DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban - We Are The Mighty
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DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

A new book by a longtime defense journalist tells the story of how the Pentagon used creative methods involving technologically-savvy humanitarians to collect data on Afghanistan.


The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World,” tells the story of how the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) collaborated with a loosely associated group of “humanitarians, hacktivists, and technophiles” to collect crowd-sourced data in 2009, when the Taliban was taking power.

Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.

“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.

The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.

DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.

What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.

DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.

The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”

The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”

The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.

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This recreational drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress

Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.


As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Pure MDMA in crystal form (wikimedia commons)

Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.

Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.

In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 3 edition)

Here’s today’s rundown for those busy defending the nation (and those who support them):


Now: 4 military disguises that were just crazy enough to actually work 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘Big Five’ systems that helped win Desert Storm

America’s ground supremacy in the 21st century is due primarily to the “Big Five” Army acquisition of the 20th century. These five systems, although designed and procured with fighting the Soviets in mind, first proved their combined might in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Despite being built to stem a communist tide in the Fulda Gap of Germany, these five systems were instrumental in pushing the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait in 1991 and then toppling the Iraqi regime in 2003.

1. M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
M1A1 Abrams tanks of the 3rd Armored Division during Desert Storm (U.S. Army)

The M1 Abrams is to the Army what the F-15 Eagle is to the Air Force: iconic. Since the Marine Corps divested its tanks in 2020, the Army is now the sole American operator of the Abrams. Built to slug it out with Soviet T-72 and T-80 tanks, the Abrams entered service in 1980 to replace the M60 Patton tank. Despite being one of the heaviest tanks in modern service, its multi-fuel turbine engine can propel it to a limited top speed of 45 mph. Originally equipped with a 105mm rifled main gun, the M1A1 tanks that took part in Desert Storm were upgraded to a 120mm smoothbore main gun that fired an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot round. Combined with advanced Chobham composite armor, night vision optics, and modern rangefinders, the Abrams easily outclassed the Iraqi T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks. Of the nine Abrams tanks destroyed during Desert Storm, seven were destroyed by friendly fire. The other two were scuttled to prevent their capture after being damaged. Abrams tanks were also used in the Iraq War where they saw more close-quarters urban fighting in support of infantry house-to-house clearing operations.

2. M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
An M2 Bradley of the 24th Infantry Division (U.S. Army)

The M2 Bradley had a troubled development. It was mainly a response to the Soviet BMP infantry fighting vehicles which served as both armored personnel carriers and tank-killers. The existing M113 armored personnel carrier lacked offensive capabilities in its troop-carrier configuration and was too slow to keep up with the new M1 Abrams tank. The Bradley was given the M242 25mm autocannon for its main gun and a compliment of 2 TOW anti-tank missiles. To increase its survivability, it was also outfitted with spaced laminate armor. However, in making the Bradley more lethal, the Army sacrificed the vehicle’s cargo capacity and it could only carry six passengers in addition to its crew of three. Still, the Bradley served as an excellent scout and fighting vehicle during Desert Storm. During the 100 hours of ground combat, the Bradley actually destroyed more Iraqi armored vehicles than the Abrams. 20 Bradleys were destroyed—three by enemy fire and 17 by friendly fire. During the Iraq War, the Bradley proved to be more vulnerable to IEDs and close-quarter RPG attacks and was given upgraded reactive armor. Though Bradley losses rose, crew and passenger casualties remained relatively light.

3. AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
An AH-64 Apache in the Kuwaiti desert (U.S. Army)

Designed to replace the Vietnam-era AH-1 Cobra, the AH-64 Apache entered service with the Army in 1986. Armed with the M230 30mm chain gun and capable of carrying a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets, the Apache was built as a tin-opener for Soviet tanks. Its first action was in Panama during Operation Just Cause. General Carl Stiner, the operation’s commander, praised the Apache for its ability to deliver precision fire. “You could fire that Hellfire missile through a window from four miles away at night,” he said. It also was the Apache that fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm. On January 17, 1991, eight Apaches flew over the desert at low altitude and destroyed an Iraqi radar station. The attack opened a gap in the radar network that allowed the first Coalition air strikes to hit with surprise. 277 Apaches took part in the war and destroyed 278 tanks in addition to numerous other Iraqi vehicles. One Apache was lost after it was hit by an RPG, though the crew survived. A deadlier threat to the Apache was the desert sand. Built to fight in Europe, the early Apaches had no engine filters for the fine particulates. Ground crews came up with the ingenious solution of covering up the engines with pantyhose on the ground. With the addition of advanced optics and weapons management systems, the Apache has become one of the deadliest battlefield implements of the 21st century.

