Here are the changes to the M16 since 'Black Hawk Down' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

About the time this issue hits the newsstands, the U.S. Special Operations community will likely be taking a look back at one of the most high-profile operations in their history: Operation Gothic Serpent, which included the infamous Battle of the Black Sea, made famous by the book-slash-movie Black Hawk Down. That mission, which took place in October of 1993, is officially 25 years old this fall.

Several veterans of that operation are currently active in the firearms industry and have given their historical accounts of the mission to various media outlets. Instead of trying to retell someone else’s war story, we wanted to take this anniversary to examine the progress of America’s everyman rifle over the ensuing two-and-a-half decades, and perhaps reflect on just how good we have it now.


Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Blast from the past

As the rise of the retro rifle continues to gain momentum, several companies are now producing period-themed AR-pattern rifles to commemorate past iterations of Stoner’s most famous design. Troy Industries was one of the first to offer an out-of-the-box solution to collectors and enthusiasts wanting a “period” rifle with their My Service Rifle line, commemorating famous military operations, and the associated rifles used to win the day.

Their recent release of the M16A2 SFOD-D carbine made an all-too-appropriate cornerstone for this project. This no-frills rifle was state of the art at the time it was used by small-team elements of the U.S. Army and Air Force in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a 14.5-inch barrel, carbine-length gas system affair with traditional CAR handguards, iron sights, and an A2 carry handle upper. The gun ships with a length of rail mounted on both the carry handle and the 6 o’clock position at the forward end of the handguard.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

This carbine was considered state-of-the-art around the time Meatloaf topped radio charts with “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” If that doesn’t make you feel old …

As a preface to all of you firearm historians out there, please note that this was an “in the spirit of” build and does features accessories in the style of this period, as opposed to the actual items. Attempting to procure the actual lights, sights, and mounts from two-plus decades ago was hardly conducive to deadlines or production budgets. So, in several cases, we had to make do with “close enough.” Good enough, as the saying goes, for government work. This particular Gothic Serpent sample is outfitted with a SureFire 6P, complete with a whopping 60-lumen incandescent bulb, mounted on a single scope ring with their push-button tactical tail cap. The optic is an Aimpoint 9000, which uses the longer tube style of the older 5000 with updated electronics.

While the idea of mounting a light to a weapon isn’t exactly new, the technology to do so in a manner that’s both convenient and ergonomic is a relatively recent development. As late as the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, line units were using duct tape and hose clamps to hold D-cell mag lights onto their rifles. The SOF community, having a larger budget and more time dedicated to RD, found that you could use weaver scope rings to mount the then-new smaller lights made by SureFire onto their guns. Certainly better than the methods used by conventional units even a decade later, this small measure of convenience came with two primary pitfalls — actuating the light and lumens.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Though night vision, and the earlier starlight technology, dates back to Vietnam and somewhat before, dedicated night-fighting gear isn’t a catchall for “intermediate” lighting situations. Think about entering a dark room in the middle of a bright desert afternoon in Africa. You need some kind of artificial light to see your target, but early night vision goggles — prone to washout or permanent damage from ambient light through a window or hole in the ceiling — were the wrong answer. So weapon lights became the best compromise.

Even though any advantage is better than no advantage, less than 100 lumens doesn’t buy you much reaction time. As your eyes are rapidly adjusting from bright light, to no light, to a little bit of light the “increased” ability to identify friend from foe is marginal at best. Tape switches were available at the time, but far from universal and far from reliable. They had to be taped on and, if you’ve ever had a piece of tape peel off something in the heat, you know that taping things together isn’t the most ironclad attachment method.

Once you get the light mounted, you have to be able to actually turn it on. With the light at the bottom of the handguard, thumb activation is out of the question. To make this placement work, we had to shift our support handgrip to just past the magwell and use the index knuckle of that hand to trip the light. It works, but not well. While firing, we had trouble keeping enough pressure on the switch to keep it on. The other option is to twist the tailcap for constant-on, but then you run into the fairly obvious issues of battery life, and of giving away your position between engagements.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Synergistic advances in handguards, lights, and forward grips provide a support-hand hold that’s more ergonomic and offers better control over the weapon.

