Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The Army is accelerating its efforts to field a directed-energy prototype system by fiscal year 2022, and hypersonic weapon prototype by fiscal 2023.

For starters, the Army is fast-tracking the development and procurement of the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser, or MMHEL system, said Lt. Gen L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition.

The MMHEL is a 50-kilowatt laser retrofit to a modified Stryker vehicle, designed to bolster the Army’s maneuver short-range air defense capabilities, according to officials with the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.


The Army is slated to field a four-vehicle battery by late fiscal 2022, Thurgood said. The new system was meant to be maneuverable, while protecting brigade combat teams from unmanned aerial systems, rotary-wing aircraft, and rockets, artillery, and mortars.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

A 5-kilowatt laser sits on a Stryker armored vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by Monica K. Guthrie)

Further, the Army will consolidate efforts with the other services and agencies to help improve directed-energy technology, the general added. While the Army is executing a demonstration of 100 kW high-energy laser technology on a larger vehicle platform, it is working with partners to exceed those power levels.

Hypersonic weapons

In addition to the MMHEL, the Army is expected to field a four-vehicle battery of long-range hypersonic weapon systems the following fiscal year.

Four modified heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTTs, will be equipped with a launcher. Each vehicle will carry two hypersonic weapon systems — totaling eight prototype rounds, Thurgood said.

“The word hypersonic has become synonymous with a particular type of missile,” he explained. “Generally, hypersonics means a missile that flies greater than Mach 5 … that is not on ballistic trajectory and maneuvers.”

The hypersonic system will also rely on the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System 7.0, which is currently available to artillerymen, for command and control.

“Within the Army’s modernization plan, there is multi-domain, and there is the Multi-Domain Task Force. Part of that task force [includes] a strategic-fires battalion and in that strategic fires battalion [will be] this [hypersonic] weapons platform,” Thurgood said.

“It is not long-range artillery. It’s a strategic weapon that will be used … for strategic outcomes,” he added.

Residual combat capability

Overall, the MMHEL and hypersonic systems will both move into the hands of soldiers as an experimental prototype with a residual combat capability, Thurgood said.

“When I say experimental prototype with residual combat capability, and as we build the battery of hypersonics … that unit will have a combat capability,” Thurgood said. “Those eight rounds are for them to use in combat if the nation decides they want to apply that in a combat scenario. The same [applies] for directed energy.”

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

US Army rocket artillery.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Dustin D. Biven)

In addition to providing an immediate combat capability, soldiers will have an opportunity to learn the new equipment and understand the “tactics, techniques, and procedures” required to use each system during combat, the general added.

Further, the Army will also receive valuable feedback to help shape potential broader production of each system after they transition to a program of record.

The Army has already initiated the contract process to develop the prototype hypersonic systems. Senior leaders plan to award vendors by August, Thurgood said.

With both systems, “what we’re trying to create [is an] an opportunity for a decision, based on actual use by a soldier,” he said. “Does this thing do … what we needed it to do? Do we want to continue and make it better, or do we want to have other choices?”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Army introduced the Bradley

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been around for a long time. It’s become a mainstay of the United States Army, although it hasn’t had quite as much export success as the M1 Abrams. Still, the Bradley is much beloved by the military community.

In the early 80s, however, when the Bradley was a spry, new armored fighting vehicle, it had more than its fair share of critics.


By now, many of us are very familiar with this vehicle. There’s the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV). Both systems come with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, an M240 7.62mm machine gun, and the ability to launch the BGM-71 TOW missile.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

These two M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting vehicles combined for 3,000 rounds of 25mm ammo, 24 TOW missiles, and four cavalry scouts.

(US Army photo by SGT Randall M. Yackiel)

The big difference between the IFV and the CFV is how much ammo they carry. The M2 Bradley IFV carries 900 rounds for the Bushmaster and a total of seven TOW missiles. The M3, however, carries 1,500 rounds for the chain gun and 12 TOWs. The trade-off here is in the number of grunts each vehicle can carry in addition to its three-man crew. The IFV carries up to eight additional troops while the CFV has room for two cavalry scouts.

