Conversations with Google Home or Amazon Alexa have never been strictly confidential — both companies have admitted that they send some audio snippets to workers who listen to voice recordings to help improve the software.
But a group of whitehat hackers have now demonstrated that third-party apps hosted by Google Home or Alexa can also log users’ conversations, even after tricking users into thinking the apps aren’t active.
Developers at Germany’s Security Research Labs created four Alexa “skills” and four Google Home “actions” that pose as astrology apps or random number generators but are designed to secretly listen to people’s voice and send a transcript back to third-party servers. Certain versions of the app mimic Alexa or Google Assistant, pretending to offer a software update and asking users to input their password.
All eight of the apps passed Amazon or Google security checks, meaning they could have been made available for public download on either platform, according to the researchers.
“Customer trust is important to us, and we conduct security reviews as part of the skill certification process,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider. “We quickly blocked the skill in question and put mitigations in place to prevent and detect this type of skill behavior and reject or take them down when identified. It’s also important that customers know we provide automatic security updates for our devices, and will never ask them to share their password.”
A Google spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is taking steps to prevent similar issues going forward.
“All Actions on Google are required to follow our developer policies, and we prohibit and remove any Action that violates these policies. We have review processes to detect the type of behavior described in this report, and we removed the Actions that we found from these researchers. We are putting additional mechanisms in place to prevent these issues from occurring in the future,” the Google spokesperson said.
Here’s how the apps work: First, they gave users the expected message — either a randomly generated number or a brief horoscope. Next, the apps go silent, giving users the impression that the software has closed, while still listening to conversations and sending a copy of transcripts to a third-party server.
The malicious apps can also impersonate Alexa or Google Home to ask users for sensitive information. As demonstrated in the videos below, the apps give the impression that the software has closed, then impersonate Alexa to prompt users to input their password to download a software update.
For nearly two decades, the Picatinny/NATO Accessory Rail Interface System handguards have adorned U.S. military rifles. These rails allow troops to attach accessories like lights, lasers, and grips to the fore-end of their weapon. However, although the omnipresent rails allow the end user to easily configure their accessories to suit their needs, the fully railed handguard is a large block of metal at the front of a weapon. Any unused rail estate is simply dead weight. The solution is new modular rail systems like the KeyMod and M-Lok weapon accessory attachment systems. These systems allow the end user to attach rail segments to their handguard as needed or attach accessories directly to the slick handguard. Since their introduction, the KeyMod vs. M-Lok war has been waged in gun stores, armories, and internet forums. However, like the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war, there can only be one winner.
In 2016, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division conducted testing for USSOCOM to determine the best modular rail system. NSWC Crane evaluated handguards from manufacturers Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, and Seekins. Three KeyMod and three M-Lok handguards were tested from each manufacturer for a total of 18 handguards. They were tested for repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop testing, and static failure load.
Although a resilient handguard is not entirely necessary for the mounting of grips and lights, it is vital for mounting lasers aiming devices. Under night vision, it can be difficult for a rifleman to aim through their optic. An infrared laser mounted to the handguard allows the end user to shoot accurately without needing a proper sight picture, especially in close quarters. However, this method of aiming only works if the laser is properly zeroed. Because bullets are affected by gravity, unlike lasers, shooters must know where there rounds will fall relative to their laser based on the distance they are shooting. If the handguard bends or the laser is knocked and shifts even a few millimeters, a 200 meter shot could be completely off. Clip-on thermal scopes mounted to the top of the handguard also need to be mounted without risk of shifting. A good rail attachment system has to not only be secure, but strong.
During NSWC Crane’s testing, all handguards passed the full-auto fire endurance and rough handling testing. However, the repeatability, drop test, and failure load tests yielded distinct performance differences. Repeatability testing showed that “M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA (minute of angle), as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.” Drop testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.” Finally, failure load testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested.” The study went on to note that the test equipment mounted to the M-Lok rails “repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system.” Overall, the failure load of M-Lok was over three times that of KeyMod.
Released in 2017, the results of the study were a clear win for M-Lok. As a result, NSWC Crane recommended the M-Lok rail system over any other to USSOCOM. In turn, USSOCOM incorporated M-Lok handguards into new acquisitions like the Upper Receiver Group – Improved, Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, and the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The study has also influenced the civilian market which has seen a marked increase in the popularity of M-Lok handguards and accessories over KeyMod. As with most Special Forces acquisitions, the M-Lok system is likely to trickle down to regular troops too.
Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jenkins
Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.
Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.
Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.
Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.
Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.
(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)
Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.
The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.
It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.
Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.
(U.S. Army photo)
Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.
“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”
The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.
In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”
Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”
The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.
Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.
(U.S. Army photo)
Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.
Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.
U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.
The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”
With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
You get a call on the way to the office and your boss says he needs you in Dubuque on the next flight.
If you’re not there, the deal won’t get done, and you’ll have to stand tall before The Man.
As a vet, you remember how your cammies held everything for a patrol — from bottled water to extra gloves to a couple of spare mags. So why would it be any different in civilian life?
Today’s tactical pants borrow from the utility of military versions with civilian-worthy styling that doesn’t scream “SEAL wannabe!” while still delivering the storage and durability those issued trousers were known for during service. They can hold another AR mag and a bottle of water or two, but since your “business trip” no longer entails kicking in doors and grabbing tangos, those pockets now serve a far more pedestrian purpose.
So you’re on the clock, you don’t have time to pack a bag. Can your tactical pants pick up the slack and help you make that crucial meeting two states away?
Here’s a basic loadout that’ll get you through a couple of days in front of a client.
Think you can’t fit that into your TacPants? Think again…
1. Skivvies are essential
Think about it folks, who wants to face down a big business deal with skanky set of drawers? Success demands feeling fresh, and that requires a extra set of skivvies to deal with sweaty “subjects.”
2. Batten down the button-down
Rolling on an unannounced trip usually means planes, trains, and automobiles. And when you finally arrive at the destination, you’re probably going to look like a soup sandwich.
So go-ahead, pack that fancy button-down to turn heads — there’s room for that.
3. Don those Dockers
Sure, we all love our tactical pants — heck, that’s what got you to your destination ready to roll, right?
But sometimes those civilian types might think you’re from Delta Team 6 come to snatch bin Laden if you’re sporting pants that feature pockets for extra pistol mags. So bring those Dockers to the party, you’ve got room for them!
4. Prepare for after hours
The client dug your pitch and signed on the dotted line. What better way to celebrate your victory than with a couple of beers out on the town with your new business partners?
But those nights can get cold on the road, and any former trooper worth his salt is going to pack some snivel gear for when the sun goes down and the temps drop. Fortunately, you still have plenty of room to pack your pants with fleece.
5. Don’t forget fresh breath
All the other gear is worthless if you’re sporting bad breath and low-reg grooming. Would gunny flame spray you if you sauntered up to formation with a 5 o’clock shadow? Then you can probably figure that the deal won’t get sealed if you’re rolling in looking like a college puke who spent last night at a Chi O mixer.
Cellphone, schmellphone — stash that toothpaste and razor right up front and make sure you’re as fresh as a boot in the squad bay for that all-important pitch.
Sure, it’s pretty unlikely you won’t have time to zip home and pack a duffel for that FRAGO from your boss. But isn’t it nice to know that the folks who’re designing the street-legal version of today’s combat gear have your back — with a fashion-forward place to stow all your gear and still dress for success?
The U.S. military alleges Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL from California-based SEAL Team 7, murdered a teenage ISIS detainee and then posed with the corpse during a re-enlistment ceremony. NCIS investigators are also looking into allegations the SEAL killed civilians with a sniper rifle and threatened to intimidate other SEALs who would testify against him.
Gallagher proclaimed his innocence immediately after his 2017 arrest, one made while he was receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury at Camp Pendleton. Ever since, it is alleged that the SEAL has been held in inhumane conditions at the Navy’s Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Not anymore, by order of the Commander-In-Chief.
Gallagher’s platoon leader, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, is also being prosecuted for his role in trying to cover up the alleged incidents. Unlike Gallagher, Portier is not under arrest or otherwise confined. California and federal legislators want Gallagher to also be released while awaiting trial, not languishing in Miramar with “sex offenders, rapists, and pedophiles.” The Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is located some 10 miles north of San Diego and houses the Navy’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.
“(Gallagher) risked his life serving abroad to protect the rights of all of us here at home,” North Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, said at a rally. “He had not one deployment, not two deployments, but eight deployments … We urge this be fixed In light of his bravery, his patriotism and his rights as an American citizen.”
Chief Gallagher after his 2017 arrest.
Some 40 members of Congress asked the Navy to “analyze whether a less severe form of restraint would be appropriate” for Gallagher instead of the usual pre-trial confinement. Those members of Congress included former Navy SEALs, Marine Corps veterans, and others from both sides of the political aisle. Representative Norman spoke to President Trump personally about the matter.
