Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A former Google engineer who worked on the company’s infamous military drone project has sounded a warning against the building of killer robots.

Laura Nolan had been working at Google four years when she was recruited to its collaboration with the US Department of Defense, known as Project Maven, in 2017, according to the Guardian. Project Maven was focused on using AI to enhance military drones, building AI systems which would be able to single out enemy targets and distinguish between people and objects.

Google canned Project Maven after employee outrage, with thousands of employees signing a petition against the project and about a dozen quitting in protest. Google allowed the contract to lapse in March 2019. Nolan herself resigned after she became “increasingly ethically concerned” about the project, she said.


Nolan described her role as a site reliability engineer, and this is why she was recruited to Maven. “Although I was not directly involved in speeding up the video footage recognition I realised that I was still part of the kill chain; that this would ultimately lead to more people being targeted and killed by the US military in places like Afghanistan,” she said, according to The Guardian.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A MQ-9 Reaper US military unmanned aerial vehicle.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Nolan fears that the next step beyond AI-enabled weapons like drones could be fully autonomous AI weapons. “What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed,” she said.

She said that any number of unpredictable factors could mess with the weapon’s systems in unforeseen ways such as unexpected radar signals, unusual weather, or they could come across people carrying weapons for reasons other than warfare, such as hunting. “The machine doesn’t have the discernment or common sense that the human touch has,” she said.

She added that testing will have to take place out on the battlefield. “The other scary thing about these autonomous war systems is that you can only really test them by deploying them in a real combat zone. Maybe that’s happening with the Russians at present in Syria, who knows? What we do know is that at the UN Russia has opposed any treaty let alone ban on these weapons by the way.”

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

The autonomous ship “Sea Hunter”, developed by DARPA. The US military christened an experimental self-driving warship designed to hunt for enemy submarines.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Although no country has yet come forward to say it’s working on fully autonomous robot weapons, many are building more and more sophisticated AI to integrate into their militaries. The US navy has a self-piloting warship, capable of spending months at sea with no crew, and Israel boasts of having drones capable of identifying and attacking targets autonomously — although at the moment they require a human middle-man to give the go-ahead.

Nolan is urging countries to declare an outright ban on autonomous killing robot, similar to conventions around the use of chemical weapons.

“Very few people are talking about this but if we are not careful one or more of these weapons, these killer robots, could accidentally start a flash war, destroy a nuclear power station and cause mass atrocities,” she said.

Business Insider has contacted Nolan for comment.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s newest spacecraft is ready to launch

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the launch of the company’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight, which will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station. The launch, as well as other activities leading up to the launch, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.


The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station at approximately 5:55 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 2019.

This will be the first uncrewed flight test of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight, which will fly NASA astronauts to the space station, is targeted to launch in July 2019.

Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible. After completion of all test flights, NASA will continue its review of the systems and flight data for certification ahead of the start of regular crewed flights to the space station.

Full Demo-1 coverage is as follows. All times are EST:

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019:

  • (no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Astronaut Office representative

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:

  • TBD – Pre-launch briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Saturday, March 2, 2019:

  • 2 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for the 2:48 a.m. liftoff
  • 5 a.m. – Post-launch news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, NASA launch manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Sunday, March 3, 2019:

  • 3:30 a.m. – Rendezvous and docking coverage
  • 8:45 a.m. – Hatch opening coverage
  • 10:30 a.m. – Station crew welcoming ceremony

Friday, March 8, 2019:

  • 12:15 a.m. – Hatch closing coverage begins
  • 2:30 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
  • TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • International Space Station Program representative
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

For more information on event coverage, got to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Snipers made three out of four of their longest kills with this rifle

Snipers specialize in taking out enemy personnel from well beyond the average grunt’s range. Lately, due to advances in technology and an amazing degree of skill, the distances from which snipers are scoring kills are getting longer and longer. In 1967, Carlos Hathcock set a record, recording a kill from 2,500 yards using a modified M2 heavy machine gun. But in the War on Terror, four snipers proceeded to shatter the record set by “White Feather” Hathcock.