Despite its impressive firepower, in the 1980s, the Bradley got trashed in the media. US News and World Report listed it among the “worst weapons” in the American arsenal. Others pronounced the Bradley as a coffin, “ready to burn.” Many wanted the Army to stick with the simple M113. Now, the M113 wasn’t a bad vehicle, but it lacked firepower.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The latest Bradley IFVs feature many improvements, but still pack a 25mm Bushmaster and the TOW missile.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers)

As we all know, Desert Storm proved the Bradley had the stuff for the troops. It performed well, which quieted critics and, since then, it’s seen a number of improvements. Despite these upgrades, however, the Army has plans for a replacement.

But before the Army introduces a new vehicle, check out how the Bradley was introduced to the United States and our troops in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Algpl4v9DAA

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army pilot’s invention could have saved Kobe Bryant

When Nick Sinopoli saw the first reports of the crash that claimed NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 7 others, his gut told him the cause. “I knew right away what probably happened,” he said.

IIMC, or Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions, is when a pilot flies into clouds or low visibility conditions unexpectedly. Aviators who suddenly find themselves without any ground references can become dangerously disoriented. Without their eyes to tell them which way is up or down they often lose control. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that 86% of all general aviation and helicopter pilots crash when “punching in” the clouds. While Congress, the FAA and other organizations try to find a solution, it’s obvious that  the problem isn’t better equipment or more training. Nobody could find a solution to prevent these senseless deaths. Sinopoli discovered this the hard way.

Nick Sinopoli grew up in Austin, TX., home to legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn. His father loved his music so much that he moved his family to Austin in 1982. Ray Vaughn’s tragic death in a helicopter crash shook the world. In fact, celebrities like Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper and John F. Kennedy Jr. also perished in similar accidents like the one that ended Bryant’s life on January 26, 2020. Sinopoli is no stranger to this type of tragedy himself.

Nick’s friend Rusty Allen, who got him his first helicopter ride, was killed in 2012 when he became disoriented and flew into the ground. “He was the first person I knew who died in an aircraft accident,” he said. Soon after, Nick graduated from Purdue with an engineering degree and went to flight school. There he learned how to “fly instruments”, while his eyes were covered with a piece of cardboard called a hood. On one particular training flight, his hood got stuck in his helmet while Nick was flying towards the runway and his teacher had to yank it out. This moment made an impact on him. He marveled that this antiquated training tool had never been improved. 

Pilots use solid visors to cover their eyes, simulating them being in the clouds. The technology hasn’t changed since Jimmy Doolittle first flew with a “vision restriction device” in 1929. Nick put his skills as an engineer to work, designing a new controllable hood that would mimic flying into the clouds unexpectedly. It’s this transition from being able to see, to not having anything but your cockpit gauges to orient you, that puts inexperienced pilots into a panic. The FAA calls it the “startle effect”. 

Nick knew he had to find a way to solve this nearly 100 year old problem. He said, “I constantly thought about it. It was all consuming. I knew it was my hill to die on. I realized that if anyone was going to stop these accidents, that it would have to be me.” After countless trial and error, Sinopoli perfected his design and sold his car to pay for the patent, which was granted in 2016.

The visor is made of a special material that goes from opaque to clear when electricity is applied. A tap on the ICARUS app lets the instructor select any level of visibility and choose how fast the visor becomes clouded. Pilots can now be forced to train in “bad weather” every time they take off, honing their planning skills from day one. “Making good decisions is just as important as being able to fly in deteriorating conditions. If you can train pilots to make better decisions then people don’t die. It’s just that simple. Everyone who has perished in these kinds of accidents would be alive today if the pilot had just stepped back and made a better decision before they got themselves into trouble,” Sinopoli says.

Now when pilots are faced with low visibility, it will not be the first time they’ve experienced it. Every day can be a bad weather day with ICARUS. “We can simulate the worst weather conditions that you’ll ever find yourself in. Best of all, you’ll be able to feel the true sensations of actual flight. A Green Beret told me that the first time the bullets start flying, you’re not going to suddenly become a good warrior. You have to realistically train like you fight before you see combat. What makes IIMC so deadly is that pilots could never train for it in the aircraft, until now,” Nick said. This is called primacy, or “first learned is best learned.”

ICARUS works equally well in airplanes and helicopters. It’s been requested by universities, flight schools, helicopter EMS operators, law enforcement, government agencies and military testers, including foreign militaries. Training for dangerous dust landings will also be safer with Nick’s invention. Multiple devices can be controlled from the app. You can also train snowy landings, smoke in the cockpit for aerial firefighting, etc. Sinopoli explained, “You can train brown-out dust landings with your entire crew in a parking lot on a clear day. That saves time, money and it’s obviously safer.” The applications for his invention are ever expanding. 

