and directing the Benghazi attacks. Prosecutors alleged Khattala was responsible for the deaths of the four Americans, but could not find any evidence of the extremist leader actually holding a weapon.
He was caught on camera driving fighters to the attack site and his mobile phone records proved he was communicating with the attackers. Among the witnesses testifying against him were the FBI plant who got close to Khattala and helped the FBI arrange his capture by U.S. Army Special Forces.
The attack on the compound that killed Ambassador Stevens was the first that resulted in the death of such a high-profile diplomat since the 1979 killing of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs during a botched kidnapping attempt in 1979. Also killed was State Department Information Officer Sean Patrick Smith, along with former Navy SEALs Glen “Bub” Doherty and Tyrone “Rone” Woods, who both served with valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After CIA contractors who responded to an attack on the consulate compound removed Smith’s body and aided survivors (they were unable to find the ambassador), the attacking forces moved on to the CIA’s annex, where the defenders took cover. Doherty and Woods died in defense of the annex.
Though there have been many investigations in the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks and an exact timeline isn’t clear to this day, what is clear is that it was a coordinated assault by members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, a group formed to fight the government forces of Muammar Qaddafi – and the Abu Khattala was involved.
Khattala was convicted on four charges, including providing material support for terrorism, but was cleared of 14 others including the four deaths of Americans on the ground in Benghazi that night.
The F-14A Tomcat was a hard airplane to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Engine response was slow. A wingtip-to-wingtip distance of nearly 70 feet meant there wasn’t much room to deviate away from the centerline of the landing area on the flight deck. Any lateral stick input caused the airplane to yaw in the opposite direction, which forced the pilot to simultaneously feed in rudder to counter. The velocity vector on the heads-up display wasn’t accurate enough to be used as a flight path marker. The tail hook-to-eye distance was more than any other airplane in the wing, which made any vertical corrections very precarious in the endgame.
And for her crime of doing well in flight school, then-Ensign Carey Lohrenz was selected to fly Tomcats, the first female naval aviator to get orders to that community. And by accepting those orders, Lohrenz embarked on a pioneer’s journey, one that had more ups and downs than anyone could have predicted, and one that would have crushed the spirit of the average American woman.
But Carey Lohrenz isn’t an average American woman.
Lohrenz developed a love of sports while growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While she claims she wasn’t a tomboy, she played little league hockey on boy’s teams until high school. (“I quit when they started taking a little too long to get off of me after a check,” she jokes.) After that she took advantage of her six-foot-tall stature and joined the volleyball and basketball teams.
At the same time another love was growing inside of her: aviation. Her father was an airline pilot who’d flown C-130s in the Marine Corps, and her mother was a flight attendant. Both she and her older brother were determined to fly, and they often discussed the best routes to make a career out of flying.
But Lohrenz didn’t discuss her dream with anyone else. “I didn’t want their doubts about what females could do at that time to taint my dream,” she said.
So as soon as she had her Psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin in hand, she followed her brother’s lead and applied for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School. Months later she reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training.
Her brother was just over a year ahead of her in the training pipeline, and in spite of the fact he selected the transport community (and ultimately wound up flying E-6s) she wanted to fly tactical jets. And because her performance was at the top of her class, she got what she wanted.
But her selection for jet training came with some inherent tension. The combat exclusion law that prevented females from being assigned to carrier-based squadrons was still very much in place in the early 1990s. The only jets that females were piloting were shore-based EA-6s that flew missile profiles against surface ships for training.
“I got a lot of ‘why are you here?’ questions from instructors and fellow flight students,” Lohrenz said.
But she was undeterred and pressed on with an eye on what she hoped might happen. “If combat billets opened up I wanted to be in a position so that nobody could say I got a slot simply because I was a girl but because I was qualified,” she said.
But in spite of her hope and planning, it wasn’t looking good as she neared the end of her flight training.
“I got a call six weeks before I was supposed to get my wings that the combat exclusion clause hadn’t been lifted and there was no place for me to go,” Lohrenz said. “I could get out of the Navy or go to a non-flying job.”
