How the hunt for alien life is about to get real - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.

From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.

The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.

Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Hubble space telescope in 2002.

(NASA/ESA)

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies, and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding more quickly than scientists imagined.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

In February 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the chaos atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the light of nearby bright stars.

(NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

(NASA/Chris Gunn)

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to peer into the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

The upcoming telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process in Northrop Grumman’s California facilities before its launch date on March 30, 2021.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA engineers unveil the giant golden mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(NASA Goddard)

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.

The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.

(NASA)

Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.

“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

JWST will also search for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) — but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of star light passing through a planet’s atmosphere, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of what it might look like on the surface of TRAPPIST-1f, a rocky planet 39 light-years away from Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have already identified over 4,000 exoplanets.

But as of yet, they haven’t been able to study most of those planets’ atmospheres to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.

That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Dave Sime works on the WFIRST primary mirror.

(Harris Corporation / TJT Photography)

To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.

(NASA)

WFIRST will have a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Each of its photos will be worth 100 Hubble images.

That breadth will help scientists probe questions about what the universe is made of and how it works — starting with dark matter.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The foggy haze is astronomer’s interpretation of where dark matter is located in this cluster of 1,000 galaxies.

(NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s illustration of the WFIRST spacecraft.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WFIRST will get around this issue by measuring the effects of dark matter and its counterpart, an unknown force called dark energy.

The entire universe is comprised of 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy. Everything we can see and observe with scientific instruments accounts for less than 5%.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A pair of interacting galaxies, spotted by Hubble.

(NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Our current model of the universe.

(NASA)

Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

WFIRST will attempt to map the mysterious workings of dark matter and energy by measuring the universe’s expansion over time.

“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s concept of the Euclid spacecraft.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is designing the Euclid telescope for similar purposes.

Euclid will peer into deep space to see ancient light and study how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years. It’s slated to launch in 2022.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the European Space Agency’s Euclid “dark universe” telescope.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?

Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.

“Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” astrophysicist Chris Fassnacht said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at sunset in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

(LSST Project/NSF/AURA)

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will seek to address this conflict from its location in the mountains of Chile. It will spend 10 years scanning the entire sky.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LSST will measure the universe’s expansion. The telescope will also chart the movements of potentially hazardous asteroids that could fly dangerously close to Earth.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s depiction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

(ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium)

On another Chilean mountaintop, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky super-Earths.

At 39 meters (128 feet), it will be the largest optical telescope in the world once it’s completed in 2025.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s rendering of the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at night while observations are in progress.

(ESO/L. Calçada)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A star’s habitable zone is the orbital range in which a planet’s surface might be the right temperature to support liquid water.

(NASA)

But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.

That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.

“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The LUVOIR telescope design.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Theoretically, the proposed LUVOIR and HabEx telescopes could block out stars’ light enough to examine the Earth-sized planets circling them.

The LUVOIR proposal relies on a design similar to that of the JWST. Estimates suggest it could image 50 Earth-sized exoplanets over four years, studying their atmospheres, seasons, and even surfaces.

If chosen for funding and construction, these telescopes could launch in the 2030s.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s biggest airplane took its first flight ever

Somewhere out in the California desert, a streamlined, aerodynamic behemoth woke up on April 13, 2019. It was Stratolaunch Systems’ critical test flight for an airframe designed to launch rockets into space while in mid-air. The aircraft was a long time coming, the dream of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who died of Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2018.


After the plane’s historic two-hour flight, Allen would have been proud to watch the mammoth plane land on the Mojave Desert test strip.

Stratolaunch’s six-engine, 500,000-pound aircraft has a 385-foot wingspan and is designed to fly around 35,000 feet. In comparison, the largest aircraft used for civilian air travel is the Airbus A380-800, with a wingspan of 238 feet and weighing in at slightly more than the Stratolaunch.

“The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want a first flight to be,” said test pilot Evan Thomas. “It flew very much like we had simulated and like we predicted.”

