Visual effects team explains Rey's new lightsaber - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

One of the biggest reveals in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” other than Rey’s identity, came at its very end when the character revealed she had her own new lightsaber with a distinctive yellow-orange hue.

What color exactly is the lightsaber and how did the visual effects team land on it?

“A fair number of colors have been used in lightsabers. So there was a design challenge there in terms of what color it should be,” “TROS” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider Monday of the direction given for the lightsaber seen at the movie’s very end.


“There was an optimistic kind of quality to that, but we also wanted [Rey] to have a very unique color,” he added of coming up with the color we see on screen. “We ran some tests and decided in the end what color it would be.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Rey prepares to slice through Kylo Ren’s ship with Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

(Lucasfilm)

Is there a specific name to Rey’s lightsaber color? We’re going with ‘yellow optimism.’

“That specific color yellow, if you go too pale — this is getting really in the weeds here — if you go too pale and you make it too light, it’s going to look white a lot of times,” Industrial Light Magic (ILM) visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach said of one factor that helped them land on that precise color. “Colors on film, sometimes they bleed away depending on the exposure and the quality of the light in the scene.”

“Making it that more golden yellow gives you that optimistic feeling, and it also allows you to make it supersaturated and still feel like it’s in the ‘Star Wars’ universe,” he added.

Yellow sabers aren’t anything new to “Star Wars” lore, but they are uncommon. In the past, yellow lightsabers have mostly been limited to Jedi temple guards, who wielded double-bladed sabers.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Here’s Kanan Jarrus going up against a Jedi Temple guard on the animated series “Star Wars Rebels.”

(Lucasfilm)

When asked if they had a specific name for the color, optimism was a word that came up frequently to describe the tone they were going for with the look of Rey’s lightsaber.

“We definitely went for things like golden and sun and optimism,” said Tubach.

“I think the optimism carried that choice,” added Guyett.

“I’m going to paint my house ‘yellow optimism,'” joked creature and makeup effects creative supervisor Neal Scanlan.

Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

Rey’s lightsaber does include a yellow kyber crystal

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be a yellow crystal,” said Tubach.

It was not a clear crystal that changed color after chosen by Rey. Neither was it a purified version of a red kyber crystal as Ahsoka Tano did in the past to create her white lightsabers.

Insider thought Rey’s saber color may have contained a healed version of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo’s cracked red kyber crystal, but it seems that’s not the case.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Did the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber look familiar? It should have.

(Lucasfilm)

The small detail within Rey’s new lightsaber you may have missed: The hilt of her lightsaber comes from her original staff.

“That was the concept,” said Guyett of the inspiration behind the hilt of Rey’s lightsaber. “The art production design and the art department, we all contribute to the designs of various things… [director] J.J. [Abrams] just thought it was logical that she had the staff, and, therefore, the saber should somehow be linked to that.”

In hindsight, when you go back to “The Force Awakens,” Rey’s staff always looked like it could eventually be transformed into the perfect lightsaber hilt.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is currently in theaters. You can read our review here.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force installs 3-D printed metallic part on F-22 for the first time

In December 2018, 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers installed a metallic 3D printed part on an operational F-22 Raptor during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base.

“One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft,” said Robert Lewin, 574th AMXS director.


The use of 3D printing gives maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities. This not only saves taxpayer dollars, but reduces the time the aircraft is in maintenance.

The printed bracket will not corrode and is made using a powder bed fusion process that utilizes a laser to build the part layer by layer from a titanium powder. A new bracket can be ordered and delivered to the depot for installation as quickly as three days.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

A new metallic 3D printed part alongside the aluminum part it will replace on an F-22 Raptor during depot repair at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Jan 16, 2019. The new titanium part will not corrode and can be procured faster and at less cost than the conventionally manufactured part.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

The printed part replaces a corrosion-prone aluminum component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit that is replaced 80 percent of the time during maintenance.

“We had to go to engineering, get the prints modified, we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing — which isn’t that much, that is why we chose a secondary part,” said Robert Blind, Lockheed Martin modifications manager.

The part will be monitored while in service and inspected when the aircraft returns to Hill AFB for maintenance. If validated, the part will be installed on all F-22 aircraft during maintenance.

“We’re looking to go a little bit further as this part proves itself out,” said Blind.