Of those four record-snapping snipers, three of them (Master Corporal Arron Perry, Corporal Rob Furlong, and an unidentified member of Combined Joint Task Force 2) used the same rifle: The McMillan Tac-50. This gun is chambered for the .50 BMG round — the same round used by the legendary Ma Deuce.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

The McMillan Tac-50.

(McMillan Firearms)

According to the manufacturer, the Tac-50 uses a five-round detachable box magazine. The rifle has a 29-inch, match-grade, free-floating, hand-lapped, and fluted barrel. Most versions of the rifle are equipped with a bipod to provide a fixed length of pull. The rifle comes in one of five finishes: black, olive, gray, tan, or dark earth.

So, how did a cartridge full of .50 BMG, a caliber once used to kill tanks and aircraft, end up on sniper rifles? The answer lies in the round. All three of the McMillan Tac-50 snipers used the Hornaday A-Max match-grade bullet. In .50 BMG, this bullet weighs barely 750 grains — or about 1.7 ounces — meaning it can be flung amazing distances.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

The Hornaday A-Max in .50 BMG. The bullet from this round comes in at 1.7 ounces.

(Hornaday)

Here’s something else interesting: There’s a civilian version of this rifle available for sale. Yes, it’ll have to be shipped to your local Federal Firearms License-holder and you’ll have to go through a background check, but this long-range shooter is available. You can also get the Hornaday rounds as well.

One thing is for certain: It would be fascinating to see what Hathcock could’ve done with this rifle.

MIGHTY CULTURE

DARPA wants AI to dogfight, but not for reasons you think

The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.


DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.

So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.

And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.

In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.

(DARPA)

From a DARPA release titled Training AI to Win a Dogfight:

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.

Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.

This may sound like far future stuff, but it’s likely DARPA will find solid proposals fast. They’re soliciting proposals through May 17, but University of Cincinnati students created an AI named ALPHA in 2016 that repeatedly defeated a retired Air Force colonel in simulated dogfights. If that AI and similar tech can be properly adapted to work in current or future fighter aircraft, then we’ll be off to the races.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Treasure hunter finds gun arsenal in Massachusetts pond, including loaded Uzi

An amateur treasure hunter lowered a magnet into a Massachusetts pond to search for trinkets, but instead hoisted up five guns, including an Uzi submachine gun.

Using a strong magnet on the end of a rope, the unnamed man pulled up a loaded Uzi submachine gun from Pillings Pond in Lynnfield, 13 miles north of Boston, The Daily Item reported.

He later found a .40 caliber Glock handgun, a Colt Cobra revolver, a rusty unidentified revolver, and a semi-automatic handgun.


The man told the newspaper he had just taken up the hobby — known as “magnet fishing” — after becoming inspired by a documentary about European fishermen hunting down World War II treasures in French canals

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Pillings Pond in Lynnfield.

(Google Maps)

The man called the Lynnfield Police Department upon finding the Uzi.

Officer Patrick Curran attended the pond, identified the Uzi as genuine and loaded, before asking the man to lower his magnet again to see what he could find.

The man then pulled up the four other loaded weapons.

“In my more than 35 years on the force, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Capt. Karl Johnson of Lynnfield police told the Daily Item. “It’s a little strange.”

Lt. Thomas Ryan, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, told The Daily Item that a dive team and members of the Firearm Identification and Crime Scene units also attended the site.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Four of the weapons found by the amateur treasure hunter.

(Lynnfield Police Department)

He added that, due to poor visibility in the pond, no other weapons were found and that a State Police ballistics unit had take the weapons for further analysis.

In a similar incident, in July 2018 a British man hoisted a Mac 10 submachine gun out of a London canal while magnet fishing.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Why did the US military switch from 7.62 to 5.56 rounds?

In the modern era, the M-16 style rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm has become ubiquitous in imagery of the U.S. military, but that wasn’t always the case. America’s adoption of the 5.56mm round and the service rifle that fires it both came about as recently as the 1960s, as the U.S. and its allies set about looking for a more reliable, accurate, and lighter general issue weapon and cartridge.