The previous record holder for largest aircraft ever flown was Howard Hughes’ famed Spruce Goose, an eight-engine, wooden-framed plane that was less than half the weight of the Stratolaunch. Until April 13, it was the longest wingspan aircraft to ever fly.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

“It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight,” said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd.

Stratolaunch was founded in 2011, the brainchild of Allen, who originally also wanted to make the rockets the Stratolaunch planes would launch into low earth orbit. The company plans to do incremental tests of the airframe over the coming years, as they had done in previous years. Other small tests included engine tests and runway taxis before the April flight.

While the two-hour test flight was a success, not much else was conclusive save for a deal with Northrop Grumman to use Stratolaunch planes to put their Pegasus XL rockets into space. Who knows – these could be the early models of a Space Force troop transport. The skies are no longer the limit.

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The Tiger used in ‘Fury’ was captured after being disabled by the most improbable shots

Out of nowhere, a shot cuts through the last Sherman tank in the column, blowing its turret off. The three remaining Shermans reverse from the road as another shot whizzes into the dirt, narrowly missing them. Backed into a wood line, the Shermans spot their ambusher – a German Tiger I tank. With no way out, the Shermans return fire and charge the Tiger. The shots from the Shermans bounce off of the Tiger’s 100mm frontal armor with no effect.


Undeterred, the Tiger fires an 88mm shell straight through the front of a second Sherman. Continuing their charge toward the Tiger, a third Sherman is hit, its turret blown off of its hull. The last surviving Sherman finally gets around the Tiger and traverses its gun to aim at the weaker armor at the rear of the tank. Only after taking two shots through its vulnerable engine compartment does the deadly Tiger grind to a halt. With their tank ablaze, the surviving German crew members abandon the Tiger and are cut down by Sherman’s hull-mounted .30-cal machine gun.

This scene from Sony Pictures’ “Fury” has been viewed by millions of people online. Produced with the help of The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, the scene features the only operating Tiger I tank in the world today.

Officially called the Panzerkampfwagen VI, Tiger I, Sd.Kfz. 181, the Tiger tank was heavily armored and equipped with the deadly 88mm gun. Paired with a well-disciplined crew, the Tiger was a menace to the allied armies during WWII. However, it was prone to track failures and mechanical breakdowns. The Tiger’s operational range was also restricted by its high fuel consumption.

Built in February 1943, Tiger 131 was issued to the German 504th Heavy Tank Battalion and was shipped to Tunisia in March 1943 to reinforce the German defense of North Africa. As the allies prepared a major push toward Tunis, German forces launched a spoiling attack in April. On April 24, the British 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters, a line infantry regiment, took a location known as Point 174. The Germans immediately counter attacked with armor, including Tiger 131.

During the counter attack, British tanks of the 142nd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps and 48th Royal Tank Regiment arrived to reinforce the Foresters. German and British tank shells streaked past each other as the two sides vied for control. During the exchange, Tiger 131 was hit by three 6-pounder solid shot shells from British Churchill tanks.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A British Churchill Mk IV tank like the ones used at Point 174. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

The first shot hit the Tiger’s barrel and ricocheted into its turret ring. The shell jammed the turret’s traverse, destroyed the radio, and wounded the driver and radio operator. The second shell disabled the gun’s elevation device when it hit the turret lifting lug. The third shot hit the loader’s hatch and deflected shrapnel fragments into the turret. Unable to aim their main gun and continue the fight, the crew of Tiger 131 abandoned their tank.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Tiger 131 with its damaged loader’s hatch. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

After repelling the German counter attack, British forces discovered Tiger 131 on the battlefield and were surprised to find it intact and drivable—the first Tiger to be captured in such a state. Using parts from destroyed Tigers, British engineers repaired Tiger 131 to be inspected and evaluated. The tank was displayed in Tunis where it was shown to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI. In October 1943, Tiger 131 was sent to England and displayed around the country as a trophy to boost morale and fundraise before it was turned over to the School of Tank Technology. There, it was thoroughly inspected and assessed in order to aid future British tank design and evaluate its weaknesses to be exploited by allied troops on the front.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
King George VI inspects Tiger 131 in Tunis. (Credit: Imperial War Museum)

On September 25, 1951, Tiger 131 was transferred from the British Ministry of Supply to The Tank Museum in Bovington, UK, where it was put on display. In 1990, the tank was given a complete restoration by museum staff and the Army Base Repair Organisation, an executive agency of the UK’s Ministry of Defence. In 2003, Tiger 131 returned to the museum in a fully functional state, making it the only working Tiger tank in the world. After further work and a repainting in period colors, the restoration was completed in 2012.

