Here's how websites and apps are tracking your behavior - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how websites and apps are tracking your behavior

Once you enter your password to access your accounts, you might imagine the website dusting off its hands in satisfaction that its verification process is complete and that, yes, it now knows it was you who just logged in and not an imposter.

But it doesn’t stop there — websites and the companies behind them often monitor your behavior as a security measure, too.

“We look into behavioral biometrics,” Etay Maor, a security advisor at IBM Security, told Business Insider. “We’ve been doing this for years … most of the industries I talk to look into these things.”

Behavioral biometrics are similar to regular biometrics, like fingerprints. But instead of recognizing a fingerprint, your actions and behavior within a website or app where you have an account with sensitive information are monitored to authenticate you.


You’ve probably encountered some examples of behavioral biometrics. For example, if you’ve ever seen an alert that says “You’re logging in from a device you don’t usually use,”where a website recognizes that you’re logging in from a new device.

Here’s how websites and apps are tracking your behavior

(Photo by John Schnobrich)

There’s also location-based security alerts, where your account is being accessed from a location that you don’t typically frequent. Someone recently tried to access one of my accounts from Kuala Lumpur, but I was in bed in Connecticut when this attempt happened. I got an alert, and took the appropriate actions to better secure that account.

But there are other forms of behavioral biometrics that occur while you’re using an app or when you’re in your online accounts, and you likely have no idea it’s happening.

The way you move your mouse once you log in, how fast you swipe around an app, what you typically do within an app or website, and even the angle at which you hold your phone are being monitored, and they’re examples of behavioral biometrics.

Even when you’re not using your devices, behavioral biometrics are in play. In fact, not using your devices is a biometric in itself. If your bank account was hacked while you’re asleep and fraudulent transactions are being made, for example, banks can tell that the devices you usually use are offline. Your phone might be laying still and flat (because it’s on your bedside table) and your laptop is in sleep mode. From that information, and considering the activity going on, a bank might suspect that something is awry, and it can push out an alert of suspicious activity.

Indeed, your behavior is unique to you, like a fingerprint. And it’s more secure than passwords, PINs, and even your actual fingerprint, according to Maor.

“Passwords are not secure today because there are so many ways for hackers to guess and generate passwords. We’re in weird stage where passwords are becoming harder for a human to remember and yet still extremely easy for a machine or algorithm to guess,” Maor said.

Here’s how websites and apps are tracking your behavior

Microsoft will make it an option to use passwords and encourage users to use PIN numbers instead, which the company argues are more secure.

(Microsoft)

That’s why Microsoft is ditching the common password and is encouraging users to log into Windows 10 using PINs and its Windows Hello facial recognition, where that data is stored in your devices. The company argues that on-device storage for security data is more secure than passwords stored in a company’s servers.

Still, even PINs and standard biometrics aren’t the ultimate in security. “If it’s something that a human knows or remembers, an attacker can extract that,” Maor said, whether it’s by hacking or social engineering, where an attacker can convince you to give them your password by, say, pretending to be tech support for a website.

Even regular biometrics like fingerprints and irises can be socially engineered out of you. At the end of the day, passwords, PINs, and standard biometrics won’t stop a “determined attack.”

With behavioral biometrics, your typical behavior isn’t something that can be easily replicated. “An attacker can’t extract your mouse movement, or your behavior from you. Maybe to a certain extent, but that’s a totally different level of attack,” Maor said.

Here’s how websites and apps are tracking your behavior

(Photo by Markus Spiske)


It seems spooky, and it raises privacy concerns. And Maor recognizes that. “It sounds a bit Orwellian because it sounds like you’re being followed all the time. But yeah, as soon as you go into the website, we try to protect you by making sure it really is you without you knowing that we’re doing this.”

Behavioral biometrics also have a practical use, as they’re simply less annoying than traditional authentication methods, like remembering passwords or multi-factor authentication. Behavioral metrics that take place under the radar offer a better experience while also keeping you more secure. Maor argues that if a company tries to authenticate you by making it too difficult or time consuming to enter your account, you’ll go to another company or service.