“To confine any service member for that duration of time, regardless of the authority to do so, sends a chilling message to those who fight for our freedoms,” the lawmakers said. Gallagher’s family has already publicly thanked President Trump for his intervention.
The US Navy is having its sailors train on an aircraft carrier weapon system that the service is planning to rip out of its Nimitz-class carriers due to its ineffectiveness.
Sailors continue to train on the Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defense System (ATTDS), a weapon system that was designed to counter one of the single greatest threats to an aircraft carrier — torpedoes, The War Zone reports, noting that the Navy recently released images of sailors aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower training on the ATTDS for a Board of Inspection and Survey.
The most recent training, which involved firing the weapon system, took place in late July 2019. The material survey for which the crew was preparing requires proficiency with all onboard systems, and that they are functional and properly maintained.
The ATTDS, part of the broader Surface Ship Torpedo Defense (SSTD) system, is installed and operational aboard the Eisenhower, as well as the USS Harry S. Truman, USS George H.W. Bush, USS Nimitz, and USS Theodore Roosevelt. But that doesn’t mean it actually works to intercept incoming torpedoes in time to save the ship.
Sailors stow an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)
The Navy has abandoned its plans to develop the SSTD and is in the process of removing it from the carriers on which it has been installed, the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in a report released earlier this year.
The anti-torpedo system was a 0 million project that never really went anywhere.
In principle, the Torpedo Warning System (TWS), a component of the ATTDS, would detect an incoming threat and then send launch information to another piece, the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo (CAT), an interceptor that would be launched into the water to neutralize the incoming torpedo.
The DOTE report noted that the “TWS demonstrated some capability to detect incoming torpedoes,” but there were also false positives. It added that the “CAT demonstrated some capability to defeat an incoming torpedo” but had “uncertain reliability.”
The report also said that the anti-torpedo torpedo’s lethality was untested, meaning that the Navy is not even sure the weapon could destroy or deflect an incoming torpedo. The best the service could say is that there’s a possibility it would work.
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Hector Felix, from Atlanta, fastens a bolt on an anti-torpedo torpedo aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joseph T. Miller)
Despite having plans to remove the SSTD from its carriers, a project that should be completed by 2023, the Navy continues to have sailors train on the system, even as the service reviews training to identify potential detriments to readiness.
“The Navy is planning to remove ATTDS from aircraft carriers incrementally through fiscal year 2023 as the ships cycle through shipyard periods,” Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesperson William Couch told The War Zone.
“The Navy is sustaining the ATTDS systems that are still installed on some vessels, where it is necessary for the sailors to train with the system to maintain their qualifications in preparation for future deployments,” he added.
In other words, it appears that the reason for the continued training is simply that the system is on the ship and won’t be removed until ships have scheduled shipyard time, making the ability to operate it an unavoidable requirement.
INSIDER reached out to NAVSEA for clarity but has yet to receive a response.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marines have often had to follow the Army’s lead on procurement. When the Army wants a rifle, the Marines have to get it as well. Part of this is due to logistics — it’s easier to keep a single set of spare parts. When a unit needs more magazines, it’s simpler to make sure they’re sent the right part when choices are limited. Now, however, the script has been flipped.
The Army is now following the lead of the Marine Corps and buying a rifle that is based off a Marine project. The new Army weapon system, designated the M110A1, is a scaled-up version of the Marine’s M38 that’s able to fire the 7.62x51mm NATO round.
The baseline M110 is a Semi-Automatic Sniper System and is based on a rifle built by Knight Armaments System. The M110 features a 20-shot magazine and a 20-inch Chrome Plated 5R Cut barrel. The system has been used by the Army and Marines for over a decade and was considered one of the Army’s best inventions of 2007.
The M110A1 is also designated the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System and is based on the Heckler and Koch G28/HK417 rifle. It is slated to replace modified M14 rifles currently in use by the Army. This is not the first time the Army has used a semi-automatic sniper system. The M21 sniper rifle was used by Army snipers in the Vietnam War. Adelbert Waldron was the top American sniper in that war with 109 confirmed kills. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The M110A1 will be fielded among Army units later this year. Heckler and Koch, which makes this rifle, also sells a civilian version, the MR762A1.
Picture the brown-water Navy of the Vietnam War and you probably picture Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard floating upriver on a PBR to “terminate Col. Kurtz’s command…with extreme prejudice.” The Patrol Boat, River was a small rigid-hulled patrol boat used extensively in the Vietnam War to navigate the country’s many waterways. Employed operationally from 1966 until 1971, PBRs were used to conduct patrols, disrupt enemy movement, and most notably, insert and extract Special Forces units like Navy SEALs and the fictional Capt. Willard.
