Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy - We Are The Mighty
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Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy

The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.


“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.

Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center,  at Hanscom AFB, Mass.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
F-22 pilot releases flares during a training flight from JB Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. (Photo: John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin)

The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.

The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data  such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.

“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.

Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.

Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
That’s a beautiful bird. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich)

Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.

Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.

While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.

“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.

Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.

Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities

“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.

The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.

F-22 and Air Superiority

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.

“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22.  However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.

Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

F-22 Technology

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
The cockpit of a Raptor. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

Also read: 5 videos that show how the F-22 Raptor is an awesome dogfighting machine

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Corrosion is actually the US military’s most effective enemy

In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.


Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome

Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.

Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.

The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.

Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.

In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
While the Naval Air Warfare Command’s Al-Rich primer already has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, and various pieces of Navy support equipment, Navy engineers are preparing to test it on other DoD aircraft and equipment.
(U.S. Army photo)

To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.

“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”

Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer

Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.

The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
NASA C-130
(NASA photo)

The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.

According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.

Applications and Future Testing

Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.

Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what we know about China’s dangerous ‘carrier killer’ missile

China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.

The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.


And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.

Analysts who spoke with the South China Morning Post about the video concluded that the video sought to strike fear into the US by showing a fully functional, confident Chinese rocket brigade loading and firing the missile that the country said can sink US Navy ships as far away as Guam.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZMvtqtHVf4
Tension High: China Tests DF 26 Carrier-Killer Missile, Shoulde Navy Be Worrie

www.youtube.com

China has increasing its threats against the US Navy for sailing in international waters near its territory, with a rear admiral even calling for China to sink US aircraft carriers.

Many in the US dismissed the Chinese naval academic’s talk as bluster, but China went through with deploying the missiles and showed them off in the video.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy

The DF-26 warhead revealed.

(CCTV / YouTube)

What we know about the missile

The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.

With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.

First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.

Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.

Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.

Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.

Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.

If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.

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

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6 things you didn’t know about Operation Market Garden

It’s been over 75 years since the launch of Operation Market Garden – the World War II mission to secure key bridges across Belgium and the Netherlands while pushing an Allied advance over the Rhine into Germany and ending the war in Europe by Christmas 1944. Unfortunately, many of Market Garden’s main aims failed, and the Christmas victory was not secured.

That doesn’t mean this brainchild of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery was a total failure, it was just slightly more ambitious than the Allies were prepared for. Here’s why.


Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
(National Archives)

It was actually two operations.

Market Garden was divided into two sub-operations. The first was “Market,” an airborne assault that would capture the key bridges Allied forces needed to advance on German positions and cross into Germany. The second was “Garden,” where ground forces actually crossed those bridges and formed on the other side. In the north, the push would circumvent the Siegfried Line, creating the top part of a greater pincer movement of tanks inside Germany’s industrial heartland, as well as a 64-mile bulge in the front line.

Getting there would be slow going.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
Six American paratroopers of the First Allied Airborne Army receive a final briefing from their commanding officer before Operation Market Garden. (Imperial War Museum)

It was the largest airborne operation ever.

The British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were dropped around Oosterbeek to take bridges near Arnhem and Grave. The U.S. 101st Airborne was dropped near Eindhoven, and the 82nd was dropped near Nijmegen with the aim of taking bridges near there and Grave. In all, some 34,000 men would be airlifted into combat on the first day, with their equipment and support coming in by glider the next day. In the days that followed, they would be relieved by Allied troops zooming North to cross the river.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
British POWs captured by the Germans at Arnhem. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Allies thought the Nazis weren’t going to fight.

Isn’t that always what happens in a “surprise” defeat? Underestimating the enemy is always a mistake, no matter what the reason. In this case, the Allies thought German resistance to the invaders would be minimal because the Nazis were in full retreat mode after the Allies liberated much of occupied France. They were wrong. Hitler saw the retreat as a collapse on the Western Front and recalled one of his best Field Marshals from retirement, Gerd von Rundstedt. Von Rundstedt quickly reorganized the German forces in the West and moved reinforcements to the areas near key bridges and major cities.

Even though Dutch resistance fighters and their own communications intercepts told the Allies there would be more fighting than planned, they went ahead with the operation anyway.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
Cromwell tanks speed toward Nijmegen, Sep. 20, 1944.

Speed was essential and the Allies didn’t have it.

The surprise of using 34,000-plus paratroopers definitely worked on the German defenders. But still, some attacks did not proceed as planned, and though most bridges were taken, some were not, and some were demolished by their defenders. The British were forced to engage their targets with half the men required. What’s worse is that the paratrooper’s relief was moving much slower than expected, moving about half of its planned advance on the first day. To make matters worse, British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks halted his advance on the second day to regroup after assisting in the assault on Nijmegen Bridge.

