Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnik is the new commander of the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team (VDT).
On Jan. 29, 2019, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, certified the new F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander ahead of the 2019 season, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The final certification by the ACC Commander follows extensive training including four certifications, off-station training flights and more than 30 practice missions.
With over 1,000 flying hours in her eight years of military service “SiS”, originally assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, is the Air Force’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot.
She will lead the team in about 20 locations across the world during the upcoming airshow season.
“What I’m looking forward to most is the potential to have an influence on younger generations,” said Kotnik in a public release. “I know firsthand how impactful airshows can be and what a difference it makes to young people to see just one example of what they too can do and who they can become. I hope to be a source of inspiration and motivation they can draw from to apply in their own lives.”
The F-16 VDT performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.
“These shows allow us to demonstrate the capabilities of the F-16 to a world-wide audience while highlighting the work of the airmen who keep the Viper flying,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schneider, F-16 VDT superintendent. “It’s not every day people get the chance to hear the sound of freedom roaring over their heads or watch a team of maintainers working together to make it happen.”
If you are interested in learning a bit more about her, here’s an interview “Sis” gave to LiveAirshowTV in fall 2018:
Game of Thrones may have come to an end on HBO Sunday night but the saga continues off-screen, in the yet-unfinished series of books penned by George R.R. Martin which inspired the hit show. On May 20, 2019, the author reacted to the finale and also hinted at what’s to come for fans.
“Let me say this much — last night was an ending, but it was also a beginning,” Martin wrote in a post on his website, Not a Blog. “There are characters who never made it onto the screen at all, and others who died in the show but still live in the books… if nothing else, the readers will learn what happened to Jeyne Poole, Lady Stoneheart, Penny and her pig, Skahaz Shavepate, Arianne Martell, Darkstar, Victarion Greyjoy, Ser Garlan the Gallant, Aegon VI, and a myriad of other characters both great and small that viewers of the show never had the chance to meet.”
George R. R. Martin speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Game of Thrones”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
The 70-year-old went on to add that he’s still working on the next installment in the series, The Winds of Winter, which was originally supposed to be published in 2015. “Winter is coming, I told you, long ago… and so it is,” he promised. “[The next book] is very late, I know, I know, but it will be done. I won’t say when, I’ve tried that before, only to burn you all and jinx myself… but I will finish it.”
And that won’t even be the last book. Martin said that fans can also expect A Dream of Spring to round out what he thinks will be a total of 3,000 pages between the final two reads.
As for whether the books will end the same way as the show, Martin remained vague, saying, “well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Ten commercial Earth-imaging satellites have been launched into space from California.
An Orbital ATK Minotaur C rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:37 p.m. Oct. 31.
Deployment was to occur about 12 minutes later during a communications blackout period. Confirmation of deployment was expected about an hour and a half after launch, according to the Orbital ATK webcast.
The six SkySat satellites and four miniature Dove satellites — each about the size of a loaf of bread — were bound for orbits 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth to join dozens of other satellites that provide streams of data to San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc.
The satellites are designed to gather medium- and high-resolution multispectral images of Earth for businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations.
These fire team leaders are working their way through the lower ranks just like their father and their father’s father did before them. They want to embody their ancestors’ leadership abilities and make an impact through hard work and sacrifice.
2. The “elbow or a**hole”
Although they somehow managed to sneak their way into a leadership role, this fire team leader couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag. In fact, we’re not even sure if they know the difference between their elbow or their a**hole. No grunt wants to follow this guy to the liquor store, let alone the war zone.
3. The “know-it-all”
This type of motivator has read every infantry leader manual ever printed. Their only downfall is that they’ve never actually put their knowledge to use in a real combat situation.
4. The “overachiever”
These are the ones who volunteer for everything, thinking it will look good on their resume one day. We’re not hating on them, but sometimes they do get annoying.
5. The “smooth talker”
Beleive it or not, not every leader has to yell at you to get the point across. This type of leader is the perfect blend between rock-solid and go-with-the-flow because they’ve deployed before.
They buy all the little extra pieces of tech that aren’t issued at supply thinking it’ll make them a better leader. Truthfully, you don’t need the special edition bi-pod that tells the time in 8 different countries when you’re only humping a pack in one.
In 1916, the people of the United States were not feeling good about the rest of the world. President Woodrow Wilson easily won re-election on the slogan, “He kept us out of war” as World War I raged on in Europe and elsewhere. The Mexican Revolution threatened to pull the United States back into conflict in the American Southwest. On top of all that, the U.S. military was a conscripted, third-rate power; a far cry from the professional, all-volunteer force that we enjoy today.
