Fly combat missions for India's Air Force in this new video game - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Look out, Pakistan – archrival India is getting a slew of brand-new pilots ready to take to the skies to defend the Hindu homeland – at least, in the digital world. The Indian Air Force recently launched a new mobile game for Android and iOS that lets players fight in aerial combat and take off on air strike sorties, all from the palm of their hands.


India’s chief Air Force officer, Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, said the game gives India’s youth a realistic feel for the air force while teaching them more about it. They might even be motivated enough to think of the IAF as a viable career option, one that will be exhilarating at the same time.

“This new facilitation-cum-publicity pavilion and the IAF-themed mobile game have been designed to raise awareness among the youth like you, about the IAF, and inspire them to take up career in the Air Force,” he told a group of students at the game’s launch. The game is intended for kids 14 and older.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Yes, there’s a helicopter mission.

This newest game is called “Indian Air Force: A Cut Above,” and allows the player to take to the wild blue yonder on ten missions, each comprised of three sorties to highlight the various roles the IAF can play in a wartime or contingency situation. It especially highlights air combat scenarios, but it isn’t limited to air combat. The game is supposed to be a realistic representation of the multilateral nature of India’s air forces.

“The various missions, include, airstrikes, air-to-air refueling, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. Also, career navigator and augmented reality sections are available, which will give a realistic feel of the IAF’s assets to the user,” the Chief Marshal said.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Defend India when the Red Skull attacks.

But this isn’t the only Indian Air Force game available to play on mobile. The IAF launched another game in 2014 called “Guardians of the Skies,” which received more than a million downloads. This new version has an upgraded platform, augmented reality integration and an entirely new phase of the game due out in October. The new version will include multiplayer capabilities, just in time for Indian aviation enthusiasts to celebrate Air Force Day behind the stick of an F-16.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Mysterious bulges on V-22 Ospreys have been identified

If you browse through the huge amount of photographs regularly released by the DoD, you’ll notice that some of the Air Force Special Operation Command’s CV-22 and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys have been modified. The tilt-rotor aircraft now sport a new “bulge” on the upper fuselage between the wings and the tail. After a quick investigation we have found that the “bulge” is actually a radome hosting a SATCOM antenna quite similar to the one used aboard airliners to give passengers the ability to stream Prime Video or Netflix live on their mobile devices while airborne.


The antenna is aimed to give the Ospreys the ability to interconnect to classified (and unclassified) networks with increased bandwidth and transparent transitions among multiple satellite beams in process: this significantly improves Situational Awareness, as the Osprey can get tactical details and access secure channels in a reliable way while enroute. The problem faced by the V-22s (both the U.S. Air Force CV-22s and the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s) as well as other assets, is the changes occurring during a long air transit to the target area. The battlefield is a extremely dynamic scenario with forces in continuous movement. A Special Operations aircraft launching from a Forward Operating Base located at 1-hour flight time from the area of operations may find a completely changed tactical situation than the one briefed before departure by the time it gets there. Describing the need to be constantly updated, the commanding officer of a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force said in a news release: “As an infantryman, it’s very frustrating when you’ve fully planned a mission. Then after a long air transit to the objective area you get off the plane and find out everything is different … rules of engagement, enemy locations, even the objective itself.”

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Soldiers from the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 3rd Special Forces Group move toward U.S. Air Force CV-22 Ospreys Feb. 26, 2018, at Melrose Training Range. The CV-22 in the foreground has the SATCOM radome, the one in the background does not sport any bulge.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

For instance, during the civil war in South Sudan, Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys flew a Marine response force from Spainto Djibouti in a non-stop flight of 3,200 nautical miles – the distance from Alaska to Florida. But U.S. Marine Corps crisis response units for U.S. Africa and U.S. Central Commands aboard MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J aircraft were typically disconnected from intelligence updates, tactical data sources and each other while flying to a crisis hot spot. This means that but needed a capability to conduct mission planning, and command and control when flying to distant objective areas.

For this reason, it is extremely important that the aircraft is constantly fed with relevant updates while enroute .