It was the halt that would keep British troops at Arnhem from getting the forces they needed to be successful and spell the ultimate failure of Market Garden.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
British Engineers remove explosives set by German engineers on a bridge near Arnhem.

The British took the brunt of the casualties.

Overall, Market Garden cost the Allies between 15,000 and 17,000 killed, captured, or wounded. The British 1st Airborne Division was the hardest hit, starting the battle with 10,600 men and suffering 1,485 killed and some 6,414 captured. They failed to take and hold the bridge at Arnhem, encountering stiff resistance and reinforcement from the Nazi troops there. Because of that bridge, the invasion of Nazi Germany over the lower Rhine could not proceed.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
(DoD photo)

“Monty” still saw Market Garden as a success.

British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was a steadfast supporter of the operation, even after considering all its operational successes and failures. Despite the lack of intelligence and overly optimistic planning in terms of the defenders, Montgomery still considered the operation a “90 percent” success.

Articles

The Army wants the Stryker to be more survivable and lethal

The Army’s is looking for new weapons and capabilities for Stryker armored combat vehicles in addition to the improved hulls and 30mm cannons already being added to the vehicles.


Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
US Army infantry rushes from a Stryker during training in 2005. Photo: US Navy Journalist 2nd Class John J. Pistone

The effort to up-gun Strykers, typically equipped with .50-cals, Mk. 19 grenade launchers, or M240Bs, has been going on since Sep. 2013. That was when the Army first announced tests of the 30mm weapons.

“(This) maintains a lethal overmatch that we want to make sure our forces have,” Army Lt. Col. Scott DeBolt told Army.mil at a 2014 demonstration of the 30mm cannon. “It has lethality, mobility and protection, and survivability. When we have a firefight, we don’t want it to last 40 minutes. It’d be nice if it lasted 40 seconds. This vehicle provides that 40-second fight.”

The 30mm weapons were approved for installation on 81 Strykers in the U.S. Army Europe 2nd Calvary Regiment amid concerns that Strykers would be outmatched if they went toe-to-toe with Russian armor using only the .50-cal. weapons.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
A US Army Stryker fires a TOW missile during anti-tank training. Photo: US Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

Now, the Army is looking for plans to make the rest of the Stryker fleet more lethal and has requested suggestions from weapons manufacturers. Army Col. Glenn Dean told reporters Feb. 29 that the final plan for upgrading Strykers will likely involve Javelin anti-tank missiles and more 30mm guns.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Javelins would replace TOW missiles on the M1134 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Vehicle or be fielded as a new anti-tank Stryker variant. The TOW missiles currently deployed on M1134s have a longer range but smaller warheads than Javelin missiles. Also, the Javelin can target helicopters and surface vessels that the TOW missile would be unlikely to hit.

The Stryker successfully fired the Javelin in industry tests in 2010.

The Army has also toyed with the idea of using the 30mm cannons to give Strykers a better shot against enemy air assets such as helicopters and low-flying drones.

“We start to get 30mm Stryker airburst munitions, that might have some air defense capability,” Army Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations David Markowitz said during an Association of the United States Army panel in Feb. 2016.

Regardless of what the Army decides is the Stryker’s next weapon configuration, the effort to upgrade flat-bottomed Strykers with V-shaped hulls will continue. The improved hulls grant increased protection for the crew during mine and IED strikes.

Articles

New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

Articles

5 things every boot should know before dating a local

All motivated newbie boots — fresh out of months of rigorous training — have one agenda: excel at work, drink some beer, and find a local.


Since most lower enlisted troops lack transportation, straying too far away from base isn’t ideal — taxis and Ubers can get expensive.

So showing up at the closest watering hole from your barracks room is probably going to be your best bet.

Related: 7 tips for getting away with fraternization

Once you step off base and meet that potentially special someone, here’s a few pointers before you go full steam ahead:

1. Wrap it up

You may have built up pounds and pounds of muscle these last few months in training, but it only takes a microscopic bacterium to bring all that strength crashing down.

Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool. (Image via Giphy)If you do hook up with someone soon after meeting them, don’t expect to be their first (even if that’s what they told you).

2. Cultural

As a newbie, you might get stationed overseas in a foreign country where the lifestyles and customs can be very different. Make sure you do a little reconnaissance on the do’s and don’t’s or you might send the wrong message at the dinner table.

We told you so. (Images via Giphy)

3. Background check

We’re not suggesting you conduct a full scale credit and background check on your date, but it couldn’t hurt.

We’re saying to casually ask what mommy and daddy do for a living because many young guys and gals who you’ll meet near the base have parents who served.

You don’t want to hit on someone and find out later you broke the heart of the general’s son or daughter.

Congrats, you’re going to be an E-3 for the rest of your career. (Images via Giphy)

4. Putting ring on it

No offense to all the average looking service members out there, but if you are stationed in a foreign country and you hook up with a “10,” they might be trying to find a way to the states and gain citizenship.

