F-35 is getting new weapons, including the 'StormBreaker' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.

The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.


“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.

The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.

An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

US Navy F-35C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)

“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.

StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II

StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.

Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.

While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.

Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.

One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”

The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.

If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.

About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.

The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.

StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.

“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.

AIM-9X

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.

F-35 to 2070

The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.

“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.

While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.

“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.

The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available

“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

These are the 6 best subscription boxes to make quarantine better

Subscribing to at at-home delivery box is a great way to bring fun activities straight to your home. No matter your age or interest, there is a theme boxed that can suit your needs. (Shout out to the delivery folks still bringing packages!) And while, months ago, this might have just been a fun thing to get in the mail, today, it’s an excitable event. Activities, treats or fun things to do, delivered straight to your door.

Take advantage of this growing trend and bring fun to your doorstep with these subscription boxes.


F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

1. Try the World

Foods from around the globe, delivered to your door. Sounds like a great concept, right?! This monthly box comes in two versions: snacks, where you’ll receive strictly pre-packaged snackables for /mo; or countries, including a combo of drinks, gourmet foods and cooking ingredients, for /mo.


Order yours
F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

2. Fab Fit Fun

Ladies, if you have any association online, chances are you’ve been flooded with ads for this self care and wellness box. Arriving quarterly, each box comes with a degree of personalized choices in categories like work out clothes, beauty, relaxation items, travel and more. Boxes are /pop.


Sign up.
F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

3. Dollar Shave Club

Like its name suggests, Dollar Shave Club offers razors and shaving gear, delivered to your doorstep, as well as other hygiene products like bar soap, shaving cream and body wash. The brand is primarily marketed toward men, though the razors are universal. Costs start at /mo plus shipping, and vary based on personalized boxes.

Billie is essentially the female-geared counterpart. Billie starter razor kits start at (free shipping); customers can add additional products to their order, like dry shampoo or makeup wipes.

Meanwhile, Gillette loyalists can order directly through the brand for /mo. Shipping and every fourth order are free.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

4. Atlas Coffee Club

Coffee drinkers unite. Take a tour of the best flavors from around the world, all from the comfort of your favorite mug. Atlas Coffee Club brings the beans to you, along with a history of where they’re from. It’s where geography meets great taste.

Explore.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

5. Once Upon a Book Club

Bring the books — and the discussion — to your home with Once Upon a Book Club. Adult and YA books are mailed monthly and can be delved into via an online community. Talk about your favorite sections with other readers as you go. But that’s not the best part — OUABC sends wrapped gifts that coincide with the story. Unwrap as you read for an added boost of fun!

Check it out

.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

6. Battl Box

What military family isn’t complete with a growing collection of tactical gear? Choose from four levels of monthly survival supplies, ranging from .99 to 9.00 plus shipping. Past boxes have included camping gear, hiking supplies, and EDC (every day carry) items.

Stock up here.

What subscription box will you try first?

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun’ bows to China by changing Maverick’s jacket

The sequel to “Top Gun,” a film that boosted US Navy aviation recruitment by 500%, appears to have bowed to China’s powerful Communist party by changing the jacket of its titular character, Maverick, played by Tom Cruise.

In the trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which came out on July 18, 2019, Tom Cruise’s character can be seen wearing his signature leather jacket, but something isn’t the same anymore.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user pointed out that Maverick, whose entire character and name suggest a fierce independence, now wears a jacket that appears changed to appease China, the US’s current chief military adversary.


Maverick’s old jacket had a large patch that read “Far East Cruise 63-4, USS Galveston,” commemorating a real-life US battleship’s tour of Japan, Taiwan, and the Western Pacific. Fittingly, the patch displayed the US, UN, Japanese, and Taiwanese flags.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

Maverick is not such a maverick that he’d stand up to China in the new Top Gun.

(Paramount Pictures)

In the new movie, the patch now has the US and UN flags, but not the Japanese or Taiwanese flags, and makes no mention of the Galveston.

Now Maverick’s patch has flags that look conspicuously like the Japanese and Taiwanese flags, but Business Insider could not identify them.

Business Insider reached out to Paramount Pictures for comment on the alteration and will update this story with any comments.

China frequently boycotts and retaliates against any organization that recognizes Taiwan or refers to it as a country. China threatened multiple airlines not to refer to Taiwan as a country, and they all buckled under the pressure. The US responded, calling it “Orwellian nonsense.”

Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

Japan occupied China during World War II and the countries still have bad blood from the brutal fighting seven decades ago. China frequently funds propaganda films featuring Chinese protagonists killing Japanese occupiers.

While the US still formally maintains that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China, a recent defense paper referred to Taiwan as a country, prompting an angry response from Beijing.

The new film, a big-budget major-studio effort on a hot property, may have sought to maximize revenues by making the movie palatable to Chinese censors and audiences.