Back in the early 1950s, the fledgling North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set about looking for a single rifle cartridge that could be adopted throughout the alliance, making it easier and cheaper to procure and distribute ammunition force-wide and adding a much needed bit of interoperability to the widely diverse military forces within the group. Despite some concerns about recoil, the 7.62x51mm NATO round was adopted in 1954, thanks largely to America’s belief that it was the best choice available.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
Sometimes it pays to have uniformity.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

 

The 7.62x51mm cartridge (which is more similar to the .308 than the 7.62x39mm rounds used in Soviet AKs) actually remains in use today thanks to its stopping power and effective range, but it wasn’t long before even the 7.62’s biggest champions in the U.S. began to recognize its shortcomings. These rounds were powerful and accurate, but they were also heavy, expensive, and created a great deal of recoil as compared to the service rifles and cartridges of the modern era.

As early as 1957, early development began on a new, small caliber, high velocity round and rifle platform. These new cartridges would be based on the much smaller and lighter .22 caliber round, but despite the smaller projectile, U.S. specifications also required that it maintained supersonic speed beyond 500 yards and could penetrate a standard-issue ballistic helmet at that same distance. What the U.S. military asked for wasn’t possible with existing cartridges, so plans for new ammo and a new rifle were quickly drawn up.

In order to make a smaller round offer up the punch the U.S. military needed, Remington converted their .222 round into the .222 Special. This new round was designed specifically to withstand the amount of pressure required to make the new projectile meet the performance standards established by the Pentagon. The longer case of the .222 Special also made it better suited for magazine feeding for semi-automatic weapons. Eventually, the .222 Special was redubbed .223 Remington — a name AR-15 owners may recognize as among the two calibers of rounds your rifle can fire.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
The 7.62×51mm NATO and 5.56×45mm NATO cartridges compared to a AA battery.
WikiMedia Commons

 

That led to yet another new round, which FN based off of Remington’s .223 caliber design, that was dubbed the 5.56x45mm NATO. This new round exceeded the Defense Department’s requirements for muzzle velocity and range, and fired exceedingly well from Armalite designed rifles. Early tests showed increases in rifleman accuracy as well as decreases in weapon malfunctions when compared to the M1 Garand, with many experts contending at the time that the new rifle was superior to the M14, despite still having a few issues that needed to be worked out.

Armalite (which is where the “A” in AR-15 is derived) had scaled down their 7.62 chambered AR-10 to produce the new AR-15, which was capable of firing the new .223 rounds and later, the 5.56mm rounds. It also met all the other standard requirements for a new service rifle, like the ability to select between semi-automatic and fully-automatic modes of fire and 20 round magazine capacity. The combination of Armalite rifle and 5.56 ammunition was a match made in heaven, and branches started procuring the rifles in the 1960s. The 5.56 NATO round, however, wouldn’t go on to be adopted as the standard for the alliance until 1980.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons
Polish Special Forces carrying the Israeli-made IWI Tavor chambered in 5.56 NATO
(WikiMedia Commons)

 

Ultimately, the decision to shift from 7.62x51mm ammunition to 5.56x45mm came down to simple arithmetic. The smaller rounds weighed less, allowing troops to carry more ammunition into the fight. They also created less recoil, making it easier to level the weapon back onto the target between rounds and making automatic fire easier to manage. Tests showed that troops equipped with smaller 5.56mm rounds could engage targets more efficiently and effectively than those firing larger, heavier bullets.

As they say in Marine Corps rifle teams, the goal is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy — and the 5.56mm NATO round made troops better at doing precisely that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Reaper shoots down another drone in a little-known test

An MQ-9 Reaper drone has bagged its first air-to-air kill of another small, aerial vehicle in a controlled simulation, an official revealed to Military.com.

The successful test in 2017 showed the U.S. Air Force that an unmanned vehicle like the MQ-9 has the ability to conduct air-to-air combat, much like its manned fighter brethren such as an F-15 Eagle or F-22 Raptor, according to Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.


“Something that’s unclassified but not well known, we recently in November … launched an air-to-air missile against a maneuvering target that scored a direct hit,” Cheater said. Military.com sat down with Cheater here at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference outside Washington, D.C.