Let’s face it, life would be pretty sweet…until she swears in then takes off. (Images via Giphy)

5. Financial security

Dating and then marrying a service member has some pretty good financial benefits; be careful of who you let into that world.

It happens more than you think. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 5 things you should know before diving into a ‘contract marriage’

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

The Taliban are using ‘culturally sanctioned male rape’ as a weapon

“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.


In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.

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The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.

AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.

Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.

Related: Green Beret who beat up accused child rapist will be allowed to stay in uniform

Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.

“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”

The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.

 
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it’s like to survive an atomic bomb

On September 2, 1945, World War II was officially over. Many celebrated August 15th as the end of the war when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced Imperial Japan’s surrender, but it took two more weeks before the surrender was formally signed. This is long enough for younger generations to have no memory of the catastrophic war, but there are still people alive today who experienced it firsthand.

On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Just three days later, a second detonated over Nagasaki. In total, more than 200,000 people were killed by the explosions, with thousands more experiencing long-term effects. Those who survived will never forget the experience. So what is it really like to be hit by a nuclear weapon and live? Let’s find out.


It starts out with a flash.

When an atomic bomb detonates, it goes through predictable stages. Nuclear bombs work by setting off a rapid chain reaction. Uranium undergoes the process of fission, which releases an almost incomprehensible amount of energy. About 35% of this energy is released as thermal radiation. Because thermal radiation travels at roughly the speed of light, a bright flash is the first thing one experiences after a nuclear bomb is dropped. We’re talking blinding. The initial flash is so bright, it can cause temporary blindness. Even closing your eyes isn’t complete protection. Larger nuclear weapons, which do exist in present-day, could cause flash blindness in people over 50 miles away.

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Effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. View from the top of the Red Cross Hospital looking northwest. Frame buildings recently erected. 1945. (Wikimedia Commons)

The blinding light is accompanied by intense heat.

It’s not called thermal radiation for nothing. After the blinding flash, there’s a blast of intense heat. At the direct site of the explosion, the temperature can hit over 300K degrees C, visible as a massive fireball. At this temperature, which is about 300 times hotter than the temperature used for cremation, humans are instantaneously turned from people into basic elements. Just about everything within a 1-mile radius of the city of Hiroshima was completely flattened. The farther you are from the blast, the more likely you are to survive, but you’re unlikely to escape completely unscathed. First-degree burns can occur up to 6.8 miles away. Get just 2 miles closer and you’re at risk for life-threatening third-degree burns.

Wearing white might reduce effects.

Donning a wedding dress won’t save you if you’re in the middle of the blast, but it might help if you’re a few miles away. White clothing reflects some of the thermal energy while dark clothes absorb it, so you may be a little better off if you’re wearing light-colored clothing than if charcoal is your favorite color.

If you’re further away, pressure waves can still get you.

When a nuclear bomb explodes, it releases light and heat energy, but it also pushes air away from the initial explosion site with a tremendous amount of force. This creates a change in air pressure so intense that the wind can collapse buildings and crush most objects in its path. Within a half-mile of the blast, wind speeds can get as high as 470 mph. While you could potentially survive the force itself, the buildings around you most likely would not.

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Atomic bombing of Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right). (Wikimedia Commons)

The world around you will resemble a scene from a horror film.

Shockingly, survival close to ground zero is possible. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped, some people were sheltered by the sturdy walls of banks or basements. The reports of those who did survive paint a very dark picture. Your hair is likely to be literally fried, and your clothes charred to rags. The people who were outside at the time of the blast are either severely burned or dead- with some of the deceased catching fire in the streets. Farther from the explosion, more people will lie injured or dead from glass and other projectiles. Human shadows are marked permanently on the ground and any walls left standing.

If you survive, you may feel the side-effects for the rest of your life.

Radiation poisoning caused a significant number of deaths in the weeks following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of radiation are varied, ranging from milder symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, fever, headaches, and hair loss to death. Because radiation can cause a drop in the number of blood cells produced, wounds heal more slowly than normal. Even after you recover, your risk of cancer and other illnesses usually associated with age will be heightened.

A terrifying image, but an important lesson.

While the end of a war is always a reason to rejoice, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the hands of fellow mankind was an atrocity. The survivors have memories darker than most of us can imagine. Disturbingly, we now have the power to create an explosion larger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The largest bomb ever tested was the 50 megaton Tsar bomb, which released the equivalent energy of over 3,300 Hiroshima bombs.

Fortunately, our international agreements should prevent such catastrophic warfare from ever taking place. To learn more about what it was really like to experience a nuclear explosion, Time interviewed survivors who can tell you the real story.