But it was almost an Army comprised only of those who wanted to go to war in the first place.
The Constitution of the United States says only that the U.S. Congress can declare a state of war. There are no formal rules for how and when the Congress can do so, only that they can. In one instance, the President signed the legislation for war, and in others, it simply passed as a resolution. In 1916, the Congress had only declared war three times: against Britain in 1812, Mexico in 1848, and against Spain in 1898. The American people were not looking forward to a potential war in Europe, no matter who was on the other side.
Especially a concerned group of citizens from Nebraska, who created legislation that would change how the United States declared war – and who would fight it.
This proposed amendment to the Constitution outlined the process of declaring war as a national referendum, a direct vote by American citizens, where the majority would decide if the country was going to war or not. If the war referendum passed, all those who voted in favor of the war would be enlisted to fight that war.
Folks in Nebraska were surprised by how much popular support their proposed amendment received. The petition to submit the amendment to Congress had so many signatures, scraps of paper had to be added after the fact to ensure they all ended up on the document. While deciding who fights a war is very important, declaring a state of war comes with many automatic legal triggers, many of which have likely kept Congress from declaring war in the past few decades. An official state of war has not been declared since World War II.
While the rules for how the United States conducts itself in a declared war versus an undeclared use of military force vary greatly, the rules for who fights the wars do not. All American male citizens are required to register for Selective Service at age 18, but the draft has not been used as a means of military recruiting since 1973, and was finally ended by President Gerald Ford in 1975. Ever since, the U.S military has been an all-volunteer force.
The question that has come out of the formation of an all-volunteer military in the past few years is one of disproportionate representation. If only certain segments of the American population have to fight the wars of the future, is it easier for a political class to launch unnecessary wars if they don’t have to be personally affected by its manpower needs? Those Nebraskans might have had a good point.
Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.
That’s certainly easier said than done.
The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.
The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.
These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.
At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.
China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.
The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.
China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.
China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.
These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.
“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)
US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.
Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.
“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.
Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.
The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”
The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.
Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.
There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.
“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).
US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.
Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.
Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.
For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.
The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.
There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.
Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.
Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.
“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.
US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.
They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.
There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.
This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.
“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”
And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)
To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.
China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.
In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.
The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.
“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.
The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.
Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.
It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.
An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.
The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.
Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.
Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.
Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.
Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.
For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.
The first regimental set of the Russian-made advanced air-defense system known as the S-400 has arrived in China, a military-diplomatic source told Russia’s official news agency Tass in May 2018.
China became the first foreign buyer of the S-400 when it signed a contract in late 2014, and the first two ships carrying S-400 components from Russia arrived in China at the beginning of April 2018.
According to the Tass report, cited by The Diplomat, a third and final ship carrying support equipment arrived in May 2018.
“The ship has brought the equipment not damaged during a storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” the source said, referring to what a Russian military spokeswoman described as secondary components that were returned to Russia after the storm.
The arrival of all three ships brings a full regimental set of the S-400 system to China, including command centers, launchers, guided missiles, and power-supply equipment. Russian personnel are to start handing the equipment over to China at the end of May 2018 — a process expected to take two months, according to Tass.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions, and each battalion, also referred to as a division, has two batteries, according to The Diplomat. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers — each with four launch tubes — as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module.
Some reports indicate that China purchased four to six S-400 regimental sets, though the Tass report said Beijing is only getting two.
China is only one of several foreign buyers. Turkey, India, and Saudi Arabia have all reportedly bought the S-400 or are in talks to do so.
While the S-400 has not been used in combat conditions, it has been heralded as one of the best air-defense systems in the world. The deployment of a second division to Crimea in early 2018, worried US military officials, who said it could give Russia more coverage of the Black Sea and was a sign of Moscow’s willingness to use force.
In addition to having improved radar, the S-400 can reportedly fire several new and upgraded missiles with ranges up to 250 miles.
China reportedly has 15 divisions of the S-400’s predecessor, the S-300, stationed along the coast of Fujian, a province in the country’s southeast overlooking northern Taiwan.
Depending on which missiles China’s S-400s are equipped with, batteries in Fujian could reportedly cover all of Taiwan, while batteries placed in northern Shandong province could reach the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, over which Japan and China dispute control.
While its eventual armaments are not clear, the S-400 arrives in China at a time of increased tension in the region.
China has been more hostile toward Taiwan, which claims independence but China views as its territory, since Taiwan’s 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who has said she wants peace but Beijing suspects wants formal independence.