Dealing with the MV-22s, the antenna is part of the Networking On-The-Move-Airborne Increment 2 (NOTM-A Inc 2)initiative launched in 2016. It includes a suite that can be fitted to the KC-130J and MV-22 to provide an airborne en route mission planning and over-the-horizon/beyond-line-of-sight (OTH/BLOS) communication and collaboration capability. Noteworthy, the NOTM-A is capable of installation/configuration within 60 minutes, and rapid disembarkation from its host airframe in preparation for future missions. The Quick-Release-Antenna-System for the satellite communications system varies depending on host aircraft but features network management equipment and C2 components that are airframe agnostic. The system provides internal secure wireless LAN access point for staff personnel to perform digital C2 functions in the SATCOM host aircraft: in other words the NOTM-A provides connectivity for the aircrew through secure WiFi network. Interestingly, access to the global information grid and Marine Corps enterprise network can be accomplished via commercial network access.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Ground communications specialist Marines train on configuring and operating the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II. In Spetember 2018 Marine Corps Systems Command fielded the first NOTM-A Inc. II System to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to enhance their ability to communicate in the air.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)

According to the U.S. Marine Corps, in May 2015, the first NOTM-Airborne Increment I (also known as the Hatch-Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System) was fielded to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces. It gave embarked ground personnel real-time access to networks during airborne operations aboard KC-130 aircraft. As a consequence of the success with the Super Hercules, the Marine Corps decided to install NOTM-A Inc. II on the MV-22 and, in June 2018, the first of the systems was fielded to the 22nd MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit).

“It can take hours to fly to a location to complete a mission, and during that time, the situation on the ground can change significantly,” said Chris Wagner, NOTM lead engineer in MCSC’s Command Element Systems in an official news release. “The NOTM capability provides Marines with real time command, control and collaborative mission planning while airborne.”

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

An MV-22 Avionics technician installs the Quick-Release-Antenna-System which is part of the Networking On-the-Move-Airborne Increment II.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Chris Wagner)

In order to accommodate the new system, the Naval Air Systems Command and MCSC had to modify the Osprey: “This involved modifications such as replacing the rear overhead hatch, installing a SATCOM radome, and installing system interface cables. Mission ready, the system is capable of providing communications access for up to five users, including networks, voice, email, video and text.

With the new equipment, the MV-22 aircrews can get accurate and up-to-date en route information: “If the situation on the ground changes, we can get updates to the Common Operating Picture, from reconnaissance assets to the commander enabling mission changes while en route.”

Testing with the MV-22 took place November through December 2017 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Marine Expeditionary Forces I and II will receive the NOTM-A Inc. II System when fielding continues in 2019.

When it deals with the modification to the U.S. Air Force CV-22, little details are available. Most of the information comes from Powerpoint deck (in .pdf format) that you can find online. The slides, dated 2016, are part of a presentation on Airborne Mobile Broadband Communications by ViaSat Inc. a global broadband services and technology company based in California that provides satellite communications service for government, defense and military applications.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers exfiltrate from a training area, via a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey, March 1, 2018, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. This CV-22 is not equipped with the new SATCOM system.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam Weaver)

The presentation includes interesting details about the SATCOM antennae used to connect to ViaSat services by C-17 airlifters, AC-130U gunships, Air Force One and VIP aircraft (including C-40 and C-32), RC-135 Rivet Joint spyplanes (both the U.S. and UK ones) as well as MV-22 and CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. Dealing with the latter ones, the presentation states that at least 6 shipsets had already been delivered to AFSOC for the CV-22 Satcom System and Service whilst the initial 4 shipsets for the MV-22 Satcom Systems had been contracted. Based on this, it looks like the system used by the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 and CV-22 is the same (as one might expect): it offers a kit with easy roll on/roll off capability, maintenance and upgrades.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is Russia’s airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.


Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.

(DOD)

In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”

The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.

(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)

Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiWi5ChNAxg

www.youtube.com

Articles

The US military may soon get an R2-D2 of its own to help fix combat equipment

With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.


SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.

Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
R2D2 fixing a spaceship in Star Wars Episode I (Photo Star Wars via YouTube screengrab)

Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.

Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
A group of USAF F-35As in formation near Hill AFB, Utah (Photo US Air Force)

The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.

If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.

SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) pulls away from harbor in Singapore in 2016 (Photo US Navy)

Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.

By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.

Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The value of open source intelligence in a pandemic environment

The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.


Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.

The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.

While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.

Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”

However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”

Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.

The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.

This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.

Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.

