Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the world, the list of negatives grows and grows. People are out of work and stuck at home, many businesses have closed, and schools have shut their doors, many for the remainder of the school year. Everything has stopped…everything except the growing number of ill people and the medical professionals and supplies needed to care for them.

The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering, but fortunately, many have stepped up to help mitigate this problem in a variety of ways, including a growing list of companies in the defense industry.

Theodore Roosevelt once said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,” and that’s exactly what these companies are doing.


Strike Industries

Strike Industries is making surgical mask covers that extend the useful life of surgical masks for front line medical personnel. The cover is a sleeve that holds a standard surgical mask and is made from 50/50 nylon cotton. It includes its own ear (or head) loops that are more durable than those found on standard, disposable surgical masks. SI is selling the masks at their cost, about .

Strike Industry’s Danny Chang explains that disposable surgical masks have three layers; two moisture-repellant exterior layers sandwiching an electrostatically-charged inner layer. He says any fluids or moisture that seep into the mask reduces the electrostatic charge in the middle layer and the loss of the static charge over time reduces the masks ability to filter particles.

Strike’s cover adds another, water-resistant layer to the front and back of surgical masks that extends the life of the mask by reducing the amount of moisture that reaches it from the interior (the wearer’s breath, coughs, and sneezing) and the exterior (spray, splash, and airborne droplets.)

“At a time when supplies for N95 masks and even disposable surgical masks are super low,” says Chang, “this is just another barrier/layer to help. I found out from medical professionals that they are supposed to replace disposable surgical masks if it gets wet or every 2-3 hours, normally.”

Strike Industries Public Service Announcement

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Chang warns, “We aren’t saying this mask sleeve/cover is for medical use, but when times are tough, something is better than nothing.” Since masks of all types are in short supply and people are being asked to wear them longer than they are normally meant to be worn, covers that extend the life of a mask seem like a good idea. He says he’s heard some hospitals are even spraying disposable surgical masks with aerosol cleaners to be reused.

KelTec

KelTec is 3D printing N99 capable masks to supply local hospitals. One of the company’s engineer’s, Toby Obermeit, is working with the Medical University of South Carolina to make improvements to their S.A.F.E. mask design, as well as creating a variety of additional cartridge options. These designs will be publicly available to help fill the immediate needs of healthcare and first responders everywhere. The masks, when used with the correct filters, can be of N99 quality, are reusable, and currently feature replaceable Roomba Filters.

“After Toby studied the original S.A.F.E. filter cartridge design, he then optimized it by making it faster and easier to print” said Marketing Manager, Matt Stanek. “He submitted this improved design to MUSC, and officials at the University were so impressed that they asked for help with the next generation mask design.”

The Original S.A.F.E. Mask design required cutting and gluing a HEPA filter, however the new designs utilize various Roomba Filters, making them much easier to assemble.

“We’ve accomplished a lot.” said Obermeit. “We’ve made improvements to the mask itself, as well as created multiple cartridges which take different types of filters. There is even a mask design that has an integrated filter cartridge.”

KelTec, meanwhile, quickly repurposed their 3D printers for the N99 quality masks to supply local hospitals.

“Caring about each other, our families and neighbors is in our DNA,” concluded Marketing Director Derek Kellgren. “These are difficult times and we have friends, family members, neighbors and customers on the front lines. We’re just glad we can be of some help, given how much they’re helping us and our communities.”

KelTec, known for innovation and performance, is one of the top firearms manufacturers in the world, employing nearly 300 American citizens, many of whom are Veterans.

Links to 3D printer files: Optimization of Filter for Original Design, Next Generation Mask Design, New Designs for Roomba HEPA Filters, Mask Built-in

Mustang Survival

Mustang Survival is a Canadian company known for its technical apparel solutions for maritime public safety professionals, maritime military, and marine recreational users. They design, engineer, and manufacture life vests, survival suits, and dry suits that are built to withstand even the most rugged marine environments. On April 1st, Mustang Survival launched production of the first 500 isolation gowns. The gowns are a Level 3 certified PPE, fully waterproof, and designed and engineered to bring new levels of safety to frontline healthcare workers.

Increased demand for PPE, there was a need to get ahead of the problem and look to local sources to solve it,” says Mark Anderson, Chair of the BC Apparel Gear Association and Director of Engineering at Burnaby-based Mustang Survival; who, through years of experience in outfitting frontline defenders and public safety teams, is in a unique position to help.