China has stepped up its military exercises around Taiwan, including several in April 2018, which were followed by two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers patrolling through the area — reportedly flying within 155 miles of the southern Chinese coast.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An honorable carry ceremony July 27, 2018, at Osan Air Base, South Korea, transferred 55 boxes of remains believed to be of Americans missing in the Korean War. The boxes were received Aug. 1, 2018, in an honorable carry ceremony in Hawaii.
“We are guardedly optimistic the 1 August repatriation is the first tangible action of others, with which we will be able to account for more of our missing from the Korean War,” the director of DPAA, Kelly McKeague, said at today’s White House media briefing.
The August 2018 repatriation and homecoming was a “poignant manifestation” of the commitment secured by President Donald J. Trump and the pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their June 2018 summit in Singapore, he said.
McKeague highlighted the return of a dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. “It was a sole personal effect returned by the North Koreans,” he said, adding that the return of the remains is the first step toward talks to resume joint field recovery operations. The dog tag was returned to McDaniel’s sons.
Joint recovery operations in North Korea were suspended in 2005 due to security concerns by then-President George W. Bush.
A United Nations Honor Guard member carries remains during a dignified return ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)
McKeague described the recovery effort as a humanitarian endeavor and said he is encouraged that the June 2018 summit and North Korea’s reaffirmation to resume recovery operations may lead to further cooperation. He said the contacts are being treated as military-to-military contacts.
The time it will take to match the remains to a service member will be DNA-intensive and take months or years, DPAA lab director John Byrd said.
“At no time did we expect there to be one body, one box. Nor did the North Koreans try to pitch it that way to us when we were in Osan,” Byrd said, citing as an example the return of remains over five years the 1990s.
“Out of those 208 boxes over those five years, we estimated, after DNA sampling, 400 individuals. Now from that, 200 were Americans,” he said.
Initial inspections indicate the recently returned remains are in moderate to poor condition and do not contain any remains of animals, Byrd said.
Sacred obligation to recover missing Americans
There are 7,700 Americans missing from the Korean War, McKeague said.
The DPAA mission is to search for, find and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable, according to DPAA.
“The fact that the United States of America vigorously pursues the fullest possible accounting of our missing reflects our values as a nation,” McKeague said. “The sacred obligation, if not moral imperative, remains a high priority for the Department of Defense.”
Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for our nation’s warfighters. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.
Managed by DTRA CB’s Brian Pate, Ph.D., researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy demonstrated that analyzing light reflected from the scales of a butterfly wing may fill a critical capability gap for our service members. Currently, only expensive, non-portable instrumentation exists for the required sensitivity of certain CWA. Other tools, such as colorimetric and nanomaterial methods show promise, however, they pose challenges for long-term field use such as inadequate sensitivity or sensor poisoning.
Highlighted in the ACS Omega article, “Sensing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants via Photonic Crystals of the Morpho didius Butterfly,” researchers tested both naturally occurring and synthetic photonic crystals for CWA vapor detection. Using the reflective properties of the butterfly wings, researchers were able to identify changes in the refractive index or distance between structure layers.
When exposed to water, methanol, ethanol and simulants for mustard gas, researchers found that vapors could be detected at parts per million concentrations in under one minute. Offering an innovative, low-cost and rapid means of threat agent detection, this sensing technique may offer significant advantages for deployed warfighters. The portable technique only requires a small photonic crystal, a visible light source and a fiber optic cable. Further, this method could potentially be used as a long-term, continuous, passive sensor.
While promising, these sensing agents present some challenges such as generating a synthetic butterfly wing to increase vapor sensitivity and selectivity towards chemical agents. Ongoing efforts are underway at the Air Force Academy to address this issue.
Collectively, these efforts highlight the capability of the service academies to contribute to the chemical and biological defense enterprise’s mission of protecting our force from threat agents, while fostering critical thinking and technical excellence in the next generation of military leaders.
The first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe has been detected in space for the first time, after decades of searching. Scientists discovered its signature in our own galaxy using the world’s largest airborne observatory, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, as the aircraft flew high above the Earth’s surface and pointed its sensitive instruments out into the cosmos.
When the universe was still very young, only a few kinds of atoms existed. Scientists believe that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time. Helium hydride should be present in some parts of the modern universe, but it has never been detected in space — until now.
SOFIA found modern helium hydride in a planetary nebula, a remnant of what was once a Sun-like star. Located 3,000 light-years away near the constellation Cygnus, this planetary nebula, called NGC 7027, has conditions that allow this mystery molecule to form. The discovery serves as proof that helium hydride can, in fact, exist in space. This confirms a key part of our basic understanding of the chemistry of the early universe and how it evolved over billions of years into the complex chemistry of today. The results are published in this week’s issue of Nature.