The printed titanium bracket is only the first of many metallic additive manufactured parts planned through public-private partnerships. There are at least five more metallic 3D printed parts planned for validation on the F-22.

“Once we get to the more complicated parts, the result could be a 60-70 day reduction in flow time for aircraft to be here for maintenance,” said Lewin.

This will enable faster repair and reduce the turnaround, returning the aircraft back to the warfighter.

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6 things you want to take back before getting out of the military

Getting out of the military can be a long and cumbersome experience. With all the crap service members have to do to process out smoothly, it’s likely that you’ll spend some time reflecting on the dumb things you did during your enlistment.

At the time, most of the dumb stuff was all fun and games. It wasn’t until now that you’re on your way out do you realize how bad some of those decisions were.


Getting NJPed for hazing the newbies

It was fun as hell at the time, but now that you have that negative NJP mark on your DD-214, good luck with receiving all your much-earned educational benefits.

All the crap you bought and didn’t need from the base PX

Remember that PS4 you just had to have? How about that huge. flat-screen TV you needed for playing video games, or all the tactical gear you thought was required to be a better trooper? Well, now you need to pack all that crap up, sell it, or give it away.

Many troops invest a lot of money in entertainment stuff that, when the time finally comes, they don’t want to haul to their parents’ or girlfriend’s house.

Breaking up with that guy or girl who now has a two-bedroom apartment and no roommates.

Yup, you f*cked that up.

Being a jerk to that boot who is now updating your service and medical records

As they say, “what goes around comes around.” We can’t predict the future, but we do know that many service members hold small grudges against their superiors for one reason or another.

So, when an opportunity arises, who wouldn’t want to cash in on some payback against someone who once treated you like crap?

Not taking more free classes

Many, many service members leave the military will college credits that could earn them a degree sooner rather than later. But, you decided to drink on the weekends instead of doing those boring online classes.

Not listening to all the information during TAP class

Did you know you could earn unemployment benefits and file for disability during most TAP classes? Well, you would have known if you freakin’ listened.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unintended consequences of denuclearizing North Korea

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has bought his way in to talks with China’s President Xi Jinping, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and US President Donald Trump with a commitment to denuclearize his country — but doing so could open up the world to the tremendous risk of loose nukes and loose nuclear scientists.

Though Kim has repeatedly vowed to rid his country of nuclear weapons, the promises remain totally one-sided as no one knows how many, or where, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is.


Kim reportedly sent a message to Trump saying he’d accept denuclearization verification and intensive inspection by international inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the same agency that supervises the Iran deal.

But to do that, Kim would have to provide a list of nuclear sites to the inspectors. It will be a major challenge for the outside world to take his word for it when he announces the sites, or to scour the country for additional sites.

In the past, North Korea has agreed to international inspections, but backed out when it came time to actually scrutinize the programs.

As a result of North Korea’s secretiveness, it may have unaccounted for nuclear weapons floating around even after work towards denuclearization begins.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
Russian SS-18 Satan tourist attraction.
(Photo by Clay Gilliland)

Furthermore, former US Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, who served a pivotal role in securing the loose nuclear weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, write in the Washington Post that “thousands of North Korean scientists and engineers” are “now employed in making weapons of mass destruction.”

If North Korea’s weapons program ends, the scientists with highly sought-after skills would “risk of proliferation of their deadly knowledge to other states or terrorists,” according to the senators.

North Korea already stands accused of helping Syria develop a chemical weapons program and conducting spy work around the world to improve their knowledge at home.

But the senators say the problem can be managed, as it was in the 1990s. Looking to the success of the post Cold War-era, when the world dismantled 90% of its nuclear weapons, Nunn and Lugar maintain that safe denuclearization can be achieved with proper planning.

Where nuclear missile silos once stood in Ukraine, US officials visited and — together with Russians — destroyed the facilities. Today, on those same fields, crops grow.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier continues to have serious issues

Shipbuilders and sailors have fixed the propulsion plant problems on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of supercarriers that is behind schedule, over budget, and still struggling with development issues.

Work on the ship’s propulsion plant was completed toward the end of July 2019, the Navy announced in a statement Aug. 12, 2019.

Problems with the carrier’s propulsion system first popped up in January 2018 during sea trials. A “manufacturing defect” was identified as the problem. Troubles were again noted in May 2019 just three days after the ship set sail for testing and evaluation, forcing it to return to its home port early.


