Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.
Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.
Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.
But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.
The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.
“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left. The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.
Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.
Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.
Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.
His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.
Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”
After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.
A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.
Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.
This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.
The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.
The site took posted these screenshots from the app:
The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.
But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.
The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.
Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.
Opium production in Afghanistan dropped by 29 percent in 2017, the United Nations anti-drug agency reported, a decrease attributed mainly to a severe drought.
The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual reportreleased Nov. 19, 2018, that the drop — from 9,000 tons to 6,400 tons — coincided with a decrease in the amount of land area being used for cultivating the crop.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey, which is jointly compiled by the UN agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, said a total of 263,000 hectares of land was used for opium cultivation, representing a decline of 20 percent compared to 2017.
“Despite the decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is the second-highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
Afghan National Police officers, along with U.S. Special Operations Soldiers, discovered 600 pounds of opium May 7, 2009, during a cordon and search operation of a known Taliban safe house, collection center and trauma center in Babaji Village, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
(Photo by Cpl. Sean K. Harp)
The report said the farm-gate prices of dry opium — which fell for the second consecutive year to an average of per kilogram, the lowest level since 2004 — may have contributed to less cultivation of opium poppy.
Eradication of opium poppy has also dropped by 46 percent in 2018 to 406 hectares, compared to 750 hectares last year.
Ten of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered poppy free, unchanged from 2017.
You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”
It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.
Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.
In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.
By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.
Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.
The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.
None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.
How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.
For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.
Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.
China’s submarine fleet made its first known trip into the Indian Ocean, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. A Chinese attack submarine passed through the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia with sightings near Sri Lanka and the Persian Gulf.
It’s the latest report of the significant steps forward the Chinese navy has taken in advancing its submarine fleet.
Earlier this year, a US Navy report estimated that the Chinese navy has nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines able to launch strikes against the United States from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Chinese navy has ambitious plans over the next 15 years to rapidly advance its fleet of surface ships and submarines as well as maritime weapons and sensors, according to a report by the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Earlier this year, ONI issued an assessment on the Chinese navy as part of testimony to the US China Economic and Security Review. ONI leaders found that China’s navy has evolved from a littoral force to one that is capable of meeting a wide range of missions to include being “increasingly capable of striking targets hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.”
The Chinese navy has 77 surface combatants, more than 60 submarines, 55 amphibious ships and about 85 missile-equipped small ships, according to the report first published by the US Naval Institute.
ONI raised concerns about China’s fast-growing submarine force, to include the Jin-class ballistic nuclear submarines, which were expected to commence deterrent patrols in 2014. The expected operational deployment of the Jin “would mark China’s first credible at-sea-second-strike nuclear capability,” the report states.
The submarine could fire the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile, which has a range of 4,000 nautical miles and would “enable the Jin to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS [continental United States] from East Asian waters,” ONI assessed.
In addition, a 2014 Pentagon Annual Report to Congress on military and security developments said the Chinese have three operational Jin-class SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines) and up to five may enter service before the Chinese proceeds toward a next-generation SSBN.
The ONI report says the Chinese currently have five nuclear attack submarines, four nuclear ballistic missile submarines and 53 diesel attack submarines.
Overall, China’s fleet of submarines has quickly increased in offensive weapons technology over the last 10 years. A decade ago, only a few Chinese submarines could fire modern anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Now, more than half of the conventional attack submarines are configured to fire ASCMs, the ONI report states.
“The type-095 guided missile attack submarine, which China will likely construct over the next decade, may be equipped with a land-attack capability,” the assessment explains. This could enable Chinese submarines with an enhanced ability to strike U.S. bases throughout the region, the report adds.
The Pentagon’s China report affirms that the expected deployment of nuclear-armed JL-2s will, for the first time, give China an at-sea nuclear deterrent capability.
One analyst said the Chinese appear to be trying to position themselves as a nuclear global super power able to both assert regional dominance and project power around the world.
“China clearly appears to be pursuing a great power nuclear-deterrence strategy. They are making progress but it is not fast paced. It is kind of appropriate for a military that has two missions, guaranteed deterrence and an interest in showing its ability as a superpower,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.
In recent decades, the Chinese military has had more of a regional focus instead of ICMBs, something which may now be changing in light of growing ambitions, continued rapid technological expansion and military modernization, Goure explained.
“We know from watching the Soviets how hard it is for these countries to build western-equivalent militaries and nuclear enterprises. The Russians almost broke trying to build a Navy that would out do us,” he added.
However, Goure added that the Chinese navy has a long way to go before it could emerge as a credible competitor to the US Navy.