China heavily censors foreign films and television and is increasingly catered to by filmmakers as it’s set to displace the US as the top consumer of film.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 perks to a Jocko and The Rock presidential ticket

The recently formed “Literally Anyone Else” political party names the powerhouse team of – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jocko Willink for office 2020. No, not actually, but when Willink appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience” earlier this month, the team was suggested, and we all got way too excited thinking about it. Walk with us down the path of what a The Rock and Jocko presidency could look like.


The Oval Office renamed Presidential Octagon

In a bold first week move, the Oval Office was immediately redesigned to suit the meeting style of the newly elected presidential team. The Resolute Desk is rumored to be replaced with a bench press, where both the president and vice president contemplate world issues while spotting an easy 425-pound set.

Unlike previous office meetings, in the new Presidential Octagon, anyone requesting a meeting must step into the ring and prove themselves worthy before any talk may take place. It has been noted that frivolous requests, unfounded complaints, and the typical garbage ideas D.C. is known for have completely disappeared from the daily schedule.

Leadership from Russia and China have entered into a “whatever you say so we don’t have to enter the Octagon” peace deal. Willink’s only comment on the matter was “good.” Johnson also made a rare statement as well saying, “Just bring it.”

Entire news segments now dedicated to discerning facial expressions and sighs from both candidates.

Due to mainstream media’s love of out-of-context soundbites, the newly elected team rarely speaks publicly. Instead, a far more effective approach of nonverbal communication has been utilized to address the nation when asked the often absurd and pointless questions from the press.

When asked what Willink thought about the state of the economy, he reportedly paused for a considerable amount of time before answering while making direct unbroken eye contact with the reporter. His only response was to cross his arms and sigh for “a very long time.” The reporter took several steps backward, thanked Willink for his response, and said, “no further questions.”

After an “abrupt” eyebrow raise from Johnson earlier this month watching an anchor report on his visit to a local school, all major news outlets immediately retracted their statements and released the most factual, unbiased reports anyone has seen on record.

Over half of congress suddenly retires after realizing the era of corruption is over.

Members of congress begin retiring in mass quantities, allowing for new leadership (with an actual pulse) to be elected. The reason for the departure remains unclear, but speculation is that it had something to do with the new 4:30 am PT schedule implemented earlier this month by Willink.

One senator, who wishes to remain anonymous, was quoted saying that, “They made us show up five days a week. Five! The last straw was cutting our unlimited vacation which was then replaced with the standard two weeks per year. Who can live like that?”

To no one’s surprise, everything from bills to legislation, to an actual balanced budget has remained on schedule.

The last remaining known corrupt members have been asked to attend a meeting with the president and vice president this Tuesday to explain the justification behind exploiting the public over their careers. It is unclear whether they will attend.

Obesity near-extinct, fast food chains “pissed” but too afraid to complain.

Gym membership at a staggering all-time high. Obesity is reportedly on the verge of extinction as Americans all compete for an early morning gym selfie spot to tag the White House Instagram in hopes either candidate will repost.

Millions of actual walls to be added to all gyms as a testament to Johnson waking up daily starting his fight against the metaphorical wall. Early injuries at CrossFit gyms reported when confused and hungry Keto members thought they were supposed to actually move the wall as a part of a new WOD.

McDonald’s CEO was seen quietly leaving the White House after losing out on the previous “Body by Big Mac” contract.

An unofficial “swear jar” solely funds Space Force annual budget when anyone mentions “SEAL teams.”

The mention of SEAL teams happened so often that a “swear jar” has been implemented nationwide. The general public uses social pressure to put a dollar in for instances like someone assuming they’ve spotted a SEAL team member hidden in the crowd. Willink alone estimated to have donated upwards of ten thousand dollars during his first 48 hours in the office reviewing existing security protocols telling everyone “In the SEAL teams we…” (puts a dollar in the jar).

Space Force is “very excited” to see the possibility of the multi-billion dollar lightsaber project becoming a reality.

All jokes aside guys, what would it take to make this happen?

Military Life

3 tips for picking out a ‘spouse’ right before a deployment

It’s no secret that both male and female troops tend to get married right before a long deployment to collect and save some extra cash. Although contract marriages are illegal in the military, that doesn’t stop many troops from heading down to City Hall or finding a justice of the peace to recite a few words and signing their names on a marriage license.


If you have the money and a potential spouse, you can plan a cheap wedding within an hour — depending on your location. Since most contract marriages end in divorce (go figure), it’s important to cover your own six when you’re out and about looking for that year-long husband or wife.

But, before you head out and find that special someone, read these tips — they just might save your ass later on.

Should I or shouldn’t I just marry a stripper?

Countless troops have gone out to their local boobie-bars to do exactly this. That fact is, strippers are humans, too, and they’re just trying to make ends meet like you, so that extra cash seems pretty good. However, never go after one that works near a military base, especially your military base.