Image of planetary nebula NGC 7027 with illustration of helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe.
(NASA/ESA/Hubble Processing: Judy Schmidt)
“This molecule was lurking out there, but we needed the right instruments making observations in the right position — and SOFIA was able to do that perfectly,” said Harold Yorke, director of the SOFIA Science Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.
Today, the universe is filled with large, complex structures such as planets, stars and galaxies. But more than 13 billion years ago, following the big bang, the early universe was hot, and all that existed were a few types of atoms, mostly helium and hydrogen. As atoms combined to form the first molecules, the universe was finally able to cool and began to take shape. Scientists have inferred that helium hydride was this first, primordial molecule.
Once cooling began, hydrogen atoms could interact with helium hydride, leading to the creation of molecular hydrogen — the molecule primarily responsible for the formation of the first stars. Stars went on to forge all the elements that make up our rich, chemical cosmos of today. The problem, though, is that scientists could not find helium hydride in space. This first step in the birth of chemistry was unproven, until now.
“The lack of evidence of the very existence of helium hydride in interstellar space was a dilemma for astronomy for decades,” said Rolf Guesten of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, in Bonn, Germany, and lead author of the paper.
Helium hydride is a finicky molecule. Helium itself is a noble gas making it very unlikely to combine with any other kind of atom. But in 1925, scientists were able to create the molecule in a laboratory by coaxing the helium to share one of its electrons with a hydrogen ion.
Then, in the late 1970s, scientists studying the planetary nebula called NGC 7027 thought that this environment might be just right to form helium hydride. Ultraviolet radiation and heat from the aging star create conditions suitable for helium hydride to form. But their observations were inconclusive. Subsequent efforts hinted it could be there, but the mystery molecule continued to elude detection. The space telescopes used did not have the specific technology to pick out the signal of helium hydride from the medley of other molecules in the nebula.
The Universe’s First Type of Molecule Is Found at Last
In 2016, scientists turned to SOFIA for help. Flying up to 45,000 feet, SOFIA makes observations above the interfering layers of Earth’s atmosphere. But it has a benefit space telescopes don’t — it returns after every flight.
“We’re able to change instruments and install the latest technology,” said Naseem Rangwala SOFIA deputy project scientist. “This flexibility allows us to improve observations and respond to the most pressing questions that scientists want answered.”
A recent upgrade to one of SOFIA’s instruments called the German Receiver at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, added the specific channel for helium hydride that previous telescopes did not have. The instrument works like a radio receiver. Scientists tune to the frequency of the molecule they’re searching for, similar to tuning an FM radio to the right station. When SOFIA took to the night skies, eager scientists were onboard reading the data from the instrument in real time. Helium hydride’s signal finally came through loud and clear.
“It was so exciting to be there, seeing helium hydride for the first time in the data,” said Guesten. “This brings a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe.
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Moving OCONUS (outside contiguous United States) can be one of your biggest duty station changes yet. From overseas options, to Hawaii, Alaska, or other U.S. territories like Guam, there is no shortage of far away — and fun — bases. In fact, some are so sought after that some military families chase them their entire career.
And when considering all the fun that’s to be had, it’s no surprise as to why. New experiences, varied climates, interesting fruits and veggies — and that’s only the beginning!
But that’s also why, once getting one of these coveted OCONUS moves, you should take full advantage of all they have to offer. Embrace the culture, the food, and everything in between for a unique, life-altering experience for the entire family.
As military families, we are given the unique opportunity to live in different places, and to take what we’ve learned with us to create more-rounded, better understanding people. Use the opportunity to move and grow in your favor by embracing change whole-heartedly.
Ask the Locals
Obviously one of the best places to get insider info is from those who’ve been there the longest. They will not only know the best spots and events, but they’ll have insider info you can follow. Take their tips to heart for better overall experiences, and an idea of when and where to be for all things local.
Be friendly with the natives from day one for a fully immersed experience in your new culture and all it has to offer. After all, you never know what life-changing event they might introduce you to!
Try Everything Twice
One bad experience could be a fluke; to get a better understanding of an event, it’s best to give everything a second chance. Doing so will give you better insight toward food or local traditions. However, if you simply don’t like the event, a do-over is enough to call it quits.
Don’t avoid an experience, even if it sounds strange. Consider embracing all that comes your way, and to give it a second chance… even when not completely reaching your expectations.
Eat All the Foods
Do it! Try them. Order them. Ask restaurant workers what they recommend and if you can sample. You’ll never know what new foods you might be exposed to, and testing them out is the only way to learn if you might have a new favorite.