“Are they really going to go the route of building their own kind of competitor to the US Navy? That is expensive and difficult – at a time when their economy is slowing down,” Goure said.
The Navy’s Atlantic Fleet submarine commander recently voiced concern about China’s submarine modernization efforts.
“The world has become multi-polar and we have competition for global influence and power from a rising China – which is very much on our mind. The Chinese have had ballistic missile submarines in some form for a while. Their pace has accelerated and they have several nuclear ballistic missile submarines and are continuing to build more,” said Vice Adm. Michael Connor.
The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.
The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.
There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.
The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.
Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.
The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.
And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*
*Must bring your own jet and bombs.
The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.
A former Russian-backed separatist in Eastern Ukraine recently completed U.S. Army training, Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post reported Monday.
The 29 year old French-American citizen, Guillaume Cuvelier, reportedly spent his youth in the French far-right before going to Eastern Ukraine in 2014. During his childhood in France, he was a member of a neo-fascist group that broke from the National Front. The association presumably fostered his anti-European union views.
Cuvelier’s assumed the militant name Lenormand and fought for the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region of Eastern Ukraine sponsored by the Russian government. A photo WaPo reviewed shows him standing shoulder to shoulder with a militant accused of orchestrating the shoot-down of Malaysian Flight 17.
After arriving in Ukraine, he also set up a unit that declared France is “a slave of the American Empire” and the NATO alliance is a “terrorist military alliance.” Cuvelier appeared to change his tune after going to fight with U.S. backed Kurdish militias in Iraq in 2015. He was eventually kicked out for beating a fellow American volunteer with a rifle. He then made his way to the U.S. to join the Army.
His status in the U.S. military is currently under review “to ensure the process used to enlist this individual followed all of the required standards and procedure,” according to a U.S. Army spokesman’s statement to WaPo.
When confronted with his lurid past, Cuvelier pleaded with Gibbons-Neff not to publish the story saying, “I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.” He continued, “By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo.”
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There are 640 muscles in the human body. The primary functions of these critical, fibrous structures are to support movement and help circulate blood throughout our anatomy. Everyone has three different types of muscles: smooth (or visceral), cardiac, and skeletal.
Smooth muscles, like our esophagus and intestines, push the food we eat through our digestive system. Cardiac muscles, also known as myocardium (your heart), contract and relax to move through the body’s vessels. Skeletal muscles layer on top of our bones, connect to the osseous matter via tendons, and move our limbs around.
Although each type of muscle can be damaged in various ways, our skeletal muscles are most often damaged. The leading cause for most of our muscular lacerations — also known as “strains” or “muscle pulls” — is the moving an unprepared set of muscles.
We’re here today to learn what happens to your muscles when they’re pulled. It just might make you rethink how you warm up before your next exercise.
Picture your pre-workout muscles like a frozen rubber band. If you stretch it out fast and far enough, it’ll break. Once we strain a muscle, the neuroreceptors will send a message to our brains, letting it know something’s wrong. These muscular injuries usually feel like a shock and cause our bodies to immediate jerk back into its starting position — protecting the structure. Unfortunately, by the time you feel the pain and your body reacts, the damage might already be done.
The amount of damage the muscle structure sustains helps catalog these injuries into three different categories, based on severity. The lower end of injury is called a “pull,” which means around 5 percent of the muscle was torn. Treatment for these minor injuries typically consists of painkillers and rest.
A “sprain” is the next tier up. Here, a significant percentage of the muscle fibers, greater than 5 percent, are damaged. This type of injury usually requires several weeks of recovery before the person is back to fully functioning.
The diagnosis that no one wants to hear is a “rupture.” This means every fiber in the muscle group has been torn. These injuries are severe and typically require immediate surgery. For many athletes, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps are the muscle groups most at risk.
Let the long road to recovery begin…
To avoid becoming a victim of a nasty muscle pull, be sure to warm up properly before exercising and stretch afterward.
For more information about the muscles in your body and the injuries they can sustain, check out Tech Insider’s video below.
In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.
Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.
It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.
A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”
Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?
A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.
*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.
A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”
A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”
A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”
Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.
Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?
* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.
An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”
* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.
** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.
An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”
A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”
A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.
“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.
Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.
“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.
In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.
He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.
“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.
Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.
This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.
Networking and AI
The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.
The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).
Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.
LCS & AI
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.
CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Chinese & Russian Threat
While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.
“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.
Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.
Chinese Naval Threat
A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.
Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.
Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.
“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation
The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.
The Green Beret Foundation has a new Executive Director. Brent Cooper is dedicated to transforming the perception of the Green Beret through education, innovation and an epic new video.