As the war in Vietnam escalated, the U.S. military quickly saw the need for a small and agile watercraft that could move quickly on Vietnam’s many rivers. The Navy approached civilian shipbuilder Hatteras Yachts to convert their 41′ fiberglass recreational family boat by shortening it and fitting it with water pump-jets instead of propellers. The pump-jets would allow the boat to operate in extremely shallow water. Willis Slane and Jack Hargrave of Hatteras took on the challenge and delivered the prototype to the Navy for testing in just 7 days.
In 1965, the Navy awarded a contract to Uniflite Boats to build the first 120 PBRs. They were powered by two Detroit 6V53N engines producing 180 hp each (later increased to 216 hp), and two 14YJ water pump-jet drives manufactured by Jacuzzi. With this power, the boats could cruise between 25 and 31 knots. The later Mark II PBR was slightly bigger, increasing from 31′ to 32′ in length and 10′ 7″ to 11′ 7″ beam. Mark II PBRs were also fitted with improved drives to reduce fouling and aluminum gunwales to resist wear.
The PBR was extremely maneuverable, being able to turn within its own length. But the PBRs party piece was its stopping ability. Fitted with thrust buckets, the PBR could reverse its Jacuzzi water pump-jets and go from full speed to a dead stop within a couple of its own length. Because of its fiberglass hull, the boat was also extremely light. This meant that it had a draft of just 2′ when fully loaded and could be slingloaded by a helicopter.
PBRs were typically armed with a twin M2HB .50-caliber machine gun turret forward, a single rear-mounted M2HB, one or two M60 7.62mm light machine guns on the port and starboard side, and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. However, PBR captains were known to augment their weapons suites with additional M2HBs and 81mm mortars. Some even swapped out their bow-mounted twin .50-cals for a Mk16 Mod 4 Colt 20mm automatic cannon. In addition to all this, the four-man crew was armed with a full complement of M16 rifles, shotguns, M1911 handguns, and hand grenades.
All this lethality came at the cost of protection. Though the .50-cal machine guns had some ceramic armor shielding and the Coxswain’s flat had quarter-inch thick steel armor plating, the fiberglass-hulled boats had little else in the way of armor. Rather, PBRs relied on their acceleration, maneuverability, and outright speed for their survivability. This made them extremely adept at hit and run attacks and special operations. In the latter, the PBR found great success. Not only did the boat serve as an excellent insertion and extraction platform, its heavy armament meant that it could provide direct fire support for special operations teams if necessary.
At the height of production during the Vietnam War, two PBRs were rolling off the assembly line every day. By the war’s end, over 750 had been built. Today, less than three dozen PBRs survive in conditions ranging from stripped hulls to fully operational, of which there are just seven. However, the PBRs legacy is greater than its surviving examples.
The most decorated enlisted sailor in U.S. Navy history, James “Willie” Williams, commanded PBR 105. During a patrol on October 21, 1966, Williams’ and another PBR engaged over 65 enemy boats and numerous well-concealed ground troops in a three-hour running battle. Williams’ actions during the battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His citation notes that he “exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol” and that he “demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle.”
To the unknowing tourist looking at a static display, the PBR might just be a greenish grey military boat. A cinephile might recognize it as the boat from Apocalypse Now. But, to the special forces teams that were pulled out of a hot extraction by one, the PBR was a guardian angel. To the sailors that crewed them, a PBR was home.
There are plenty of weapons systems that ground troops want in support of high-risk missions, but few are as beloved as the A-10. The “Warthog” can fly low, take an amazing amount of punishment, and unleash absolute devastation on enemy forces with rockets, bombs, and its famous 30mm cannon.
The A-10 earned this reputation under fire. Here are five times that A-10 Warthogs saved the day for troops in contact and pilots lost behind enemy lines:
1. An A-10 coordinates support of a high-value target capture mission with no notice
Capt. Scott Campbell and his flight were enjoying a no-fly day when the word came in that a senior al-Qaeda officer had been spotted. In less than an hour, the pilots had thrown a hasty plan together and gotten into the air.
Campbell and the A-10 pilots provided direct fires in support of ground forces and deconflicted the flight paths of F-14s and F/A-18s on the mission while also feeding reconnaissance information to the troops conducting the capture. When the target was secured, the A-10s escorted the helicopters home to end the 8-hour, no-notice mission.