In March 2019, James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisition boss, told US lawmakers that scheduled maintenance on the Ford would require another three months beyond what was initially planned to deal with problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other unspecified areas.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The Navy said that the “Ford’s propulsion issues weren’t with the nuclear reactors themselves, rather the issues resided in the mechanical components associated in turning steam created by the nuclear plant into spinning screws that propel the ship through the water.”

While the completion of the work on the Ford’s power plant moves the ship closer to returning to sea, the carrier is still having problems with a critical piece of new technology — the advanced weapons elevators. The elevators are necessary for the movement of munitions to the flight deck, increased aircraft sortie rates, and greater lethality, but only a handful of the elevators are expected to work by the time the ship is returned to the fleet this fall.

Lawmakers recently expressed frustration with the Navy’s handling of the Ford-class carrier program.

“The ship was accepted by the Navy incomplete, nearly two years late, two and a half billion dollars over budget, and nine of eleven weapons still don’t work with costs continuing to grow,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said late July 2019.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Sailors man the rails of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer)

“The Ford was awarded to a sole-source contractor,” which was asked to incorporate immature technologies “that had next to no testing, had never been integrated on a ship — a new radar, catapult, arresting gear, and the weapons elevators,” he continued, adding that the Navy entered into this contract “without understanding the technical risk, the cost, or the schedules.”

Inhofe said that the Navy’s failures “ought to be criminal.”

The Navy has been struggling to incorporate new technologies into the ship, but the service insists that it is making progress with the catapults and arresting gear used to launch and recover aircraft, systems which initially had problems. The elevators are currently the biggest obstacle.

“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy said in its recent statement on the completion of relevant work on the Ford’s propulsion system.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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These crusader knights answered the call to fight World War I

The country known as Georgia derives its name – “Gurgan,” the land of the wolves – from the Persian word for the “frightening and heroic people of that territory.


Heroic doesn’t even begin to fully describe the Georgians. This fact was evident at the outset of World War I when a troop of crusader knights – in full Medieval armor – marched right up to the governor’s house in the Georgian capital, then called Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi).

“Where’s the war?” They asked. “We hear there’s a war.”

In 1914, the Russian Empire declared war on Turkey as part of its alliance with the Triple Entente in Western Europe. The news of the outbreak apparently took some time to filter to the countryside because it took until the spring of 1915 for the Georgian knights to arrive.

In his 1935 book, “Seven League Boots,” the American adventurer Richard Halliburton wrote of the knights.

“In the spring of 1915, some months after Russia’s declaration of war against Turkey, a band of twelfth-century Crusaders, covered from head to foot in rusty chain armour and carrying shields and broad-swords came riding on horseback down the main avenue of Tiflis. People’s eyes almost popped out of their heads. Obviously this was no cinema company going on location. These were Crusaders – or their ghosts.”

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

 

The Knights were known locally as Khevsurs, a group of fighters allegedly descended from Medieval Crusaders, whose armor bore the motto of the Crusaders, as well as the Crusader Cross (which now adorns the flag of the modern Republic of Georgia). The truth behind the Khevsurs’ Crusader origins is disputed, but what isn’t disputed is that they showed up to fight World War I wearing Crusader armor.

Though the Khevsurs did fight alongside the Russian army on many occasions, not just WWI, it’s unlikely their Russian allies would let them run into battle with broadswords and chain mail armor. Then again, it wouldn’t be the only time the allied powers used strange body armor in brutal trench warfare.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Australia’s new prime minister is ready to counter china

In Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first landmark Pacific policy address, the newly installed PM said Australia will commit anew to the Pacific, setting up a multibillion-dollar infrastructure bank to fund projects in the region and appointing a series of new diplomatic posts.

“Australia will step up in the Pacific and take our engagement with the region to a new level,” the prime minister said Nov. 8, 2018.

“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the southwest Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Morrison said.


Morrison announced new defense force mobile-training team, annual meetings of defense, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.

The centerpiece will be a billion AUD financial facility to help fund major regional projects while the existing export financing agency (EFA) will be boosted by another one billion dollars.