Other service members are nosy and command “red flags” those types of relationship behaviors. So, if you’re going to marry a stripper, don’t go next door and do it a few months prior to deployment to give it some buffering time. It looks better on paper that way.

Use that dating app on your phone

Like they say, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Now, we’re not saying you have the right to play games with peoples’ minds and hearts, but they, too, might be in a financial bind and you can bring the marriage idea up to them when the time is right.

Get in touch with an ex back in your home town

The best way to keep your fake marriage under wraps is to keep your new spouse far, far away from anything that resembles a military base. You’re still in contact with your family back home anyway, so you might as well drop a “hey” to your single ex that isn’t yet sure what they want out of life.

We all personally know someone who’s married their ex. There’s a history there behind the happy couple, which validates the union and lowers your chances of getting caught.

Think about it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA, DoD electronic health records still aren’t compatible, and lawmakers are angry

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was grilled by lawmakers May 1, 2019, on the lengthy and costly effort to develop compatible electronic records systems between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan at a House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the DoD’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget.

She said a hearing last month with DoD and VA health program managers on the progress of meshing the records “was terrible.”


“I can’t believe that these program managers think that it is acceptable to wait another four years for a program to be implemented when we’ve spent billions of dollars and worked on it for over a decade,” Granger said.

“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”

Veterans are suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he said.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan during a hearing on Capitol Hill, May 1, 2019.

(DoD photo)

In response to Granger, Shanahan said, “First of all, I apologize for any lack of performance or the inability of the people that testified before you to characterize the work of the department in this very vital area.”

He added that he personally spent “quite a bit of time on how do we merge together” with the VA on the records.

He said pilot programs to make the records compatible are underway in Washington state at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Fairchild Air Force Base.

The “rollout and implementation” of the fix to the electronic health records has shown promise at those installations, Shanahan said, and the next step is to put the program in place at California installations this fall.

“I can give you the commitment that these corrective actions and the lessons learned will be carried forward,” he said.

“There’s a degree of inoperability” between the VA and DoD systems that has defied solution over the years, Shanahan said. “The real issue has been [the] passing on of the actual records. I can’t explain to you the technical complexity of that.

“We owe you a better answer,” he told the committee, “and four years is unacceptable” as a time frame for making the records compatible. He promised to help DoD “deliver” a fix.

Rogers recalled past promises from the VA and DoD and said he is skeptical that the latest attempt at solving the problem will be successful.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

Capitol Hill.

(Flickr photo by Elliott P.)

He cited the case of a service member from his district who was badly wounded in Iraq. He lost an eye, but military doctors in Germany saved his other eye, Rogers said.

The good eye later became infected. The service member went to the Lexington, Kentucky, VA Medical Center, but doctors there could not get access to his medical records in Germany.

“They could not operate because they didn’t know what had been done before,” Rogers said.

As a result, the service member lost sight in the good eye.

“Why can’t we have the computers marry? Can you help me out here? Don’t promise something you can’t deliver,” he told Shanahan. “I can’t believe that we have not already solved this problem.”

In the latest effort to mesh the records, then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in May 2018 awarded a billion, 10-year contract to Cerner Corp. of Kansas City to develop an integrated electronic health record (EHR) system, but related costs over the course of the contract are estimated to put the total price at about billion.

Previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and the expenditure of about id=”listicle-2636127747″ billion.

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

Articles

4 weapons a Reaper can drop

With news that the MQ-9 Reaper has gained the ability to drop the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, this unmanned aerial vehicle has gained some new capabilities. But this leads to a big question: What else can a Reaper carry?


Here’s a look at some options:

1. AGM-114 Hellfire

This is perhaps the oldest of the UAV-mounted weapons, making its debut off the MQ-1 Predator. With a range of five miles and a 20-pound high-explosive warhead, the Hellfire proved to be very capable at killing high-ranking terrorists — after its use from the Apache proved to be the bane of enemy tanks.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (Creative Commons photo)

2. GBU-12 Paveway II

While the 2,000-pound GBU-24 and GBU-10 got much more press, the GBU-12 is a very important member of the Paveway laser-guided bomb family. Its most well-known application came when it was used for what was called “tank plinking” in Desert Storm. GBU-12s, though, proved very valuable in the War on Terror, largely because they caused much less collateral damage than the larger bombs.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’
Super Hornet pilot checks a GBU-12 – a laser-guided 500-pounder.

3. GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

This is the 500-pound version of the JDAM family. While it has a larger error zone than the laser-guided bombs, it still comes close enough to ruin an insurgent’s day. The GPS system provides a precision option when weather — or battlefield smoke — makes laser guidance impractical.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’
Aviation Ordnancemen place a weapons cart of GBU-38 500-pound satellite guided bombs on an ordnance elevator on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Stephen Early)

4. AGM-176 Griffin

This missile has longer range and a smaller warhead, but it still packs enough punch to kill some bad guys. The Griffin has both a laser seeker and GPS guidance. In addition to blasting insurgents out of positions with minimal collateral damage, Griffin is also seen as an option to dealing with swarms of small boats, like Iranian Boghammers.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’
USS Firebolt fires a version of the AGM-176 Griffin missile. (U.S. Navy photo)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Everything we know about Olivia Wilde’s secret Marvel movie

Recently, Oliva Wilde shared that she is slated to direct a feature film for Sony Pictures that will take place in the Marvel Universe. While the details are being kept quiet, rumors are that the story will be about Spider-Woman.