She hung up the phone and went back to her scheduled flight brief and fought the instinct to cry.
The next day she went to her commanding officer and asked him to find “a third way.”
“I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” she said. And because she’d done well her CO went to bat for her.
But he didn’t have to try too hard because about that same time the combat exclusion law went away. Lohrenz pinned on her Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold and got orders to VF-124, the F-14 training squadron at NAS (now MCAS) Miramar in southern California, the first female to go right from winging to Tomcats. (The other females were transferred from the EA-6 community.)
But the challenges for Lohrenz didn’t end there.
“I got to Miramar as the trifecta of bad things were happening,” she said.
There was the fallout from the Tailhook scandal that resulted in careers ending for several high-ranking and popular fighter crews. There was a Navy-wide reduction in force happening that was forcing people out of the service against their will. And there was disappointment in the Tomcat community about the fact that the F-14 wasn’t getting upgraded.
One of the instructors posted two articles on the main bulletin board in the ready room: One about how the upgraded F-14 was being cancelled, and one that highlighted that the cost to retrograde ships for females was $200 million.
“There was a lot of animosity that had nothing to do with me but merely my presence,” Lohrenz said. “It wasn’t an easy environment. It took an unwavering belief that I had the ability to do the job.”
She had the first hiccup in her flight training toward the end of the VF-124 syllabus, failing to qualify the first time she tried landing the Tomcat on the carrier. But she wasn’t alone. About 75 percent of her class failed the first time, primarily due to the weather conditions that resulted in rough seas that made an already difficult task of landing a beast of an airplane on the ship for the first time even harder.
Lohrenz focused on her additional training and qualified without any issues the second time through.
She joined her first fleet squadron – VF-213 “Blacklions” – at the most rigorous phase of pre-deployment training, one of two female pilots in the squadron.
The other female pilot was Lt. Kara Hultgreen. Hultgreen was senior to Lohrenz and had come to the Blacklions by way of the EA-6 community.
“Because she had a lot of flight hours people assumed she was experienced,” Lohrenz said.
Two months into Lohrenz’ tour tragedy struck. Hultgreen’s Tomcat had an engine stall in the landing pattern behind the carrier, and she lost control and crashed. While the backseater managed to initiate ejection in time to save his own life, Hultgreen was killed.
The mishap became a lightning rod of emotions and political agendas. Experienced pilots believed Hultgreen had mishandled a basic inflight emergency and that her death was her own fault. Others resented the level of effort that was put into recovering the Tomcat from the bottom of the ocean.
“Nobody addressed the details of the situation and it caused a lot of people to feel less valuable and hurt morale,” Lohrenz said. “And there was a bit of a leadership vacuum that could have nipped the whole thing in the bud.”
Lohrenz was now the sole female carrier-based fighter pilot.
“If I thought the spotlight was bad before it was now nuclear fusion level,” she said.
She was caught in a lose-lose matrix of sorts. “If I was stoic people thought I didn’t care,” she explained. “And if I showed emotion people thought I was a bitch.”
The atmosphere on the carrier was increasingly uncomfortable, even insulting, as the deployment wore on. Female crew were made to take pregnancy tests after every in-port period. The admiral in charge stated in a very public forum that the reason he supported women aboard ships was “because they made the carrier smell better.”
She tried to simply do her job, to fly the airplane and perform as a normal first-tour junior officer should, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the forces around her.
“To be cryptic about it, the rug was yanked out from under me by a cadre of people who didn’t want women in the military . . . period,” Lohrenz said.
She saw a shift in her commanding officer’s attitude. Her previous landing grade performance that had characterized her as a normal first tour pilot dealing with an airplane that was just plain hard to control now had her listed as “unsafe and unpredictable.”
“I was set up,” she said.
Lohrenz was given an evaluation board that pulled her out of the Tomcat community and assigned her to fly small propeller-driven transports from a shore base. She left the Navy shortly after that.
But in spite of the challenges and the emotional turmoil, Lohrenz has used the experience as a pivot point. “I went from Mach 2 to mom to entrepreneur,” she said.