Once you can see your target, you gotta hit it. The early electro-optical sights, also of Vietnam vintage, were a huge boon for rapid shots under tight constraints. The optics themselves, to include the Aimpoint 3000s and 5000s of the Black Hawk Down era, didn’t have the kind of battery life or reliability that we now expect from any red dot worth its salt. But mounting them on an A2-style receiver created an additional issue: height over bore.

For the uninitiated, height over bore is exactly what it sounds like. Mounting your scope several inches above your barrel creates the need for both mechanical offset when you zero as well as for manual holdover when trying to make precise shots — like headshots, which are a common point of training for hostage rescue units. Furthermore, these high-mounted optics require a “chin weld” on the stock, which is unnatural, uncomfortable, and offers a floating sight picture at best, particularly while shooting on the move.

Latest and greatest

As a demonstration of the technical progress that’s been made in configuring the AR or M4-style rifle, we contrast Troy’s My Service Rifle SFOD-D gun to their own cutting-edge carbine, the SOC-C. The SOCC (Special Operations Compatible Carbine) also sports a 14.5-inch barrel chambered in 5.56mm — which is squarely where the similarities end. The SOC-C features a mid-length gas system. Recent testing by USSOCOM has proven what the commercial market has known for years —that the longer gas tube makes for a cleaner and softer shooting weapon.

The SOCC covers that gas tube with a 12-inch M-LOK handguard. This single feature offers the warfighter a level of modularity that hasn’t been known since the M16’s introduction six decades ago. Now you can mount your lights and any other accessory wherever you want. In our case, we used SureFire’s new 600DF weaponlight attached to the rifle by way of an Arisaka Defense inline mount. The 600DF produces 1,500 lumens, which not only restores small rooms to broad daylight conditions at the push of a button, but can probably be used to signal low-flying aircraft or heat up your MRE.

When Super 6-4 went down near the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, soldiers had to mount a rail to the handguard, a scope ring to the rail, and the light into the scope ring. This system creates poor ergonomics and multiple points of failure for your light to shoot loose or fall off completely. With the 600DF/Arisaka combo, the mount is screwed directly into the body of the flashlight, and then attached directly to the handguard. Not only is this a simpler system less prone to mechanical failure, but the advent of modular handguards provides adjustability in where the light is placed, both lengthwise along the fore-end and around its circumference. The biggest single benefit to come from this advancement is that, now, you can configure the gun around the operator’s natural stance and hand placement instead of changing how you fight just to accommodate a flashlight.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.

Optics have gotten smaller, smarter, tougher, and more diverse in the last 25 years. Our SOCC sports an Aimpoint Comp M5. It’s their smallest and most efficient rifle-mounted red dot. With battery life measured in years and a slew of brightness settings that include night vision compatibility. The move from carry-handle upper receivers to full-length top rails provide a laundry list of benefits on a fighting rifle. The aforementioned height-over-bore issue all but disappears. This simplifies zero. It also simplifies unconventional shooting positions like shooting over or under a barricade and allows a proper cheek weld. Additionally, the full-length top rail allows end users to utilize different types of optics. The vast increase in mounting space means that force multipliers like variable-power glass and clip-on thermal or night-vision units can be mounted quickly and securely with no tools, as the mission changes.

All the small things

While lights and sights were our two most obvious observations, there are other less prominent improvements that are equally important. One is the advent of ambidextrous controls. While, statistically, the number of left-handed shooters is pretty low throughout the ranks, if you happen to have one on your team you want them to reap all the same benefits everyone else in the stack does. Ambi selector levers, charging handles, and mag and bolt releases all create a perfectly mirrored manual of arms, regardless of which hand is pressing the trigger. But it’s not only southpaws who get something out of it.

The advent of urban warfare has forced U.S. soldiers to enter a battle space full of walls, windows, and hard angles. Being able to transition your carbine from strong side to support side as you adapt to available cover offers a very real increase in soldier survivability. Ambidextrous buttons and switches allow all shooters to switch-hit off of barriers without having to change anything about how they drive their gun.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.

The last, but perhaps most critical upgrades we’ll discuss come in the form of the almighty bang switch. After executing proper stance/grip/sight alignment/sight picture, trigger press is the shooter’s last physical input into the weapon before that round leaves the barrel. Sloppy or harsh trigger press can throw a shot even if you do everything else right. This becomes a literal matter of life and death for units that fight in very close quarters where hostages and innocents are all in play.