“It was an MQ-9 versus a drone with a heat-seeking air-to-air missile, and it was direct hit … during a test,” he said of the first-of-its-kind kill.

“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Cheater said on Sept. 17, 2018. “We will go participate in ‘Red Flag’ exercises, and we will drop weapons in testing environments to make sure that we can fight against those type of adversaries.”

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

An MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The effort is key to preparing for the next big aerial war against near-peer threats such as Russia or China, who are advancing their skill sets not only in unmanned aerial vehicles but also in hypersonics, electronic warfare, lasers, and missile testing, Cheater said.

“In many parts of the world, it’s almost a hybrid fight by proxy,” he said. “… the MQ-9 Reaper will certainly be a big part of that. So if you package this aircraft in properly with other aircraft, it will be survivable.”

The MQ-9 has a payload of 3,750 pounds and carries a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, according to the service. The MQ-9’s weapons load remains flexible, Cheater said.

As the Air Force began phasing out its MQ-1 Predator UAV in 2017 before its official retirement in early 2018, the larger, more lethal MQ-9 began expanding its mission set — especially in areas like Afghanistan.

For example, when the military mission in Afghanistan transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO-led Resolute Support, the MQ-9’s missions increased tenfold in comparison to the MQ-1.

The Reaper conducted 950 strikes, firing approximately 1,500 weapons, between January 2015 and August 2017, according to Air Force Central Command statistics provided to Military.com at the time. The MQ-1 executed only 35 strikes, employing roughly 30 weapons, in that same timeframe.

“We specialize in urban settings,” Cheater said. “That is an important capability that very few aircraft and aircrews have.”

But 2017’s test shows how the service is refocusing and thinking about the agility of the Reaper.

“It’s a balance of the forces and resources that we have available, especially on the maintenance side of the house, and everyone wanting to be as close to the fight in numerous locations,” Cheater said.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

An MQ-1 Predator.

For example, “We can fly from one continent to the next — we [recently] flew nine [Reapers] from one operating area to another, and that is agile, that is flexible, and it provides options to the combatant commander,” he said, without disclosing locations.

The Air Force also recently moved a contingent of MQ-9s to Larisa Air Base in Greece for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions across Africa, according to Defense News. Without commenting on additional locations, Cheater said forward movement will always be part of the MQ-9’s future, especially with intelligence gathering on the rise.

“We’re ‘can-do’ operators by heart, and we want to look at it and see what’s the best option,” he said. “Generally, the resources don’t support everything we want to do, so we have to figure out what’s the best mix and match of those resources to achieve the desire and best end result.”

More study is needed to address the best places to base the drones for forward-operating missions, Cheater said.

In addition, the future of drone feed dissemination and intelligence gathering is becoming more streamlined as part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Dominance Flight Plan, he said.

The plan, released in August 2018 with few specifics for operational security reasons, has become the service’s new road map to incorporating more autonomy and data from multiple sensors across platforms stationed around the globe. “We can determine if there [are] threats or indications of enemy forces,” Cheater said.

The Air Force wants to leverage artificial intelligence, automation and algorithmic data models to streamline opportunities for airmen watching drone feeds.

“We’re actually pretty exceptional as far as adopting new technologies and putting it in combat operations right now,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US never exported the deadly F-22

At one time, the U.S, Air Force’s now-retired F-22 program was the most-expensive and most-advanced fighter in the world. It was eclipsed only the USAF’s fifth-generation system, the F-35. But even during its development, the United States Congress ensured the U.S. military couldn’t share the technology with anyone – even allies. Yet, American allies were the first to use the more advanced F-35 fighter in combat.

What’s the difference?


The $62 billion F-22 program would have certainly had some of the research and development costs alleviated had the sale of the fighter been approved for American allies, but the Obey Amendment to the 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act very specifically prevents the sale of the F-22 Raptor to any foreign government — and they were lining up to buy.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

F-22A Raptor Demonstration Team aircraft maintainers prepare to launch out Maj. Paul “Max” Moga, the first F-22A Raptor demonstration team pilot.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll)

Developing the kind of technology that makes the F-22’s radar signature closer to that of a bumblebee would take billions of dollars and untold years to develop independently. Why would a country allied with the United States want to make that kind of military effort when they could just purchase the tech? Well, until they received the F-35, they simply couldn’t.

