On Jan. 25, 2019, officials from Boeing and the Air Force gathered at Everett Field in Washington state to see off the first two KC-46 Pegasus tankers, celebrating with specially made cookies and classic rock.
When the tankers landed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas for delivery to the Air Force, it was the culmination of two decades of work, coming after two years of delays and more than $3 billion in penalties incurred by Boeing.
Fire engines from the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire department salute the first KC-46A Pegasus delivered McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Jan. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)
In their markup of the 2019 defense budget in June 2018, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern about growing threats to “large high-value aircraft in contested environments.”
The Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, but “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.
“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” the committee added.
Committee members recommended an extra million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation — bumping the total to .4 million.
A KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle test aircraft, Oct. 29, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt Michael Jackson)
Those lawmakers are not the first to broach the adoption of unmanned tankers.
Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, though that is partly an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage affecting commercial and military aviation. Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is working on a similar project, aiming to develop an unmanned transport aircraft for use remote or difficult-to-reach areas.
In 2016, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command chief, who oversees tankers and other transport aircraft, said the service was looking ahead to advanced technology for the KC-Z — a tanker that could enter contested areas and refuel advanced aircraft.
But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said this weekend that the service is no longer looking for at single platforms to address major challenges.
A KC-46A crew member starts to unload cargo at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)
“The days of buying individual platforms that we then described as game changers — those days are behind us,” Goldfein said when asked about potentially buying a stealth tanker to support fifth-generation fighters like the F-35, according to Aviation Week.
“There actually are no silver bullets on the horizon,” he added.
The Air Force chief has said the service should look to prepare for a networked battlefield, fielding assets that can connect and share with each other. He returned that theme this weekend, while flying to Andrews Air Force Base.
A KC-46A crew member inspects the refueling boom at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)
“I actually don’t know if the next version of tanker operates in the air or operates at low Earth orbit,” he said, according to Aviation Week. “I don’t know if it’s manned or unmanned, and I actually don’t care that much as long as it brings the attributes we need to win.”
That new approach may see the head of Air Mobility Command working on the next tanker in coordination with the Air Force Space Command, which Goldfein said “makes perfect sense to me.”
While the future of the Air Force’s tankers remains open-ended, the KC-46 — of which the Air Force expects at least 36 by the end of 2019 — still has definite goals to meet. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service’s top civilian official, confirmed this month that the tanker’s wing refueling pods won’t be certified by the FAA until 2020.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From simple stars to elaborate medallions, here are 12 of the world’s ultimate civilian awards in all of their splendor.
Kazakhstan’s Order of the Golden Eagle
The medal shimmers with gold, diamonds, and rubies.
The award has been given to more than a dozen foreigners, but only two Kazakh citizens have received it: Nursultan Nazarbaev and Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, the only two presidents of Kazakhstan.
Order of the Star of Romania
The medal comes with the unusual reward of a free burial site and a military salute when the recipient dies.
Hero of Ukraine
In 2017, Belarusian Mikhail Zhyzneuski posthumously became the first foreigner awarded the title. Zhyzneuski was shot dead in 2014 during the Euromaidan protests. Many countries’ medals come with miniature versions of the honor (seen here on the right) that can be pinned to clothing.
The United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom
The medal rewards Americans, and occasionally non-Americans, for “exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Hero of the Russian Federation
This award is usually bestowed for “heroic feats of valor.” Two recent recipients were the Ural Airlines pilots who in 2019 guided their seagull-stricken passenger aircraft into a cornfield. There were no fatalities or serious injuries among the 233 people aboard.
Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun
The handmade medal represents a dawn sun made from a polished garnet stone surrounded by a star made of gold and enamel which is suspended from the leaf of a Paulownia tree.
Order of New Zealand
The number of ordinary awardees is limited to 20 living people. After a holder of the medal dies, the badge must be handed in and it is then “passed to another appointee to the order.”
The United Kingdom’s George Cross
Among the hundreds of recipients of this award “for acts of the greatest heroism,” perhaps the most unusual is the island of Malta, which was awarded the cross in 1942 for “heroism and devotion” during the Nazi/Italian siege of the British colony in World War II. The cross was later incorporated into the top left corner of independent Malta’s flag.
Order of Pakistan
This award is usually announced each year on August 14, Pakistan’s Independence Day. The latest recipient of the award was St. Lucian cricketer Darren Sammy for his “invaluable contribution to Pakistani cricket.”
Bulgaria’s Stara Planina
The spiky medal was previously reserved for foreign dignitaries but is now also awarded to Bulgarians who have given “outstanding services” to their country.