The M16A2 SFOD-D sports a standard Mil-spec trigger that was delightfully rocky and inconsistent. By comparison, the SOCC comes out of the box with a Geissele G2S trigger. While not marketed as a match trigger per se, it offers a gliding smooth take-up with a consistent break that snaps like a carrot each and every time. It’s this consistency and predictability that gives a shooter an opportunity to improve their marksmanship more quickly, as well as imparting a confidence that the trigger will do exactly what you want it to every single time — a not insignificant comfort when entering situations measured in tenths of a second.

Newer shooters, and older ones who have embraced progress, get quickly adjusted to the ease with which a modern, properly configured rifle can be run hard under demanding conditions. While the events of Operation Gothic Serpent can be labeled as both tragic and heroic, the lessons learned from those units and their experience cobbling together a “best possible” solution with the parts they had set in motion a ripple effect that helped birth the cutting-edge carbines we now use to defend our country and our homes.

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

Articles

These two Medal of Honor recipients could be the first American servicemen to become saints

Though “saintly” is a term quite often used to describe the virtuous actions of American troops in combat zones — from providing humanitarian aid and medicine to those in need, to placing themselves between civilians and the line of fire — it could have a very literal meaning in the near future when describing two deceased military chaplains.


Decades after their passing, Catholic priests Fr. Emil Kapaun, and Fr. Vincent Capodanno, are currently undergoing the process for canonization with the Roman Catholic Church, which could see these two Medal of Honor recipients become the first official saints to have served with the US military.

Emil Kapaun was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the US Army in 1944, seeing service as a chaplain in the Burma Theater towards the end of World War II. Briefly leaving the Army at the war’s conclusion to pursue graduate studies, he returned to active duty soon afterwards and was stationed in Japan with a cavalry unit.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
Chaplain Emil Kapaun celebrates a Catholic Mass for cavalry soldiers during the Korean War (Photo US Army)

The young priest, respected among his peers and often sought out as a source of advice and friendship by the soldiers he ministered to, was sent back to a combat zone during the onset of the Korean War. Using the hood of a jeep as his altar, Kapaun led prayer services and Catholic Masses in the midst of combat for soldiers who requested it, sometimes even while under withering enemy fire that would see his jeep lit up with machine gun rounds by Chinese and North Korean forces.

The chaplain was taken prisoner, along with a number of others from his unit during the Battle of Unsan, and was force-marched to a Chinese prison camp where he and his fellow prisoners of war would undergo harsh treatment at the hands of their captors. Kapaun developed a quick reputation for stealing food and medicine from Chinese storage sites at the camp to feed the malnourished and aid the sick POWs.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
Emil Kapaun’s official portrait (Photo US Army)

He would also go without his meager rations for considerable periods of time, having volunteered them to others who he felt needed it more than he did. Above that, Kapaun incurred the wrath of his Chinese guards for halting the executions of wounded American troops by tackling or shoving the soldiers lined up to commit the dastardly act.

Still ministering to his fellow POWs as best as he could, Kapaun died in captivity. His body was thrown in a mass grave by his Chinese captors along with the remains of many other deceased American POWs. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2013 by former President Barack Obama.

Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno was another military chaplain similarly decorated for bravery like Kapaun, who lost his life in war. After joining the Catholic priesthood and completing his studies in a seminary, the freshly-ordained reverend from New York was commissioned an officer in the Navy upon hearing of a need for chaplains to minister to Marines and sailors.

Though he could have requested to stay away from the front lines, Capodanno felt that he was called to a deployment overseas in Vietnam, ministering to infantry Marines embroiled in a brutal fight against the Communist North Vietnamese forces. In 1966, Capodanno’s request was granted and he was sent to South Vietnam to serve with the 7th Marine Regiment.