Still, passwords, PINs, and fingerprints are still necessary first lines of defence, but they’re only used to identify you. The real security that’s used to authenticate you happens in the background, without you even knowing.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


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Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is how a new generation of computers will help America dominate

One of the reasons why American weapons systems have been so dominant is computer power. Whether it’s helping the M1 Abrams keep its gun on target or helping secure communications, computers give American troops an edge. Now, the Pentagon wants to bring the next generation of computers, quantum computers, into the fight.

You’re probably asking yourself, “what, exactly, is quantum computing and how would it give our troops an edge? Well, here’s a quick rundown.


As explained by one of America’s top tech companies, IBM, quantum computing is a form of computing that uses quantum mechanics — the mathematics of subatomic particle movements. Current processors distill all information down, eventually, to a simple ‘0’ or ‘1.’ Quantum processors, however, can distill information down to ‘0’ and ‘1.’ In short, this has the potential to greatly increase the baseline speeds at which computers operate. To put that increase in speed into perspective, it’s the difference between using a horse to go from New York to San Diego and using a SR-71 Blackbird for that same trip.

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Joint Direct Attack Munitions, currently dependent on GPS, could become more accurate thanks to quantum clocks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

So, how might this translate to military operations? Well, one application could be a replacement for the Global Positioning System. The satellite-based system relies on multiple updates per day, and there have been concerns the system could be vulnerable to attack. Quantum clocks could provide GPS-like accuracy when the satellite system is down.

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Quantum computing could help make satellite communications more secure.

(NASA)

A number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, are also working on quantum computing programs. The Air Force Research Laboratory expects to have working prototypes in five years, with other systems rolling out later. In one sense, this program is an urgent one: China is also working on quantum computers, and has reportedly launched a purportedly unhackable satellite using that technology — and it’s not a good idea to be technologically outgunned if tensions should boil over.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Virtual reality training gives Air Force students ‘hands-on’ experience

The 334th Training Squadron incorporated the first virtual reality training for airfield management students in the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, June 28, 2019, so they can get more of a “hands-on” learning experience.

Chief Master Sgt. Paul Portugal, Airfield Management career field manager, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virgina, relates this new technology to the mission of Air Education and Training Command.

“Innovation and the continuum of learning has always been a priority of AETC to make our airmen more effective and efficient,” Portugal said.


Master Sgt. Joshua Stillwagon, 334th TRS instructor, believes this new technology can teach the airmen more efficiently than the previous, lecture-based class because of the hands-on experience.

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An Airman from the 334th Training Squadron tries out new virtual reality technology of the 334th TRS at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)

“This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept,” Stillwagon said.

The simulation includes the setting of an airfield and allows students to practice their job as if they were operational.

“The VR technology gives our students a visual representation of airfield hazards that can be unsafe,” Portugal said. “They don’t need to imagine it, they can visualize cranes, trees or other things that can affect flight safety.”

Portugal believes this training will not only help the future of airfield management training, but improve the overall training of airmen.

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U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, speaks about the new virtual reality technology of the 334th Training Squadron at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)

“The technological jump that we are making in how we create a more efficient and effective airmen is the biggest part of this,” Portugal said.

Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, was impressed with the quality of the new VR experience.

“The VR training simulations blew me away,” Lawson said. “Not only was it able to deliver the training our airmen need to understand the concept of the job, but it did so with great quality.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

These Brits debunk the deadly M1 Garand ‘ping’ myth

The beloved M1 Garand Rifle carried the deadly end of American foreign policy from U.S. shores into Europe and the Pacific in World War II and into the forests of Korea the following decade.


But the iconic rifle is typically discussed alongside its “fatal flaw” — it emitted a distinctive ping when the clip, usually an eight-round strip, was ejected with the final cartridge it held. As the theory goes, that ping told the enemy that a rifle was empty, giving them a chance to leap up and kill the now defenseless American.

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Military legend R. Lee Ermey discusses the M1 Garand. (Photo: YouTube)

But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.

And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.

To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.

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U.S. Army troops fighting in the streets of Seoul, Korea. Sept. 20, 1950. (Photo: Public Domain)

You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.

The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.

First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.

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Pictured: A bunch of Marines on Iwo Jima not fighting on their own. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.

ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.

An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.