“Our 50 year history of developing innovative solutions for both Military and public safety professionals combined with the unique advantage of being part of a cutting edge design community here in Vancouver provides us with the ability to adjust and pivot our focus on developing a solution,” said Anderson.

Nielsen-Kellerman Company

Nielsen-Kellerman Company designs, manufactures and distributes rugged, waterproof environmental and sports performance instruments for active lifestyles and technical applications, including Kestrel Weather Environmental Meters, Kestrel Ballistics Meters for long range shooting accuracy, NK Electronics for Rowing and Paddling, and Blue Ocean Rugged Megaphones PA Systems. Nielsen-Kellerman has begun using its facilities and employees to produce face shields for the medical professionals helping to combat COVID-19.

On the first day of its effort, over 250 face shields were produced, with plans to further ramp up production and maximize their donations. When asked about their participation, Alix James, President and CEO of Nielsen-Kellerman talked about how impressed she is with the way American sporting goods and outdoor manufacturers have jumped in immediately to help where they could.

The company’s initial effort was to buy the materials and have volunteers from its staff build them. That resulted in around 500 face shields being built and donated to Temple University Hospital and St. Christopher’s Children’s Hospital. But after talking with the hospitals James discovered the need for PPE was much larger than she’d realized. That led the company to source materials for another 10,000 shields in an effort to build and supply shields for as long as they can.

James says that the PPE shortage will eventually ease as large companies with automated manufacturing systems switch gears, but it takes time for these big producers to shift production. So, in the short term, companies with domestic manufacturing are filling the gap.

“And that is the value of investing in preserving our industrial manufacturing base,” says James. “I hope to see us adjust some of our policies in the future to better support American manufacturing – particularly for critical supply chains like medical equipment, drugs and food. We’ve always emphasized keeping defense production on our shores, but this pandemic has really shown us that other areas are important from a strategic standpoint as well.”

Mystery Ranch

Mystery Ranch makes some of the finest packs and load carriage systems on the market, with designs for military applications, wildland fire, mountaineering, and hunting. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Mystery Ranch has stepped up to provide over 250 masks to their local hospital in Bozeman, MT.

Mystery Masks

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Using the materials they already have on hand, and halting all other production, Mystery Ranch is providing Bozeman Health Deaconess staff with masks that are soft, antimicrobial, and breathable. Mystery Ranch has also donated elastic to the Gallatin Quilt Guild who has been spearheading the project.

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research makes a lot of different outdoor gear and apparel, including tactical gloves built to withstand rugged environments. During the pandemic, OR has converted their Seattle factory in order to make personal protective medical equipment. OR has committed to producing upwards of 200,000 masks per day. Outdoor Research will be manufacturing ASTM level 3 masks in April/May, N95 masks by May/June, and will immediately begin producing ASTM Level 1 face masks.

“Our 39-year history of rapidly developing cutting-edge Outdoor, Military and Tactical products provides Outdoor Research the ability to quickly shift to supporting the personal protective needs of the medical community,” said CEO Dan Nordstrom. “Our entire company is fully committed to ensuring that doctors, nurses, health-care workers and first responders have the personal protective equipment they require to effectively care for their patients. We are working with state and local officials to better protect our employees in this environment as we ramp up production in the following days and weeks.”

Versacarry

Versacarry, based out of Texas, is known for its premium leather holsters and other accessories ranging from belts to mag pouches. Effective immediately, Versacarry has chosen to use part of its manufacturing capacity to produce face masks and shields instead of firearms accessories. Versacarry expects to be able to produce in excess of 20,000 units of each product weekly. Versacarry has even placed a contact form on their website so people can request supplies for the organization they work for.

Smith Optics

An arm of Smith Optics, its Elite Eye Protection side of the house supplies eyewear and goggles to the U.S. Special Operations community. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company is working with a crowdsourced donation program called Goggles for Docs to relieve personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages among front line medical personnel across the U.S.

The effort is supported by volunteers and donations to provide ski goggles to health care workers that lack eye protection while treating COVID-19 patients. Smith is currently sending new and used goggles to fulfill hospital requests, and encourages those with time or an older set of goggles to contribute by visiting gogglesfordocs.com.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DOD describes space as a ‘warfighting domain’ and urges Space Force

The U.S. Space Force will allow the Defense Department to deliver space capabilities and results faster, better, and ahead of adversaries, Pentagon officials said March 1, 2019.