 

Articles

This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

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Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

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The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

Articles

Another ship attacked off Yemen

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Galacia Spirit. (Photo: shipworld.org)


Nearly two weeks after a series of incidents involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), another ship has come under attack in the Bab el Mandab. This time, the ship targeted was a Spanish-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker passing near Perim Island, which is about 8.7 miles off the coast of the coast of Yemen.

According to a report by the British news agency Reuters, the Galicia Spirit, owned by the Teekay shipping group, came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire from a small boat. The RPG missed the LNG tanker, which was escorted by Djibouti naval vessel. The method used in the attack is similar to that used in the October 1 attack on HSV-2 Swift that caused a fire and damaged the former U.S. Navy vessel, which was on a humanitarian mission. HSV-2 Swift was towed away from the scene of the attack, which prompted the deployment of USS Mason, USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the region.

The Galicia Spirit would have potentially fared a lot worse than HSV-2 Swift did. Even though it is much larger than Swift at about 95,000 gross tons to the Swift’s 955, it is usually carrying a large amount of a highly flammable and volatile cargo (137,814 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas). That would have been a huge explosion.

Yemen has been wracked by a civil war between the government lead by Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels were responsible for the attacks on Swift and Mason. Nitze fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at Houthi coastal radar sites after the attacks on Mason.

Articles

These were the US military’s Cold War black ops nuclear hit squads

You’ve probably heard of the term “backpack nuke” before — perhaps in the context of a video game like Call of Duty, or an action-packed television show like “24.”


But what you may or may not have realized is that backpack nukes are the farthest thing from fiction, and from the 1950s to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1989, they sat ready to be deployed by America’s black-ops nuclear hit squads — dubbed “Green Light Teams” — should the unthinkable happen and the Cold War turn hot.

Only members of the US military’s elite were selected to join GLTs, where they would be stationed near Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, inside South Korea, and even near Iran in the late 1970s.

Navy SEALs, Force Reconnaissance Marines, Army Special Forces and more were all among the top recruits for the GLT program. If a candidate’s application to the GLT program was successful, they were sworn to secrecy, unable to tell even their own spouses of their mission. Had the Soviet Union heard of the existence of these teams, it would have likely created a similar program of its own as a counter, removing all value of possessing GLTs.

Cyber keeps the F-22 safe and sexy
A test detonation of a W54 warhead (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

These operatives were trained in local languages and dialects, and told to dress like ordinary citizens, allowing them to blend in without anybody the wiser. The vast majority of their training, however, came in the form of instruction on how to use backpack nukes at the Atomic Demolitions Munitions School at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

There, GLT selectees were taught how to detonate nuclear weapons, and how to bury them or disguise them so that these weapons wouldn’t be discovered and defused before they could do their job.

The weapon of choice for each GLT was the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The warhead used in each SADM was taken from a US Army program dubbed the “Davy Crockett Weapon System.” The Crockett was actually a recoilless rifle-fired projectile tipped with a W54 nuclear warhead with a yield of 10-20 tons of TNT.

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Officials analyze a W54 warhead used in both the Davy Crockett system and the SADM backpack nuke (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The W54 was modified to detonate with a yield of anywhere between 10 tons of TNT to 1 kiloton, though in testing, it was proven to be able to achieve over 6 kilotons. Weighing just 51 pounds when nestled inside the SADM, it could be hefted onto an operative’s back and carried for long distances almost inconspicuously.

Should the combat environment or the mission change, GLTs could also parachute or swim their SADMs into enemy territory without fears of the backpack nuke prematurely blowing up. And when the nukes were in their detonation zones, they could be disguised as anything.

Citizens of Eastern Europe or North Korea could potentially walk by beer kegs, trash cans, or even mailboxes without being any the wiser that a primed SADM sat in side, ready to unleash unholy hell upon them. Operatives were also trained to bury their backpack nukes as deep as 9 ft underground to make them undiscoverable.

SADMs could be placed near lakes or rivers to create artificial dams as obstacles for advancing Soviet forces, or in cities,

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An SADM on display at the National Atomic Museum (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Though the SADM came with a timing mechanism to allow for a delayed detonation sequence so operatives could escape the region, GLT operatives knew that should they be called into action, they were essentially running a suicide mission. They would still have to protect the device from being detected by enemy forces, and that would necessarily involve the GLT staying nearby, armed with submachine guns, grenades and pistols.

The US military was able to keep the existence of its GLTs a closely-guarded secret until near the end of the Cold War, when their mission was somewhat accidentally disclosed to the public. Upon finding out that a number of GLTs were positioned in West Germany, local officials immediately asked the US government to remove all SADMs from German sovereign territory.

By 1989, the SADMs were retired altogether and permanently deactivated, never having been used in combat. All active GLT operatives were brought in from the cold and returned to the US, and just a few short years later, the fall of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War – thankfully, with nary a nuke being detonated in anger by either side.

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.

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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.

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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.)

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(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.

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