Jewel of India
The platinum-rimmed medal is in the shape of a leaf from the Bodhi tree — the same type Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under. The Hindi script says “Bharat Ratna” (Jewel of India). A maximum of three people receive the award each year.
Albania’s Honor of the Nation
This medal is awarded by Albania’s president to Albanians or foreign nationals “as a token of gratitude and recognition for those who by their acts and good name contribute to honoring the Albanian nation.”
If one attack has become the signature of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in recent years, it’s an attack on civilians using a vehicle to slam into them and cause death and mayhem.
Now, London is deploying new technology that can stop these attacks in their tracks.
According to a report by the International Business Times, the Talon was deployed this past Sunday to protect a parade with active and former members of the Royal Navy at Whitehall in the capital of the United Kingdom. The system not only featured tungsten spikes to puncture tires, it also has a net to halt a vehicle weighing up to 17 tons.
A release by the London Metropolitan Police noted that the system is also designed to ensure that the vehicle is only able to go in a straight line. The system is also designed to make it easier for officers to engage some ISIS-inspired terrorist wannabe after the vehicle is stopped.
The “Met” noted in the release that it takes less than a minute for two police officers to deploy the system. Similar “stop sticks” have been used by law enforcement to quickly end police chases by deflating the tires of vehicles within five seconds.
This is accomplished by using hollow spikes to puncture the tires and let the air out in a manner that doesn’t cause the tires to blow out and potentially cause an accident.
StopStick.com, a leading manufacturer, notes that the devices have been successfully used over 21,000 times in ending pursuits.
In the past, a number of vehicle attacks inspired by ISIS have caused significant damage. In Nice, France, 86 people were killed when a terrorist used a truck to drive through a crowd on July 14, 2016. Similar attacks at London Bridge and Westminster Bridge combined to leave 12 dead in the summer of 2017.
Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.
But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.
It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.
McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.
(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)
To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.
During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.
Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.
To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.
For seven decades, the NATO alliance has practiced collective defense and deterrence against evolving international threats, and over the years, its capabilities have changed accordingly.
NATO’s most “powerful weapon,” according to Jim Townsend with the Center for a New American Security, is the “unity of the alliance,” but the individual allies also possess hard-hitting capabilities that could be called upon were it to face high-level aggression.
Heather Conley with the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that Russia is likely to continue to press the alliance through low-end influence and cyberwarfare operations. Still, she explained to Business Insider, NATO needs to be seriously contemplating a high-end fight as Russia modernizes, pursuing hypersonic cruise missiles and other new systems.
So, what does that fight look like?
“I’ve always likened it to a potluck dinner,” Townsend told Business Insider. “If NATO has this potluck dinner, what are the kinds of meals, kind of dishes that allies could bring that would be most appreciated?”
“If a host is looking to invite someone who is going to bring the good stuff, they are for sure going to invite the United States,” he explained, adding that “in all categories, the US leads.”
Nonetheless, the different dinner guests bring a variety of capabilities to the table. Here’s some highlights of the many powerful weapons NATO could bring to bear against Russia.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team pilot and commander performs a dedication pass in an F-35A Lightning II during the annual Heritage Flight Training Course March 1, 2019, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
“The air side of the NATO equation is led by the United States with the F-35 and other various aircraft,” Townsend told BI.
The fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an aircraft that rival powers have been unable to match its stealth and advanced suite of powerful sensors.
While some NATO countries are looking at the F-35 as a leap in combat capability, others continue to rely on the F-16, an older supersonic fighter that can dogfight and also bomb ground targets. And then some countries, like Germany, are considering European alternatives.
Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon F2.
2. Eurofighter Typhoons
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a capable mutli-role aircraft designed by a handful of NATO countries, namely the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain, determined to field an elite air-superiority fighter. France, which walked away from the Eurofighter project, independently built a similar fighter known as the Dassault Rafale.
Observers argue that the Typhoon is comparable to late-generation Russian Flanker variants, such as the Su-35.
While each aircraft has its advantages, be it the agility of the Typhoon or the low-speed handling of the Flanker, the two aircraft are quite similar, suggesting, as The National Interest explained, that the Eurofighter could hold its own in a dogfight with the deadly Russian fighter.
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sits on the flight line at RAF Fairford, England, March 14, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick)
The US provides conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities through the regular rotation of bomber aircraft into the European area of operations.