Officials spoke with reporters on background in advance of the announcement that DOD delivered a proposal for establishing the sixth branch of the armed forces to Congress. The proposal calls for the U.S. Space Force to lodge in the Department of the Air Force.

“What underpins the entire discussion is the importance of space to life here on Earth,” an official said. “Space truly is vital to our way of life and our way of war, and that has really been increasing over time.”


The Space Force will allow the department to face down the threats of great power competition in space, officials said.

Today, the United States has the best space capabilities in the world, they noted, but they added that this is not an entitlement. “Our adversaries have recognized that, and they recognize what space brings to the United States and our military,” an official said. “As a result, they are integrating space into their forces, and they are developing weapon systems to take away our advantages in a crisis or conflict.”

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dalton Williams)

Space has changed the character of war. “Space is not just a support function, it is a warfighting domain in and of its own right where we really need to be prepared to compete, deter and win,” he said.

The Space Force is a strategic step forward that will bring greater focus to people, doctrine, and capability needed to wage a war in space, officials said.

If Congress approves the proposal, the new service will grow incrementally over the next five fiscal years. Planners already are discussing the culture of the organization and what people they would like to see populate it. “We’re going to try to establish a unique culture — the special training, the care for promotions, development of doctrine,” another official said.

Pending passage, DOD will begin transferring personnel from the Air Force to the new service in fiscal year 2021 — most of the personnel in the U.S. Space Force will come from the Air Force. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel will be affected in later years. Civilian employees will come to the new service under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force, just as civilian employees of the U.S. Marine Corps work for the Department of the Navy.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
(Photo by Ryan Keith)

Building a culture

On the military side, the service will look for individuals who will build the culture of the new service. “We want people to be recruited into the Space Force as similar to the way the Marine Corps recruits Marines,” a senior official said. “We don’t recruit [Marines] into the Navy — they go after the specific kind of people with a vision that is necessary to build that culture.”

It will take some time for Space Force service members to build that culture. “When you grow up in your service, you are a part of a culture and that is your mindset and focus,” a senior military officer said. “The Air Force includes space, but the personnel still grow up in an Air Force culture today. I would argue that if you ‘grow up’ in a Space Force where you are solely focused on the space domain, your ability to think clearly and focus on that domain will get after the problem set much more effectively.”

The force will look for people with a technical background to apply toward warfighting. “We need people who, at their core, understand what warfighting is and how to do those things that bring together that capabilities from across all services to pursue strategic objectives as part of the joint force,” another officer said.

If Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force will have about 15,000 people — the smallest U.S. armed force. “It is a small, but mighty group,” a senior official said. “As we look forward to the importance of space to our country and national security, it is really elevating it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

After capturing Ukrainian sailors, Russia threatens more missiles

Martial law came into force across a large swath of Ukraine on Nov. 28, following a clash at sea that Kyiv called an “act of aggression” by Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed was ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March.

Ukraine introduced martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — after Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Nov. 25 before seizing the boats and detaining 24 crew members, six of whom were wounded.


Ukraine imposes martial law as tensions with Russia escalate

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In two days of hearings, courts in Russian-controlled Crimea ordered all 24 to be held in custody for two months pending possible trial, defying calls from Kyiv and the West for their immediate release and also signaling that the Kremlin wants to cast the incident as a routine border violation rather than warfare at sea.

The detention period can be extended, and the Ukranians face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal border crossing.

https://twitter.com/NeilMacFarquhar/statuses/1067711905572229120
Seems #Russia will try to barrel through aftermath of the #KerchStrait confrontation by treating it as a court case. 15 of 24 #Ukraine sailors already sentenced to 2 months pretrial detention, including three in Kerch who must be the wounded. Other 9 expected today.

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In his first public comments on the incident that increased already high tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and sparked concerns of a widening of the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Russia’a accusation that the Ukrainian boats trespassed in Russian waters — a claim Kyiv has denied.

“It was without doubt a provocation,” Putin told a financial forum in Moscow.

He claimed that the confrontation was orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who opinion polls indicate faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in an election now officially scheduled for March 31.

“It was organized by the president ahead of the elections,” Putin said, adding that Poroshenko “is in fifth place, ratings-wise, and therefore had to do something. It was used as a pretext to introduce martial law.”