Because of its rarity, Tiger 131 has been the subject of many books, toys, and models. As previously stated, the tank gained further fame after it was used in the 2014 film “Fury.” It has also been featured in the popular online tank game “World of Tanks.” The Tank Museum keeps Tiger 131 well-maintained, taking it out for a “Tiger Day” exhibition at least once a year for the public to see it in motion.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Tiger 131 on display. (Credit: The Tank Museum)

The Tiger tank inspired confidence in its crew and fear in its enemies. Today, Tiger 131 serves not as a weapon of war, but as a well-preserved piece of history for people to see and learn from. The stewards of this history at The Tank Museum take great pride in their work and hope to continue to share it with the world for many decades to come.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We’re falling for fall with these 5 cocktails with military origins

It’s Sweater Weather! And with that comes time for indoor cocktails that warm the bones and keep your inner fire glowing. As we lead into winter, there’s no better time to dust off the old cocktail shaker and explore some old-school mixed drinks. Sure, summer is all about beer and barbeques, and we’re sad to see it go, but autumn is all about crafted cocktails. You might not be able to gather with your colleagues after work, but that doesn’t mean Happy Hour has to die.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of five cocktails that all have military origins – with recipes included!


Army-Navy

Historical records are a little lacking when it comes to uncovering just how this cocktail came to be, but it’s thought to have made its first appearance in “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” No matter where it came from, it’s the most popular cocktail for celebrating the annual Army-Navy football game.

Recipe

2 parts gin

1/2 part lemon juice

1/4 part Orgeat almond syrup (If orgeat is unavailable, you can sub in amaretto)

Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Army Ranger

While not as strong as Ball-level Grogg, this cocktail is definitely going to light a fire under you. Apparently, it was crafted out of necessity by the good folks at the 2nd Ranger Battalion during a cold-weather FTX. We can’t be sure, of course, but it seems like just the thing a Ranger Batt would put together.

Recipe

1/2 oz Bacardi 151 Rum

1 8 oz can Red Bull

1 oz Jagermeister

Mix Jagermeister, Bacardi 151 rum, and a can of Red Bull in a mug or tall glass. Place a slice of both lime and lemon on top and serve.

Bald Eagle Martini

Nothing says America like the eagle. This cocktail’s origins are unclear, but it’s been found in mixology books dating back to the early 1900s. This cocktail is perfect for summer, but it’s equally delicious in cooler months when you want to remember what it’s like to feel the sun on your face and the sand at your feet.

Recipe

2 oz tequila

1 oz pink grapefruit juice

1/2 oz cranberry juice

1/2 oz lime juice

1/2 oz lemon juice

Salt to rim

Rim a martini glass with salt. Then shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into the prepared glass and serve.

The Light Infantry

This is the perfect cocktail to sip while singing “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” if you’re into that kind of thing. You don’t really have to sing, but we highly recommend this decadent combo of whiskey, vermouth, and Lillet. Perfect for November evenings that are chilly and crisp.

Recipe

2 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. Lillet (just use more vermouth if you can’t find Lillet)

1⁄2 oz. Cocchi Vermouth de Torino

4 dashes orange bitters

1 large, thick orange peel, for garnish

Instructions

Place rye, Lillet, vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice and stir. Rub the orange peel around the rim of a chilled martini glass; strain the drink into a glass. Twist orange peel over the drink to release its oils and add to glass. Garnish with a cherry, if you like.