Plus, Wilde tweeted a spider emoji and Sony doesn’t have rights to Black Widow, so…


Twitter

twitter.com

Though recently, and exceptionally, depicted in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Woman has yet to appear in her own film, despite decades of popularity. With Disney’s Marvel films continuing to lead the way in superhero box-office triumphs, it’s never been a better time for Spider-Woman to hit the silver screen.

And Olivia Wilde is the perfect person to lead the charge. Last year, her feature film debut Booksmart delighted audiences and critics alike, thrusting Wilde forward as a powerhouse in her own right. The Independent Spirit Award winning director joins Booksmart writer Katie Silberman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse producer Amy Pascal to create the highly-anticipated film.

Wilde will follow in the footsteps of female filmmakers finally getting long overdue opportunities to bring superheroes to life, including Patty Jenkins, Cathy Yan, Chloe Zhao, and Nia DaCosta — as a result, we probably don’t have to worry about another Spider-Woman butt-gate.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

Controversial Spider-Woman #1 cover art. (Marvel)

Instead, Wilde and Silberman ought to give us a pretty good time. Whether Wilde’s Spider-Woman will be Gwen Stacy (as she was in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Mary Jane Watson, or the OG Jessica Drew is unknown. And of course, it’s always possible the film could be about another character altogether. Sony had been slated to bring forth a Madame Webb film — and there’s always Silk, the Cindy Moon character who was bit by the same spider and on the same day as Peter Parker but who was then locked in a bunker as a result of her powers (dark, right)?

All we have to go on is a little emoji in a big Twitterverse. And if we think we might be getting any more hints anytime soon, we appear to be, sadly, mistaken.

Twitter

twitter.com


Humor

That time a US hacker hijacked North Korean propaganda to play ‘the Final Countdown’

A socially conscious hacker known as “The Jester” put one over on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently. To add to his long list of hilarious practical jokes with a social-conscious message, the hacktivist hijacked a propaganda-laden North Korean shortwave radio station.


His request? “The Final Countdown” by the 80s one-hit-wonder Swedish rock band, Europe.

(EuropeVEVO | YouTube)

He announced the feat through his Twitter account. In the past, The Jester has taken on jihadist websites, notably ISIS. He even retaliated against the Russian Foreign Ministry for attacking American targets, defacing their website with the message:

Comrades! We interrupt regular scheduled Russian Foreign Affairs Website programming to bring you the following important message,” he wrote. “Knock it off. You may be able to push around nations around you, but this is America. Nobody is impressed.

While no one knows who he is, The Jester is a self-proclaimed patriot hacker, who thinks Anonymous is a bunch of “blowhards” whose work amounts to a “hill of beans.” Evidence in The Jester’s work makes people believe he is either a military veteran or former military contractor — he even leaves a calling card for his work: “Tango Down.”

Either way, he’s on our side.

 

The North Korean radio station hit by The Jester is used to broadcast coded messages and often used as a warning post for outside media before the regime does something provocative. It also re-broadcasts programming from the appropriately-named Pyongyang Broadcasting Station… aka “Pyongyang BS.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A full explainer on how and why Russia stole Ukraine’s ships

A dusting of snow and unease fell over Ukraine one day after Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on and detained three Ukrainian military ships and their crews off the Crimean coast, igniting rioting outside the Russian Embassy and public demands for retaliation.

The Nov. 25, 2018 incident marked the most significant escalation of tensions in the shared Sea of Azov in 2018 and the first time since Russia’s unrecognized annexation of Crimea four years ago that Moscow has publicly acknowledged opening fire on Ukrainian forces.


The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces was on full combat alert ahead of an extraordinary session of parliament on Nov. 26, 2018, when lawmakers backed a decree by President Petro Poroshenko to impose 30 days of martial law in response to the skirmish.

Here’s what went down, what has happened since, and what it all could mean:

What happened and where?

The Ukrainian and Russian versions of events differ, with each blaming the other for instigating the incident.

Kyiv said the Russians’ actions violated a 2003 bilateral treaty designating the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait as shared territorial waters and the UN Law of the Sea, which guarantees access through the strait.

Russian officials said the Ukrainian ships were maneuvering dangerously, requiring the strait to be temporarily closed for security reasons. Moscow has since announced the reopening of the strait after using a cargo ship to block passage beneath a controversial new bridge connecting Russia with occupied Crimea.