Putin claimed that the Ukrainian “military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer” the Russian coast guard. “What were they supposed to do?”

“They would do the same in your country. This is absolutely obvious,” he said, responding to a question from a foreign investor at the forum.

While laying the blame squarely on Ukraine, Putin — whose country could face fresh Western sanctions over the clash — also sought to play it down, saying it was nothing more than a border incident and calling martial law an exaggerated response.

Opinion polls in Ukraine suggest that Poroshenko faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in a presidential election scheduled for March 31.

Some Kremlin critics suspect that it was Putin who orchestrated the clash, in an attempt to bolster his own approval rating amid anger in Russia over plans to raise the retirement age.

In earlier comments at the same conference, Putin said he hopes he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this week in Argentina, as planned.

Trump cast doubt on the meeting on November 27, telling The Washington Post that he might not meet with Putin as a result of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, adding: “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Ukraine Imposes Martial Law for 30 Days

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The Ukrainian parliament late on November 26 voted to impose martial law for 30 days in the provinces that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

The 10 provinces all border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Among other things, martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to order a partial mobilization, strengthen air defenses, and take steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

It is the first time Ukraine has imposed martial law since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 and backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in a war that erupted in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk the following month.

Those moves, which prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia, followed the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by a pro-European protest movement known as the Maidan.

While Russian forces occupied Crimea before the takeover and are heavily involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, according to Kyiv and NATO, the clash in the Black Sea near Crimea was the first case in which Russia has acknowledged its military or law enforcement forces have fired on Ukrainians.

Vox Pop: What Ukrainians Think About Martial Law

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Before Putin made his comments, the Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a “reckless” act that “potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast” of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Russian military said it will bolster the defenses of Russian-controlled Crimea by add one S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the three already deployed there.”

The new air-defense missile system will soon be put on combat duty to guard Russian airspace,” Colonel Vadim Astafyev said. State-run news agency RIA Novosti said the system will be operational by the end of the year.

Moscow claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the overwhelming majority of countries reject that and still consider it to be part of Ukraine.

Poroshenko said that Russia’s actions threatened to lead to a “full-scale war” and accused Moscow of mounting a major buildup of forces near Ukraine.

“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” Poroshenko said in a television interview late on November 27, adding that the number of Russian tanks has tripled. Russia has not commented.

The clash in waters near Crimea was by far the biggest confrontation at sea after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 civilians and combatants have been killed.

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait, where Russia opened a bridge leading to Crimea in May.

The strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports.

In comments to The Washington Post published on November 27, Trump said he was considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1.

Trump told The Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” from his national-security team about the incident.

“That will be very determinative,” Trump told The Washington Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting…I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 28 that “preparations are continuing, the meeting was agreed.”

“We don’t have any other information from [U.S. officials],” he said when asked about Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged European states to do more to support Ukraine and said Washington wants to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.

European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian crew members.

On November 27, Russian courts in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Kerch ordered 15 of the Ukrainians to be held in custody for two months. Hearings for the other nine on November 28 produced the same result.

The mother of detained sailor Andriy Eyder, Viktoria Eyder, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the Black Sea port city of Odesa that her son was “wounded and is hospitalized in Kerch.”

The court rulings put the sailors in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, Interfax, and RIA

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The number of Russian spies in the US just hit a 15-year high — here’s why it doesn’t really matter

Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.


“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”

Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”

“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.

These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Photo from The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.

The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.

“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a world of vet-owned coffee, Rakkasan Tea has a mission of its own

Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.

Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.


By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”

“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.

But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.

“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”

Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.

“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”

He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.

“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US pressure fails to fracture Armenia, Iran relationship

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.

Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.


“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.

Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”

“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.

Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.

“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”

Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.

Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.

“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.

A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.

Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.

“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s latest threats remind us we’re still close to nuclear war

President Donald Trump addressed a key North Korean complaint on May 17, 2018, ahead of a planned historic summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

But in doing so he evoked the threats that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 2017.


Asked about comments by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the White House was looking at a “Libya model” for ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, something to which North Korea responded angrily, Trump essentially issued an ultimatum: Denuclearize or die.

The ultimatum was clear, but Trump’s understanding of the history of disarmament in Libya was not.

“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation,” Trump said. “We went in there to beat him.”

The US and other nations agreed with Libya in 2003 to remove the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s nascent nuclear weapons program and his chemical weapons.

