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 gun that makes the Warthog’s BRRRRRT is also on ships

The A-10 Thunderbolt is arguably the best close-air support plane in history thanks, primarily, to its GAU-8 cannon. The seven-barreled, 30mm Gatling gun holds 1,129 rounds and can chew up a modern tank. Despite its massive success in the air, the GAU-8 has proven to be far more versatile. Believe it or not, the GAU-8 is also at the heart of a last-ditch, anti-missile system used by a number of navies. That system is called the Goalkeeper.


The Goalkeeper uses a combination of sophisticated radars to detect incoming threats, typically missiles, and fires rounds from its cannon to obliterate the target before it can harm the ship. In function, this defense system is very similar to the U.S.’s Phalanx — the albino-R2D2 looking thing found on virtually every American ship built since the 1980s. The Phalanx, by comparison, uses the M61, a 20mm Gatling gun. It’s been upgraded over the years and has an effective range of roughly one mile.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A Goalkeeper CIWS. This uses the GAU-8, normally found on the A-10, to achieve twice the range of the Phalanx. (US Navy photo)

The Phalanx, however, cannot completely prevent a ship from taking damage — the system’s range is too short to guarantee full diffusion. That being said, the damage a ship endures after an incoming projectile is struck by the gun is from fragments rather than a direct hit. The ship may spend a lot of time replacing radars and fixing other gear, but it beats being sunk. The Goalkeeper, on the other hand, intends to reduce the risk of even that damage

According to NavWeaps.com, the Goalkeeper has almost twice the effective range of the Phalanx. The longer range and more powerful rounds mean that when an enemy missile is hit, not as many fragments hit the ship — and those that do will do so with much less energy. This reduces the damage done to the ship and can even make the difference between keeping a ship in the fight and going back to port for lengthy repairs.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Goalkeeper close-in weapon system onboard HMS Illustrious. (Royal Navy photo)

The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy initially used the system. South Korea later acquired a number of the systems for their surface combatants and the system now serves with the Peruvian, Belgian, Qatari, Chilean, and Portuguese navies.

See the Goalkeeper bring BRRRRRT to a ship in the video below!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this Royal Marine’s real-world Iron Man jetpack suit

Life imitates art once more, this time in the form of former Royal Marine-turned inventor-turned entrepreneur Richard Browning. Working from his Salisbury, UK garage, the inventor founded a startup that invented, built, and patented an individual human flight engine that comes as close to Iron Man as anything the world has ever seen – and Richard Browning is as close to Tony Stark as anyone the world has ever encountered.

Browning set out to reimagine what human-powered flight meant, and came out creating a high-speed, high-altitude flight system that has the whole world talking.


In the video above, Browning visits the United States’ East Coast aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest aircraft carrier in the fleet. Technically, he gets to the coast first, departing the carrier via Gravity’s Daedalus system, the name given to what the world has dubbed “the Iron Man suit.”

Of course, the suit is far from the arc reactor-powered repulsor engines that double as energy weapons featured in the comics, but the Daedalus flight system is still a marvel of engineering that has set the world record for fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. That record was set two years ago, and by 2019, Browning made real improvements to the system. The first system was a lightweight exoskeleton attached to six kerosene-powered microturbines. He flew 32 miles per hour to break that record in 2017. In 2019, he flew the suit at 85 miles per hour.

Today, the suit is entirely 3D-printed, making it lighter, stronger, and faster.

“It truly feels like that dream of flying you have sometimes in your sleep,” Browning said. “You are entirely and completely free to move effortlessly in three dimensional space and you shed the ties of gravity.”

In November 2019, Browning flew the suit from the south coast of England to the Isle of Wright, some 1.2 km. This may not sound like much, but it broke another world record, this time for distance in a body-controlled jet engine powered suit. He says the suit can fly at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, but it’s just not yet safe to attempt those speeds. It turns out, it’s just not so easy to control the suit. It takes a massive amount of sustained physical effort to counter the thrust created by the arm engines.

Browning himself is an ultramarathon runner, triathlete, and endurance canoeist. He cycles almost 100 miles a week, including a 25-mile run every Saturday morning, as well as three “intense” calisthenics sessions every week just for the strength and endurance to fly his invention.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Hollywood honors the behind-the-scenes liaison who makes military movies happen

As Hollywood’s awards season wraps up with the Oscars, it’s easy to believe that Hollywood glamour and military might are like oil and water: Two very separate worlds that only intersect on the screen.