Pilots have already trained with the invention, earning their “instrument rating” with the FAA. Military and civilian instructor pilot Pedro Vargas has flown with ICARUS in airplanes and helicopters and says, “The ICARUS Device is a game changer. I was blown away after I flew with it the first time! It literally changes everything that the aviation world thought they knew about flight training.” Once pilots see what the device does, they instantly recognize how the revolutionary invention has finally solved the most dangerous problem affecting both civilian and military flying.

While it’s easy to see the value in training costs, damaged equipment and maybe even eventual insurance savings, this veteran-run venture has only one goal in mind, to save lives. Nick says, “We’ve been using the same technology for 91 years. Kobe Bryant’s pilot had recently been through a special bad weather training course in a simulator before the crash. It obviously didn’t work. None of the people on his helicopter had to die. A century of new technologies and regulations are not the ultimate solution to saving lives. The solution is better pilots.”
Check out this amazing device at www.icarusdevices.com for more info.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this US Navy crew is going old-school with Louisville Sluggers

It’s not often sailors get permission to take a baseball bat to a multimillion-dollar aircraft carrier.

But when the Navy‘s aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle for the first time in nearly three decades, its crew was ordered to do just that.

The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.


“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.

In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’

“And we did,” the CNO said.

Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.

But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.

“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.

Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.

“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”

The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.

About three months later, the carrier was back in its homeport before heading back out — during which it made the stop in the Arctic Circle. The carrier strike group returned home in December 2018.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This milspouse made the latest cut on ‘American Idol’

American Idol is back this year on ABC with Ryan Seacrest and new judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. They’ve just announced the Top 24 and there’s a military spouse who’s made it this far in the competition.

Jurnee (just one name and she says it’s real) is an 18-year-old hostess from Denver, CO. Her wife, Ashley, serves in the U.S. Army.


Check out Jurnee’s audition video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XhRdvPZxY

www.youtube.com

After Hollywood Week, Jurnee learned she made it to the Top 24 and performed Never Enough for her Idol Showcase. Ashley, who’s soon to be deployed, made it to Los Angeles for the performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRMBMs6ZLPw

www.youtube.com

Longtime Idol viewers will notice the way that the producers are presenting her (ahem) journey means that they’re setting up Jurnee to have a long run on the show (if she continues to perform with the ability she’s demonstrated so far). We’ll be tuning in and following her progress in the weeks to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new unmanned fighter drone could be your next wingman

Boeing Co. has unveiled a new concept for an unmanned fighter that would work autonomously alongside fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Dubbed the Airpower Teaming System, the drone-jet hybrid would be a multi-mission craft using artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to supply pilots with more information during a conflict, according to the company.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia for that country, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow.


The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, the company said. It uses A.I. “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft,” according to its fact sheet.

Boeing intends to hold its maiden flight sometime in 2020.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

A full-scale model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System air vehicle.

(Boeing)

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own “Loyal Wingman” program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

The concept is part of the service’s Air Superiority 2030 road map, which the Air Force debuted in 2016. The road map outlines next-generation air dominance, defined as advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Boeing CEO and chairman Dennis Muilenburg tweeted that the Airpower Teaming System will be the first unmanned aircraft designed and built by the company outside the U.S.

It will be the first Australian-developed combat aircraft since World War II, Reuters said. The country is investing roughly million into the project.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Pando Commandos’ were more intense than you’d think

For the 2017 Army-Navy Game, the Army’s jerseys celebrated the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), the predecessor to the current 10th Mountain Division. Even with the spotlight on one of the most versatile units of WWII, many people don’t understand the bad-assery of the “Pando Commandos.”


After witnessing ski-mounted Finnish soldiers successfully take on and destroy two Soviet tank divisions, founder of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole saw for the need ski troops in the U.S. Army. After much convincing of the Department of Defense, the 10th Light Division (Alpine) was formed from the combinations of the 85th, 86th, and 87th Infantry Regiments assembled, 9,200ft above sea level, at Camp Hale in Pando, Colorado on July 13, 1943.