During the course of being a homemaker, which included being a wife to a FEDEX pilot and raising four kids, she found herself increasingly being sought after for business advice, especially that pertaining to organizational change.
Lohrenz connected the dots and – after a short and semi-chaotic stint with a consulting firm run by military aviation alums – she launched Carey Lohrenz Enterprises. She is now in high demand as a consultant and keynote speaker.
Her efforts are anchored by her book Fearless Leadership that outlines her approaches to both business and life. The book is organized around the three fundamentals of “real fearlessness” — courage, tenacity, and integrity — and offers Lohrenz’ take on how to stay resilient through hard times.
And Lohrenz’ life would suggest that staying resilient is something about which she knows a thing or two.
Top video game players are currently playing for a pool of almost $25 million’s worth in prizes in a game called DOTA 2, but one event that will take place on the main stage will be the most public display yet of a growing technology that will likely re-shape warfare in the way that the maturation of gunpowder or military aviation once did.
A team of artificial intelligence bots from OpenAI will take on a team of five professional human players and the AI will likely win. It will likely be the closest thing AI gets to a Billy Mitchell bombing the Ostfriesland moment.
The details of the game aren’t super important for this discussion, but you can read about it here if you care. Basically, the game is much more complex than the board games that AIs have been taking on in the last few years, and requires a much more complex system of evaluations and executions to win against humans, especially in team play.
Fans watch the proceedings during the 2014 DOTA 2 invitational.
So, what does this all have to do with war? OpenAI doesn’t exist to win video games. It’s a nonprofit started by big names like Elon Musk in order to advance safe AI (Artificial intelligence restricted to working for the benefit and safety of humans). In fact, most of OpenAI’s projects have nothing to do with video games. They just use DOTA 2 as a flashy way to get and keep people interested in their AI work.
What OpenAI really cares about is fueling breakthroughs in AI research and development for use in everything from managing cities to controlling factories. And while they don’t pursue military research, it’s not hard to see how a computer that can control a mage throwing fireballs across a digital battlefield might be taught how to control cruisers firing artillery shells across the water.
Other researchers have already created an AI that can outperform humans in small aerial dogfights. If an AI created with OpenAI’s deep-learning was aimed at that milestone, it could be expected to take on human opponents within a few months of creation, then win against teams within another year or less, and be able to dominate most human teams soon thereafter.
The U.S. Navy’s unmanned X-47B jet aircraft.
And that’s while we make the computer fly jets designed for humans and if it’s forced to treat its planes as assets it can’t sacrifice. But jets flown by humans don’t need to be constrained by the limits of the human body, meaning they can take tighter turns at higher speeds. And we don’t have to treat losing jets the same as we would losing jets with humans on board. The computer could treat them like DOTA 2 heroes: valuable, but ultimately disposable for the right gain.
And the U.S. and Chinese militaries, among others, know about these advantages of AI, and are pursuing AI technology for just that reason. And it won’t just apply to jets, but also submarines, armored vehicles, and potentially even infantry. After all, OpenAI has helped AIs train each other for controlling human-like bodies in everything from digital sumo matches to high winds.
So it’s easy to imagine that, in the next war, China and America will start turning more and more to their robot partners for help against their enemies, potentially each other.
For at least the next few decades, larger ships will still need human crews, which means that hundreds or thousands of sailors will still be at risk while fighting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)
But this will create an even more frightening change in warfare than aerial bombing did. Sailors and soldiers will be asked to go forward either knowing that the decision has been made by an unfeeling machine or knowing that there was a chance the decision was made by a machine, and that they will be fighting a mix of machines and humans.
And AIs will likely be better at strategic decisions eventually, but it will still carry an added moral weight for troops knowing that they aren’t executing the will of a senior human, but a robot.
But, of course, it won’t be all bad. In isolated areas with little need for humans to safeguard against collateral damage, entire battles could be fought with little or no human losses.