Israel wanted the F-22. Japan was very interested in obtaining some F-22s for its Self-Defense Forces. If Japan was able to buy, South Korea would have wanted parity, then Singapore, then Australia. Even China would have expressed an interest. Despite the passage of time, Japan’s neighbors are still worried about the rebirth of militarism in the island nation.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

In case you thought the U.S. was the only country who can’t forget World War II.

And now that China’s own air forces are developing advanced stealth fighters of their own, the need for stealth fighters in the hands of and skies of American allies is more important than ever. And this was true, even in the 1990s.

But Congressman Dave Obey wasn’t having any of it. The Congressman worried that the stealth technology on the F-22 (which still makes a smaller radar cross section than even the F-35) would end up in the hands of China or Russia if sold to allies – especially Israel. It seems Congress was worried the Israelis would leak U.S. tech to China the way American intelligence believes Israel aided China in the development of its J-10 fighter.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Obey spent 40 years in Congress and retired in 2011.

Since then, the House of Representatives has had a number of debates and discussions about whether or not they should repeal the law. The Department of Defense remains neutral on the subject but critics of the Obey Amendment argue that critical American industries would stand to benefit from parts and continued production of the F-22.

Parts of the plane are made in plants from Marietta, Ga. to Palmdale, Calif. and a few places in between. American manufacturing centers have had to sink the costs of research and development as well as advanced manufacturing techniques since the production of the fighter ended.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

An F-22 Raptor in full afterburner during flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force)

Ultimately, the F-22 program was ended because it was very costly and the need for an air-to-air fighter to counter Soviet fighters just wasn’t the U.S. military’s priority any longer. The U.S. military purchased 183 Raptors, well short of the proposed 381. But then China and Russia began producing next-generation fighters anyway, so the U.S. doubled down on the Joint Strike Fighter.

So, why can our allies, like Israel and Japan, get the world’s most-advanced multirole fighter? The F-35 was always intended to be an internationally developed fighter system. U.S. allies were always supposed to have access to it and help bear the costs of developing all that mighty tech — much of which was developed in the quest for the F-22.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A stealth drone is in line to be Russia’s next-generation fighter

Russia says that it will turn its new drone, which is about to make its maiden flight, into a sixth-generation aircraft, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“Okhotnik will become a prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” a Russian defense industry official told TASS, adding that the sixth generation fighter “has not yet taken full shape, [but] it’s main features are known.”


The single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) drone has a top speed of 621 mph, and might make its maiden flight in 2018, according to Popular Mechanics, citing TASS.

Popular Mechanics also published a supposed picture above of the Okhotnik, which was posted on a Russian aviation forum called paralay.iboards.ru.

Russia “may use [the Okhotnik] as a platform to develop technologies for an ‘autonomous’ or more likely pilotless drone,” Michael Kaufman, a research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Possible picture of the Okhotnik drone.

(Screenshot / paralay.iboards.ru)

But Kaufman added that the claims are rather questionable since TASS sourced a Russian defense industry official.

“Any technological advances from the Okhotnik development could be carried into future aircraft or drone design,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider, “and this [TASS] source may be a proponent of that route.”

“As far as I see it, this is a large drone similar to X-47B, with sizable payload,” Kaufman said. Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami likened the Okhotnik to the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Still, it’s unclear exactly what the Okhotnik’s capabilities are now, and what they would be if turned into a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that is still not fully realized.

The Okhotnik drone in its current capacity has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection, Popular Mechanics reported.

In any event, Russia appears to be aiming for some sort of sixth-generation aircraft, recently testing sixth-generation onboard systems on the Su-57 and even researching a radio-photonic radar for the potential aircraft.

Featured image: An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia took Israel’s most advanced missile from Syria

The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel’s most advanced air defense missiles from the David’s Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.

The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn’t breach Israel’s border.


The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.

The David’s Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

David’s Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.

(United States Missile Defense Agency)

“It’s certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I’d be nervous right now,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.