The goal here was to train a rugged, mountain soldier, acclimated to the harsh mountain tops of the Alps and the frigid north of Scandinavia. Soldiers needed to be trained in both skiing and ice climbing. The 10th Light Division (Alpine) was soon ready to fight and was re-designated as the as the 10th Mountain Division, complete with unique tab and official unit patch.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Because apparently you can’t use a cartoon panda holding a rifle on skis as your official heraldry. (Image via KnowYourMeme)

Meanwhile, the Germans had just set up defenses across the Alps, making travel from the south nearly impossible — a perfect task for the Pando Commandos.

The Germans at Riva Ridge on Mount Belvedere assumed that the near 1,500-ft vertical cliff would be impossible to scale and scarcely manned the position. The 10th Mountain, under the cover of night, blizzard, and complete silence, made the climb and assaulted the Germans as they slept. It was a complete success. The surprise attack grabbed the attention of Germans, who tried to make seven counterattacks to reclaim the peak. None were successful.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
At the time, skiing was mostly a college thing. As a result, their division had more degrees and were smarter than anyone else — a fact most 10th Mountain guys would happily tell you today. (Image via Boston Globe)

Today, the legacy continues on as the 10th Mountain still trains in the icy hell known as Fort Drum. The high-altitude training is perfectly suited for the mountains of Afghanistan.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Liane Schmersahl)

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the contenders for the Navy’s carrier-based drone

The race to get the contract for the US Navy’s first carrier-based drone is heating up.

All three competitors — Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin — have released images of what their drones look like, and the announcement of the winner is expected sometime between August and October 2018.


The program, officially known as the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, or CBARS, is an attempt by the Navy to increase the operational range of carrier-based aircraft with a drone that can perform aerial refueling duties.

The program was originally called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, and was intended to field a carrier-based drone that could conduct air strikes and perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, known as ISR.

But after delays over the main focus of the MQ-25’s role (strike or ISR), the Pentagon decided to repurpose the program to aerial refueling, in order to help deal with its shortage of pilots and the rise of longer range anti-ship defenses.

Northrup Grumman, once considered the most likely to be awarded the contract because of the success of its X-47B demonstrator, announced that it was pulling out from the competition in October 2017, leaving Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin as the only competitors.

Here’s what you need to know about each submission:

Lockheed Martin

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Concept image of Lockheed Martin’s MQ-25 Stingray conducting an aerial refueling mission for an F-35.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

Lockheed Martin’s design is loosely based on its RQ-170 Sentinel and the overall design does not appear much different from Lockheed Martin’s UCLASS offer, the Sea Ghost. That drone was supposed to feature stealth technology to help it conduct strike and ISR missions.

But when the Pentagon shifted the program to aerial refueling, the stealth requirements were dropped. Despite this, Lockheed Martin has decided to keep its flying wing design.

A flying wing design is aerodynamically efficient because it requires less thrust and fuel to fly, and its spot factor is small when its wingtips are folded up.

A flying wing design for a tanker also has the added benefit of having more space than conventional designs, which allows it to carry more fuel. The Navy wants its new drone to be able to hold over 14,000 lbs of fuel.

From a mechanical standpoint, flying wing aircraft are considered slightly easier to maintain as well because they tend to have a lower number of parts.

The drone will also be equipped with sensors and cameras that enable it to carry out limited ISR missions.

Boeing

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Boeing’s prototype MQ-25 Stingray
(Boeing photo)

Boeing’s design is based on its Phantom Ray stealth UAV demonstrator. Boeing has the most experience in aerial refueling, as well as naval aviation as a whole — the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler dominate the current naval air fleet.

Like Lockheed Martin’s design, the drone has a massive fuel tank, meaning it will have no difficulty meeting the Navy’s 14,000lbs of fuel and 500 nautical mile range requirements.

Boeing’s design is the only one that has a working prototype, though it has not yet flown. The drone has been tested in St. Louis on Lambert Field.

The drone was operating on a painted outline of an aircraft carrier flight deck to test if it could function well in the limited space.

Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing, said that they had “successfully controlled the aircraft through all of the most challenging flight deck scenarios, including day and night operations,” in tests that were “designed to show how the aircraft can be taxied and operated within the tight confines of the carrier flight deck.”

Boeing’s candidate was also adapted from the original UCLASS program.

General Atomics

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
MQ-25 Stingray refueling an F-35
(General Atomics photo)

General Atomics’ design is based on their Sea Avenger, a carrier-based version of their Avenger UAV, a strike aircraft that was intended to succeed its MQ-9 Reaper.

The Sea Avenger was re-adapted for refueling operations after the Pentagon cancelled the UCLASS program.