Uncle Sam

Okay, this one doesn’t have some war-time history behind it, but it’s all out America with its patriotic color, and we’re pretty sure given the amount of alcohol, it’s sure to keep you warm on cold weather nights.

Recipe

1 oz Avalanche Cinnamon Schnapps

1 oz Avalanche Peppermint

1 oz Rumplemintz

Pour each ingredient in slowly to layer them in a glass. Don’t stir — the color is what makes this drink patriotic.

In June 1913, the crew of the USS Arkansas started referring to their social gatherings as Happy Hours, which included everything from boxing and wrestling matches to dancing, music and movies. By the end of WWI, Happy Hours had spread from the crew of the Arkansas to the rest of the navy. That didn’t last long, though, because General Order 99, issued in 1914, prohibited the use of alcohol on ships. Despite its stops and starts, Happy Hours eventually found their way into other branches of the military and in civilian social circles as well. Thanks, Navy!

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Hue City Marine is getting the Medal of Honor

A retired sergeant major credited with saving scores of Marines during one of the Vietnam War’s deadliest battles will receive the Medal of Honor, Military.com has confirmed.

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, 80, of Oxnard, California, learned he’ll receive the nation’s highest award for valor during a July 9 phone call from President Donald Trump. It was first reported Thursday by the Ventura County Star.

“He told me that it was OK to let my Marines know that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor,” Canley told Military.com. “He thanked me for my service and also wanted to thank my Marines for their service.”


The fight to see Canley’s Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor has been a years-long effort. The former company gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, is recognized with leading more than 140 men through an intense week-long battle to retake Hue City from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.

Canley, who’s from El Dorado, Arkansas, repeatedly braved heavy enemy fire to bring several wounded Marines to safety. When his company commander was seriously injured, Canley sprang into action, reorganizing his Marines by moving from one group to another to advise and encourage them, his Navy Cross citation states.

Former Pfc. John Ligato was one of those men. Ligato has spent the last 15 years making calls, taking Marines’ statements and writing letters to see his gunny get the recognition he deserved.

“The Medal of Honor was rejected 10 times — never on the merits of what he did, it was always procedural,” Ligato said. “There were times I gave up. … But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”
How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

John Canley’s Navy Cross citation.

(Presented by Home of Heroes)

Canley said his Marines were his only concern during the brutal battle. The average age of those fighting in the Vietnam War was just 19, he said, and they were looking for leadership.

“I’m just happy that I could provide that,” he said. “It was an honor.”

Ligato said Canley’s actions far exceeded expectations. There were 147 Marines facing off against about 10,000 North Vietnamese troops. Canley not only led them from the front, but also with love, he said.

“I know this sounds strange, but he wasn’t one of these gruff, screaming guys. You did stuff for him because you didn’t want to disappoint him,” he said. “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.

“He was totally fearless,” Ligato added. “He loved his Marines, and we loved him back.”

Also read: The real ‘G.I. Joe’ is one of four living WW2 Medal of Honor recipients

A date has not yet been set for the White House ceremony, but Ligato said Canley has asked him to speak about his company’s Marines. Many of them went back to their communities one-by-one, he said, speaking little about the horrors they saw in Vietnam.

When they did talk about it, though, there was always one common thread.

“We all had a Gunny Canley story,” Ligato said. “They were all different, but they all involved tremendous acts of valor.”

That’s why Ligato and some of his comrades have fought doggedly to have this honor bestowed, something Canley said has humbled him. From talking to members of Congress to Pentagon officials, they were determined to see this day come.

Canley’s Medal of Honor citation will be read by Marines for generations. The retired sergeant major, who’s battled prostate cancer since leaving Vietnam, said he hopes that those who go on to become staff noncommissioned officers or officers take away one simple message.

“That leadership is all about taking care of your people,” he said. “If you do that, then you basically don’t have to worry about the mission.”

This Medal of Honor will help fill in the blanks of one of the most important Marine Corps battles in history, Ligato said. The actions Canley showed on the battlefield 50 years ago epitomize what it means to be a Marine, he added.