Liked unanimously by the Marines he ministered to, Capodanno was affectionately referred to as “The Grunt Padre” for his willingness to go into combat and assist corpsmen in administering aid to casualties sustained in battle. Capodanno extended his tour in Vietnam for another year, this time with 5th Marine Regiment.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
Vincent Capodanno’s official Navy portrait (Photo US Navy)

It was during this last tour in 1967, that the Navy chaplain would lose his life. In the onslaught of an outnumbered fight, where small elements of Marines were pitted against an overwhelming force of NVA troops and irregulars, Capodanno ran into battle repeatedly to pull fallen Marines away from danger, sustaining critical wounds himself.

Refusing to be evacuated, the Grunt Padre continued onward, giving Last Rites to the dying while tending to the wounded with combat medical aid. A burst of machine gun fire finally cut down Capodanno as he attempted to shield a fallen Marine from enemy fire with his own body.

The Navy chaplain’s heroism and valor under fire was witnessed by every Marine and corpsman on the field of battle that day, and the following year, Capodanno’s family was notified that he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor as a result.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
Chaplain Capodanno celebrating a Catholic Mass for Marines during a lull in fighting in Vietnam (Photo US Marine Corps)

In the years after their passing, Kapaun and Capodanno have generated huge followings, especially among soldiers, Marines and sailors alike, a number of whom devoted time to praying for their spiritual intercession. And interestingly enough, a number of miraculous events have occurred in the time since, apparently attributed to the assistance these two chaplains have supposedly provided from even beyond the grave, still serving faithfully.

According to the Catholic Church, a series of verified miracles attributed to a candidate for sainthood are required before someone can be confirmed through a process called the “cause for canonization.” Currently, the miracles ascribed to Capodanno and Kapaun’s intercession are under procedural investigation by the Church, and should they be approved, these two former servicemen who gave their lives for their brothers in arms could very well find themselves canonized the first American military saints in history.

Jobs

NASA’s ‘chief sniffer’ smells everything before it goes to space

Thanks to George Aldrich and his team of NASA sniffers, astronauts can breathe a little bit easier. Aldrich is a chemical specialist or “chief sniffer” at the White Sands Test Facility’s Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory in New Mexico. His job is to smell items before they can be flown in the space shuttle.

Aldrich explained that smells change in space and that once astronauts are up there, they’re stuck with whatever smells are onboard with them. In space, astronauts aren’t able to open the window for extra ventilation, Aldrich said. He also said that it is important not to introduce substances that will change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.


More than being merely unpleasant, smells in space can indicate a health threat. Even objects that give off no odor can emit dangerous chemicals by a process called off-gassing. If an object’s off-gassing has toxic effects, it can be a matter of life and death.

“Smell is brought out by confined spaces and heat,” said Aldrich, “yet astronauts have no way of escaping a smell if it becomes pervasive. If that smell comes from dangerous compounds, it’s a serious health threat.”

It is Aldrich’s job to use his sense of smell to ensure the olfactory comfort, as well as the safety, of astronauts on orbit.

When he was just 18 years old, Aldrich began working at White Sand’s fire department and was asked to be on the department’s Odor Panel. Aldrich explained that one of the requirements to get a job as a sniffer is a lack of any allergies or respiratory problems. “If you have a lot of allergies, your nasal passages are already irritated and cannot be used,” he said.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
(NASA photo)

NASA calibrates and certifies its sniffers’ noses every four months using a “10-bottle test” in which seven of the bottles have odors and three of them are blanks. The seven scents must be categorized as musky, floral, ethereal, camphoraceous, minty, pungent or putrid.

According to the NASAexplores Web site, Aldrich’s team tests nearly all items that astronauts would encounter during their flight — including fabric, toothpaste, circuit boards, makeup and even the ink on their checklists.

First, the items are tested for toxicity. They are placed into individually sealed containers and then into an oven, which is heated to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days to speed up the off-gassing process. The gases are then extracted and tested to determine whether they are toxic or carcinogenic. If the gases are deemed safe, the items then undergo odor testing.

Aldrich and four other team members smell the items and rank them on a scale of zero to four, ranging from non-detectable (zero), to barely detectable, easily detectable, objectionable and offensive (four). Aldrich refers to level four as “get-me-out-of-here.” Because the sense of smell can vary from person to person, sniffers give each object its own ratings, from which an average is obtained. If an item rates more than a 2.4 on the scale, it fails the test and is not allowed on the flight. Some items that have failed are camera film, felt-tipped markers, mascara and certain types of stuffed animals. Aldrich has done 765 of these “smell missions” to date.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
(NASA photo)

NASA could use dogs or “electronic noses” for this testing, but as Aldrich pointed out, the Agency would rather use human sniffers because they serve as a screening test for the also-human astronauts. The human testers can more accurately identify smells that will offend the human crewmembers than an electronic nose could.