American bombers have been routinely rotating into the area since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Military.com. That year, the Pentagon sent two B-2 Spirit bombers and three B-52s to Europe for training. The B-1B Lancers are also among the US bombers that regularly operate alongside NATO allies.
US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking off at Perth Airport.
4. US P-8A Poseidon
“There’s also the maritime posture, particularly as Russia continues to rely on a submarine nuclear deterrent. We need a stronger presence. That’s why we’re seeing Norway, the US, UK do more with the P-8As,” Conley, the CSIS expert, told BI.
Facing emerging threats in the undersea domain, where the margins to victory are said to be razor thin, NATO allies are increasingly boosting their ability to hunt and track enemy submarines from above and below the water.
While there are a number of options available for this task, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, which was brought into replace the US military’s older P-3 Orions, are among the best submarine hunters out there.
Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (front) leads Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis, Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie and a Swedish Visby-class corvette during Trident Juncture.
(NATO/LCDR Pedro Miguel Ribeiro Pinhei)
Another effective anti-submarine capability is that provided by the various frigates operated by a number of NATO countries.
“The NATO allies, in particular Italy, France, Spain, all have frigates that have very capable anti-submarine warfare systems,” Bryan Clark with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told BI.
“They have active low-frequency sonars that are variable-depth sonars. They can find submarines easily, and they are very good against diesel submarines.” These forces could be used to target Russian submarines in the Eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea.
“Norway and Denmark also have really good frigates,” he explained. “They could go out and do anti-submarine warfare” in the North Sea/Baltic Sea area, “and they are very good at that.”
An AH-64D Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
6. AH-64 Apache gunship
The Apache gunship helicopter, capable of close air support, has the ability to rain down devastation on an approaching armor column.
The attack helicopters can carry up to sixteen Hellfire missiles at a time, with each missile possessing the ability to cripple an enemy armor unit. The Hellfire is expected to eventually be replaced with the more capable Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.
The Cold War-era Apache attack helicopters have been playing a role in the counterinsurgency fight in the Middle East, but the gunships could still hit hard in a high-end conflict.
7. German Leopard 2
The Leopard 2 main battle tank, which gained a reputation for being “indestructible,” is a formidable weapon first built to blunt the spearhead of a Soviet armor thrust and one that would probably be on the front lines were the NATO alliance and Russia to come to blows.
While this tank, a key component of NATO’s armored forces, took an unexpected beating in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, it is still considered one of the alliance’s top tanks, on par with the US M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2.
Observers suspect that the Leopard 2, like its US and British counterparts, would be easily able to destroy most Russian tanks, as these tanks are likely to get the jump on a Russian tank in a shoot out.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 16, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
8. US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers
A last-minute addition to last year’s Trident Juncture exercise — massive NATO war games designed to simulate a large-scale conflict with Russia — was the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its accompanying strike group.
The carrier brought 6,000 servicemembers and a large carrier air wing of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Norway for the largest drill in years.
“One thing the NATO naval partners have been looking at is using carriers as part of the initial response,” Clark told BI. The US sails carriers into the North Atlantic to demonstrate to Russia that the US can send carriers into this area, from which it could carry out “operations into the Baltics without too much trouble,” he added.
America’s ability to project power through the deployment of aircraft carriers is unmatched, due mainly to the massive size, sophistication and training regimen of its carrier fleet. The UK and France also have aircraft carriers.
(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
9. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile system
PATRIOT, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” is an effective surface-to-air guided air and missile defense system that is currently used around the world, including in a number NATO countries.
There is a “need for an integrated air and missile defense picture,” Conley told BI. “That is certainly a high-valued protection for the alliance.”
NATO is also in the process of fielding Aegis Ashore sites, land-based variants of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, that can track and fire missiles that intercept ballistic targets over Europe.
The U.S. Navy submarine USS North Dakota (SSN-784) underway during bravo sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
10. US Virginia-class submarines
Virginia-class submarines, nuclear-powered fast attack boats, are among the deadliest submarines in the world. They are armed with torpedoes to sink enemy submarines and surface combatants, and they can also target enemy bases and missile batteries ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
These submarines “could be really useful to do cruise missile attacks against some of the Russian air defense systems in the western military district that reach over the Baltic countries,” Clark told BI.
“You can really conduct air operations above these countries without being threatened by these air defense systems. So, you would want to use cruise missiles to attack them from submarines at sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has confirmed that an announcement will be made on June 28, 2018, regarding a planned summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“There will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting,” Bolton said after holding talks on June 27, 2018, with the Russian president in Moscow.