This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”

In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”

While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Russia claims its newest fighter will fight in space

While much of the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s push for a fifth-generation fighter, the PAK-FA or Sukhoi Su-57, much less attention is being paid to another design bureau – Mikoyan-Gurevich, better known as MiG (as in the plane whose parts get distributed forcefully by the Air Force or Navy). What have they been up to, besides developing the MiG-29K?


Well, according to The National Interest, to meet Russia’s PAK-DA requirement, MiG is trying to develop a for-real version of the X-wing fighter from Star Wars or the Colonial Viper from either iteration of Battlestar Galactica. The plane is called the MiG-41, and it is a successor to the MiG-31 Foxhound, which succeeded the MiG-25 Foxbat.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
Photo: Wikimedia

The MiG-25 and MiG-31 were both known for their speed. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the MiG-25 was capable of hitting Mach 3.2, almost as fast as the SR-71 Blackbird. Its primary armament was the AA-6 Acrid, which came in radar-guided and heat-seeking versions. The Foxbat was exported to a number of counties, including Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Some claim that it scored an air-to-air kill against a Navy F/A-18 Hornet in Desert Storm.

The MiG-31 was an upgraded version. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it was about 300 miles per hour slower than the MiG-25, but it featured a much more powerful radar and the AA-9 Amos missile. The Foxhound is still in service, and Russia relies on it to counter the threat of America’s bombers.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
The Foxbat is a scream machine, speed-wise, and has been clocked hauling at over Mach 3.

The MiG-41, though, will be a huge leap upwards and forwards. Russian media claims that this new interceptor will be “hypersonic” (with a top speed of 4,500 kilometers per hour), and will carry hypersonic missiles.

You can see a video discussing this new plane below. Do you think this plane will live up to the hype, or will it prove to be very beatable, as past Soviet/Russian systems have?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JCswDTmMhg
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian beast is one of the biggest anti-aircraft missiles ever developed

Many of the most-well known anti-aircraft missiles are relatively small. The American FIM-92 Stinger is small enough to be carried by one person. The Sparrow can be carried by aircraft or launched from ships, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow made the missile more compact while increasing performance.


But one anti-aircraft missile is simply huge. Meet the SA-5 Gammon, one of Russia’s many Cold War efforts to defend itself from Strategic Air Command’s bombers.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, this missile was huge, over 35 feet long. It had nearly 500 pounds of high explosives in its warhead, and came in at a weight of nearly eight tons. By comparison, the F6F Hellcat, the scourge of the Pacific Theater was 33 feet long, and weighted a bit over six tons. That’s right – this missile is larger than a World War II fighter.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
A SA-5 Gammon on its launcher. Was a similar missile the first kill for the Arrow? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

These missiles had a long reach, able to hit targets as far as 250 miles away, and with a top speed of over 5,600 miles per hour. But when it comes to combat, the SA-5’s record has been… spotty. In 1986, these missiles were fired at U.S. Navy jets, and missed.

The batteries didn’t regret their poor marksmanship for long, as A-7 Corsairs used AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs, to put the batteries out of action.

The massive plane-killing missile remains in some countries’ inventory, including Iran, India, Poland, Syria and North Korea. Others, like Ukraine, inherited SA-5s after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of Ukraine’s missiles was responsible for the accidental downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner in 2001, killing 78 people. The SA-5 was also notable for being the first kill of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game
Two SA-5s on their single-rail launchers, while a third is on the ground. Their immense size is apparent. (Wikimedia Commons)

With continued upgrades, the SA-5 will stick around for a while. Check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h6l3j_bX5g
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s some social media security tips from an Army special agent

Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.

Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program, part of the Major Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained how those who aren’t careful or aren’t paying attention can unwittingly provide scammers and other online criminals all the information they need to exploit them.

Social media accounts, Palmer said, serve as fertile ground for digging up the kinds of information that can be used to impersonate someone, steal identities or break into other online accounts, such as banking or insurance.


A Facebook page, for example, might contain current and past physical addresses where a person has lived, phone numbers, email addresses, names of pets, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies and other interests. Just browsing a Facebook page, Palmer said, he can figure out your favorite music, books, TV shows, political and religious leanings.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

(Photo by Austin Distel)

All that, he said, serves as “an attack vector” that an unscrupulous person can use to communicate with users further and gain their trust. Additional communications can bring out even more details that might later be used to break into online accounts or exploit users in other ways. Some social media users, Palmer added, even volunteer critical information that could be used to access their online financial accounts that they’d never divulge if they were asked by a stranger.