General Atomics and Boeing are working on the proposal together, and this drone would be among the largest projects General Atomics has pursued.

The drone will be equipped with electromagnetic technology that will enable it to fit in seamlessly with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System on board Ford-class carriers.

It will also be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW815 turbofan engines, one of the most efficient and modern engines currently used.

The design is still heavily based on the Avenger, which was designed for strike and ISR missions.

The company has already announced that it will not build a flyable prototype, choosing instead to use its Avenger prototypes for things like ground tests. General Atomics provides the US military with more drones than any other company.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens if you commit a crime in space?

Milesperawesome asks: Could you get in trouble legally if you murdered someone in space? Asking for a friend.

While it might seem like something out of science fiction, given that humans are presently in space and soon enough mass space tourism is going to open up the possibility for many, many more, it’s only a matter of time before someone commits a crime in space, with it being alleged the first already occurred in 2019, which we’ll get to shortly. So what exactly happens if someone does break the law in space? Could you, say, commit murder and get away scot-free?

To begin with, while you might think it can’t actually be possible to commit a crime in space because no country seemingly has jurisdiction there, you’d be wrong. Much like the myth that you can do whatever you want in international waters because no country holds sway, it turns out, among other agreements and rules, International laws are a thing.


On that note, while aboard a given vessel, the ship you’re on officially hails and is registered from some nation or group of nations (like the European Union) and the laws from said entities are binding aboard it in most cases while it’s out at sea. This is outlined in the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, “every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.”

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

Mare Liberum (1609) by Hugo Grotius is one of the earliest works on law of the sea.

(Public domain)

While obviously there isn’t exactly a court case history to back this up, the general consensus is that the same basic idea will hold true for ships in space, and certain agreements to date concerning space ships do seem to bear that out, as well as help give a partial framework for judges to work with.

For example, in the Outer Space Treaty, beyond more or less attempting to ensure space stays free from any claim of national sovereignty, most pertinent to the topic at hand, it notes,

State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outerspace is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

More or less mirroring this idea, on the International Space Station, the partnered nations came up with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation, which states, in part, the nations, “may exercise criminal jurisdiction over personnel in or on any flight element who are their respective nationals.”

As Joanne Gabrynowicz, the editor of Journal of Space Law- which is totally a thing by the way- elaborates, “The law of the nation that contributed and registered the module applies to that module… Further, each astronaut is governed by the law of the nation they represent. Therefore, which nation’s criminal jurisdiction will apply depends on which nation’s module the alleged crime was committed and which nation the alleged perpetrator is from.”

It’s also noteworthy that this Space Station Agreement has already anticipated countless other things that may happen in space and how various nations can work together amicably to resolve them, leading many space lawyers- which are also totally a thing- to speculate that elements of this agreement are likely to get adopted into a more general, universal agreement at some point down the line. And in the meantime, judges may well lean on it, among other existing agreements and analogous cases here on Earth, when attempting to decide legal matters as they begin happening outside of the ISS.

Speaking of these analogous cases, much like when a person travels to another nation and then commits a crime, there are plenty of existing agreements and fodder for authorities to draw from when crimes are committed in space. While there certainly will be the occasional dispute, as even happens between nations on Earth over such matters today, there is a pretty good outline already in place as to how it will probably be sorted out.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

On top of this, even should you renounce your citizenship and be aboard your own vessel that likewise has no ties to any nation (perhaps even with you declaring said ship a nation of its own), it is likely if you did anything serious, especially against someone who does still have citizenship with some nation, you would still face prosecution for any crimes, perhaps via an International Criminal Court or even a special tribunal. (Although, in this case, we’re hoping such a court will be given the new, much cooler moniker of Galactic Criminal Court at some point.)

As the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Henry Hertzfeld, states,

Although there is no sovereignty outside a spacecraft, there are analogies to the law on ships in international waters and also to issues that might occur in Antarctica; both places with no national sovereignty. So, although this is not a settled issue, my reading is that being in space and technically outside of any nation’s sovereignty or jurisdiction is not sufficient to avoid being charged with a crime…

Of course, even then there still is a lot of potential for gray area. For example, one of the world’s leading space lawyers, Joanne Gabrynowicz, outlines one such scenario for people on the International Space Station, which has a pretty well defined set of rules as previously noted,

Each of the modules is registered by a different country, so that means that if you’re in the US laboratory, you’re on a piece of US territory… If you mosey over to the Japanese module, you are now in Japan. So, it’s like an embassy. It’s national territory….What happens if it’s been a long hard day at the American lab, and a European astronaut punches a Canadian in the American module, but then runs over to the Japanese module? Who has jurisdiction over that? …

But, of course, that is just a jurisdictional issue. If a serious enough crime was committed, the person’s going to get prosecuted somewhere. It just might be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare in some cases to sort out where.