While Hollywood might love taking military stories and putting them up on the screen, the military involvement is usually all but forgotten when the red carpets are rolled out and the glitterati are all dressed up in their tuxedos and gowns with the flash bulbs popping.


Like the military, for every high-profile celebrity, there’s a couple hundred crew members supporting them, from the always present agents and assistants, to the camera and lighting crews, and even the guys who drive the trucks and cook the food every day on set. Just as any admiral or general could never win a battle without the hard work of the brave men and women in their command, every big-name actor and director also owes their celebrity on the work of the often under-appreciated crew behind the scenes.

One of those valuable yet often under-appreciated components is that provided by the US military, which could fill an article on its own, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Among the many awards offered by Hollywood this year, one award deserves special recognition.

The California On Location Awards recognizes the contributions of the logistical backbone of Hollywood: the location professionals and public employees responsible for making filming possible. Without the contributions of location managers and public employees, Hollywood could never venture off the studio lot, and it’s the location managers who negotiate with the city, state, and federal employees in order to facilitate access to public roads, gritty alleys, exquisite mansions, alien landscapes, and the tanks, aircraft carriers, and military transports required to give any military-based project the level of realism viewers expect.

One man has been responsible for providing much of the military hardware seen on screen.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Phil receives his award from the California On Location Awards.

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

That man is Phil Strub, the recently retired Department of Defense’s Entertainment Liaison. A former Navy cameraman and Vietnam vet, he used his GI Bill to earn a film degree from USC, and was appointed to the Entertainment Liaison Desk at the Pentagon in 1989 following the phenomenal success of Top Gun; not only for Hollywood, but for DoD as well.

As the Department of Defense’s point person for any project wishing to use US military assets on screen, Phil has provided a constant bridge to Hollywood for almost 30 years. From his first project, Hunt For Red October to the new Top Gun, Phil has been a true asset to Hollywood and America.

This year, the COLAs recognized Phil’s contributions to Hollywood with its Distinguished Service Award. Presented by David Grant, Marvel’s VP of Physical Production, he praised Phil’s efforts on their films, from the first Iron Man to the eagerly awaited Captain Marvel.

While Hollywood loves to honor themselves for their own contributions, this award is a testament to Hollywood’s appreciation of all that DoD and the brave men and women who serve can provide, and for that reason, was one of the most important, under-reported award given out this year due to the morale value such awards have in sustaining Hollywood’s continued relationship with its government partners.

If there’s one thing the military does well, it’s recognizing the immense value of each and every member of its chain of command. Whether it be the individual qualification certificates, promotion ceremonies, retirement shadow boxes, or the fruit salad of ribbons on a soldier’s chest, they make a point of recognizing every individual from the lowest enlisted recruit to the five star brass, and understand that such recognition is important to unit cohesiveness and morale.

It’s a lesson Hollywood would do well to remember. It’s not just the big names that deserve recognition, but the hundreds of lesser known craftsmen behind the scenes who also deserve their 15 minutes of fame. Without them, the big names wouldn’t have anything to celebrate.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fast-tracking promotions can ultimately hurt the unit

Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.

Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.

Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.

(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)

While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.

The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:

  1. leaders who care about their soldiers,
  2. leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
  3. leaders who are knowledgeable.

Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)

There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.

Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.

Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)

Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.

As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 advanced Russian weapons (that don’t actually work)

Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.


Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.

Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!

Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.

Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill

youtu.be

Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria

In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.

According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Dude’s practically invisible!

Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot

Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.

Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

About as far as it goes.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment

In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.

But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, Canadian fighters intercept Russian spy planes north of Alaska

Two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft lingered in U.S.-Canadian air defense space Monday for hours after being intercepted by fighter jets, defense officials said.


The two Russian planes were intercepted by U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s, a version of the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, officials said in a release.

The ADIZ surrounds the United States and Canada, stretching west of Alaska to cover the Semichi Islands, south of Russia. It’s jointly defended by both countries, and foreign aircraft are not permitted to fly alone in ADIZ airspace without authorization.

The F-22s and CF-18s were supported by U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker refueler and E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft, officials said.

“[North American Aerospace Defense Command] fighter aircraft escorted the Tu-142s for the duration of their time in the ADIZ,” officials said. “The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace over the Beaufort Sea, and came as close as 50 nautical miles to the Alaskan coast. The Russian aircraft did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Officials did not say that the Russian planes acted unprofessionally in the space or otherwise presented a threat.