See the full video from Bloke on the Range Below:

YouTube, Bloke on the Range

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 Awesome Things About the ‘Sniper’ Movies

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

‘Sniper: Assassin’s End’ is now available on Blu-ray & Digital!

One of the most popular war movie characters ever created is back: Master Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Beckett. Tom Berenger will reprise his role as Beckett in the upcoming movie Sniper: Assassin’s End — the eighth in the Sniper series. Now the series is a kind of “Fast & Furious” of war movies, bringing together a family of characters familiar to viewers and fun to watch.

The original Sniper was released in 1993, at a time when the United States had few enemies in the world. But what the original Sniper did was begin a series of films that were both true to the spirit of those who serve in the U.S. military while pointing out some of the biggest issues of our time.

Here are 8 things for anyone to love about the Sniper series:


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1. ‘Sniper’ uses the same cast when they bring characters back

What’s unique about every subsequent Sniper film is that the original players come back to reprise their roles when called. They may not be in every Sniper movie, but there isn’t some low-rent version of Tom Berenger trying to be Beckett. Speaking of which, now 70 years old, Tom Berenger still rocks a ghillie suit.

Later in the series, Chad Michael Collins joins the family as Beckett’s son Brandon and Dennis “Allstate” Haysbert reprises his role as “The Colonel.” In Sniper: Assassin’s End, actor Lochlyn Munro joins the cast – but for how long?

2. The series depicts real-world sniper stories

In the original Sniper, Thomas Beckett takes down an enemy sniper tracking his team with a well-placed shot through the enemy shooter’s own scope. While this has been depicted on-screen in later movies, Sniper was the first.

This kill was originally scored in real life by sniper and Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock may not have the most confirmed kills or the longest shots, but he’s legendary for feats like this. While hitting a sniper through his own scope may sound unbelievable, Hathcock’s story has been confirmed by two others on the scene.

3. “Sniper” has love for the spotter

Unlike so many low-thought, low-effort movies, the Sniper series doesn’t depict a “lone wolf,” gung-ho type who’s fighting the entire world on his lonesome. Beckett is rarely seen without a spotter, and even acts as a spotter for other snipers.

4. Beckett struggles with PTSD

One of the recurring motifs throughout the Sniper series, is one that wasn’t really addressed way back when or even in time for Sniper 2 in 2002: post-traumatic stress disorder. In the first Sniper movie, Beckett and Miller talk about the emotional distress of killing on the battlefield. In the sequel, Beckett is recruited because his PTSD keeps him from living a normal civilian life.

They even use the word “transition” in 2002.

Beckett (also a Vietnam veteran), even finds some catharsis from a visit to Ho Chi Minh City (called “Saigon” during Beckett’s time there), a real thing Vietnam vets do to find some inner peace.
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5. They fought real-world bad guys

In 1993, the snipers were on the front lines of the drug war, trying to keep the Panama Canal Zone (still American then) in good hands. Next, they took on ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, still fresh from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. From there, they took on Islamic terrorism, Congolese militias, ISIS, and organized crime syndicates.

6. There’s a lot of love for Marines

It features a Master Gunnery Sergeant. How many Master Gunnery Sergeants have you ever seen in war movies? Thomas Beckett was likely given that rank by the film’s creators because they wanted to establish just how extensive his knowledge is – and why he wouldn’t just revert to being a paper pusher later on.

Beckett also uses his Ka-Bar knife to good effect while hunting a sniper on his trail. If you’re an old-school Marine who misses the days of EGAs printed on woodland BDUs and tightly-bloused pants tucked into black-on-green jungle boots, strap in for some nostalgia.

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7. The violence is uncharacteristic of other war movies

The original Sniper movie was designed to end the cartoonish depiction of war violence in action movies — meaning violent movies were supposed to depict violence on screen. Movies like Rambo III showed death and destruction, but even Rambo’s decimation of the Red Army in Afghanistan showed a surprising lack of blood.

Sniper didn’t have that problem. By design.

Subsequent iterations of the Sniper series have been fairly true to that vision, pulling no punches and attempting to show just how brutal and up-close violence can be.

8. Thomas Beckett reminds us of a really good NCO

There’s something comforting about a non-commissioned officer who’s genuinely interested in your success and is there to not only be a great leader and teacher but really wants to help you. We really like that Beckett is there to point out where other characters mess up but it’s really cool when he also praises them for what they do well – and he does it throughout the series.