F-35 is getting new weapons, including the ‘StormBreaker’

But what isn’t disputed is that a Russian Coast Guard vessel, the Don, slammed into a Ukrainian Navy tugboat as it escorted two military vessels toward the Kerch Strait in the direction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which lies on the coast of the inland Sea of Azov. A series of dangerous events followed.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, the transfer of its vessels from the port of Odesa to the port of Mariupol was planned in advance. It said that while en route on Nov. 25, 2018, the ships had radioed the Russian Coast Guard twice to announce their approach to the Kerch Strait but received no response.

Hours later, as the boats approached the strait, they were intercepted by Russian Coast Guard vessels. A video recorded aboard the Don and shared by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appeared to show the chaos that ensued, including the moment that the Russian vessel collided with the Ukrainian tugboat. The tugboat suffered damage to its engine, hull, and guardrail, according to the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian authorities said the Russian forces subsequently opened fire on its vessels, badly damaging them. Russia said its forces fired on the Ukrainian boats as a matter of security.

As the incident unfolded, Russia blocked the Kerch Strait — the only passage to and from the inland Sea of Azov, which is jointly controlled by Russia and Ukraine — by anchoring a freighter across the central span of its six-month-old Crimean Bridge.

At least six Ukrainian servicemen were said to have been wounded, including two seriously, a National Security and Defense Council official and a Foreign Ministry official told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment officially to journalists. They said around midday on Nov. 26, 2018, that there had been no contact with 23 sailors aboard those vessels. The ships and crew were detained and brought to the Russia-controlled port in Kerch, in annexed Crimea.

Early on Nov. 26, 2018, Kerch FM, a local radio station and news site, published photographs and a video of what it claimed were the detained Ukrainian Navy vessels moored at the port in Kerch.

Захваченные украинские катера стоят в Керчи

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Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s permanent representative for Crimea, Borys Babin, told the 112 Channel that at least three of six wounded Ukrainian servicemen had been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Russian Ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova reportedly told Ukraine’s Hromadske TV that three others were being treated at a hospital in Kerch.

Poroshenko calls for martial law. what would that mean?

From Kyiv’s perspective, the sea skirmish marked a significant escalation in a long-running conflict and perhaps the opening of a new front at sea. Until then, the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russia-backed separatists since April 2014, had been mostly a land war fought in trenches and with indiscriminate heavy artillery systems, albeit with mounting confrontations at sea as Russia bolstered its military presence there.

At an emergency cabinet meeting after midnight on Nov. 26, 2018, Poroshenko called on parliament to support a declaration of martial law to respond to Russia’s attacks and its effective blockade of the Sea of Azov. His call was heeded by parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy, who convened an extraordinary session for the late afternoon.

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Some are uneasy about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s desire to introduce martial law.

With a powerful coalition in parliament supporting Poroshenko, passage was virtually assured. Even some members of parliament who frequently oppose the coalition quickly voiced support for the measure, including Self Reliance party leader and Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about the move. Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Poroshenko’s party who is often critical of the president, wrote on Facebook that “the president must indicate the JUSTIFICATION of the need to impose martial law, the BORDER of the territory in which it is to be introduced, as well as the TERM for its introduction.”

“In addition,” Nayyem argued, “the document should contain an exhaustive list of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens that would be temporarily restricted.”

The proposal from the National Security and Defense Council that Poroshenko announced he had signed on Nov. 26, 2018, listed some of these things, according to a text published on the president’s official site.

The initial text called for partial mobilization, the immediate organization of air-defense forces, tightened security at borders with Russia, increased information security, an information campaign to present facts about Russia’s “aggression,” increased security around critical infrastructure, and more. It can reportedly be canceled at any time.

The text reportedly made no mention of the scheduled presidential election in March 2019, which some critics fear could be postponed. But presidential adviser Yuriy Biryukov said before the decree was published that Poroshenko’s administration would not do that, adding that there would be no restrictions on freedom of speech.

As passed by lawmakers later on Nov. 26, 2018, martial law was to be imposed from Nov. 28, 2018. The order sets out extraordinary measures including a partial mobilization, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and several activities with broad wording — such as unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

Martial law will be introduced in areas of the country most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

Why now?

Poroshenko and the martial law decree say it is necessary for national security. Specifically, the decree states it is “in connection with the next act of armed aggression on the part of the Russian Federation, which took place on Nov. 25, 2018, in the Kerch Strait against the ships of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Beyond that, he hasn’t said much else about the timing or aims.

The introduction of martial law represents an extraordinary and unprecedented move. No martial law was imposed during Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea in early 2014 nor at any point since hostilities began a month later in eastern Ukraine — even when Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were dying at the height of fighting that summer and in early 2015.

Back then, Ukrainian officials worried publicly that a declaration of martial law could severely damage the country’s ailing economy and disrupt cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the economy has seen some recovery and the IMF recently promised Ukraine another financial bailout.

There could be other reasons, as some on Ukrainian social media pointed out after the president’s proposal was made public.