Trump will raise a full range of issues with Putin, Bolton said, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Putin has denied.
The adviser said he did not rule out concrete results to come out of the summit, adding that the leaders believe it is important to meet, despite their differences.
Earlier, a Kremlin aide said the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — will be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides. He said several more weeks were needed for preparations.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin said that Bolton’s visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.
“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.
Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”
When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
Bolton also said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
At least part of the meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by others including Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.
Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”
Ushakov’s comments suggested that the summit is likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13, 2018. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15, 2018 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26, 2018, that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March 2018 after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over issues including the war in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.
Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.
A classified unmanned space plane has been in orbit for over 500 days, but no one is telling the public what it’s doing.
Drones are in the news nearly every day. Tiny toys snapping exciting photos for our Instagram accounts. Commercial drones working for farmers and municipal agencies. Missile-armed drones performing strikes on enemy locations. Unmanned craft, in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, are conducting more missions for more people all the time.
Operated by the United States Air Force, the X-37B is at the top of the drone pyramid and is pushing the outside edge of the envelope as you read this.
The X-37B, sometimes called the Orbital Test Vehicle, is a small unmanned reusable spacecraft built by Boeing that looks a lot like a small space shuttle. It’s 29 feet-long with stubby wings and angled tail fins. Unlike the famous shuttle orbiters that it resembles, however, it lacks a vertical stabilizer. It launches atop an Atlas V 501 launch vehicle inside the booster’s payload fairing and, at the end of its mission, returns to earth and lands on a runway like the 80s-era space shuttle.
What the space plane does while it’s up there, though, is mostly a mystery.
The first X-37B mission, OTV-1, flew in 2010 and lasted for 224 days — close to the X-37B’s designed 270-day endurance. The second mission, flown by a second X-37B, flew in 2011 and lasted 468 days. The third mission, performed by the first spacecraft, lasted an astounding 674 days. The current mission, dubbed “OTV-4,” was launched on May 20, 2015, and recently passed 500 days in orbit.
The Air Force is tight-lipped about how long OTV-4 will last, though it must last until at least March 25, 2017, if it’s going to break OTV-3’s record.
The X-37B program began as a NASA project. One of the X-37’s primary missions was to have been satellite rendezvous for refueling and repair, and the small space plane would have been carried to orbit inside a space shuttle’s cargo bay.
As the program progressed, however, the plan shifted to launching atop an expendable booster and, in 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over the program. DARPA continued development of the X-37, resulting in the current X-37B for the US Air Force.
Once the project transferred to the military, it became classified.
The spacecraft itself is not terribly secret. For the past six years, numerous news stories have been run about the “secret” space plane and many photographs have been published.
What the X-37B does while it’s up there on missions lasting well over a year, though, is the source of much conjecture. The fact sheet for the X-37B on the official Air Force web site describes the mission as “an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”
That’s an explanation that doesn’t explain much, however, and doesn’t seem to justify the enormous expense of building, launching, and operating the spacecraft.
Of course, theories on the internet abound. Some have claimed that the X-37B is an advanced spy satellite. Some wonder if the X-37B could be an experimental space bomber. Others believe that the original mission of satellite rendezvous for maintenance could easily have been adapted to more nefarious purposes, such as interfering with or destroying satellites operated by nations such as Russia or China.
If you spend enough time online, you’re certain to find any number of wild ideas. One of the most outlandish theories about the X-37B is that it’s not unmanned at all. The idea is that a hibernating astronaut is onboard the space plane and that experiments are being conducted to prepare for long-duration manned missions to Mars or, perhaps, to station a quick-reaction force of soldiers in orbit for secret missions anywhere on the globe. Or above it.
Whatever the X-37B is up to, it seems to be doing a good job of it. Work is being done to make it possible for the drone to land at Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle landing strip. Part of the shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility, without a mission since the shuttle program ended, is being modified to process X-37Bs.
A recent NASA presentation discussed the potential to develop a space ambulance which could service the ISS from the X-37B. An X-37C proposal, more than 50 percent larger than the current model, would possibly be able to carry astronauts.
The classified little space plane is a bit of a mystery but certainly one of the most exciting drones in use today. Even if we aren’t sure what’s it doing.
Saying that World War I was really bad for Russia is like saying Hitler was a somewhat unstable veteran of the Great War. While the Tsar fielded the largest army in the world at the time and should have been able to trounce the Germans, years (maybe decades) of neglecting modernization hampered the Russians. Roads were impossible and railways were inadequate. Casualties were heavy and the conditions were deplorable. Even drafting men for the war was difficult. Life in the Russian Empire was so bad, the Tsar would be toppled and replaced by the Soviet Union.