More than that, he always shows up like a badass to take care of business and do things the right way. Thomas Beckett is always out of bubblegum.

Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16

www.youtube.com

This post was sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

All it takes to fool facial recognition at airports and border crossings is a printed mask, researchers found

Facial recognition is being widely embraced as a security tool — law enforcement and corporations alike are rolling it out to keep tabs on who’s accessing airports, stores, and smartphones.


As it turns out, the technology is fallible. Researchers with the artificial-intelligence firm Kneron announced that they were able to fool some facial-recognition systems using a printed mask depicting a different person’s face.

The researchers, who tested systems across three continents, said they fooled payment tablets run by the Chinese companies Alipay and WeChat, as well as a system at a border checkpoint in China. In Amsterdam, a printed mask fooled facial recognition at a passport-control gate at Schiphol Airport, they said.

The researchers said their findings suggested that a person who prints a lifelike mask resembling someone else could bypass security checkpoints to fly or shop on their behalf.

“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”

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live.staticflickr.com

Some facial-recognition software proved impervious to the printed-mask test, however. The researchers said Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s system passed; both use more sophisticated technology known as structured light imaging. Kneron said its own facial recognition software also passes the test.

Researchers said that tests at security checkpoints were carried out with the permission of security guards supervising them — suggesting that as long as humans are present to notice the mask, facial-recognition checkpoints aren’t entirely unsecured.

In the month after its mask study went viral, Kneron announced that it raised million from investors including Alibaba, Qualcomm, and Horizons Ventures.

“We are excited to continue our journey with partners like Horizons Ventures who share our passion and dedication towards our mission to enable AI on any device [and] democratize AI,” Liu told Business Insider after the fundraising was announced.

Here’s the pitch deck Kneron used to raise million.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iconic Lancers will retire as B-21 Raiders come online

The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.

These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.

“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”


The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.

Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology, and engines.

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Official U.S. Air Force Artist Rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Heavy Bomber.

The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.

A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.

“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.

Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.

The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.

It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.

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

Articles

This is what you get when you name an armored vehicle ‘Gurkha’

Mexico’s Veracruz state may be one of the most dangerous places in the entire country. The extortion and kidnapping of civil servants and journalists are rampant, dismembered bodies are a common occurrence, and the city is on the front lines of Mexico’s ongoing drug war.


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Mexico’s Fuerza Civil of Veracruz (Mexican government photo)

The Fuerza Civil – the Civil Forces of the Mexican state – is an elite security force designed to protect trade routes, migrants, agricultural areas, fisheries, and forests as well as assist with municipal authorities in preventing organized crime. They need all the help they can get.

Enter the Gurkha armored vehicle.

The Fuerza Civil equipped with next-generation weapons, armor, and vehicles to support that mission. One of those advanced armor vehicles comes from Canada’s Terradyne Armored, Inc. and is dubbed the Gurkha after Nepal’s feared elite warriors.

The Gurkha is a 4×4 light armored patrol vehicle, currently produced in three tactical configurations – each of which uses the Ford F550 chassis. They also run with Ford’s in-house built 6.7L Power Stroke V8 diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission.

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Fuerza Civil officers deploy on the streets of Veracruz (Mexican government photo)

The power and armor make a huge difference in Veracruz. Civilians and police are regularly targeted or in the crossfire of ongoing violence between the Zetas, Sinaloa, and Gulf Cartels. Things got so bad the Mexican government had to deploy military forces to quell the fighting.

 

Articles

This is why it was perfectly legal for a Russian plane to buzz DC

By now, you’ve heard a Russian plane recently flew around DC and the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.


And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.

The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.

The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.

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An OC-135B Open Skies aircraft goes through pre-flight checks Jan. 16, 2010, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. The OC-135 is with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and is used to conduct observation flights in support of the Open Skies Treaty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.

Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.

The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.

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The Tu-214 will be Russia’s new Open Skis aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons)

They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.

So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy improvised gas mask used by World War I troops

Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.

Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.


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Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.

Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.

But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.

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German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.

But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.

To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.

Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.

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Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.

More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.

Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the US Air Force has planned for all its bombers

The US has three bombers — the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress — to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.

Some form of the B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B took its first flight in 1974, and the B-2 celebrated its 30th year in the skies in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details about it are scarce.

The US Air Force has been conducting missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s in order to project dominance against Russia and train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet has faced problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air Force Times reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.

Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet.


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A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Oct. 11, 2017.

(US Air Force)

The Air Force’s B-1B Lancer has had problems with mission readiness this year.

The Lancer is a long-range, multi-role heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52.

The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking at ways to expand that payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.

The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet, and can hit speeds up to Mach 1.2, according to the Air Force. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.

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A US Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea, Jan. 9, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

The B-1B was considered nuclear-capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear arms was disabled in accordance with the START treaty.

The B-1B is not scheduled to retire until 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 “broke” the fleet.

Service officials and policymakers are now considering whether the Lancer can be kept flying missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.

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B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.

(US Air Force)

The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.

The Air Force’s longest-serving bomber came into service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.

It has flown missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.

The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a 70,000 pound payload, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.

The Stratofortress is expected to be in service through 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, a new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.

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A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.

(Edwards Air Force Base)

As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in use with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.

Two B-52s have returned to service from 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard,” where retired or mothballed aircraft are stored.

One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy,” in May.

“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana to be refurbished, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the aircraft, “a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror” and instructing the AMARG to “take good care of her … until we need her again.”

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The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere.

The B-2 was developed in a shroud of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently has 20 of them.

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A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has an intercontinental range.

The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying out of RAF Fairford in the UK.

From Fairford, the B-2 has completed several firsts this year — the first time training with non-US F-35s, its first visit to Iceland, and its first extended flight over the Arctic.

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(US Air Force)

Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.

What we do know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.

Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named for Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who flew a daring bomb raid on Japan just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Air Force said last year that B-21s would go to three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

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The B-21 stealth bomber.

(Northrup Grumman)

Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as soon as December 2021.

Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” according to Air Force Magazine.

The B-21 also loomed over the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and first flew.

Company officials have said work on the B-2 is informing the B-21’s development, and recently constructed buildings at Northrop’s Site 7 are thought to be linked to the B-21.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Could the SR-71 Blackbird have been a fighter plane?

The SR-71 Blackbird is an awesome plane. But did you know that it could have been even more awesome than it was? The Air Force was planning to make a fighter version of the plane.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as the early iterations of the SR-71 were being designed, there was a need for an interceptor. The F-108 program had been cancelled due to its high cost. However, there was still a desire for a high-speed, long-range interceptor.

 

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The YF-12A – a fighter version of the Blackbird capable of carrying four AIM-47 Falcon missiles. (USAF photo)

The A-12 OXCART being developed for the CIA was seen as a likely basis for a fighter. Lockheed’s Skunk Works team soon figured out how to add a powerful radar, the AN/ASG-18, capable of detecting targets from as far off as 500 miles in some cases, and four AIM-47 missiles.

The resulting plane was designated the YF-12, and three prototypes were built.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the AIM-47 had a range of over 100 miles and a speed of Mach 4. While a 250-ton W42 warhead never materialized for this missile, it did get a 100-pound high-explosive warhead.

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An AIM-47 Falcon being loaded into a YF-12. (USAF photo)

News of the the YF-12’s development was leaked in an effort to distract the public from the work being done to make a reconnaissance plane. But the plane – awesome as it was – would not ever see service due to the development of reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles.

The YF-12 would get a production order for 93 airframes from the Air Force. However, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to release the funds, and the project ended up being halted at the three prototypes. Two were handed over to NASA for research flights. One of those crashed after a fuel line caught fire in 1971, with the crew ejecting from the stricken plane.

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A Fighter Squadron 211 (VF-211) F-14A Tomcat aircraft banks into a turn during a flight out of Naval Air Station, Miramar, Calif. The aircraft is carrying six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles.

 

The YF-12 will remain one of the biggest “could have been” planes in history. The jet still has a legacy – partially in the SR-71 Blackbird, but also in the form of the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles used by the F-14 Tomcat. Even though this plane never got a chance to serve, it still did a lot for America’s military aviation development.

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