Gaddafi gained international acceptance as a result, and he ruled for eight more years until a popular uprising plunged his country into civil war.

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Muammar Gaddafi

The US, along with NATO allies, then backed the uprising against him, and attacked Gaddafi’s forces, but did not kill Gaddafi.

Though the US strikes were effective, they were focused and did not “decimate” the country in the way that, say, US bombers pounded North Korea in the Korean War.

Gaddafi died within six months of the US intervention, but it was his own people who killed him after finding his hideout and dragging him through the streets.

Bolton’s original comments about a Libya model appeared to address the disarmament in 2003, while Trump on May 17, 2018, appeared to address Gaddafi’s death in 2011, something North Korea has picked up on and responded to.

A model involving national devastation for the country “would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” Trump said. “But if we make a deal,” he continued, “I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy.”

Return to fire and fury

On May 14, 2018, the US and North Korea were going into their fourth month of warming relations, preparing for a summit for Trump and Kim to discuss peace and possible denuclearization.

On May 15, 2018, North Korea threatened to back out of the talks, spewed vitriolic anti-US rhetoric, and reasserted itself as a nuclear power.

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President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon Un.

By May 17, 2018, Trump was back to talking about decimation and framing North Korea’s future as a choice between death or denuclearization.

Both Trump and Kim have incentives to keep the summit and peace push on track. But as Trump’s comments on May 17, 2018, show, despite the hand-holding and peace talks, almost nothing has changed in North Korea, or with Trump.

Experts warn that a Trump-Kim summit carries huge risk. If the summit fails to achieve peace and agreement, the highest cards in both countries’ diplomatic decks have been played, and all that remains is confrontation.

So far, 2018 has been almost clear of nuclear brinkmanship between Trump and Kim, but May 17, 2018, should remind us that as long as North Korea has nuclear weapons, the US stands a hair’s breadth from war.

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

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The top 15 military stories of 2015

It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:


1. The “American Sniper” controversy

The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused  a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.

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That baby though.

As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.

2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa

In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.

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A local worker walks past rows of boots and aprons drying in the sun after being decontaminated at an active Ebola treatment unit built as part of Operation United Assistance in Suakoko, Liberia. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brien Vorhees)

“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial

The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.

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A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

See Also: Where are they now? An update on the ‘Taliban 5’ exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.

4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record

Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”

“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:

“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”

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See Also: John McCain learned two big things as a prisoner of war

The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe shortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.

“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”

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McCain in Vietnam (Library of Congress photo)

“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”

5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again

In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy  flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.

One of the Marines, then-Master Gunnery Sergeant James Tracy told CNN he thought the freeze would last only three years. It lasted for 54. In August 2015, Tracy and the two other Marines, then Gunnery Sgt. Francis East and Cpl. Larry Morris, who lowered Old Glory from its Havana post, returned to the site to raise it up again after a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations saw the two nations exchange diplomats again for the first time in decades.

6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train

In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the Soldier’s Medal to Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard, the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and the Defense Department Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)

As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.

7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs

The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.

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Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War

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Pew Pew! (Photo from Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.

9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units

The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.

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Sgt. Julie Nicholson, Female Engagement Team leader, Marine Headquarters Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, works with infantry units and coalitions forces to work with Afghan women throughout Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Nicholson is on her second combat tour here and searches women and children for contraband during missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

See Also: The Marine Corps says it’s not trying to keep female Marines out of combat

The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”

10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart

The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.

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The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.

11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.

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Capt. Richard Olson gets off an A-10 Warthog at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017

They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017.  When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.

The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.

13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data

In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.

One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.

14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.

15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS

In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.

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It’s really weird that they pose like this.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.

See Also: Pentagon releases name of Delta Force soldier killed by ISIS in Iraq

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US Air Force fighters & drones will fire laser weapons by the 2020s

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Artist’s rendering from Air Force Research Lab


The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.

Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.

The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.

Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.

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Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.

“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

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Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.

Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.

Drones Fire Lasers

Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.

When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.

Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.

Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.

For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.

ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.

Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.

“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.

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Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.

Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This military spouse just won a California primary

It isn’t every day we see headlines like this, but today is a proud day for the military spouse community. Why? Because it’s OFFICIAL: Air Force spouse Tatiana Matta prevailed in the primary election for California’s 23rd Congressional district; winning the chance to face U.S. Congressman Kevin McCarthy in the November 2018 general election.