Some online memes, he noted, pose as games that get users to volunteer information that, coupled with other easily obtainable information, can be used to exploit them. A quick search online reveals a simple graphic meme that purportedly allows users to choose “your new cat name” and then post the results, along with the meme itself, on their own social media feed.

For the “cat name” meme, users would use the last digit of their phone number as a selector for any of nine name prefixes, their zodiac sign to choose from a list of 12 middle names, and their favorite color to choose from a list of eight potential last names.

A user might end up with “Count Sassy Pants” as a silly name for their cat. When they post that on their social media feed, along with the meme image itself, would-be criminals will know their phone number ends in 8, they were born in either August or September, and that their favorite color is yellow. Coupled with data already on their social media feed, and with data that can be obtained from data brokers, the information makes it easier to exploit users, Palmer explained.

Fly combat missions for India’s Air Force in this new video game

Image memes such as this one ask users to construct and share on their social media feeds new, “fun” information that is constructed from their personal information.

Military personnel also are candidates to be impersonated online — malicious users might opt to use imagery of real-world service members available online to exploit other users. The U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions in the nation, and online criminals, Palmer said, take advantage of that.

“The U.S. military is viewed as a prestigious club … It’s an indicator of prestige,” Palmer said. “It’s instant respect. If I can pretend to be a U.S. general, unwitting people will respect me immediately.”

With that respect, he said, a criminal can exploit other users while pretending to be a member of the U.S. military. Palmer’s advice to service members: don’t post your picture in uniform with the name tape visible. “It immediately makes you a target,” the special agent said.

Palmer offered some tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Immediate red flag! Be suspicious if you are asked for money or a wire transfer to pay for a purported service member’s transportation, medical bills, communication fees or marriage-processing charges.
  • Be suspicious if the person with whom you are corresponding wants you to mail anything to a foreign country.
  • Be aware that military members at any duty location or in a combat zone have access to mail, cyber cafes, Skype and other means of communicating with their families, and they have access to medical and dental treatment.
  • The military will ensure that family members are notified should a service member is injured.
  • Insist on a “proof of life.” The scammers will not video chat with you, because they know you will catch them in their lie.
  • Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The special agent also provided eight points for better security online, and to make users less likely to be victimized by online criminals:

  • Permanently close old, unused accounts.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.
  • Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.
  • On social media, accept friend requests selectively.
  • Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.
  • Think before you post.
  • Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.
  • Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can’t use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Submariners practice lifesaving rescue techniques

Undersea Rescue Command (URC) and the Chilean submarine CS Simpson (SS 21) completed the submarine search and rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII off the coast of San Diego, Aug. 3-7, 2018.

CHILEMAR is a bilateral exercise designed to demonstrate interoperability between the United States submarine rescue systems and Chilean submarines, which includes a search and rescue phase. This is the eighth exercise of its kind and is conducted off the coast of San Diego biennially with the exception of CHILEMAR VII, which took place in 2017 off the coast of Talcauhano, Chile.


“CHILEMAR and similar exercises with our foreign partners are extremely important to Undersea Rescue Command as they provide nearly all of our opportunities to operate with an actual submarine,” said Cmdr. Michael Eberlein, commanding officer, Undersea Rescue Command. “These exercises provide assurance to our Navy, allies, Sailors and families, that URC can bring a real capability to rescue distressed submariners worldwide if a tragedy occurs.”

At the start of the exercise, Simpson bottomed off the coast of San Diego to simulate a disabled submarine that is unable to surface. Once bottomed, Simpson launched a Submarine Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (SEPIRB) which transmits the initial GPS position and other distress data to indicate a submarine in distress.

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Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

MH-60R helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 and 45, a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 and unmanned undersea vehicles from the newly established Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 1 conducted simulated searches of the ocean floor to hone their ability to identify a bottomed disabled submarine.

With Simpson located, the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator positioned itself over their location to launch the Sibitzky Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). During a rescue, the Sibitzky ROV provides the first picture of a disabled submarine to URC. Using two robotic arms, the ROV is able to clear any debris from the hatch used for rescue and cameras provide critical information necessary for conducting a rescue such as the hull integrity of the submarine and its position on the ocean floor.