When moving over to scenarios like actual colonization of places like Mars, once a colony is setup, it will no doubt enact its own laws, which those living there will have to agree to, whether explicitly or implicitly, not too dissimilar to moving to a new country on Earth. And likewise it is probable that extradition agreements and the like will be setup little different from agreements between nations on Earth.

Coming back around to the question of if there has ever yet been a crime committed in space, this allegedly occurred during astronaut Anne McClain’s six month stint on the ISS in 2019. During that span, she supposedly accessed her recently ex-wife’s bank account several times, allegedly to double check there was enough money in the accounts to cover bills and to care for the pair’s son. On the other hand, her ex, Summer Worden, took the matter more seriously, viewing it as illegal access to her accounts, thus potentially subjecting McClain to certain identity theft laws.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

(Public domain)

Because McClain is an American citizen, was aboard the American module of the International Space Station when she allegedly committed the crime, was using one of NASA’s computers at the time, and her supposed victim is likewise American, she was very clearly under the jurisdiction of the United States. However, as far as we can find, nothing ever came of these accusations other than a NASA investigation and a whole lot of news reports. McClain is still an astronaut for NASA and otherwise no further updates on the matter have ever been made public, so presumably either it was decided no crime was actually committed or the former couple settled the matter amicably and the investigation was dropped.

But to sum up, no matter where you are in the universe, you can be fairly sure that judges the world over will be happy to cite similar type scenarios that have happened on Earth and existing agreements in making sure you are prosecuted for crimes, assuming said crimes were serious enough to be worth the effort involved, or someone kicks up enough of a stink about it. And while there still is plenty of gray area, as soon as space tourism becomes a relatively common thing and people start committing crimes in space, it seems likely that the various nations the world over will quickly develop a comprehensive and more definitive set of rules to govern such things when the need arises.

All that said, there are an awful lot of ways a seemingly innocuous sequence of events can lead to someone’s death in space. Accidents happen- a faulty valve isn’t necessarily proof someone murdered someone else, even if they loathed each other. In some such ways someone could die in space, any halfway decent lawyer could instill reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors, especially if hard evidence couldn’t be attained. After all, the expense of investigating such a crime thoroughly may well be enormous in some cases, thus making it so such a detailed investigation may not be done, or even possible.

So let’s just say in many cases it’s going to be a lot more difficult to tell if there was someone behind such an event, or if it was just an accident… Leading us to perhaps one of the cooler new jobs that are going to be a thing in the coming decades- space detectives.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

(Photo by João Silas)

Bonus Fact:

Ever wonder what the longest prison sentence ever given out is? Well, wonder no more. This was a whopping 141,078 years. It was given in 1989 in Thailand to Chamoy Thipyaso and each of her seven accomplices for defrauding more than 16,000 Chinese investors as a part of a massive Ponzi scheme.

If you’re wondering, in the United States, the longest sentence for some form of corporate fraud was only 845 years. This was handed down in 2000 to Sholam Weiss, for his role in the collapse of National Heritage Life Insurance. By contrast, Bernie Madoff was only given 150 years for his 2009 conviction of defrauding thousands in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

The second and third longest prison sentences (for any crime), globally, were given to Jamal Zougam (42,924 years) and Emilio Suárez Trashorras (49,922 years) for their roles in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid.

As for the longest prison term overall in the United States, it was given in 1994 to Charles Schott Robinson who was convicted of six counts of rape garnering him 5,000 years in prison each- a whopping 30,000 year sentence.

Also in Oklahoma, Darron B. Anderson and Allan W. McLaurin each had in the thousands of years ranges of prison time imposed for the kidnapping, robbery and rape of an elderly woman. Anderson was initially only sentenced to 2,200 years, but upon his second trial (he appealed and won a new one), that second jury imposed a sentence of 11,250 years. McLaurin was initially sentenced to 21,250 years, but the appellate court reduced it to a mere 500 years.