For military spouses like you and I, it’s not uncommon for us to get down on ourselves when we encounter roadblocks in our careers or goals. That’s why Tatiana’s primary win in this election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is such a big deal. She is tangible proof that hard work, tenacity, grit, dedication and a passion to serve others – (trademarks in the military spouse world) – can, indeed, make a significant impact…ESPECIALLY when we acknowledge those who help move us forward to greatness (i.e. our tribe, our clan, our people… our surrogate family).


This acknowledgment is evident in Tatiana’s powerful message to supporters, and highlights the importance of having a tribe…a message we should all stop and think about when it comes to our own supporters in this military life.

“This election, OUR victory, OUR voice will be felt across the nation. Please do not lose sight of how powerful each one of your votes are, or how important YOU are in the efforts to fortify our communities, our families, and our nation.”

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Tatiana Matta

We’ll be following Tatiana’s journey throughout the election process and hope you’ll join us and follow along as well. It doesn’t matter if you’re a democrat, a republican, an independent or completely out of the loop by choice. Tatiana’s special message for our military spouse community spans across party lines:

“I am humbled that our country embraces military spouses as an integral part of the community. Now, more than ever, our voices are needed in the halls of Congress to bring consensus and unity in times of uncertainty. Our experiences are valuable and we can create the change we want to see in our communities if we believe and work hard.”

Tatiana Matta, this spouse right here? Yea…she’s a motivator. Whether you lean left, right or center, let’s ALL lean in and support a member of our own tribe! #OneTeamOneFight

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia, China prepare for nuclear war in massive war games

Russia and China, the two key threats to the US named in official Pentagon documents, will carry out their biggest-ever military drill to reportedly include simulations for nuclear warfare.

US defense officials told the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz that the drills, the largest in Russia since 1981 and the largest joint Russian-Chinese drill ever, will include training for nuclear war.

Russia, the world’s largest nuclear power, and China, another long-established nuclear power, have often clashed in the past and still hold many contradictory policy goals, but have become main targets of the US.


Under President Donald Trump, the US has redefined its national security and defense postures, and in both documents pointed towards China and Russia, rather than terrorism or climate change, as the biggest threat to the US.

It’s unclear how China and Russia may coordinate nuclear war, as they have very different models of nuclear strategy. Russia holds the most nuclear warheads in the world, and has employed them on a growing number of dangerous and devastating platforms. Russia hopes to soon field an underwater doomsday device that could cripple life on earth for decades. Also, US intelligence reports indicate Russia is struggling with a new nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile.

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A briefing slide, seen on Russian television, showing what Putin described as a nuclear torpedo.

China, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach to nuclear weapons by opting for minimum deterrence.

Where Russia and the US have established nuclear parity and a doctrine of mutually assured destruction where any nuclear attack on one country would result in a devastating nuclear attack on the other. Russia and the US achieve this with a nuclear triad, of nuclear-armed submarines, airplanes, and ground-launched missiles so spread out and secretive that a single attack could never totally remove the other country’s power to launch a counter strike.

But China, with just around 200 nuclear weapons, has its force structured to simply survive a nuclear attack and then offer one back weeks, or even months later. Nonetheless, the Pentagon’s annual report on China said that Beijing trains for strikes on the US using nuclear-capable bombers.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft will participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts.

Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Alabama startup just revealed the world’s largest drone

  • Scrappy launch startup Aevum unveiled the world’s most massive drone on Thursday.
  • Called Ravn X, the 55,000-pound UAV is designed to drop a rocket in midair, which will shoot small satellites into orbit.
  • The US Air Force picked Aevum to fly a $4.9 million satellite mission in 2021. Aevum has also contracted a commercial mission.
  • Jay Skylus, Aevum’s CEO and founder, says his company’s aiming to launch customers’ satellites within three hours of receiving them at a spaceport.
  • “We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.

Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space. 

Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.

“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)

Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.

Read moreA colossal rocket-launching drone is just one small part of Aevum’s bid to become the ‘Amazon of space,’ the startup’s founder says

Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit‘s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.

Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”

Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Autonomous launch startup Aevum plans to use a Ravn X rocket-launching drone to send payloads to orbit within hours of a customer’s order. 

More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more. 

What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.

Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets. 

“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.

“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”

Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.

“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit

He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Skylus, the CEO of Aevum, says his company is “being credited with having invented a brand new paradigm of access to space.” 

Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.

An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.

“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

Defense industry steps up in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

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