4. UH-60 Black Hawk Medium-Lift Utility Helicopter

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
A UH-60 Black Hawk lands to pick up troops (U.S. Army)

The UH-60 Black Hawk entered service in 1979 to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey, as the Army’s tactical transport helicopter. Designed to carry 11 combat-loaded troops, the Black Hawk was more survivable than the Huey thanks to its run-dry gearbox, redundant subsystems, armored seats, shock-absorbing landing gear, and ballistically-tolerant fuselage. It was first used during the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and saw action again during the invasion of Panama in 1989. During Desert Storm, the Black Hawk was instrumental in carrying out the largest air assault mission in U.S. Army history with over 300 helicopters involved. During the war, 2 Black Hawks were shot down on February 27, 1991 during a combat search and rescue mission. The Black Hawk has since been upgraded with electronic countermeasures, modern navigation systems, and in the case of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Direct Action Penetrator, M134 7.62mm miniguns and Hydra 70 2.75-inchrockets. Two stealth versions of the Black Hawk also helped to deliver the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden during Operation Neptune Spear in 2011.

5. MIM-104 Patriot Missile

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
A Patriot missile battery set up in the desert (U.S. Army)

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile that replaced both the MIM-14 Nike Hercules High to Medium Air Defense missile and the MIM-23 Hawk medium tactical air defense missile. Though it entered service in 1981, the Patriot was unproven in combat when it deployed to the Middle East in 1990. In addition to its anti-aircraft mission the Patriot was also called upon to intercept Iraqi Scud and Al Hussein missiles. Over the course of the war, Patriot missiles attempted to engage over 40 Iraqi missiles. On February 15, 1991, President George H. W. Bush visited Raytheon’s Patriot missile plant and praised its success in the Middle East. “Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!” The President’s claim of a 97% success rate was challenged by independent investigations into the Patriot’s effectiveness and a government investigation into a failed Scud intercept that resulted in the deaths of 28 American soldiers. The latter was blamed on a one-third of a second deviation in the system’s internal clock due to it being in operation for over 100 hours. Still, the Patriot remains the primary anti-ballistic missile system for America and its allies and is expected to remain in use until at least 2040.

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Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

When most people think of World War II, they probably think of soldiers fighting in Europe or Marines island-hopping in the Pacific. But it truly was a World War, and that included combat in some of Earth’s most frigid and inhospitable waters in the Arctic Circle.

The Soviets needed plenty of supplies to fight off the Germans, and it was up to the Allies to make it happen. Beginning in 1941, the Allies began sending convoys of merchant ships packed with food, ammunition, tanks, and airplanes, along with warship escorts.

 

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

But the freezing waters of the Arctic — and the German navy — didn’t make it easy.

Via the World War II Database:

The cold temperature in the arctic region also posed a risk in that sea splashes slowly formed a layer of ice on the decks of ships, which over time, if not tended to, could weigh so much that ships would become top-heavy and capsize. Of course, given the state of war, the German military also posed a great danger by means of surface warships, submarines, and aircraft. The threats, natural or otherwise, endangered the merchant ships throughout the entire length of the supply route. British destroyer HMS Matabele and Soviet trawler RT-68 Enisej of convoy PQ-8 were sunk by German submarine U-454 at the mouth of the Kola Inlet near the very end of their trip, British whaler HMS Sulla of PQ-9 capsized from ice build-up three days into her journey in the Norwegian Sea, while PQ-15 suffered the loss of three merchant ships on 2 May 1942 to German torpedo bomber attacks north of Norway.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
HMS Duke of York in heavy seas

Initially the ships met little resistance, as the Nazis were unaware of the resupply route. This quickly changed after Operation Dervish, the first convoy from Iceland to Archangelsk, Russia.

“After Dervish, the Germans did wake up to what was happening,” Eric Alley, who was on the first convoy, told The Telegraph. “The Luftwaffe and U-boats moved 
to northern Norway, so the convoys had to keep as far north as possible.”

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

The convoys were dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of the frigid waters and threat of Nazi U-boats and land-based aircraft. And summer made things much worse, which left ships completely exposed since the area had 24 hours of daylight.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

“That was hell. There is no other word I know for it,” wrote Robert Carse, in an account of an attack on his convoy that lasted for 20 hours. “Everywhere you looked aloft you saw them, crossing and recrossing us, hammering down and back, the bombs brown, sleek in the air, screaming to burst furiously white in the sea. All around us, as so slowly we kept on going, the pure blue of the sea was mottled blackish with the greasy patches of their bomb discharges. Our ship was missed closely time and again. We drew our breaths in a kind of gasping-choke.”