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Navy Diver 1st Class Michael Eckert, assigned to Undersea Rescue Command (URC), serves as the aft compartment controller for URC’s pressurized rescue module (PRM), as the PRM mates with the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21) on the ocean floor during CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

“Over the years, we have built a great relationship with the Chilean Submarine Force through the DESI program,” said Cmdr. Josh Powers, Submarine Squadron 11 deputy for undersea rescue. “This partnership allows us to continually build upon our rescue capabilities and the proficiency of both countries that comes with routine exercises such as CHILEMAR.”

Once the Sibitzky ROV has completed its assessment of the disabled submarine, the Pressurized Rescue Module can be deployed from the back of the Dominator. The PRM is a remotely operated submarine rescue vehicle capable of diving to depths of 2,000 feet and mating with a disabled submarine on the sea floor. The PRM is capable of rescuing up to 16 personnel at a time in addition to the two crewmembers required to operate it.

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Chilean Cmdr. Federico Karl Saelzer Concha, commanding officer of the Chilean Submarine (CS) Simpson (SS 21), climbs into the pressurized rescue module (PRM) of Undersea Rescue Command (URC) during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)

Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

During CHILEMAR VIII, the PRM completed three open hatch mattings with the Simpson, allowing U.S. and Chilean Sailors to traverse between the PRM and the submarine to shake hands with each other on the ocean floor.

“The exercises conducted during CHILEMAR demonstrated the advanced rescue capability our Navy provides the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pat Bray, Submarine Squadron 11 engineering officer. “The operations carried out by the dedicated URC and Phoenix team were impressive!”

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Undersea Rescue Command deploys the Sibitzky Remotely Operated Vehicle from the deck of the Military Sealift Command-chartered merchant vessel HOS Dominator during the submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR VIII.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Harkins)


URC’s mission is worldwide submarine assessment, intervention and expedient rescue if there is a submarine in distress. The PRM is the primary component of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS), which can be transported by truck, air or ship to efficiently aid in international submarine rescue operations.

Simpson is operating with U.S. 3rd Fleet naval forces as part of the Diesel-Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI). DESI enhances the Navy’s capability to operate with diesel-electric submarines by partnering with South American navies equipped with these vessels. This provides a degree of authenticity and realism to exercises, providing the Navy with opportunities to build experience both tracking and operating with them.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This app lets you see the destructive power of nukes on your hometown

Growing up relatively close to an Air Force Major Command base toward the end of the Cold War, we were constantly reminded of one thing: If the “big one” ever came, we were among the first to be toast. But were we really? Thankfully, now there’s a way to find out for sure.


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The short answer is yes.

(Nukemap)

This simulation is a map of the effect of a 25-megaton strike on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from a Soviet R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile warhead. The R-36, introduced in 1974, gave the Soviets a first-strike capability with a rapid reload ability and a missile that could carry up to 10 independently targetable warheads.

The green area represents an immediately lethal dose of radiation, the yellow represents the initial fireball burst, and the red is a 20 psi air blast, capable of completely destroying most structures and projecting a 100-percent casualty rate. The dark circles surrounding the outermost red area represent different air pressures inflicted by the blast on the local population. The orange-ish area shows where third-degree burns and other radiation injuries are likely.

Estimated fatalities number more than 319,000 with another 375,000-plus injured.

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It could always be worse. This is a 150-Kiloton North Korean nuclear strike on Los Angeles.

(Nukemap)

These simulations are brought to you by The Nukemap, a project created by Alex Wellerstein of the New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology. Wellerstein is a professor at SIT, and his expertise is in the history of science and nuclear weapons technology. He also runs the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Professor Wellerstein has devoted his life and career to the study of the effects of nuclear weapons on societies and geopolitics.

The Nukemap is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of — helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.”

Wellerstein’s previous work was the MissileMap, a way to see that a country’s nuclear arsenal was even capable of hitting your hometown.

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Sorry, Ohio. You’re toast.

(MissileMap)

Nukemap needs the user to enter the location of the target, the yield of the warhead used, and if the explosion is a surface explosion or airburst. If you don’t know anything about nuclear weapons, that’s okay: there are numerous possible presets available. For example, you can target New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many other American cities. But since the United States and Russia aren’t the only countries with nuclear capabilities, Nukemap also offers the effects of all potential nuclear attackers, including Israel, Iran, North Korea, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Japan, and South Korea.