“Marines have been doing this since 1775,” Ligato said. “Every once in a while, you have a Chesty Puller, a John Basilone or a John Canley. I think Marines reading his citation can take away that the Marine Corps is timeless.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter. Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain is no longer a ‘tier one’ military power

Theresa May asked Britain’s defence secretary to justify the UK’s role as a “tier one” military power, causing dismay in the Ministry of Defence. Underlying the statement is a realisation that the UK can no longer economically compete with top powers, defence experts told Business Insider.

“It’s a reflection of our economic status — times are tough,” said Tim Ripley, a defence analyst, adding: “It’s all about money… if you don’t have money you can’t spend it.”

The Prime Minister questioned defence secretary Gavin Williamson on whether money for the military should be reallocated to areas like cyber, and if Britain needed to maintain a Navy, Army, Air Force and nuclear deterrent all at once.


Ripley called it a retreat from “grand ambitions.”


“No matter how we dress it up, this new fangled cyber stuff is just an excuse for running away from funding hard power,” Ripley said. “If you don’t pony up the money and the hard power you don’t get a seat at the top table. No matter how flash your cyber warfare is, people take notice of ships, tanks and planes.”

There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers including the US, China and Russia all demonstrate their strength through military posturing, and countries that don’t have enough resources for defence often pool with others.

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Portrait of British Prime Minister Theresa May

Dr Jan Honig, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said that shared defence can be disrupted in times of nationalism, and called it “highly ironic” that Brexit could mean the UK can longer fund its military.

“You can’t really do it by yourself even if you spent a lot more on defence which is not going to happen in this country with this measly economic growth and the uncertainty about international trade details,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come in the context of her recent pledge of a fresh £20 billion for the National Health Service (NHS) and debate about where the money will come from.

“You do want to ensure that government policy has support from the people, so to say we’re going to pour a lot of money into defense just in case something happens … is a far more difficult thing to sell than funding the NHS and social care, welfare that is an immediate issue,” said Honig, adding that populations are also more switched on to the horrors of war.

But Julian Lewis, Chair of the UK’s defence committee told Business Insider that he’s now concerned about whether May will be able to properly fund the military after the NHS pledge.

“I am not won over … by this jargon of calling it a ‘tier one’ military power… What I’m much more concerned about is whether Theresa May will be able to give defence the money it needs,” he said, citing a “whole” of over £4.2 billion in the defence budget.

May’s comments will not lead to definitive action to pair down the military, but are a clear sign of the direction of travel said Ripley.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military origin of the classic gin and tonic cocktail

Some days, you just feel like you need a drink. Other days, you can’t live without one. For hundreds — maybe thousands — of English troops, there’s one drink that literally saved their lives: the gin and tonic.


It all started when the Spanish learned that Quechua tribesmen in the 1700s (in what is now Peru) would strip the bark from cinchona trees and grind it to help stop fever-related shivering. The active ingredient in the cinchona power was a little chemical known as quinine. It didn’t take long before Spain began to use the remedy to fight malaria.

Eventually, the treatment made its way around the world, helping the British colonial government in India maintain order.

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Any gin is a better complement to wood shavings than wine.

Whilethe French mixed the cinchona with wine, the British mixed theirs with gin,sugar, and,often, a bit of lemon. Later on, this mixture became even more pleasantwhen a Swiss jeweler of German descent, Johann Jakob Schweppe, created amixture of bubbly soda water, citrus, and quinine—and calledit “Schweppes Indian Tonic Water.”

By 1869, Indian companies were manufacturing their own soda water and lemon tonics. With easy access to the soda and one of Britain’s favorite spirits, the redcoats were free to continue colonizing the subcontinent unabated by pesky mosquitoes.

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Too bad there wasn’t a cocktail that helped the British conquer Afghanistan.