Poroshenko’s approval ratings have declined dramatically in recent months. He’s now lagging far behind his highest-profile opponent, former Prime Minister and Fatherland party leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Some Ukrainian and foreign observers have suggested that Poroshenko, who has tried to capitalize on the threat from Russia with a three-pointed election slogan — Army! Language! Faith! — might benefit from playing up Russian hostilities.

Also, under martial law, some fear Poroshenko could try to cancel or postpone elections. For its part, Ukraine’s Central Election Commission reportedly stated that holding elections under martial law would be possible.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s own approval ratings have sunk in recent months as Russians vented anger over controversial pension reforms. Putin’s purported order to special forces to seize the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine came in March 2014, with his approval ratings sagging.

But tensions in and around the Sea of Azov have been mounting for some time, with the Ukrainian military and Border Guard Service telling RFE/RL in August 2018 that it felt like only a matter of time before the situation would worsen.

How did we get here?

Confrontation has been brewing in and around the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait for months, if not years, as RFE/RL reported from Mariupol in August 2018.

The situation began ramping up in May 2018, when Russia opened a 19-kilometer, rail-and-highway bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting mainland Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula. The bridge’s low height restricted the types of merchant ships that could pass, decreasing traffic to service Ukrainian ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk. For those cities, their ports are economic lifelines.

Both sides increased their military presence in the Azov region. And Kyiv accused Moscow of harassing ships bound for Mariupol and Berdyansk. Ships operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have since detained more than 150 merchant vessels, holding them for up to several days, at considerable cost to the companies and the ports.

Each side has detained the other’s vessels. In March 2018, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service detained a Russian fishing boat and impounded it in Berdyansk. In November 2018, Russian Border Guards seized a Ukrainian fishing boat and impounded it in the Russian port of Yeysk, about 60 kilometers southeast of Mariupol.

How will the international community respond?

An emergency United Nations Security Council meeting held later on Nov. 26, 2018, failed to offer any solutions.

Much of the international community, which dismissed Russia’s claim to Crimea in a UN vote in 2014, has largely sided with Ukraine.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said free passage of the Kerch Strait was guaranteed by the 2003 treaty signed by Russia and Ukraine. “The Agreement must be respected. It is of utmost importance to avoid any further escalation in the region,” he said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister, tweeted her support for Kyiv. “Canada condemns Russian aggression towards Ukraine in the Kerch Strait,” she wrote. “We call on Russia to immediately de-escalate, release the captured vessels, and allow for freedom of passage. Canada is unwavering in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who has been particularly critical of what he calls “Russian aggression” against Ukraine, tweeted, “Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling toward a Ukrainian port. Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation???”

But U.S. President Donald Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation. “Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Statements of condemnation were welcomed in Kyiv, but some Ukrainian officials privately expressed to RFE/RL their frustration with such statements. What they would prefer, they said, is for their international partners to apply fresh, harsh sanctions against Russia over the skirmish.

What’s Russia’s next move?

With Ukraine under martial law, this is perhaps the biggest lingering question. The short answer is that no one knows.

Russia’s flagship news program claimed the Kerch Strait incident was a Ukrainian provocation ordered from Washington in a bid to sabotage an upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and Putin at this week’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina.

If Russia’s state media provide any indication, the Kremlin might well play up the incident as a demonstration of Ukrainian aggression and perhaps a pretext for further actions against Ukraine. But what kind of actions remains to be seen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, offered no specifics but warned the Kyiv “regime and its Western patrons” of “serious consequences” of the skirmish at sea.

“Clearly, this is a well-thought-out provocation that took place in a predetermined place and form and is aimed at creating another hotbed of tension in that region and a pretext for stepping up sanctions against Russia,” the ministry said.

“We are hereby issuing a warning to Ukraine that Kyiv’s policy, pursued in coordination with the United States and the EU, that seeks to provoke a conflict with Russia in the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea is fraught with serious consequences.”

It added: “The Russian Federation will firmly curb any attempts to encroach on its sovereignty and security.”

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

popular

The West is worried about Russian subs near undersea cables

Russia has been investing heavily in its submarine fleet over the past decade and a half, restocking its fleet with more sophisticated and more capable boats that are more active than at any time since the Cold War.

That activity has worried Western officials, who have particular concern for what those subs might be doing around the undersea cables that link the US, Europe, and countries around the world, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.


Now the US government is targeting that undersea capability by putting sanctions on Russian firms and individuals that work with the country’s powerful FSB, the security and intelligence agency sanctioned in 2016 for interfering in the US election that year.

The US is pursuing “an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a release. “The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB.”

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Europe’s network of submerged cables in detail.
(Telegeography)

The Treasury said the sanctions were in response to “malign and destabilizing cyber activities,” like 2017’s NotPetya cyberattack and cyber intrusions of the US energy grid, which could allow future attacks.