“NORAD continues to operate in the Arctic across multiple domains,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, NORAD commander, said in a statement. “As we continue to conduct exercises and operations in the north, we are driven by a single unyielding priority: defending the homelands.”

Monday’s episode is similar to one in August 2019, when two Tu-142s entered the ADIZ and were tracked electronically by NORAD early warning system radars. No aircraft intercept was made in that case, however.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Helicopter-mounted lasers can attack and destroy sea mines

The US Navy used an MH-60S helicopter-mounted laser system to scan and detect underwater mine-like targets during the ongoing multi-national Rim of the Pacific exercise, marking the first operational use of an emerging technology bringing much faster detection and a wider Field of View to countermine missions.

The now-operational technology, called Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), enables efficient, high-speed shallow water mine detection for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Eightballers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 provides cargo transportation during a replenishment-at-sea.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marco Villasana/Released)

“This is the first opportunity for a non-test-centric fleet exercise. It has been placed in sailors’ hands and we are looking forward to getting training feedback and tactics feedback. This is the first real operational exercise,” Capt. Danielle George, Program Manager, Mine Warfare, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

George said that the Navy is now analyzing findings and key data emerging from the RIMPAC exercises.

“Another system performs post-mission analysis. ALMDS collects all the data and when the helo returns, it will download. Then you have options for how you can destroy the mine,” George said.

Instead of using more narrowly configured, mechanized or towed mine detection systems, ALMDS massively expands the surface area from which mine detection takes place. Naturally, this enables shallow-water warships such as the LCS have a much safer sphere of operations as commanders will have much greater advanced warning of mine-cluttered areas.

The ALMDS pod is mechanically attached to the MH-60S with a standard Bomb Rack Unit 14 mount and electrically via a primary and auxiliary umbilical cable to the operator console, according to a statement from the systems maker, Northrop Grumman.

Also read: American pilots are being targeted by lasers in the Pacific

“It does not use any bombs. It flies at a certain altitude and a certain speed. The laser emits beams at a certain rate. Cameras underneath the helicopter receive reflections back from the water. The reflections are processed to create images displayed on a common consol on the helicopter,” Jason Cook, the Navy’s Assistant Program Manager, ALMDS, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Cook explained that the camera or receiver on the helicopter is called a Streak Tube Imaging LIDAR (STIL). The laser is released in a fan pattern, and photons received back are transferred into electrons, create a camera-like image rendering.

“Instead of a human out searching and sweeping, ALMDS achieves a higher rate of speed and covers a lot more area,” he added.

Northrop information on ALMDS further specifies that the system can operate in both day and night operations without stopping or towing equipment in the water.

“Allowing unteathered operations, it can attain high area search rates. This design uses the forward motion of the aircraft to generate image data negating the requirement for complex scanning mechanisms and ensuring high system reliability,” Northrop information states.

Having this technology operational, it seems, offers a few new strategic nuances. First and foremost, detecting mines more quickly and at further ranges of course makes the LCS much more survivable. It will be able to pursue attack, anti-submarine and reconnaissance missions with a much lower risk of mine-attack. Furthermore, identifying the location of mines at greater distances brings the added advantage of enabling lower-risk small boat missions to approach target areas for shore missions, surface attack or recon.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Sikorsky SH-60/MH-60 Seahawk (or Sea Hawk) is a twin turboshaft engine, multi-mission United States Navy helicopter based on the United States Army UH-60 Black Hawk and a member of the Sikorsky S-70 family.

Also, given that attack submarines are routinely able to launch attacks, conduct recon and access enemy areas in closer proximity to island and coastal areas, compared with many deeper draft larger surface combatants, ALMDS could measurably improve submarine operations.

Finally, given that the LCS is engineered for both autonomous and aggregated operations, ALMDS could provide occasion for the ship to alert other surface and undersea vessels about the location of enemy mines. In fact, Northrop writes that ALMDS provides accurate target geo-location to support follow on neutralization of the detected mines.

Along these lines, George explained that ALMDS is oriented toward shallow portions of the water column, thus brining a special littoral tactical advantage; the ALMDS will eventually be integrated into the LCS’ Mine Countermeasures mission package.

Some of the technical details of the system are further delineated in a research paper written by Arete Associates – a science and technology consulting firm with a history of supporting entities such as the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force.