Today’s tonic water has much less quinine in it. To prevent malaria, you’d need between 500-1,000 milligrams of quinine, but consuming an entire liter of tonic water today would only get you about 83-87 milligrams. Quinine alone isn’t even an effective treatment for the disease anymore, as malarial parasites have grown resistant to the drug. These days, a drug cocktail is more effective at malaria prevention than quinine alone.

So, bring along your Hendrick’s and Tonic, but don’t forget to bring your malaria pills, too.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent pledge to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “very soon” now that the Islamic State (IS) militant group has been largely defeated there.

Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on April 2, 2018, that Russia had recently seen what he called “worrisome” signs that U.S. troops were “getting deeply entrenched” in areas east of the Euphrates River that they recently helped liberate from IS.


Trump’s statement late March 2018, shows that “he is committed at least to the previous promises the United States will leave Syria after victory over the Islamic State,” Russian state-run news agency TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.

Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been urging the United States for months to pull its 2,000 or so troops out of Syria, maintaining that their presence on Syrian territory is a violation of international law.

Assad frequently points out that he did not invite U.S. troops to join the seven-year civil war like he did when he invited Russian forces in 2015, and Iranian forces and militias since the beginning of the war in 2011.

In response to Russia’s calls to leave Syria, top U.S. officials have said they intended to keep U.S. troops there as long as needed to protect U.S. allies in the war-torn country and ensure that IS does not make a comeback in its former Syrian strongholds.

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A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired in March 2018, citing significant policy differences, argued in January 2018, that U.S. forces must remain engaged in Syria not only to prevent IS and al-Qaeda from returning, but to deny Iran a chance to “further strengthen its position in Syria.”

Pentagon leaders have made similar statements. Defense Department spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on April 2, 2018, that “our mission has not changed… We are continuing to implement the president’s strategy to defeat [IS].”

But Trump’s statement on March 29, 2018 — telling supporters in the U.S. state of Ohio that “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now” — suggested Trump may be thinking differently about Syria than some of his top advisers.

In another sign Trump may be mulling a pull-out, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that he is holding up $200 million in U.S. funding earmarked to go toward stabilizing areas of eastern Syria recaptured from IS.

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President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Lavrov’s comments welcoming Trump’s eagerness to leave Syria come as Russia and Syria have been clearing out the last remnants of armed rebel groups that once largely controlled the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta through a series of negotiated pull-outs.

The Russian military and Syrian state media reported on April 2, 2018, that the largest rebel group, Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), has started evacuating from the area’s last holdout town, Douma.

The SANA news agency said two buses carrying the rebels left Douma heading for Jarablus, a town in north Syria shared between rebels and Turkish forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, also reported that the last rebels are leaving Douma, handing Syria and Russia their biggest potential win since they regained control of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un seems to be caving to Trump before they meet

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon said on April 19, 2018, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.


According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.

“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea — the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.

Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.

“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.

Why that may be too good to be true

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Kim discussing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in an undated photo released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency on September 3, 2017.
(KCNA photo)

For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.

North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.

Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.

Consider the messenger

Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.

With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
President Donald Trump andu00a0President Moon Jae-in.
(Republic of Korea photo)

Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.

While Trump and Moon maintain that their alliance is ironclad and they’re committed to peace, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, has argued extensively in favor of bombing North Korea, rarely mentioning how many South Koreans could die in a counterattack.

Maybe Trump really did nail it

Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Kim Jong Unu00a0meets with South Korea’s Chief of the National Security Office Chung Eui-yong in Pyongyangu00a0in discussion of peace talks between the countries.

Kim is also younger than his father, Kim Jong Il, was when he entered talks with the US, and he is possibly more open to changing his country. He has already allowed markets and capitalism to creep into the country, and he recently allowed South Korean pop bands to play a show, which he reportedly loved.

Today, North Korea is under greater sanctions pressure than ever before. Andrea Berger, an expert on North Korean sanctions at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Business Insider it had become virtually impossible to do any business with North Korea that wouldn’t violate international sanctions. Fuel prices are way up in the country, and reports of the people becoming disenchanted with their strict leadership roll in frequently.

Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.

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

Articles

DARPA designed a kit to make any plane or helicopter a drone

Move over, Jennifer Garner, there is a new ALIAS that’s more awesome than the show you were on for five seasons. This one, though, has been developed by DARPA, not JJ Abrams.


According to a report from Voactiv.com, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. This system, already tested on the Cessna C-208 Caravan, the Sikorsky S-76 and the Diamond DA-42, took about six months to develop through Phase 2 of the program.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Two versions of ALIAS were competing for the development contract. One was from Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the other was from Aurora Flight Systems. Both versions involve the use of a tablet computer (like an iPad or Kindle Fire) to fly the plane.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” DARPA program manager Scott Wierzbanowski said in a release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
The Queens Helicopter Flight S-76 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

DARPA selected Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s version for Phase 3 of the ALIAS program. Their version of ALIAS can be installed under the cabin floor, not taking up any space in the aircraft or helicopter, while quickly connecting to the flight systems of the plane or helicopter. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA have all expressed interest in this system.

For a sneak peek at one way this system could work, here is a video released by Aurora Flight Systems:

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 reasons why being a Roman Legionnaire would suck

The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.

But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today’s toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here’s why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would’ve sucked.


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Suddenly, Sergeant Major doesn’t seem so far away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Judith L. Harter)

Minimum enlistment requirement

It was 25 years. These days, when you sign the dotted line, you’re in for a minimum of four years and you have the option to stay longer to earn a pension and retirement benefits. The average Roman Legionnaire was expected to serve 25 years — no exceptions.

The retirement benefits, however, involved getting a nice piece of land within the empire to spend the rest of your days — If you don’t die first, that is.

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It doesn’t make this suck any less, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

Long, forced marches… Every day.

If you think the 20-kilometer hike you just did last Wednesday, the 25 kilometers you had to do the night before Christmas leave, or the 30-mile hike you did in Korea sucked, just think about what you’d have to do as a Roman Legionnaire. These guys had to carry their entire kit 90 miles, every day.

This kit included their armor, weapons, shield, and a backpack, which contained the equipment needed to help build camps. Additionally, they had to carry their rations and cooking gear.

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Remember this? It would be more regular as a Roman Legionnaire.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Marching cadence

Remember those 90-mile forced marches we mentioned? Imagine your company commander calling cadence the whole time. Well, that’s what Centurions did for their Centuries. They would call, “right, left,” the whole time, starting with the right, of course, because the left was seen as wrong or evil.

That’s why issued rifles are made for right-handed war heroes.

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The amount of training probably saved a lot of lives…

(History Answers)

Weapons training

In the Roman Legion, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast with your seven tent mates and then you do a little weapons training. By a little, we mean a lot. You’re training every morning with your gear and wooden weapons and shields that weigh twice as much as your regular gear, constantly going against your friends to become a much better warrior.

This is a good thing, but you know you complain about three-day field ops. Yes, you do.

The pay was salt

And you thought your steady income and clothing allowance was bad. Granted, the Roman Legion did pay their soldiers but, at the time, salt was worth quite a bit. So, a soldier would get paid in salt.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FEKU9dpJaJTXLq.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=0&h=581a4a9fd34cc78e09410d8d43eea0624e3725ff08111e5366544cb8957e5122&size=980x&c=2866231099 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FEKU9dpJaJTXLq.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D0%26h%3D581a4a9fd34cc78e09410d8d43eea0624e3725ff08111e5366544cb8957e5122%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2866231099%22%7D” expand=1]

Gunny Hartman would’ve had a great time, though.

The hazing was terrible

If you think your seniors duct-taping a mattress to you and having you take a leap of faith from the third story of your barracks was bad — it was so much worse the Roman Legion.

Remember those annoying Centurions from the marches? They carried a vine branch to whip the disobedient and it was totally okay for them to do so. Getting whipped for stepping out of line is pretty mild considering your friends could stone you to death for being a coward or trying to desert — and that’s only barely scratching the surface of Roman Legion punishments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers to get Army’s new uniforms in 2020 after finalized design

The Army plans to begin issuing its newly announced Army Greens to new soldiers beginning in summer 2020, the service’s senior enlisted leader said Nov. 19, 2018.