Referring to Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Morrison said the stability and economic progress of the Pacific region are of “fundamental importance,” and no single country can tackle the challenges on its own.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Chinese President Xi Jinping

(Photo by Michel Temer)

Morrison announced his Pacific Pivot ahead of a milestone meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asia-Pacific regional leaders next week at the APEC forum in Papua New Guinea.

Morrison said it was time Australia opened a “new chapter in relations with our Pacific family.” “Australia has an abiding interest in a Southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically.”

A familiar tone

In a speech that strongly echoed former US President Barack Obama’s “Asian Pivot” address in Canberra in 2011, Morrison outlined his own plan to project Australian soft power in an attempt to thwart China’s unchecked economic and industrial expansion across the Pacific over the last decade.

In a pretty unforgettable speech to Australia’s parliament on Nov. 17, 2011, Obama declared that “America is back!” “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all-in.”

That was about the zenith of the much-vaunted pivot, and at around exactly the same time China started to take its interests in the Pacific to a fresh intensity.

According to Reuters’ calculations, since Obama’s “Asia Pivot,” China has poured id=”listicle-2618687423″.3 billion in concessionary loans and gifts to almost instantly become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia.

Falling under Beijing’s influence

Today, China is the region’s biggest bilateral lender, although Australia’s significant aid programs mean it remains the largest financial backer in the South Pacific.

While China has always maintained a political stake in the region as part of its ongoing diplomatic chess battle with Taiwan, the sheer magnitude and speed of Chinese assistance eventually raised alarms and even hysteria among Western-aligned nations that the string of southern Pacific island states was very quickly falling under Beijing’s influence.

But if Australia’s backyard was finding itself over a Beijing barrel, then Morrison put his hand up for the first time to acknowledge that Australia and its major allies, the US foremost amongst them, wore some of the blame for that and had neglected the region for too long.

Australia, he said, had taken the Pacific and its nations “for granted.” Speaking from a military facility in Townsville where US troops are based, Morrison redrew the Pacific’s strategic importance to Australia’s foreign and defense policy.

Morrison promised closer economic, military and diplomatic ties in what will undoubtedly be seen from Beijing as a move to counter its efforts to drive its controversial One Belt, One Road initiative or in this case its 21st-century maritime silk road.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

One Belt, One Road initiative. China in red, Members of the AIIB in orange, the six corridors in black.

Fortunately, Beijing won’t even have to pick up the phone with Morrison’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne already in Beijing heading up Australia’s first mission to China in several years after an extended diplomatic freeze out. “This is not just our region, or our neighborhood.

It’s our home,” Morrison said. Morrison flagged that the region requires around billion per year in investments up to 2030, adding, “It’s where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs.”But that is something China has been more than happy to help achieve.

Beijing has sewn up diplomatic relations with eight Pacific island countries, from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. (Others of course, recognize Taiwan.)

In the ten years between 2006 and 2016, The Lowy Institute a Sydney-based think tank, reckons Beijing has probably injected more than .3 billion into the region.

China has been more than happy to accommodate small nations such as Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands with concessional loans, criticized by many as overt “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Colombo’s failure to get on top of billion in debt repayments to Beijing’s state-owned enterprises has already given Beijing what many analysts consider a critically handy strategic toehold in Sri Lanka, in the port of Hambantota, including a 99-year-lease.

The port has idyllic views of the major Indian Ocean sea lanes. Elsewhere China is copping its first significant OBOR pushback out of the Asia-Pacific.

Malaysia is trying to find itself some wriggle room, preferably around perceived inequalities in the huge billion of China-originated infrastructure deals Kuala Lumpur has signed off on. Part of Australia’s appeal to the Pacific will be in aid and funding transfers that have traditionally not been about incurring trade deficits or weighty balance of payments crisis.

However, academics including James Laurenceson, deputy director of the Australia China Research Institute say that analysis of debt in the Pacific strongly suggests that the “debt-trap diplomacy” argument is without much foundation.

What is certain, however, is that over and above China’s bilateral aid programs across the pacific and its support for regional organisations, Beijing has been at pains to show it is a partner in good faith.

Beijing has backed and hosted major regional meetings, most recently in 2013, in which it announced a suite of aid measures to boost economic resilience and diplomatic engagement, while also providing strong support to regional organisations, most particularly the Pacific Islands Forum.

Visual effects team explains Rey’s new lightsaber

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

China has provided generous scholarship programs for Pacific islands students and contributes significant human resources and training for pacific island government officials.