A U.S. Marine leads a robot on a simulated patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kyle J. O. Olson)
Imagine a few decades into the future, one where robots can control warships and planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. Now imagine the historic Battle of Midway where Japan lost five ships and 292 aircraft while suffering 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost two ships and 145 aircraft while suffering 307 casualties.
Now, combine those two visions, a Battle of Midway where two of the world’s largest navies clash with almost no sailors having to fight at the front. Yes, the ships and planes would still be lost, and control of vast swaths of the world would still be decided by violent clashes, but the human sacrifice would be in the single or double digits.
And the victory for the winner will still be complete. After all, if the U.S. fleet survives at Midway, whether it is crewed by robots or humans, that’s still a physical fleet that can move towards the Japanese home islands.
So, yes, AI will almost certainly revolutionize warfare, and it will happen in the secrecy of classified labs until exploding into the open in a large war.
Until then, if you want to see the progress AI is making, watch the OpenAI Twitter and YouTube streams. Robots may prove their supremacy this week, if only in digital space…
Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.
The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.
Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”
After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.
“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”
The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.
“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.
One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.
The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.
“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”
Phase II, III
In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.
This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.
(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)
Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.
“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.
Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.
“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.
The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.
“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”
There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.
“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”
The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.
A C-130 aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)
Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.
With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.
Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.
“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.
“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”
The patient transport team prepares to receive a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) on April 2, 2020, while the ship is moored in New York City in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts. Comfort serves as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.
Military medical staff are departing underused Navy hospital ships and field medical centers to relieve overburdened civilian doctors in New York City’s hard-hit hospitals as the coronavirus crisis wears on.
“We’re a fresh face, we’ve got the energy and enthusiasm,” said Air Force Col. Jennifer Ratcliff, who has brought medical teams to Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
The staff there “are tired and have been working very, very long days and weeks,” said Ratcliff, commander of the 927th Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
The Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort was sent to the city, arriving at Pier 90 in Manhattan on March 30, to take on the expected overflow of trauma patients from city hospitals as local doctors treated COVID-19 cases. But the patient flow has not materialized, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.
“The strategy has changed,” he said. “We’re moving off the Comfort our doctors, a portion of our doctors, and putting them into New York City hospitals to provide relief.”
He did not give the number of doctors being reassigned from the Comfort, but said a total of 2,100 military physicians, nurses and medical aides are now in the city and will be augmented soon by additional medical teams coming from the Army.
Ratcliff said the military reinforcements have been well-received.
“You can walk around the hospital and just see that the attendings and the residents are really happy to have us,” she added.
“We’re onboarding hospitals pretty much since we arrived,” Navy Capt. Joe Kochan said of the 1,100 volunteer doctors, nurses and medical aides from the reserves who deployed to the city last week.
“As it stands right now, we’re really pushing out into the hospitals to support their needs,” said Kochan, executive officer of the Operational Health Support Unit based at Portsmouth, Virginia.
When he announced the deployment of medical personnel into the city on April 5, Esper said about 300 would go to 11 city hospitals. It was unclear Tuesday whether that number had increased.
Kochan and Ratcliff joined Army Lt. Col. Leslie Curtis, chief nurse at the 9th Field Hospital out of Fort Hood, Texas, in a telephone conference from New York City to the Pentagon to stress the ongoing needs of the city despite the converted Javits Center and the Comfort being underused thus far.
Fifteen Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces will be deployed nationwide to assist cities in the fight against coronavirus, and four of those task forces, each consisting of 85 personnel, will be sent to New York City, the Army said.
The military has sought to adjust its efforts in New York City to the shifting requests coming from city and state authorities.
The original intent was to have the Comfort and a field medical facility at the Javits Convention Center treat non-COVID-19 patients to ease some of the burden on overcrowded local hospitals. But the demand to treat non-COVID patients did not emerge in a city on lockdown.
The city then asked that the Comfort and the Javits Center be used only for COVID-19 patients, and the military agreed, but bureaucratic and logistical problems hindered the transfer of patients.
COVID-19 patients first had to be taken to local hospitals to be screened, but the agreement now is to have ambulances take patients directly to the Javits Center or the Comfort.