Cooper assumed leadership of the Green Beret Foundation in 2019. Almost a decade before that, he spent his career chasing what he called the corporate ladder. Although highly successful, it was never really what he deemed enough and left him feeling like he was living a life without purpose.
Cooper wanted to serve his country his entire life. At 30 years old, he knew if he didn’t do it soon it would be his biggest regret. So, he joined the Army with his eye on the coveted Green Beret. “If I was going to join the military – I wanted to be among the best,” he said with a smile. Two years after enlisting, Cooper completed the Special Forces Qualification Course.
Established in 1952, the United States Army Special Forces are the renowned and elite Green Berets. On April 11, 1962, President John Kennedy stated that the Green Beret was, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage and a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.”
Cooper served as a Commo Sergeant in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. He spent five years serving the Army, eventually leaving to focus on his family. Not long after earning his MBA, Cooper found himself back in what he termed the “hamster wheel of the corporate world,” unfulfilled. “I severely underestimated how much I would miss serving something bigger than myself,” he explained.
That was about to change.
“When I got out in 2015, I received a coin and a patch from them [the Green Beret Foundation], but I knew absolutely nothing about the Foundation,” Cooper shared. Once he saw the job advertisement, he dove into researching and really liked what he saw. Three months and multiple interviews later he was offered the position and never looked back. “I feel extremely blessed and that for the first time, I am exactly where I am supposed to be,” he shared.
The mission of the Green Beret Foundation is to provide vital support to Special Forces soldiers and their families. Since its inception in 2009, GBF has invested over million and served over 13,000 families. Cooper admitted that most people, especially Green Berets, don’t even know exactly what the Foundation does – something he has made it his mission to change.
On his first day, Cooper put two questions on the white board in his office. “I told everyone that these questions would guide every decision that was made. The first question was, ‘Does this service our soldiers?’ and the second, ‘Will this make our donors proud?'” he shared. Cooper believes that if they always do the first thing, the second will easily follow.
With that vision now guiding the Foundation, Cooper set out to educate and change mindsets. “Many people don’t even know who Green Berets are to begin with. For me, it’s been a constant effort of focusing on communicating effectively who they are to both the civilian and military populations,” he said. Cooper said that although Green Berets are known as the quiet professionals, it doesn’t mean they need to be silent.
It is with that in mind that led Cooper to spending his first year as Executive Director revamping the Green Beret Foundation logo, website and even the promotional video. The original video itself was about nine years old and in his mind, didn’t adequately showcase the role of a Green Beret or the Foundation itself.
“What I really wanted to convey was something that the regiment could be proud of. That shows who Green Berets are… in a different light. Not just the cool guy stuff either, because Green Berets are warrior diplomats. They actually solve conflict by talking first,” Cooper explained. He shared that Green Berets have a strong focus in humanitarian work for allied countries, something most people may not be aware of.
The role that the Green Berets serve in for this country is both extensive and vital. One thing the public may not realize is that they are embedded within other Allied nations’ military forces, dedicated to preventing terrorism and training through Foreign Internal Defense. “If we can demonstrate that Green Berets are warrior diplomats and teachers first, that will resonate. It’s very difficult to do in a six minute promotional video, but I think the first minute really demonstrates that,” he said.
Green Berets also have a higher mortality rate in combat.
In 2019, almost 65 percent of soldiers killed were Green Berets. Since 9/11, Green Berets have accounted for the majority of casualties in the Special Operations’ community as a whole. “These numbers demonstrate that they are in a lot of conflict. They are the first ones in and the last ones out,” Cooper explained.
The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to supporting wounded Green Berets, those in need and the families of the fallen – something the new promotional video deeply showcases. The foundation has also doubled down on their dedication to serving transitioning Green Berets, supporting them as they head back into civilian life.
Cooper stated that when you ask a soldier to do the things Green Berets do, you need to be there when they are done with the job to support any fallout. “These are the tip-of-the-spear guys, the ones who suffer the most. This inevitably means they are going to need the most support. These long-term effects, the visible and invisible scars… it’s lifelong,” he said.
It is with all of this in mind that Cooper says he works as hard as he does and asks the same of every person within the Foundation stating, “We have a mission and that always comes first. It is bigger than any one of us and we are going to continue to do the right thing, which is serving Green Berets and their families.”
The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.
Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.
As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.
Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)
Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.
“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.
Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.
A hawk for hunters
The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.
Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.
“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3). “What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”
As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.
Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.
Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.
“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”
The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.
The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.
“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”
Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.
The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.
So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.
Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.
Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.
Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.
Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.
Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.
“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”
TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.
Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.