As a result of his career, Aldrich has had some uncommon opportunities. He has served as a judge four times at the Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Competition. He has also appeared on television a number of times, including appearances on two game shows.

While others may chuckle at his unusual occupation, Aldrich said he believes in its value.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was important,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian-backed separatists violate truce on New Year’s

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and two others wounded in clashes in the country’s east despite a fresh cease-fire agreement between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists.

The Defense Ministry said on Jan. 2, 2019, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire three times on Jan. 1, 2019, by firing guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces returned fire, killing one separatist and wounding four others.


The separatists accused Kyiv’s forces of violating the truce.

Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.

Fighting persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

A new truce between Ukrainian forces and the separatists took effect at midnight on Dec. 29, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways being promoted makes skating duty easier

Being promoted comes with a lot of responsibilities. Having power over those below you, vested in you by your rank, is one of those challenges that never seems to get easier, even with time.

That being said, being picked up for promotion can also elevate you into an entirely new level of slacking off — if that’s your thing. Of course, skipping out on everything makes you a sh*tbag leader who will be the subject of much behind-the-back trash talking. That being said, there are ways of doing the things expected of a leader while deflecting the burden of minor inconveniences.

These are guidelines born from observations, but, as always, know you can only get away with that your rank can afford.


Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“Don’t worry, Private Snuffy. We’ll get you back up there… in a bit…”

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Hannah Tarkelly)

You’re not slowing down, you’re “motivating the slow runners”

It happens every time during a higher-echelon run. Private Snuffy got too drunk the night before and, despite many warnings, cannot keep up with the mindbogglingly fast pace that the commander set. Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of everyone, you, as a leader, can slow down a bit to go “motivate” Private Snuffy in the back. Let’s not mention that running a bit at their pace is helping you catch your breathe.

The same could also be said for calling cadence. Think about it. After everyone turns on auto-pilot to run, they’ll fall in sync with the cadence. If you decide to take initiative and call a few cadences yourself, you can slow down your voice and everyone will instinctively slow down with you.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“It’s been a long day, let’s grab a bite to eat. My treat.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)

You’re not swinging by the PX for snacks, you’re “escorting the new guy around the installation”

First impressions mean a lot. The very first kindness shown to someone will forever leave them with a positive impression of you. NCOs are often the first ones tasked with sponsoring the new person added to the unit. You’ll have to show them around, take them where they need to go, and, basically, work at their pace for a while.

You can also show them the cozier spots that they’d find eventually, like the food court at the PX or where the cheapest place to get liquor around post is — because that’s just how helpful you are.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“You don’t have your MOPP boots, Private Snuffy? You get a pass this time.”

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Liane Hatch)

You’re not skipping out on having your own stuff checked, you’re “busy checking others”

Not everyone is perfect at all times. Take packing list inspections, for instance. You know that those MOPP boots are bullsh*t and you probably won’t even bother taking them out of the plastic bag, but the first sergeant put them on there anyways.

Instead of having your ass chewed out for not following the packing list to the letter, you can instead not mention your own list and assist with helping the other NCOs square away the Joes.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“Oh? This will take how long? That’s not a problem.”

(U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)

You’re not missing formation, you’re “handling business”

Ever see a Chief Warrant Officer 5 make it to a standard weekend safety brief? Even if you’re certain that they’ve got to be on the roster, you’ll never see them. That’s because they’re busy… Or so we’re told.

You could instead give a heads up to one of your peers that you won’t be making it to the BS formation beforehand by convincing them that you’re going to be “super busy” at battalion. Battalion S-1 shops are notoriously packed, so no one will bat an eye if you “just happen” to make it in time for the 100% accountability formation.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“Yep. That’s a thing. Check.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt Col Max Despain)

You’re not avoiding working parties, you’re “supervising”

Even subordinates will catch on if you pull this one off lazily. Everyone is trying to lift the heavy junk out of the connex and, if you’re sitting there with your thumb up your ass, expect to get called out for your laziness if, when questioned, you simply say, “I’m making sure you’re doing the work.”