As of Monday, about 320 patients were at the 1,500-bed capacity Javits Center. The last report Friday from the Pentagon on the Comfort said that there were more than 50 patients aboard the 1,000-bed ship.
Curtis, who has been working at the Javits Center, acknowledged the delays in bringing in patients. “First, we had to determine what the needs were,” she said. Then, the focus turned to “streamlining the bureaucracy, which everyone wants to do at every level.”
“Every day, we’re finding more ways,” she said. “I think this is moving in the right direction.
“We do want to do this. We have the ability to scale up to whatever the demands are, based on the needs of the city or any particular mission that is required,” Curtis added.
There has been speculation that the Comfort might be pulled out of New York City and sent elsewhere, but Ratcliff said she had seen no signs that the military’s efforts in the city would slacken.
“The city, I believe, still needs our assets,” she said. “I don’t think there’s talk of scaling that back but, again, we’ll do whatever the government of New York needs.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday described a city still in need of support despite continuing signs that new coronavirus cases had hit a plateau.
“We’re reducing the rate of infection,” he said. But another 778 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in the city Monday.
“That is terrible, terrible, terrible news,” he said.
Troops and tattoos go hand in hand like brand-new sports cars and high interest rates. It’s easy to single out the troops who got their first tattoo by picking simply it out of the catalog at the parlor.
It’s a shame, but not enough attention is given to the troops that do it right. If you want to join the few who have tasteful, well-done ink, here’s a few things you should know.
Even the most beautiful piece of art can be subject to ridicule if you’re not careful.
(Image via /r/USMC)
Do some research
First and foremost, you should never get something on a whim. Tattoos are (mostly) permanent and if you don’t want to go through the painstaking, costly, and expensive process of trying to prove this statement wrong, do your homework first.
Whatever you’re planning on getting is worth a few days of research, seeing as you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life. Think hard about what you’re actually getting — make sure it doesn’t have any other meaning. Consider where you’re planning on putting it, too. And even if you’re getting something as simple as lettering, make sure everything is spelled properly.
This doesn’t mean anyone with social media is a bad bet — just make sure they’ve got some real documentation.
(Image by Black Flag Tattoo Collection)
Find a proven artist
Chances are that going to your buddy in the barracks who just got a tattoo gun isn’t the best option. They may be good at drawing with pencils, but this is an entirely new realm of art.
Pick someone with skill and loads of experience. When you go into the tattoo parlor, you should ask to see their portfolio. If they’ve got a big-ass book filled with beautiful works, you’re in good hands. If they just show you pictures from their social media and have no way of proving it’s their own work, you might as well get the cheap one from the barracks newbie.
Nothing in this world is good, cheap, and fast. You can never get all three.
Be prepared to shell out some cash
Good tattoos (like the one below) will cost you a pretty penny, but not all expensive tattoos are good.
Yes, a good artist knows they’re good and will ask you to shell out plenty of dough for their talent. Don’t automatically associate price and quality, but also know that you often get what you pay for.
I mean, unless you want something funny and off the wall. Whatever, you do you.
(Image via Terminal Lance)
Take your time with the artist
Just as with step one, you’ve got all the time in the world to deliberate before you must live with the ink forever. If they say they need a day or two to sketch out what you’re asking, do not argue. Good tattoo artists actually need that time.
This is also when you and the artist can take time to make revisions. Your input is valuable — it’s also (partially) your art — but there’s a balance to strike here. Don’t go overboard on suggestions or you may annoy the only person who can make sure you’re not getting a pink, fluffy unicorn tattoo on your back.
There are good Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoos out there. Make sure yours is one of them.
Give them a challenge
Good tattoo artists love a challenge. Almost every single one got into the business because they love art — not because they wanted to make the same copy-and-paste design over and over.
Now, we’re not saying there’s something wrong with getting the classic Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (like every other Marine), but if you add some more flair to it, they’ll be more invested in your work.
Don’t expect to be able to walk out with that 1800’s circus performer look after just one sitting.