Among the firms sanctioned on June 11, 2018, was Divetechnoservices, which, since 2007, “has procured a variety of underwater equipment and diving systems for Russian government agencies, to include the FSB,” the Treasury Department said.

“Further, in 2011, Divetechnoservices was awarded a contract to procure a submersible craft valued at $1.5 million for the FSB,” according to the release.

‘The 21st-century, underwater equivalent’

Undersea espionage is not new. In 1972, specially equipped US submarines tapped a Soviet communications line off Russia’s Pacific coast as part of Operation Ivy Bells, which remained secret until information about it was leaked to the Soviets in the early 1980s.

One of the subs that took part, the now retired USS Parche, is the most decorated ship in the Navy, though most of its missions remain secret. The Navy currently operates the USS Jimmy Carter, an advanced Seawolf-class sub that’s believed to be modified to tap undersea cables.

“Just as the Russians have specialized submarines for this, we do too,” Magnus Nordenman, the director the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in an interview earlier this year, citing the Carter specifically. “And it’s certainly something that we did during the Cold War too.”

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Officers and crew on the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter looks on as the sub transits the Hood Canal on its way home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, September 11, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith)

Russia’s navy is smaller in numbers than its Cold War predecessor, but its subs have grown more sophisticated, departing from the previous approach of lots of ships of varying quality. “They are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead,” Nordenman said.

Those increasingly active subs — and their potential for clandestine operations — have stoked new concern among Western naval officials.

In 2015, US officials said increased Russian undersea activity could have been efforts to locate those cables. At the end of 2017, Stuart Peach, then chief of the British defense staff, said the “vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds” was “a new risk to our way of life.”

US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s subs forces, said in December 2017, that Russian underwater activity around those cables appeared to be unprecedented and that Moscow “is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

Growing reliance on telecommunications and the internet has made that sprawling cable network more valuable, even as the cables themselves remain vulnerable to sabotage and accidents.

“Intercepting and disrupting the opponent’s communications has sort of been part of warfare since the beginning of time,” Nordenman said earlier this year. “And this is the 21st-century, underwater equivalent.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

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The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

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A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

MIGHTY GAMING

This video game had an economy almost as strong as Russia’s

In late 2001 an economist called Edward Castronova made tsunami sized waves in the world of economics when he published a paper claiming that an isolated place called Norrath had a currency stronger than that of the Japanese Yen — an especially bold claim considering Norrath had less than a million inhabitants, had only existed for about two years and didn’t exist physically. Yes, Norrath was entirely virtual and populated exclusively by players of the video game EverQuest.


Released in 1999, EverQuest is an immensely popular and influential massively multiplayer online role playing gaming (MMORPG). Set in the magical fantasy world of Narroth and boasting an impressive (for the time) near half million subscribers at the apex of its success, EverQuest came to the attention of Castronova at first much in the same way it came to the attention of anyone — he just thought it sounded like a fun game to play.

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The original box art for ‘EverQuest’

However, as he became more familiar with the game, he noticed some rather fascinating things about how the virtual economy had developed within the game. This all culminated in him publishing on the Social Science Research Network a humorous but excellently researched, and ultimately groundbreaking, paper titled, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. By his own admission, Castronova stated, “I thought maybe seventy-five people would read it and that’d be great.”

Instead, it quickly received over 16,000 downloads (and today is sitting at closer to 50,000). While this might not seem like much, let’s remember context here — this was an academic paper published on an online academic journal. Needless to say, that number of downloads made it the most downloaded paper in the history of the Social Science Research Network, which at the time featured almost 50,000 academic papers, including many dozens written by Nobel laureates.

Why was this paper so fascinating to the world of economics? As economist Yanis Varoufakis noted, “Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s. But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”

What Castronova had stumbled upon was essentially an economist’s dream — virtual worlds the researchers could use to analyze in a scientific manner various concepts in their field using large data sets and real people populating those worlds. Or as Washington Post journalist Brad Plumer succinctly stated, in virtual worlds, “The data is richer. And it’s easier to run economy — wide experiments in a video game — experiments that, for obvious reasons, can’t be run on countries.”

In short, economists in academia were intrigued with Castronova’s paper and its implications for future research.

So what did Castronova find? After painstakingly pouring over the available data surrounding the world of Norrath, he was shocked to discover that in real world dollars Norrath had the 77th highest GNP per capita, placing it squarely between Russia and Bulgaria at the time.

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The world of Norrath

How was this possible for a virtual world with only virtual currency?

At the height of EverQuest’s popularity, sale of in-game items ran rampant and at one point in time a player could pretty much buy anything they wanted in-game, regardless of how rare or powerful it was, so long as they could flash the cash to make it happen.

Although Sony, who published the game, would make several attempts to quash this practice, claiming amongst other things that all of the items for sale were their intellectual property, as well as outright banning players they caught doing this, the sale of in-game items and avatars became a thriving industry on sites like Ebay.