Instead, employ the oldest trick in the book and the greatest open secret in the military: Hold a clipboard and check things off. Occasionally, help lift the heavy stuff and earn a bit of admiration. It’ll look like you’re going out of your way to help. In actuality, you’re just skipping the majority of the manual labor.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

“It’s good to be the king commander.”

(Department of Defense photo by Chuck Cannon)

You’re not just missing an entire day, you’re doing “Commander business” 

No names, obviously, but once I saw a Lt. Colonel walk out of his office with a set of golf clubs. The staff duty NCO jokingly said, “busy day, sir?” The Lt. Colonel replied with, “ehh, the brigade commander wanted to see us. I don’t even know how to use these damn things” and proceeded to go play golf for the day. At face value, the full-bird colonel just went out for a day of golfing with his battalion commanders and no one dared to say anything about it.

Once you’re at a certain rank, the whole “check down, not up” policy will protect your ass — even as you blatantly just take a day off.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s billion-dollar robot program

The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.

The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.


Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”

“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.

In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.

The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
The RIPSAW-MS1 demonstrates its off-road capabilities during a lanes exercise at the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo. The RIPSAW is equipped with six claymore mines, can carry 5,000 pounds and tow multiple military vehicles. The RIPSAW is designed to be an unmanned convoy security vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo)

But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.

‘These can be weapons of terror…’

Along these lines, over two dozen countries have called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, but the US is not among them.

In August 2017, Tesla’s Elon Musk and over 100 experts sent a letter to the United Nations urging it to move toward banning lethal autonomous weapons.

“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.

Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.

America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.

Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.

The killer robots debate

Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.

“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.

As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
While being dragged, 225th Engineer Brigade Soldier Sgt. Kasandra Deutsch of Pineville, La., demonstrates the power of the Talon robot.
(U.S. Army photo)

“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”

Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.

In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.

In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.

Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.

“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.

Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.

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

popular

6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

 

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

 

The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Post-deployment booze

 

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

 

Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect

 

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a Humvee can stop an RPG

The Humvee — High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) — has been a workhorse for the United States military for over three decades. The vehicle is showing its age, as insurgents have been doing a lot of damage with improvised explosive devices and RPGs. While the former can be a problem, the humble HMMWV may soon have a counter in the form of an active protection system.


Wait, you might be saying, aren’t active protection systems a tank thing? Well, not necessarily. Yes, they can be heavy, but they don’t have to be. According to a handout from General Dynamics at the Association of the United State Army expo in Washington, D.C., there is an active protection system that can fit on a HMMWV – or bigger vehicles.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
A baseline Iron Fist APS. (Photo via wiki user Ereshkigal1)

The Iron Fist Light is a system that comes in at 551 pounds. Yep, you did not miss a fourth digit there. This means that the cargo carrying capacity of most vehicles is not seriously compromised. The system can be bolted on to just about any vehicle and uses both infra-red and radar systems to track incoming missiles and rockets. Then, it can fire an interceptor to destroy or deflect the incoming projectile.

The system works in both open terrain and urban environments, and also offers the ability to detect other types of hostile fire, such as bursts from small arms. The system provides 360 degrees of coverage and can also handle high-angle shots. Furthermore, it doesn’t draw a lot of electrical power from the vehicle.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’
A HMMWV now can have active protection against RPGs, and still dish out punishment like this TOW missile. (Photo via Wikimedia)

The Iron Fist was originally developed by Israel Military Industries. It was selected by the Army for use on vehicles last year, and will also be fitted on Dutch infantry fighting vehicles. One thing for sure, the HMMWV, which will be around for a while, is not going to be an easy target for bad guys.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Wild photos show US Marines munching on scorpions and washing them down with snake blood as they learn to survive in the jungle

US Marines are eating scorpions and drinking snake blood in the jungle, and no, it’s not because someone forgot to pack the Meals Ready to Eat.


Check out these wild photos and see how the Marines are connecting with nature in a way a lot of people would probably rather not.