The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. “If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now,” he told Insider.

But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David’s Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.

“If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran,” Williams said.

David’s Sling Missile System -⚔️ New Israel Missile Defense System [Review]

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Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — “both offensive and defensive.”

“In terms of air defense interceptors, they’re no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is,” Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.

SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The best naval air-defense system just went ashore

The major surface combatants in the United States Navy (plus a number of ships in foreign navies) use the Aegis combat system. Centered around the AN/SPY-1 radar, this system has been used to protect the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers from aerial threats. But this system is now being used to protect more valuable things – on land – like your city.


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The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) launches a RIM-161 SM-3 surface-to-air missile.

(U.S. Navy photo)

According to materials obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, one active-duty system is already active in Romania — and by the end of this year a second system will be active in Poland. These systems use the RIM-156 Standard SM-2 Extended Range Block IV missile, the RIM-161 Standard SM-3, and the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile.

The primary missile is the RIM-161. This missile has already proven it can hit targets in orbit – one was used by the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to shoot down an errant satellite in 2008. The missile is designed primarily for the anti-ballistic missile role, and is designed to secure a direct impact on targets.

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A RIM-161 SM-3 launches from a Mk41 vertical launch system.

(Missile Defense Agency photo)

Japan has also acquired Aegis Ashore to protect against North Korean missiles. The system has been involved in 46 tests, and has succeeded 37 times, an 80.4 percent success rate against ballistic targets. With a track record like this, it’s hard to understand why Aegis Ashore is not being placed on land in the United States.

This has not been a new development. A number of U.S. Navy ships – and some Japanese ships – with Aegis have been modified to shoot down ballistic missiles. But Aegis is also going ashore for active duty, protecting against the threat of ballistic missiles. This seems to be a very natural approach, after all. Much research and development has already been done on the system, and it’s easy to train personnel to use it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 questions with former operator Kyle Lamb

Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).

Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.


Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:

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Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?

Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.

Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?

I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.

Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.

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Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

What was your plan when you retired from the military?

I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.

Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.

You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?

I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.

So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

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Lamb while serving overseas.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.

Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.

Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)

Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?

My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.

Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.

BRCC Presents: Kyle Lamb

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You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?

Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.

Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.

You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.

Former Google engineer warns against building robot weapons

Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)

Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?

The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.

But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.

Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?

You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s new lightweight body armor plates could feature ‘shooter’s cut’

The U.S. Army is close to approving a new lightweight body armor plate with a “shooter’s cut” to provide close-combat forces with greater mobility in combat.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials announced October 2018 that the Army was trying to design new plates that are significantly lighter than the current plates soldiers wear to protect from enemy rifle rounds.

Spring 2019, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, plans to brief the Army’s senior leadership for a decision on whether to move forward on a new version of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, that features a more streamlined design.


“We are looking at a plate with the design that we refer to as a shooter’s cut,” he told reporters recently. “We believe that an increase in mobility provides survivability just as much as coverage of the plate or what the plate will stop itself.”

Potts said the new design offers slightly less coverage in the upper chest closest to the shoulder pocket.

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The Modular Scalable Vest being demonstrated at Fort Carson.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

“Our soldiers absolutely love it, and the risk to going to a higher level of injury is .004 meters squared. I mean, it is minuscule, yet it takes almost a full pound off of the armor,” he said.

Potts said he plans to brief Army Vice Chief of Staff James C. McConville in the next couple of months on the new plate design, which also features a different formula limiting back-face deformation — or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

“Obviously, when a lethal mechanism strikes a plate, the plate gives a little bit, and we want it to give a little bit — it’s by design — to dissipate energy,” Potts said. “The question is, how much can it give before it can potentially harm the soldier?”

The Army has tested changing the allowance for back-face deformation to a 58mm standard instead of the 44mm standard it has used for years.

“We have found what we believe is the right number. We are going to be briefing the vice chief of staff of the Army, and he will make the ultimate decision on this,” Potts said.

“But right now, with the work that we have done, we think we can achieve, at a minimum, a 20 percent weight reduction. … We have been working with vendors to prove out already that we know we can do this,” he said.

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

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