In fact, former child actor Brock Pierce (perhaps best known as a kid for his roles in Mighty Ducks and First Kid, and as an adult for his work in crypto currency) even started a surprisingly successful company, Internet Gaming Entertainment Ltd (IGE), which dealt in these virtual goods in exchange for real money. The company maintained a rather large staff of low-waged workers who worked in Norrath and the real world, doing things like meeting to exchange goods, as well as building up avatars and acquiring virtual goods for future sale.

In any event, Castronova analysed over 600 illicit sales outside the realm of Norrath on sites like Ebay and then simply compared this to the value of the item in-game in the principle currency of Norrath- Platinum Pieces.

When he did this, Castronova discovered that the relative value of a single Platinum Piece compared to the US Dollar was .01072. While this may not seem all that much, as Castronova pointed out, at the time, “its value exceeds that of the Japanese Yen and the Italian Lira.”

With this value in hand, Castronova was then able to roughly calculate a number of other interesting things about the economy of Norrath. For example, it turned out the average citizen of Norrath earned around .42 per hour (or about an hour today) when taking into account the value of the items and in-game currency they could realistically acquire during normal play per hour on average.

Combining this with the estimated time extreme players sunk into the game (according to data gleaned by Castronova in surveying over three thousands players), Castronova calculated:

Many users spend upwards of 80 hours per week in Norrath, hours of time input that are not unheard of in Earth professions. In 80 hours, at the average wage, the typical user generates Norrathian cash and goods worth 3.60. In a month, that would be over id=”listicle-2633077434″,000, in a year over ,000. The poverty line for a single person in the United States is ,794.

Looking at players of every time commitment level, Castronova determined that, despite the game being extremely new, the average player of EverQuest already had over ,000 worth of sellable goods locked up in the game.

But we’re not done yet because Castronova was then able to roughly calculate the gross national product of Norrath based on the value of the (entirely virtual) goods it produced in 2001. His final number? About 5 million.

While, again, this may not sound like much, divided amongst the estimated total number of Norrath denizens, that meant the GNP per capita of the virtual kingdom was ,266 — a figure that, as previously mentioned, theoretically ranked the computerised state the 77th highest on Earth at the time.

Naturally, this information peaked the interest of Castronova’s fellow economists, as did other observations he made about the virtual world and economy he was studying.

For example, according to Castronova one of the more curious things he noticed during his research was that, despite every effort being made by Sony to give everyone an equal footing when the game began, financial inequality was quickly rife amongst the denizens of Norrath.

Additionally Castronova also observed how, much like in the real world, the wealthiest players would often hoard their wealth and use their vast resources to pay poorer characters to do all of the pointless busy work they didn’t want to waste time with, in effect becoming pseudo-employers who kept the lion’s share of any profits made via the work of the plebeians to themselves.

Anecdotally, Castronova would say of his own time in-game as a low level player with no resources: “My problem is that I am under-equipped. I have been basically naked, carrying only a simple club, a caveman in a world of cavaliers. My poverty is oppressive – no amount of rat fur is sufficient to buy even a simple tunic at the ludicrously high prices of the merchant biots.”

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Screenshot from EverQuest featuring a combat involving a sand giant.

Naturally, as the game evolved, the whole “initial equality” thing also died off for some, thanks to those markets where players who had disposable income in the physical world could simply buy whatever they wanted for real money and enter the game vastly more powerful and capable than a player without this option.

Since Castronova’s paper, and partially as a direct result of his work studying virtual economies, the one time self professed “academic failure” and “schmo at a state school” managed to leverage this to level up in real life — securing a tenured position at Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of Telecommunication and Cognitive Science, as well as coming to be known as the “founder of the field of virtual economics”.

And as many other virtual worlds with complex virtual economies have likewise sprung up, economists and other scientists continue to study them, as they make great petri dishes to observe how various variables result in changes in economy and human behavior.

Going the other way, gaming companies like Valve have taken to hiring economists to help them manage their virtual worlds. As economist Robert Bloomfield notes, “If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system so that it doesn’t spin out of control.”

As for Castronova, he concluded his ground breaking paper by waxing poetic about the potential virtual worlds could have with the application of new technology, stating

The impact on Earth society is hard to overestimate. With the development of voice technology, communication in Virtual Worlds will move from cumbersome chat to telephone-like conversation, thus greatly enhancing the Virtual World as a place of social interaction. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky.

Bonus Facts:

  • To trade items they’d bought illegally via Ebay and the like, Castronova observed that players would generally sell the item online first and then agree to meet in a designated place in-game, at which point the seller would then trade the item to the buyer for an item of trivial value they had in their possession. Castronova was amused to learn that, much like in real life, many of these illicit trades took place in abandoned buildings and dark alleys.
  • In 2017, the value of Venezuelan bolivar sank so low that it was quite literally worth half that of the principal currency of Azeroth, the kingdom the game World of Warcraft takes place in.

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

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