Johnny Koanapo Rasou, Vanuatu’s Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency, where China has been delivering badly needed road works and infrastructure, said in a press statement in 2017 that Vanuatu had its eyes wide open as China’s assistance becomes more and more evident.

“Our people are now learning more about China’s capability to positively contribute to our development aspirations.” “The manner in which the Chinese Government is delivering their aid to Vanuatu is different from the styles we are used to from New Zealand or Australia.

“But we must accept that all our development partners have different state structures. China is a communist state but it has created an enabling environment for its own citizens to flourish and therefore they themselves can go out and invest in other countries.”

League of debtor nations

However, according to Thomson Reuters almost half (49.08%) of Vanuatu’s external debt belongs to China. In August 2018, Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he hoped Pacific states could negotiate together to find a way out from under Beijing’s loans, before Tonga began to lose control of state assets as was happening in Sri Lanka.

Chinese loans make up more than 60% of Tonga’s total external debt burden. Another focus for Beijing has been the variety of resources available in loosely governed Papua New Guinea, which lays claim to the biggest Chinese debt, nigh on 0 million.

New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu all receive military aid from China. Fiji’s military leaders in particular have been welcoming of Chinese economic, military and strategic assistance.

China’s state media Xinhua has a quiet, but impactful bureau in Suva. While the US and its allies have been distracted with conflicts in the Middle East, China stepped up its military activities in the South Pacific. Chinese companies have sought and often secured access to strategic ports and airfields across many regional archipelagos.

According to Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist from Canterbury University, satellite interests are an important aspect to China’s surge into the South Pacific. “In 2018, China launched 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space.

Beidou-3 is China’s indigenous GPS, it provides missile positioning and timing and enhanced C4ISR capabilities for the Chinese military, as well as navigation services to more than 60 countries along the Belt and Road, including in Oceania.

Professor Brady said China’s mobile satellite station receiving station vessels regularly dock in Papeete (Tahiti) and Suva (Fiji), as do other quasi-military boats such as the Peace Ark and China’s well-equipped polar research vessels.

Brady a leading expert on Chinese investment in then pacific said many Pacific leaders now acknowledged China as “the dominant power in the region.”

“China’s strategic and military interests in the South Pacific build on longstanding links and fill the vacuum left by receding US and French power projection in the region, as well as Australia and New Zealand’s neglect of key relationships in the region.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman earns top honors in course for Marine NCOs

On a muggy summer day in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a Marine Corps instructor stood on a ledge overlooking a swamp. He looked out at his students, and his eyes found Master Sgt. Aretha Boston — the only airman in the platoon.

He called her forward, and Boston walked up to the ledge.

“Just as soon as I extended my hand, he grabbed it,” Boston recalled. “And before I knew it, he was pulling me into the swamp.”

For Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, it was another of many surprises at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course. The opportunity to attend the course was a surprise in itself.


Most surprising, though, was how well she performed. At graduation time, Boston took home three of the most prestigious awards at the school: the class Gunnery Sergeant Award (voted on by instructors), the Honor Graduate Award (voted on by her classmates), and the Distinguished Graduate Award (for measured academic excellence).

In some ways, though, it was a fitting chapter in a storied career that almost never was.

Coming from a small town in Florida, Boston’s life plan didn’t involve joining the military. Her mother, though, had different ideas. She insisted that her daughter enlist.

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Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, 11th Medical Group command staff superintendent, poses for a portrait Oct. 24, 2018, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Boston.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Noah Sudolcan)

“To be completely honest, in the beginning I was angry,” Boston said. Despite her misgivings, at the age of 17 and straight out of high school, she begrudgingly agreed and enlisted in the Air Force to become a dental technician. Years later, she said she views it as “by far the best decision my parents could have made for me.”

Boston’s first base was 7,479 miles from home: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. She was away from her family, the only airman basic in the dental clinic and learning a whole new lifestyle. Over those first few months, she learned the technical portion of her job, but she said she struggled with the challenge of conforming to military discipline.

“I acted out a lot,” Boston said. “I didn’t want people to tell me to do something. I was very stubborn.”

After serving a year in Korea, she moved to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Dealing with the culture shock coming from Korea, she said she found it hard to connect with people.