Before the Tsar was forced to abdicate, the Russian Empire tried a last-ditch effort to fill its ranks: hiring women.
Congrats, you’re hired.
When the Great War first began, Russians were only too happy to serve in their country’s military. It was (on paper, at least) one of the most vaunted fighting forces on Earth at the time. But Tsarist Russia’s poor infrastructure, the indecision of the Russian high command, and the lack of adequate food, supplies, and other war resources soon made life miserable. When word got out about the deteriorating conditions on the front, good men suddenly became hard to find. Women, on the other hand, had been trying to join the regular army since day one. These women soon demanded the government form all-women’s military units.
The Tsarist government, facing an increasing manpower shortage, finally gave in. It formed 15 all-women’s battalions in an effort to replace its missing manpower with womanpower. They included communications battalions, a naval unit, and the aptly-named Women’s Battalion of Death. Of the 5,000 women who served in these units, 300 of them would join the Battalion of Death and march to the front in 1914.
Maria Bochkareva was awarded multiple medals after stabbing Germans to death in the trenches.
Led by the peasant fighter-turned military leader Maria Bochkareva, the women were highly-trained and tightly-controlled by Bochkareva. While her harsh (sometimes brutal) leadership kept a majority of potential volunteers from joining, the 300 or so who did stay became some of the most hardcore Russian troops of the First World War. They first saw action in the Kerensky Offensive of 1917. It was a terrible loss for the Russians, who lost 60,000 troops in the fighting. But it was a stunning victory for the Women’s Battalion of Death.
When ordered to go over the top and storm the enemy trenches, the women never hesitated, even when the men at their side did. In one instance, the Russian women made it through three trench systems before the lack of reinforcements necessitated their retreat. Bochkareva, though wounded twice, earned three medals for bravery in combat. With the effectiveness of the women in combat proven on the front, other women were deployed back home.
Back in St. Petersburg, things weren’t going so well for the Tsar and his government. Another women’s battalion had to be deployed to the Winter Palace to defend government ministries and the people who were running them. This is where history could have been made or turned back. When the Bolshevik fighters attempted to take the city, the women weren’t at the Winter Palace, they abandoned the government ministers to their fate and went to guard the supplies. Eventually, they were overcome by the Bolsheviks and forced to surrender. When the Bolsheviks officially took power, these women’s units were disbanded, with varying success.
Women who wanted to fight the Bolsheviks stayed in their units, joining the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Others went home and became Soviet citizens. Many would live long enough to see women conscripted once more when Russia was again threatened from the outside, taking up arms against the Nazis and forming an essential element to the resistance of the Soviet Union – many of whom would go on to earn the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord in late 16th-century Japan. For almost 200 years, Japan had seen near-constant warfare between daimyo, lords like Oda. Although the emperor was nominally in charge of the Japanese people, his real power was ceded to the Shogun, a general who administered the government. The ongoing wars between lords were often over succession. Three subsequent warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were the ones who finally unified Japan.
Fighting alongside Oda was Yasuke, a man from Mozambique who had proven himself worthy of the title “Samurai.”
Yasuke came to Japan in 1579 with an Italian missionary. Though it can’t be confirmed, historians believe Yasuke was from Mozambique, as many of the first Africans to arrive in the Pacific island nation were from Mozambique. The young Mozambican’s black appearance was definitely noticeable in the Japanese capital. He was presented to the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga, who forced the man to strip and clean himself, not believing his skin was naturally black. When he finally accepted this, he eventually adopted Yasuke into his own service, impressed with the African’s strength and physique.
Oda provided Yasuke with money, a residence and his own katana. The now-former missionary was given the post of the Daimyo’s weapon bearer and soon found himself in battle.
The Battle of Tenmokuzan pitted Oda and Tokugawa Ieyasu against their longtime rival Takeda Katsuyori. Katsuyori burned his own castle and tried to escape into the surrounding hills but ended up committing ritual suicide before Oda and Tokugawa could capture him. The Tokugawa leadership describes Yasuke as standing more than six feet tall and having skin as black as charcoal.
But Oda’s luck would soon run out, and the noble Oda Nobunaga was forced to commit suicide by rival Samurai and lord Akechi Mitsuhide at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Yasuke was present for Oda’s seppuku and joined his successor Oda Nobutada’s army to avenge the elder Oda’s gruesome end. He was captured fighting Akechi forces at Nijo Castle but was not killed because he wasn’t Japanese.