The longest prison sentence imposed in Australia was given to Martin Bryant in 1996 for the Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre where he killed 35 and injured 23 others. His sentence included 1,035 years without parole plus 35 life sentences, one for each life he took.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine vet crawled across Boston Marathon finish line, honored fallen friends

A Marine veteran crawled across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, after his legs gave out late in the race.

Micah Herndon, of Tallmadge, Ohio, persisted because he was running in honor of three friends who died in an IED attack in Afghanistan.

“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through,” Herndon told CBS Boston.


On Jan. 9, 2010, Herndon was riding in a vehicle with fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer when they struck a 400-pound IED, Herndon told the Washington Post.

Marine Veteran Crawls Across Boston Marathon Finish Line

www.youtube.com

Juarez and Hamer died on impact. Ballard, who Herndon described as his best friend, died later of his injuries.

Herndon went on to survive two more IED attacks, and told The Post he got into running as a way to deal with the tough transition back to civilian life.

“There’s a reason why I’m here,” he told the paper. “I’m just trying to find out what that reason is for.”

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

Herndon ran with his friends’ names on bibs attached to his shoes.

(CBS Boston)

Herndon had hoped to finish the race in under three hours, in order to qualify for the New York City Marathon in November. He was on pace to make that goal for most of the race, but his legs started to give out when he hit Heartbreak Hill, an incline near the 20-mile marker, according to The Post.

He started feeling discomfort in his Achilles’ tendon that eventually caused his legs to give out entirely, leading him to finish the race on hands and knees.

Video shows volunteers clearing space for Herndon to he could crawl across the finish line. He was then put in a wheelchair and taken to get medical attention.

While he is still recovering from the race in Boston, he told The Post that he plans to get back to running as soon as possible, calling it his “therapy.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army SSGT performs the ultimate Van Halen tribute and it goes viral

On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.


Eddie Van Halen Tribute

www.youtube.com

West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.

The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.

West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.

The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.

That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.

In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.

During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.

A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”

The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.

In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.

Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Dashcam footage shows pilot ejecting from armed F-16 just before it crashes into a California hangar

Last Thursday afternoon, commuters driving down the 215 Freeway adjacent to Riverside County, California’s March Air Reserve Base witnessed an incredible sight. A pilot was forced to eject from his F-16 Fighting Falcon carrying live ordnance over the highway, deploying his chute as the fighter careened into the roof of a nearby warehouse.

The single-engine fighter was headed back to March Air Reserve Base after completing a routine training mission in the nearby Moreno Valley when the pilot reported a hydraulics failure in the aircraft. Soon, he was forced to eject, landing safely in a nearby field. The crippled jet, however, continued its uncontrolled descent into the roof a warehouse across the freeway from the base, belonging to a company called See Water Inc.


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In a dramatic 20-second clip captured by the dash camera of YouTuber James Dyer, you can see the stricken F-16 losing altitude as it passes from the left to the right of the screen. As the pilot ejects, the aircraft continues to coast and wobble, seemingly toward the freeway until the clip ends.

The warehouse that the armed F-16 crashed into was occupied at the time, and at least one person recorded footage of the aftermath that they later posted to Facebook.

“Holy *expletive* dude. That’s a *expletive* airplane; that’s a military airplane in our building,” one person can be heard exclaiming in the footage.

Damage filmed inside warehouse after fighter jet crash in California- video

youtu.be

Warning – Video contains harsh language

While local officials would not comment on the exact munitions the F-16 was carrying, they did confirm that it was equipped with a “standard armament package,” which suggests 500 rounds for the aircraft’s on-board cannon as well as a number of potential air-to-ground or air-to-air bombs and missiles. All told, the F-16 has hard points for six external weapons, often broken down into two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, as well as two additional 2400-pound external fuel tanks when necessary for long-duration flights. Whatever ordnance was on board this Fighting Falcon was quickly secured by Air Force officials.

Army accelerates delivery of directed energy, hypersonic weapon prototypes

F-16 carrying a full combat load including external fuel tanks

(U.S. Air Force)

Suffice to say, as bad as a hole in a warehouse roof may be, this incident could have been significantly worse. No one was killed in the crash, though 13 people were injured with three remaining hospitalized but listed as stable. According to local health officials, none of the injuries sustained were life-threatening.

“Thank God everyone is safe and OK,” Mike Johnson, the CEO of the company located in the warehouse, told the press. “We’ll have to see what this means for the company, but right now our concern is with our employees and their families.”

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