You can even see historical presets, from the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima blasts to the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear device ever exploded on Earth.

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Which would devastate four of the five New York City boroughs, if you were curious.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘boondoggles’ that actually slaughtered enemy troops

There are a lot of valid criticisms of most weapon programs while they’re in development, but some get hit with the dreaded title of “boondoggle,” a massive waste of taxpayer funds that should be canceled. But some boondoggles prove the naysayers wrong and go on to have successful careers protecting U.S. troops and killing enemies. Here are 5 of the weapons that ascended:


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Abrams tanks roll down Norwegian streets

(U.S. Army Sgt. Williams Quinteros)

M1 Abrams tank

The M1 Abrams was famously seen as a failing, expensive program in its early days. It was an heir to two failed tank programs, the MBT-70, and the XM803. Both programs cost billions but failed to produce a suitable weapon, largely because they were too complex and didn’t quite work. So, when the Army pursued a turbine-powered tank with the XM1 program, there were a lot of naysayers.

And the initial prototypes kept the laughter going. The Abrams was massive and heavy and burned through fuel, and many thought it was clear that the Army had made another misstep. But then the Abrams went to its first war game and devastated more conventional tanks. Then Desert Storm came and 2,000 Abrams tanks slammed their way through Iraqi forces with losses of only 18 tanks and zero lost crews.

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Kadena F-15C Eagle takes off like the glorious beast she is…

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)

F-15

The F-15 was a response to the Air War over Vietnam where multi-role F-4s were struggling against older MiGs. The Air Force decided they needed a dedicated air superiority fighter once again. But the program was expensive, leading to the press and Congress saying the service was buying too many of an overpriced, overly complex aircraft when they could just buy Navy F-14s instead.

But the F-15 has a legendary combat history with 104 enemy shootdowns for only two combat losses, both to ground fire. No enemy force has been able to prove an air-to-air victory over the F-15 (though some have claimed it).

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An F-14D Tomcat flies during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. The plane was retired in 2006.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Gaddis)

F-14

But back to the F-14, the Tomcat was designed to defend carrier fleets and beat out other planes during a fly-off before the Navy picked it. But during development, test pilots encountered multiple stalls in the plane and had to eject multiple times. In order to sidestep criticism, especially from then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Navy rushed the fighter into production. It came under fire again in 1989 as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to cut purchases to save other programs.

But the F-14 ended up proving itself in U.S. service over Libya, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, but it really dominated in Iranian service back when they were a U.S. ally. In all, the F-14 is thought to have a 164-to-1 record of air-to-air kills and losses. The number is a little soft, though, since it takes data from multiple services including Iran.

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F/A-18 Cleaning

(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Donell Bryant)

F-18

Yeah, there are a lot of planes on the list. And the F-18 was the Navy’s answer to the high and rising costs of the F-14. Congress told it to find a cheaper plane to fill some slots that would otherwise require the F-14, but then the cost of the F-18 program ballooned from billion to billion despite the F-18 having less range, speed, and ordnance carrying capability.

The F-18 would prove itself though, later leading the Navy to brag that it had broken “all records for tactical aircraft in availability, reliability and maintainability.” During Desert Storm, individual planes could shoot down Iraqi jets and take out ground targets on the same mission. It was the Navy’s primary air combatant for decades.

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The B-1B Lancer

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

B-1

The B-1 Bomber bucked the trend of bomber design in the late 1960s. Most were focused on faster, higher-flying bombers that could fly over enemy air defenses and outrun fighter taking off for intercepts. But the B-1 was envisioned as a low-flying bomber that would maneuver through air defenses instead. But the costly development was controversial, and the B-1 bomber was canceled in 1977.

But Reagan revived the program in 1981, and the requirements of the plane were changed, slowing it to Mach 1.2 and increasing the required payload. The production B-1B debuted in 1984 and “holds almost 50 world records for speed, payload, range, and time of climb in its class,” according to Airman Magazine. It has flown over Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and accounts for 40 percent or more of bombs dropped during some periods of conflict in those countries.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this real-life robotic exoskeleton Marines are getting

The U.S. Marines are about to start receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing, but these exo-suits aren’t headed into combat any time soon. Instead, they’ll be supporting logistical operations like loading and unloading pallets of gear and ammunition in the field.