2. Warthogs shut down Taliban attacks against a besieged Special Forces team
An Army Special Forces team stumbled into a Taliban ambush and called for help from Apaches and A-10s. Capt. Aaron M. Palan was on his fourth mission in the deployment and flew his jet into the fray, sending four GPS-guided munitions, three white phosphorous rockets, and 1,150 30mm cannon rounds into the camouflaged and fortified enemy positions.
3. A pilot destroys Iraqi forces while rescuing a downed pilot
During Operation Desert Storm an F-14 pilot was shot down by Iraqi forces. Air Force Capt. Paul T. Johnson was flight lead for two A-10s sent to conduct search and rescue, the first time the A-10 completed this type of mission in combat.
Johnson flew the plane deeper into enemy territory than it had ever gone and dropped to 500 feet to spot the isolated American. He spent over three hours searching and destroyed an Iraqi missile site before spotting the pilot and killing an Iraqi truck that was approaching the pilot. The rescue was ultimately successful.
4. Pilots use their own A-10s as bait for enemy air defenses to save a downed pilot
After an American pilot was shot down over Serbia on Mar 27, 1999, Capt. John A. Cherrey led a flight of A-10s to find and rescue him. Cherrey and his flight had to proceed directly through Serbian air defenses and fly over surface-to-air missile batteries to reach the crash site.
The flight dealt with constant jamming, bad weather, and enemy aircraft to reach the pilot. When the pilot was found close to Serbian air defenses, Cherrey and his flight flew circles over other areas in the air defense ring to distract enemy radar from the real pick-up location. The choppers were able to pick up the isolated pilot and everyone headed home alive thanks to the A-10s.
5. A quick-thinking A-10 pilot prevented a fratricide during a frantic, joint forces mission
While the A-10s deserve credit for covering the ground troops and Apaches, their single greatest contribution was when the A-10 flight lead called for an abort of the first B-1 bombing run. The flight lead had heard the ground controller pass the target coordinates to the B-1 and had realized, working mostly from memory, that the numbers were actually the coordinates of the Marines. The lead then walked the controller through how to get the proper coordinates, working again from memory.
With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.
A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.
We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.
We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.
12. Water filter.
Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.
If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.
10. Two days of food.
This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.
9. Lockpick kit.
The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.
8. Fire starter with dryer lint.
You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.
7. Solar or hand-crank battery.
You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.
6. 550 cord and a carabiner.
Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.
5. Medical kit.
Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.
4. Face mask.
Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.
Be prepared for it.
3. Gloves and boots.
You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.
If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.
An Israeli company unveiled its next-generation digital rifle sight, designed to work more like a smartphone than a high-powered hunting scope, at SHOT Show 2019.
Sensight US Inc., a subsidiary of Sensight Ltd. in Israel, showed off its new smart scope, which features a wide viewscreen, touch-screen operation and a 1.3-20x zoom capability, according to Hanan Schaap, chief executive officer of Sensight Ltd.
“It’s a very sophisticated system,” Schaap said, but added, “If you know how to work with a smartphone, you can work with this. It’s that simple.”
The sight features dual cameras that operate at 1080p at 60fps and can record and stream to iOS and Android systems, he said.
With the swipe of a finger, the shooter can zoom out 3x, 5x, 8x, 12x, 16x and 20x. Range adjustments and reticle type can also be selected with a simple touch.
“You can choose different reticles. … I can choose different colors, different shapes — an endless variety of reticles,” Schaap said.
The new sight has a ballistic calculator, 3D gyroscope and GPS.
The sight is also “suitable for any light condition,” Schaap said, first describing the low-light mode that “gives you an extra 20-to-25 minutes at dusk.”
“When you go to full darkness, you can remove the [infrared] filter so you can work with an IR illuminator to see in full darkness,” he said.
The main battery powers the sight for eight hours, but there is also an external powerpack that snaps on for an additional 12 hours of operation.
The first generation of the new sight is scheduled to be ready sometime in April or May 2019 for the “low price” of about id=”listicle-2627543725″,000, Schaap said, adding that future generations will get more sophisticated.
“In the first generation, we want to make it simple enough for people to use,” he said.
For now, the sight will be geared toward calibers such as .308, .300 Win. Mag., and .338 magnum, Schaap said.
As high-tech as the new sight is, Sensight is not marketing it for military use.
“We are looking at recreational shooters in general; we are not aiming now for military,” Schaap said. “The sight is a tool, an instrument that will help hunters and target shooters enjoy their shooting experience more.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.
According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.
This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)
Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.
The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.
According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.