“A high resolution 3-D image of the scene is produced from multiple sequential frames formed by repetitively pulsing the laser in synchrony with the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) frame rate as an airborne platform “push broom” scans or as a single-axis scanner on a ground-based platform scans the laser fan beam over the scene,” the Arete Associates essay titled “Streak Tube Imaging LIDAR For 3-D Imaging of Terrestrial Targets, writes. “The backscattered light from the objects and the terrain intersecting the fan beam is imaged by a lens.”

STIL technology, while only recently becoming operational with ALMDS, has been in development as a maritime surveillance system for many years. A 2003 study from the Naval Surface Warfare Center cites how “pulsed light” sent out from a three-dimensional electro-optic sensor STIL system can “identify objects of interest on the ocean bottom.”

The Arete essay also talk about STIL technology also being developed and tested for use as a “missile seeker” by weapons and a sensor system for an Air Force C-130 aircraft.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

2 more women attempt Air Force special warfare training

Two more women are attempting to enter the U.S. Air Force’s combat controller and pararescue (PJ) battlefield airman career fields.

The women, who were not identified for privacy reasons, are the first to enter the official training pipelines of those career fields, according to 1st Lt. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for the Special Warfare Training Wing.

However, they are not the first two female candidates to attempt PJ or combat controller training overall, he said Nov. 1, 2019.


“One candidate is pursuing pararescue, [but] she is currently not in training,” Huggins said in an email. “The most common reasons for this are medical hold, administrative hold or waiting for a training class to begin. The second woman is a combat control (CCT) candidate, and she is currently in the Special Warfare Preparatory Class.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas)

The prep class runs eight weeks. Once she graduates, she will proceed to the Assessment and Selection (AS) course, he added.

The two new candidates make the 10th and 11th women to attempt any type of battlefield courses under the Special Warfare Training Wing, and the 11th and 12th to express interest in the program since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to all in December 2015.

Of the female candidates who have previously attempted to join the service’s special warfare program, seven pursued Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training; one tried pararescue training. Another woman recently dropped from the special reconnaissance program — previously known as special operations weather team, or SOWT — in August 2019, according to Air Education and Training Command.

The 10th, who attempted to become a combat controller, left the program, Huggins said. AETC previously mistakenly said that she had graduated the prep course.

The battlefield airmen career fields are comprised of special tactics officer, combat rescue officer, combat controller, pararescue, special reconnaissance, TACP specialist and air liaison officer.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Huggins said it’s no secret that these career fields are tough.

“There is no specific timeline as to when we’ll see our first woman serving as a Special Warfare airman in one of the seven combat-related career fields,” he said. “From start to finish, it may take up to two years for a woman to join an operational unit because of the Air Force’s natural timeline to recruit, access, select and train.”

Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel that attrition in these career field pipelines has been high because of the grueling training.

Attrition across the elite training pipelines ranges between 40 and 90 percent, depending on specialty, he added.

“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said in February 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Use these 4 tips from Winston Churchill to write better emails

Emails- They are the bane of our existence, but they are how we communicate in the modern world. Each day, military leaders clean out their inboxes only to have them fill back up within hours. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Too often, the purpose of the email is buried, with the sender seeming to aim for length rather than substance. Unfortunately, many of these garbled messages create misalignment in organizations, waste time, money and in some extreme cases–lives.


Why does it matter? It matters because being able to effectively communicate through writing provides leaders and staff officers with understanding and the ability to act. Additionally, when we communicate efficiently, we give the person we’re communicating with time back to focus on other things besides reading emails or multi-page SITREPs.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Eighty years ago, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill faced a similar problem. Every day he received a large volume of typed reports in his black box from his War Cabinet. And as he pointed out in a 1940 memorandum titled BREVITY, “Nearly all of [the reports] are too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”

Fortunately for us, Sir Winston offered his staff four tips that can help us improve our communication skills today.

  1. The aim should be reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs
  2. If a report relies on a detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an Appendix.
  3. Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress report, but an aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.
  4. Let us have an end to such phrases as these: “It is also important to bear in mind the following considerations…..” or “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect……” Most of these wooly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it is conversationalized.
How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

www.history.navy.mil

In other words

Less is more. When writing emails, brevity is better. A long email can overcomplicate an issue and your main message may get lost in the process.