Her first Christmas break in Florida started with a call from her first sergeant asking why she wasn’t at bay orderly — an extra duty to help clean the dorm common areas. Thinking she had the week off, she said it all seemed unfair.

“The first shirt sat me down and told me, ‘Listen, I’ve been told you’re a stellar airman, but you have a terrible attitude,'” she said. When he told her that an unchecked bad attitude could end up getting her kicked out of the military, she said she decided to make some changes.

“That was my turning point,” she said. “From then on, I did the best I could to be the best airman.”

The new attitude paid off. Several years — and promotions — later, everything was going well. But Boston said she craved something different. A new challenge. Something to separate herself from her peers. She was comfortable, standing on the solid ground of a well-constructed military career, but she was contemplating a big jump.

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Air Force Master Sgt. Aretha Boston, middle left, poses with her Marine Corps classmates during the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course in the summer of 2018.

She found out the Air Force offers the chance for master sergeants to attend a sister service academy. She applied. Then she got accepted. The class started in the summer of 2018, and when she arrived, there were only six airmen in a sea of 120 Marines.

“(Marines) operate completely different from (airmen),” Boston explained. “Everything ties into fitness. Leadership, strategy planning — it always goes back to fitness.”

Physical training was every day, which she said was taxing on both her body and mind.

Those challenges culminated when, after a long morning run, the instructor pulled her into the swamp. With Marines cheering from the side, Boston remembers the feeling of being engulfed by the freezing water. After she and the rest of her class swam to the other side, a long obstacle course lay ahead of them.

Like all the other obstacles in Marine Corps senior NCO training, along with the hurdles of her early career, Boston faced them head on.

“It was pretty motivating to think she was an airman coming over to the course, doing something unprecedented,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Walker, Boston’s classmate and Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 warehouse managements division warehouse chief.

Walker said it would be natural to see a decrease in academic productivity in the individual taking on the busy role of class gunnery sergeant. But he said Boston had no such trouble. In fact, she still managed to excel beyond her peers – even the ones wearing Marine Corps insignia.

“She literally did everything you would expect from a Marine, pushing forward, even outside of class.” Walker said. “She carried herself as a professional the entire time and represented the Air Force well.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army nerfed its ammunition before WWII

The bottom line for the military is always cost-effectiveness (barring elite tier-1 units). As we’ve seen with the Modular Handgun System competition, acquisitions are driven by the lowest bid and not necessarily performance. The argument between Glock and Sig Sauer aside, the necessity of fiscal responsibility forced the Army to limit the effectiveness of their .30-06 ammunition prior to America’s entry into WWII.


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The Spanish-American War showed the inferiority of the Krag to the Mauser (U.S. Army)

The Army adopted its first smokeless powder cartridge, the .30-40 Krag, to replace the black powder .45-70 in the early-1890s. After a review of the cartridge’s performance in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army ordnance corps made modifications to the round in an attempt to match the ballistics of the superior 7x57mm Mauser cartridge used by the Spanish during the war. Though the ordnance department succeeded in increasing the muzzle velocity of the .30-40, the new cartridge had a tendency to damage the rifles that shot it due to the increase in pressure.

In 1903, following the recommendations of the infantry Small Arms Board, the Army replaced the .30-40 with a higher velocity cartridge, the .30-03. Also called the .30-45 due to its 45 grain powder charge, the .30-03’s service was short-lived. The heavy 220 grain M1903 bullet required high pressures and temperatures to achieve its maximum effective velocity which caused severe bore erosion in rifle barrels. Additionally, the bullet’s weight and roundnose design still left it ballistically inferior to its European 7mm and 8mm counterparts. After just three years, the .30-03 was replaced by the venerable .30-06.

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The M1 Garand was designed in .30 caliber due to the surplus of wartime ammo (Springfield Armory)

Equipped with a modern pointed spitzer bullet, the .30-06 was more effective at long range than the .30-03. However, the Army’s claim of a maximum range of 4,700 yards was disproved when the cartridge saw service in WWI. Machine gun barrages used as indirect fire with the .30-06 M1906 round proved to be 50% less effective than expected. In 1918, extensive testing showed that the M1906 cartridge actually had a maximum effective range of 3,300 to 3,400 yards. The Germans experienced a similar problem with their ammo which they solved by replacing the flat-based bullet with a boat-tail bullet. The result for the Germans was a round with a maximum range of approximately 5,140 yards.