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink water from a plant as part of jungle survival training.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Cpl. Alicia Yoo with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats watermelon during jungle survival training.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lance with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, eats a live scorpion as part of jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold 2020.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

Then, of course, there is one of the most iconic aspects of the Cobra Gold jungle survival training, and that is drinking cobra blood.

A King Cobra can grow to 13-feet-long and carries venom that attacks the central nervous system of its prey. A person bitten can die within 30 minutes.

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, drink the blood of a king cobra.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Hannah Hall

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U.S. Marine Sgt. Etrice Sawyer a native of Miami, Fla., with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, drinks the blood of a King Cobra.

U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Nicolas Cholula

“We don’t do this for fun, but to survive,” a Royal Thai Marine instructor explained previously, adding, “It won’t fill you up, but it will keep you alive.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Spider-Man’ was exactly the film that America needed at the time

There’s a constant debate within the nerd-o-sphere about which superhero film is best. Some score points for being accurate to the source material, some are of a higher quality than others, and some are just downright enjoyable to sit through while munching down a tub of popcorn.

In the end, this debate always boils down to personal preference, but there’s no denying that just one film truly cemented the audience’s desire for more superhero films — and that’s 2002’s Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire. Sure, it’s not the best filmmaking that the genre’s ever seen, nor is it even close to being the highest grossing, but what this film can claim that no other superhero film can is a crucial role in American pop culture following the horrific events that occurred the morning of September 11th, 2001.


Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

I mean, the guy is so down on his luck that he has to live with his aunt.

(Marvel Comics)

For anyone unfamiliar with his role in the comic books, Peter Parker was never some big, strong superhero. He never wore a cape and he he was never really a permanent member of some greater superhero alliance. In fact, he was generally the opposite of what most people would assume a superhero would be. He’s a quiet, shy nerd who works a low-paying, entry-level job for a boss that hates him.

In both the films and the comics, Peter Parker is actually the stand-in for the audience. The general public isn’t made up of rich billionaire philanthropists or Norse gods — they’re just average Joes trying to make ends meet.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

We told ourselves we would rebuild. And we did.

The film was in production for years and, just like in the comics, it showcased New York City a character, as much as anyone else in the film. So, in much of the film’s advertisements, they used the two most iconic buildings in the New York skyline: the Twin Towers. In promotional posters and even a stand-alone story trailer that showed Spider-Man stopping bank robbers in a getaway helicopter, the Towers placed a fairly central role.

Then, the day that none will forget came. Four passenger airliners were hijacked. Two successfully struck their target, the World Trade Center in New York City, and another hit the Pentagon. The fourth was brought down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

What seemed like an eternity to onlookers took one hour and seventeen minutes. There’s no denying that, in this moment, all American felt scared and, for once, vulnerable.

America was hurting bad. Meanwhile, certain scenes had to be re-shot that featured the New York skyline. This, of course, shuffled the release date back. But in the process, Sam Raimi, the director of the film, added one iconic moment that made the most lasting impression on pop culture — the very last twenty seconds of the film.

Spider-Man had saved the day, saved a hurting New York City, swung up to the top of the Empire State Building, and stood in front of a proud, billowing American flag.

It was exactly what most people, especially the film’s target demographic — a younger crowd that couldn’t really comprehend what had happened — needed to hear. Your average, everyday guy who just happened to be bit by a radioactive spider, is there to save the day.

And that America will be okay.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?

That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.

But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.


A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.

1. North Korea tightly controls the internet

North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.

But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.

As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”

Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.

2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people

North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.

Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.

It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.

3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at

According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”

Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.

4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it

According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Street scene in Pyongyang, North Korea.

(Photo by Random Institute)

Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.

5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country

North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.

The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.

Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.

Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.

6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn

Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.

They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.

“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.

An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.

But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0

Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.

But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.

7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies

North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)

Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)

According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.

8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games

In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.

The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.

The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.

The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.

9. Open WiFi networks are banned

North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).

For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.

Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.

10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech

North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.

According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.

People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.

This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Hitler hated red lipstick

Red lipstick is nothing less than a power move. For centuries, women have worn it to express themselves, and the shades are as varied as their meanings: confidence, sensuality, strength, courage, playfulness, and even rebellion. Dita Von Teese once said that heels and red lipstick will put the god into people.

Maybe that’s exactly what Adolf Hitler was afraid of.