I’ve learned that it is best to open emails with one or two sentences that describe the purpose of your correspondence. It also helps to let them know upfront if you are telling them for awareness or if you want them to make a decision. When you do it well, you don’t need to write the letters “BLUF” because it will be inherent. If you have suspense, include it upfront. And then end your paragraph there.

So as many of us spend the next several weeks working from home, let us take a page from Churchill’s notebook.

Be brief. Be brilliant. Hit send.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is alarmed by the creation of the Space Force

Russia has expressed alarm over President Donald Trump’s pledge to maintain U.S. dominance in space and create a separate branch of the military called the “space force.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova voiced Russia’s concerns on June 20, 2018, a day after Trump said that “America will always be the first in space.” He also said, “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us.”


In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new “space force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces — a proposal that requires congressional approval.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Zakharova said during a news briefing in Samara that Russia “noted the U.S. president’s instructions…to separate space forces from the air force,” saying, “The most alarming thing about this news is the aim of his instructions, namely to ensure [U.S.] domination in space.”

Zakharova accused the United States of “nurturing plans to bring out weapons into space with the aim of possibly staging military action there.”

She warned that if realized, such plans would have a “destabilizing effect on strategic stability and international security.”

While Russia has a branch of the military called “space forces,” their activities are “purely defensive,” the spokeswoman insisted.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first US-North Korea talks in years could happen by May

President Donald Trump gave a timeline for the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and appeared to be optimistic for a positive outcome.

“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June 2018, and I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea,” Trump said on April 9, 2018, according to Reuters.


“They’ve said so. We’ve said so,” Trump continued. “Hopefully, it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years.”

On April 8, 2018, a US official confirmed that North Korea was willing to discuss the subject of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un.
(KCNA)

The CIA has reportedly been in communication with representatives from North Korea, setting up backchannels, according to multiple news reports. Officials from the two countries were reportedly communicating with the intent to establish an appropriate venue for the talks and other details ahead of the summit.

Trump’s statement comes amid North Korean state-sponsored media’s acknowledgement of the bilateral talks.

The two Korean leaders are set to hold their own historic summit on April 27, 2018, the first in 11 years, between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time engineers at China Lake MacGyvered a laser-guided missile

Laser-guided bombs had proven to be a winner during the Vietnam War. There was just one minor problem: Their range was relatively short. This was actually a big deal for pilots, who had to deal with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns trying to shoot them down.

Some geeks at the Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, though, had a thought. They took a typical GBU-16 Paveway II laser guided-bomb, which was centered on the Mk 83 1,000-pound general purpose bomb. Now, a 1,000-pound bomb might seem small compared to the 2,000-pound bombs many planes carry today, but in World War II, the 1,000-pound bomb was good enough to sink carriers.


But what these geeks did was add a rocket motor from the AGM-45 Shrike, an anti-radar missile used to shut down enemy air defenses, to the back of the Paveway. The result was a weapon that gave the A-6 Intruder one heck of a punch. It certainly worked out better for Navy pilots than that JATO rocket did for a Chevy Impala driver who may or may not have existed.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Skipper’s primary component is, for all intents and purposes, a GBU-16 laser-guided bomb. Engineers at China Lake stuck a Shrike’s rocket motor on the back, and got a weapon that could hit a target 14 nautical miles away.

(US Navy photo)

The missile took some time to win over the brass, but they eventually gave it a designation – the AGM-123 – and a name: Skipper. Over 2,500 were purchased. The Skipper got its name because of the way the guidance fins on the Paveway worked: They tended to make very sharp turns, so it would appear like the missile was skipping like a stone across a pond.

The Skipper was primarily intended to take out enemy ships from beyond the range of their defenses. They had their moment in the sun during Operation Preying Mantis, the American retaliation in the wake of the mining of the guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58).

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Iranian frigate Sahand was on the receiving end of two Skippers and a bunch of other weapons during Operation Preying Mantis.

(US Navy photo)

Four Skippers were used against the Iranian frigate Sahand, which was eventually sunk. The Skipper also saw some action during Operation Desert Storm. It had an effective range of almost 14 nautical miles, although its rocket could propel it up to 30 nautical miles. The real limitation came not from its improvised nature, but from the range of laser designators currently in service.

The Skipper was retired in the post-Cold War drawdowns of the 1990s, which also claimed the plane that wielded it most of the time, the A-6 Intruder. Still, for a while, it gave the Navy a very powerful and precise punch.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information