Army Secretary Mark Esper approved the Nov. 11, 2018 adoption of the much-discussed Army Greens, which all soldiers must wear by 2028. The new uniform, recently renamed by service brass, is a version of the iconic pinks-and-greens uniform Army officers wore during World War II.

“This uniform is still in the minds of many Americans. This nation came together during World War II and fought and won a great war,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s what the secretary and [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] wanted to do, is capitalize on the greatest generation because there is another great generation that is serving today, and that is the soldiers serving in the United States Army.”


Soldiers currently serving in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves will be able to purchase the new uniform in summer 2020, but they do not have to buy it until 2028, Army officials have said. The current blue Army Service Uniform (ASU) will become the service’s optional dress uniform.

“I know it seems like a long time,” Dailey said, explaining that the extended phase-in period is designed to give enlisted soldiers time to save up their annual clothing allowance to pay for the new uniform. “We’ve got to give the soldier ample time to be paid for those uniform items prior to it being required for them to wear it.”

He said it would be “premature” to release the estimated cost of the new uniform.

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Soldier Models of the proposed Pink and Green daily service uniform display the outfits overcoat, as they render the hand salute during the National Anthem at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Army-Navy Game Dec. 9, 2017.

“We have an estimated cost,” he said. “We are not done with any contracting at this point, so it would be premature to give you any of those costs. What we do know is that, because of the measures we are taking, it is going to be cost neutral to the taxpayer and the soldier in the long run.”

Dailey justified the cost of the new, more-expensive Army Greens uniform by saying it will last longer than the current-issue ASU.

“The estimated cost of the new [Army] Greens uniform is higher than that of the current service blue uniform … because it is a higher-quality uniform,” he said. “We could easily make it the same cost, but that’s not the intent here. The intent here is to increase the quality of the uniform, and that is why we extended the life of the uniform.”

The new Greens jacket will be made of a 55-percent/45-percent “poly-wool elastique.” The pants will feature a gabardine weave made of a 55/45 poly-wool combination as well. The shirt will be made of a 75-percent/25-percent cotton-poly blend, said Army officials, explaining that service life of the Army Greens is six years compared to the ASU’s four years.

“We went for a higher-quality fabric. The uniform costs more as a result … but we intended to do that because one of the chief of staff of the Army’s directives to us was build a higher-quality uniform, which inherently costs more,” Dailey said. “And the way you offset that is you capitalize on the life of that uniform based upon its higher quality.”

Despite the recent adoption announcement, the Army Greens design is not yet finalized.

“There were some design changes all the way up until the week before the secretary made the decision,” Dailey said.

The uniform prototype Dailey wore recently at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October 2018 featured a jacket belt with a gold buckle, he said, adding that the final design will be more subdued.

“The chief of staff has made a slight change on the length of the collar on the male jacket,” Dailey said. “From a design perspective, it’s the right decision the chief made.”

The jacket buttons will also feature an antique finish instead of a brass color, Army officials said.

“The next set of photographs we want to get out to the media, we want them to be accurate” to show the final design, Dailey said.

Before the Army starts issuing the redesigned uniform to the force, the service intends to field 200 sets of Army Greens for a final evaluation.

“We are in the process of being able to produce about 200 uniforms that we want to issue out to designated forward-facing units … and when I say ‘forward-facing units,’ I’m really talking recruiters,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, head of Project Manager Soldier Protection Individual Equipment. “Then, what we will do is get feedback from those soldiers on how to better refine the uniform so that when we go to final production … we have a comprehensive uniform design that soldiers like.”

Officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said the process should be complete by summer 2019.

“This is a great day to be a solder,” Dailey said. “As I go around and have talked to soldiers in the last few days … they are very excited about it, and the overwhelming majority are just truly excited about the new uniform.”

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

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