Be prepared for multiple sessions
If all you want is just something small and simple, congratulations on your new tattoo! Proceed to the next step. If you’re going for something big across your back, full sleeves, or anything with intricate details, there are only so many hours in the day.
Be sure take care of what they’ve done in the time between sessions.
Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to show off your extremely boot tattoo before to long.
(Image via /r/justbootthings)
Get what you need to take care of your new ink
Listen to every word your tattoo artist says about tattoo care. They speak from experience. Don’t waste all of that time and money on a tattoo and let it all go to waste because you were too lazy to keep it clean.
Buy the good lotion. Keep it wrapped until they say you can unveil it. Be careful in the shower and expect to have some ink “bleed” out — that’s normal. Whatever you do, don’t pick the scabs. That’s your body’s way of keeping the ink in there.
*Bonus* Tip your artist
Even if you spent a lot of money on your tattoo, don’t forget to leave them a tip. They’re still in a service industry, after all.
Everyone will tell you that getting tattoos is addictive. So, if you’re planning on going back because you like the artist’s work, they’ll remember that you tipped and be extra attentive next time.
Imagine looking out your window to see an eerie green glow resonating from your neighbor’s shed. Or seeing government trucks being loaded with barrels marked radioactive by men dressed in hazmat suits outside your home.
The residents of Golf Manor, Michigan, don’t have to imagine it, because in 1995, a young teenage boy built a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother’s potting shed, an idea he came up with while working on his Atomic Energy merit badge in attempt to earn Eagle Scout status.
At an age when most adolescents are consumed with sports, friends, or dating, Hahn spent his free time conducting chemical experiments. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he had several chemical spills and even created an explosion that rocked their tiny house and left David “lying semi-conscious on the floor, his eyebrows smoking.”
Even his scout troop was not immune to his scientific curiosity. David once appeared at a scout meeting, “with a bright orange face caused by an overdose of canthaxanthin, which he was taking to test methods of artificial tanning.” Then there was the night at camp where his fellow scouts accidentally ignited a pile of powdered magnesium he had brought to make fireworks.
There’s no question that David was increasingly bold in his attempts to learn more about the chemical compounds of our world, but even with the goal in mind to build a nuclear breeder reactor, you have to wonder how he obtained the radioactive elements.
David worked a series of jobs at fast-food joints and grocery stores after school to finance his experiments. He admitted to Harper’s that he used several aliases and a string of mail communications with individuals working for agencies that control nuclear elements. None were as helpful as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where David was able to engage the agency’s director, Donald Erb.
Erb provided David with a list of contacts who provide commercial sale of some elements and how to harvest others. David broke apart smoke detectors to obtain americium-241, commercial gas lanterns provided him thorium-232, and with the help of a Geiger counter, he found an antique luminous clock that contained a vial of radium paint used to keep the clock face glowing. He even purchased $1000 worth of batteries to extract the lithium.
After several attempts to create energy, David was finally successful but he soon learned that his small reactor was producing so much radiation that it was spreading through his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his safety precautions only consisted of wearing a makeshift lead poncho and throwing away his clothes and shoes following a session in the potting shed. So he took apart the reactor.
Stashing some of the more radioactive elements in his house and the rest in his car, he was later found by the police after a call was made about a young man trying to steal tires. The police opened his trunk to find an array of scientific materials and a tool box locked with a padlock and sealed with duct tape. The police were rightly concerned about the box, and after David advised that it was radioactive, they were worried he had a nuclear bomb.
While being questioned by the police, David’s parents became afraid that they would lose their house, so they ransacked his room and his “laboratory” and tossed everything they could find. This left the authorities with nothing but what was in the car.
“The funny thing is, they only got the garbage, and the garbage got all the good stuff,” Hahn told Harper’s.
David never went back to his experiments and later served four years in the U.S. Navy – including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the Marine Corps before returning home to Michigan. In 2016, David died from alcohol poisoning – not from exposure to radiation.
Though David Hahn is gone, the small town of Golf Manor will never forget their “Radioactive Boy.”