How often will you have the chance to eat such exotic dishes? When outside of a restaurant, ask others what they’ve had there and loved. Explore food markets and grocery stores, or even locals’ dishes if invited to eat.
Don’t Say No
This is the easiest thing to plan for, yet the hardest thing to do. When planning an OCONUS move, make up your mind to try anything and everything. Go do all the things. All of them. When something sounds foreign or strange to us, it’s so easy to stop the situation in its tracks. Saying no or simply planning on not going keeps you from the strangeness of it all, sure. But it also prevents you from learning something you didn’t know, from testing a new food to learning a new skill.
You never know what might come your way, or what you might readily enjoy! Embracing a new culture from the very get-go is the only way you can find new interests and be a good steward of your country and culture toward others.
Are you looking forward to an OCONUS move? What are you looking forward to trying most?
Every Marine is a rifleman. This is evident in every photo of a Marine donning the service alpha uniform, courtesy of the shimmering marksmanship badge over their left breast pocket. Oftentimes this rifle marksmanship badge is accompanied by another badge, indicating the Marine is qualified with the Beretta M9 service pistol.
The pistol qualification is one that is not required by every Marine; instead, only certain military occupational specialties, officers and staff non-commissioned officers require annual qualification on the service pistol. In order to ensure these Marines are properly trained with the weapon, the Marine Corps implemented the Combat Pistol Program.
The CPP was introduced in 2012 after the Corps decided it needed to revamp its pistol qualification, the entry level pistol program. The ELP course of fire was less combat-oriented and was more inclined to promote fundamentals and accuracy.
While these are essential aspects of pistol marksmanship that challenge the shooter to maintain pinpoint accuracy, the ELP lacked sufficient tactical drills to prepare Marines to draw their weapon and engage a target. Thus, the CPP was introduced.
“The goal of marksmanship training is to develop this proficiency to a combat-effective level,” states Weapons Training Battalion Training Command lesson plan CPP.
One of the hallmarks of the CPP is how the first two stages of qualification start with the weapon in the holster, requiring the Marine to present the weapon and engage the target in one motion – this gives the training a more combat-oriented and tactical approach.
While the CPP is known for its tactical application, the fundamentals and coaching are not abandoned.
U.S. Marine Cpl. Bradley Binder conducts pistol qualification with a Beretta M9 service pistol at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 6, 2018.
Marine Corps Order 3574.2L states, “The execution of dry practice conducted by properly trained CMT [combat marksmanship trainer] and CMC [combat marksmanship coach] Marines is a critical element in the development of a Marine’s fundamental marksmanship skill, speed, and accuracy in the Combat Pistol Program.”
Following classroom instruction and non-fire sessions, Marines participate in live-fire drills — training blocks one through three. During these training blocks, range coaches have the opportunity to mentor and guide Marines during practical application where the ELP did not provide this luxury, which results in a more qualified, skilled and effective Marine with the service pistol.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Schuster, a CMT with the 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, vehemently supports coaching and its effects – “If we can hone those qualities, those little things…we can take your shooting to another level.”
The ELP was conducted on a National Rifle Association 50-yard bullseye target. To replace this, the Marksmanship Program Management Section combat pistol target (MPMS-1) was introduced. This scoring system trains Marines to see, present their weapon, and engage the target, rewarding shooters for hitting vital areas – the tighter the grouping in the center, the higher the score.
The MPMS-1 is a favorite with Schuster who states, “The scoring rings, while they’re bigger, they’re more applicable… You’re not grading on a circle, you’re grading on – did you neutralize the target?”
Gunnery Sgt. Jarod Vedsted, the lead instructor with 3rd LE Bn, III MIG and former instructor of the protective services course, states “we’re in tandem with them” when asked how the CPP correlates with civilian counterparts in the sense of basic pistol training.
Tables one through five of the CPP teach basic pistol skills and marksmanship, but any further pistol training does not exist in formal standards in the Marine Corps.
“I do think that’s the direction we’re headed. Now how fast do we get there? And at what varying degrees? I don’t know,” states Schuster, “but from my experience with Marine Gunners, they are always looking for ways to better the program.”
The CPP is just one of the ways the Marine Corps has made efforts to make its training more realistic and combat-oriented to better prepare Marines. “Programs evolve as we learn new things about marksmanship,” says Schuster.
Marines are supporters of the CPP, and five years after its official release, it still receives praise among marksmanship instructors. “I prefer it,” said Schuster, “The CPP definitely introduced a more tactical mindset on the pistol range.” Wherever the Marksmanship Program Management Section goes next, Marines are likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to send rounds down range.