In 1926, the U.S. Army ordnance corps applied the same solution to the .30-06. After extensive testing of the 7.5x55mm Swiss GP11 cartridge, the ordnance corps replaced the M1906 flat-based bullet with the M1 Ball’s boat-tail bullet. The new round had a higher ballistic coefficient, greater muzzle velocity, and a maximum range of approximately 5,500 yards. Despite the development of the .30-06 M1 Ball cartridge, the Army continued to field the M1906 cartridge.

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Left to right: M1903, M1906, M1 Ball, M2 Ball, and M2AP .30 caliber bullets (Public Domain)

With over 2 billion rounds of wartime surplus ammunition, the Army needed to expend the old ammo before it introduced the new. Over the next decade, old stocks of M1906 rounds were shot in training as the supply of the new M1 Ball ammo was allowed to grow. However, by 1936, the Army realized that its new long-range rifle round had a serious problem—it was too effective.

Firing ranges are designed with an emphasis on safety. When Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head and Private Joe Schmo has a negligent discharge at an angle that lobs a bullet as far as it can possibly travel, that round needs to land within a designated impact area. As a result, military firing ranges of the day had all been designed with the ballistics of the .45-70, .30-40 Krag, and .30-06 M1906 rounds in mind. Due to its increased maximum range, the performance of the .30-06 M1 Ball was beyond the safety limitations of most ranges.

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Infantrymen fire both the M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield (U.S. Army)

With war looming on the horizon and the cost of modifying ranges to accommodate the M1 Ball prohibitively expensive, an emergency order was issued to manufacture mass quantities of a new .30-06 round that more closely matched the ballistics of the expended M1906 cartridge as quickly as possible. Developed in 1938, the new M2 Ball cartridge was nearly identical to the M1906, though it had a slightly greater maximum range of 3,450 yards. While the M2 Ball became the standard cartridge for the U.S. military, the Marine Corps retained stocks of the superior M1 Ball ammo for use by their snipers and marksmen.

Despite its ballistic inferiority to the M1 Ball, the M2 Ball was still an extremely capable cartridge. It saw service through WWII, Korea, and even saw limited use in Vietnam before it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds. Today, a high volume of military surplus firearms chambered in .30-06 and a dwindling supply of military surplus ammunition has led to many manufacturers producing commercial .30-06 M2 Ball ammo.


MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.


“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

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Artist’s impression of how Mars may have looked four billion years ago

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

Seasonal Methane Releases

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.

“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”

Finding Organic Molecules

To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

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The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.

For video and images of the findings, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mediaresources

Information on NASA’s Mars activities is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Bin Laden was ‘not a fighter’ and fainted when battles broke out

Osama Bin Laden, the terror leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US, has gone down as one of the most vicious figures in history, but he admittedly lacked the courage to fight in an actual battle.

In an interview with The Guardian on Aug. 3, 2018, Bin Laden’s family and those close to him opened up about his personal life and the fallout he brought down on Saudi Arabia after his rise to infamy.


Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence for 24 years until September 1, 2001, told The Guardian that “there are two Osama bin Ladens… One before the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and one after it.”

Bin Laden got his first taste of warfare in Afghanistan during its 1970s war with the Soviet Union, but it turned out he wasn’t made of soldiering stuff.

“He was very much an idealistic mujahid [this word has a similar meaning to jihadist]. He was not a fighter. By his own admission, he fainted during a battle, and when he woke up, the Soviet assault on his position had been defeated,” Turki said.

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2001 video of Bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s family portrays him as drifting towards radicalism and away from the family in the decades between that struggle and 2001 in The Guardian interview. The family has tried to distance itself from Bin Laden’s acts of terrorism, but his youngest son went to Afghanistan to “avenge” his death, they said.

Bin Laden famously led Al Qaeda and planned the 2001 attacks. Again, Bin Laden himself did not engage in the hijackings, and simply coordinated them behind the scenes.

When Bin Laden finally came face to face with US forces, taking the form of US Navy SEALs storming his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, initial US government reports said he hid behind women in the complex to use them as a human shield.

Later the White House walked back those statements . The Pentagon never released images of Bin Laden’s body, and the SEALs that participated in the attack all say it’s because he was left in unpresentable shape.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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