Yasuke does not appear in historical records after his capture at Nijo Castle, perhaps being returned to the Jesuit order which originally took him to Japan.
With the influx of COVID-19 patients, hospitals across the country are critically short of personal protective equipment. Doctors have equated the dire situation to being at war with no ammo; walking into rooms knowing their skillsets are necessary and yet completely vulnerable.
A nurse who asked not to be named shared the horror story of wearing the same disposable mask all day, soaked with condensation from her own breath, knowing that it very well was likely rendered useless after only a short time on her overnight shift. “It’s borderline criminal,” she said. “We are being asked to walk into the fire without basic PPE. You see full hazmat suits on the news overseas, and we can’t even get the basics. This is the United States of America and our supply rooms look like that of a third world country.”
Now, they’re begging for your help.
In World War II, citizens were asked to pitch in for the war effort. Women became Rosies, children collected scrap metal and held tin drives, families grew Victory Gardens.
Our current war on COVID-19 is certainly different. The enemy wears no uniform, takes no sides and is invisible to the eye. But the collective efforts needed from our country to step up remains the same. First, stay home. We’ve heard it over and over again but the importance of physical and social distancing in order to flatten the curve will protect these medical workers and facilities from being overwhelmed with patients at the same time.
Second, hospitals are asking that if you can sew, to make masks. While homemade masks are nowhere near the standards and protections offered by medical grade masks, something is certainly better than nothing. This document put together by UC Berkeley School of Public Health lists hospitals that are currently accepting masks, standards that they’re using and how to drop off. This list is ever-growing, but not exhaustive. If you don’t see your local hospital on the list, reach out to them via social media or call them to see if they’re accepting masks.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin was promoting what they call the “DDG DE Laser Enhancement” at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C. In essence, it would add at least two lasers to the five-inch gun, Mk 41 vertical-launch-systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64 cells), a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system, and 324mm torpedo tubes. In addition to the Standard and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, the Mk 41 vertical-launch systems can also carry RUM-139 ASROC launchers and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Lockheed has been testing laser weapon systems for a while. Last month, WATM reported on a test of the ATHENA laser, in which five MQM-170C Outlaw drones were shot down by the 30-kilowatt system. The test was conducted in conjunction with Army Space and Missile Defense Command. ATHENA was described as “ground mobile” in a Lockheed release about the tests.
The deployment of lasers could improve capabilities against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, and even aircraft. The need for counter-drone weapons became very acute when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria deployed UAVs against Coalition forces.
Without a doubt, the most athletic President had to be Theodore Roosevelt. An avid boxer, wrestler, runner, and lover of all things outdoors, America’s 26th President never seemed to reach his peak performance. One might think his subordinates in the United States Army would have realized this before they complained to the Commander-In-Chief. Lesson learned.
And that lesson is Teddy Roosevelt will embarrass you.
Roosevelt remains – to this day – the pinnacle of red-blooded American manliness. This gravel-chewing stone-cold badass never met a challenge he wasn’t willing to put in a headlock and pummel with the sheer force of his iron will. He wasn’t just comfortable with a sustained level of violence in his daily life, this man thrived on it. And he expected no less from those who served him, especially in the United States military. This is the man who volunteered to serve, raised his own regiment, and then earned the Medal of Honor on his first deployment.
There was pretty much nothing TR couldn’t do. So why on earth would anyone in the U.S. military complain to the athlete-in-chief about how hard their life is? One cavalry officer discovered this bad idea personally.
It seems the officer complained to the President about having to ride 100 miles in three days. President Roosevelt, who instituted mandatory physical training for the United States Armed Forces during his Presidency scoffed at the idea. Soldiers and sailors were, for the first time, required to maintain a baseline level of fitness. Still, the Army officer objected to the level of riding he and his men were forced to endure. In response, the then 51-year-old President saw the complaint as a challenge.
He sought to show the Army that not only was it possible to do in three days, but that three days was more than enough time – and he was going to do it personally. If a 51-year-old man who wasn’t training every day could do it, then surely the U.S. Army who is training could do it.
Not only did Roosevelt ride that 100 miles as President, he did it in a single day. The President rode along with his military aide Archie Butt and his physician to the Virginia town of Warrenton. There, Roosevelt gave a speech at the Warren Green Hotel and shook hands with everyone who came out to listen. He had a quick lunch before he and his riding companions headed back to Washington, where they finished their ride in a snowstorm.
And that’s why you don’t complain to Teddy Roosevelt.