While that might not sound like the sort of high-speed missions you imagined for the first widely-used military robotic exoskeletons, it’s really the most logical (and feasible) use for this burgeoning technology. America’s Special Operations Command spent years working to develop the TALOS robotic exoskeleton for specialized combat applications, but found the various systems they employed were too finicky for serious combat ops. While exoskeletons can significantly augment a person’s strength, they also consume a huge amount of power, often requiring that they stay tethered to a power cable.


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Mock up of a TALOS suit. (U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office)

TALOS was ultimately canceled last year, but a number of different technologies developed for the forward-thinking system continue to live on in various weapon development programs that fall under SOCOM’s purview. Sarcos Defense’ new suit isn’t derived from the TALOS program, but offers some of the same significant advantages, including the ability to increase the strength and endurance of whoever’s strapped in. Despite the TALOS program’s progress in a number of areas, it was ultimately deemed infeasible for combat.

However, just because robotic exoskeleton technology isn’t quite advanced to the point where it can be used outside the wire quite yet, it could be an extremely useful solution to problems service members still have inside forward operating bases. Unloading literal tons of equipment, ammunition, and supplies that arrive on pallets is one such challenge.

By utilizing the Sarcos Defense Guardian XO Alpha robotic exoskeleton, a single Marine can do the offloading work that would normally require an entire dedicated fire team.

Sarcos Guardian XO Powered Exosuit Demo

www.youtube.com

“As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements.”
–Sarcos Defense
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(Sarcos Defense)

As America’s premier expeditionary force, The Marines have placed a renewed emphasis on Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations (EABO) in recent years. Put simply, EABO is all about increasing the operational capabilities of Marines working in austere environments that may not be near large military installations. The intent behind incorporating new technology like the Guardian XO Alpha is to bring big installation capabilities to forward operating areas. Whereas large military installations can utilize forklifts to rapidly load or unload supplies, smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have to rely on manpower to unload supplies when they arrive.

“Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions,” Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics’ vice president of defense solutions, explained last year.

Sarcos Guardian® XO® Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton: Alpha Unit Preview

www.youtube.com

In the short term, Marines will be assessing this new robotic exoskeleton to see just how useful it might be in a variety of operations, including some the team at Sarcos might not have thought of yet. Of course, another important part of the testing process will be figuring out what this exo-suit can’t do, and that’s where the Marines may really shine. After all, if you want to find out just how hard you can run a piece of gear before it dies, there are few organizations more qualified for such a torture test than the United States Marine Corps.

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The Guardian XO robot, an exoskeleton suit to help reduce the risk of injuries by improving human strength and endurance, is on display at the 2019 Modern Day Marine Expo on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yuritzy Gomez)

“The Sarcos Defense team is very pleased that the U.S. Marine Corps will be testing use cases for our Guardian XO Alpha version this year,” said Ben Wolff, CEO, Sarcos Defense.

“Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and USSOCOM, who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

So, we are back with another complete hater’s guide to one of the Air Force’s aircraft. Last time, we discussed the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10

Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.

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As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Why you should hate the A-10

Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.

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Because that low, slow, flight profile means it is a big target. Because you’d rather claim that a relative died in a motorcycle accident than admit they fly that ugly plane.

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Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Because that plane always seems to stick around when the Air Force wants to retire it. Because it is useless in a dogfight.

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Representative Martha McSally, pictured in her office during her Air Force career, preparing to distribute BRRRRRT. Helps explain why the A-10 will be around indefinitely. (Photo credit unknown)

Why you should love the A-10

Because this plane can bring its pilot home when the bad guys hit it — just ask “Killer Chick.” Because it also has a proven combat record in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the War on Terror.

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Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

Because it not only has a powerful tank-killing gun, it can carry lots of bombs and missiles to put the hurt on the bad guys.

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An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. (Air Force Photo)

Because while it is designed for close-air support, it also proved to be very good at covering the combat search-and-rescue choppers.

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An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for refueling Sept. 12, 2013, over southern Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

Because, when it comes right down to it, the A-10, for all its faults, has saved a lot of grunts over the years.

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