In the early 1900s, American Suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman boldly rocked a red lip in order to shock men. Protestors adopted the beauty statement and filled the streets in rebellion.

“There could not be a more perfect symbol of suffragettes than red lipstick, because it’s not just powerful, it’s female,” said Rachel Felder, author of Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon. Red lipstick had a history of being condemned by men as impolite, sinful, and sexually amoral. The trend gained traction throughout the 1920s, here in the United States and across the Atlantic into Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.

During World War II, the strength of women was finally welcomed and celebrated. As women replaced men in the workforce, their pride and independence were bolstered. Red lipstick grew in popularity as an expression of their confidence. Even Rosie the Riveter sported a bold lip.

According to Fedler, Adolf Hitler “famously hated red lipstick.” Madeleine Marsh, author of Compacts and Cosmetics explained: “The Aryan ideal was a pure, un-scrubbed face. [Lady] visitors to Hitler’s country retreat were actually given a little list of things they must not do: Avoid excessive cosmetics, avoid red lipstick, and on no account ever [were] they to color their nails.”
Here are the changes to the M16 since ‘Black Hawk Down’

Allied women wore red lipstick in defiance of Hitler’s restrictions. Cosmetic companies created lipsticks in shades of “Victory Red” and “Montezuma Red” and red lipstick was even mandatory in the dress and appearance of U.S. Army women during the war.

Today, red lipstick is still worn around the world as a symbol of feminine strength and confidence. According to Rachel Weingarten, beauty historian and author of Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America, ’40s-’60s, “Anyone who’s ever dismissed the idea of beauty and makeup as being frivolous doesn’t realize the cultural and sociological impact.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

China apparently built world’s first stealth amphibious assault drone

China has built the world’s first stealth amphibious assault drone boat for island warfare, the developer revealed recently, and Chinese military experts believe it could eventually be headed to the disputed South China Sea.

Built for island assault operations and capable of operating on land and at sea, the “Marine Lizard” amphibious drone ship was developed by the Wuhan-based Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC).

The 40-foot drone ship operates as a trimaran hydrojet in the water but switches to tracked propulsion as it treads ashore. The company claims it can maintain stealth at speeds up to 50 knots in the maritime domain. On land, though, the assault vehicle is limited to a little over 12 mph. Modifications, specifically increasing the size of the tracks, could offer improved mobility on land.


The vessel’s capabilities have not been publicly demonstrated.

The Marine Lizard, which carries its own onboard radar system, is equipped with two machine guns and vertical launch system cells capable of firing anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

It is capable of “rapid assault and beach landings in accordance with operational requirements,” CSIC explained, adding that it is able to “complete missions such as special operations troop transport, border patrol, near-shore warning operations, and island/reef airport protection.”

The Chinese military has eyes fixed on island warfare, be it a future fight for Taiwan or the contested islands and reefs in the East and South China Seas.

China’s Global Times, citing a Chinese military expert, wrote recently that “this amphibious drone boat is suitable for island assault operations as a swarm of such drone ships could lead an attack following a first wave of artillery and air strikes.”

Observers suspect the Marine Lizard could play a key role in a regional conflict. “In the South China Sea, it can be used to either seize a reef or guard a reef, both offensive and defensive,” Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping told the South China Morning Post.

He added that the craft could be used to launch a surprise attack on an enemy island outpost.

CSIC claims that its new stealth amphibious assault drone, which has an operational range of 745 miles, has the unique ability to lie dormant for up to eight months, activated remotely at ranges of up to 30 miles, and immediately called into action.

The Marine Lizard can also, according to the developers, integrate into Chinese networks for combined arms operations with other unmanned systems relying on China’s Beidou satellite navigation system.

Much like the US, China is preparing for the possibility of high-end conflict. But while Chinese warfighting has traditionally been characterized by the sacrificing of waves of Chinese troops in hopes of overwhelming an enemy, the country is now investing heavily in long-range weapons and unmanned combat systems, challenges that the American armed forces are actively working to counter.

Recently, US and Philippines troops participating in the annual Balikatan exercises practiced repelling an attempt by a foreign military power to seize an airfield on a small island, a not unfathomable possibility given persistent tensions in the South China Sea.

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

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