The convoys delivered more than four million tons of cargo, though at a heavy cost: 101 ships were sunk and roughly 3,000 Allied sailors lost their lives, according to The Telegraph.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

Here are more photos of what it was like:

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

NOW: Hitler’s secret Nazi war machines of World War II

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6 differences between the Air Force F-16 and the Navy’s F-18

The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet are both “lightweight” fighters. Each was intended to complement a larger, heavier fighter (the F-15 for the F-16, the F-14 for the F/A-18). But they also have some big differences. Let’s look over some of them:


1. The number of engines

The F-16 has one engine – the F/A-18 has two. This is largely due to their differing operational environments. The F-16 operates from land bases, while the F/A-18 operates primarily from carriers.

Of course, this also bears a lot on survivability. If an F-16 loses an engine, the pilot’s gotta grab the loud handle. An F/A-18, on the other hand, can limp back to the carrier.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

2. Operating from a carrier

The F-16 is tied to land bases – its landing gear cannot handle the shock of hitting a carrier deck. On the other hand, the F/A-18 can readily shift between a carrier operation and flying from land bases.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

3. Initial weapons suite

Did you know the F-16 originally didn’t have any radar-guided missiles? Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that early A/B versions (Blocks 1, 5, 10, and 15) didn’t have the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 15 ADF was the first version to carry a radar guided missile, the AIM-7.

The F/A-18, though, could carry radar-guided missiles from day one. This was because while the F/A-18 was replacing an attack plane, it was also intended to help defend the carrier.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

4. Pure speed

The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2.0. The F/A-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. Still, these planes are both very fast when they need to be. But in a pure drag race, the F-16 will win – and by a decent margin.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano

5. How they refuel

The F/A-18 uses a probe to latch into a drogue. The good news is that it can use just about anyone’s tankers – even USAF tankers, which are modified to carry drogues in addition to their booms.

The F-16s in the United States Air Force inventory, though, have a receptacle for the boom from a KC-135, KC-10, or KC-46 to plug into. Part of this is because the Air Force also has to refuel big bombers and cargo planes that need a lot of fuel quickly – and the boom can do just that.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screen grab

6. Movie career

The F-16 has a clear edge in this one. In the movie “Iron Eagle,” the F-16 is arguably the star alongside Louis Gossett, Jr. (Chappy Sinclair) and Jason Gedrick (Doug Masters). The F/A-18 played a role in “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t quite the star the F-16 was in Iron Eagle.

So, what other differences can you think of between these two planes?
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This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero in World War II, downing 23 German aircraft, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and being named the 5th deadliest fighter ace in the RAF.


Making his feats even more impressive was the fact that he did these things without legs.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Douglas Bader as photographed in 1940 with two prosthetic limbs but massive balls. Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

Bader was known for being an athletic kid. His family faced money problems after his father died of injuries sustained in World War I. Bader had to earn athletic scholarships to attend school. His prowess on the field also helped him get a cadetship to the Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928 where he earned a reputation for skill in the cockpit.

Two years later, Bader graduated and began flying in aerobatic displays for the RAF. In a 1931 show, he attempted a low-level display and crashed into the ground, sustaining severe injuries. Doctors decided they would have to amputate both of his legs beneath the knees to save him.

The charismatic pilot later wrote in his diary for that day, “Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.” He was a bit stoic.

Bader was forced out of the RAF by the injury but was promised that he could come back if war was declared. He spent the next few years learning to play sports with his tin prosthetics.

In 1939, he got his chance to re-enter the service and took it. He attended a pilot refresher course and was sent to Duxford, England in 1940. At Duxford, he was introduced to the Spitfire which he described as “the aeroplane of one’s dreams.”

Soon, he was flying combat missions. He participated in the evacuation at Dunkirk where he scored his first victory over a German aircraft.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Douglas Bader’s logbook show his first kill at the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Photo: Royal Air Force online exhibitions

With the English kicked out of Europe, Hitler quickly began laying the groundwork for an invasion of the kingdom and Bader was called on to help keep the Nazis out of England. In Jul. 1940, the Battle of Britain was on. Bader and his commander, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, pioneered the Big Wing strategy that summer which envisioned squadrons of fighters descending on German bombers and their fighter escorts.

It was credited at the time with forcing the Nazis to cease daytime bombing missions and postponing the potential invasion of Britain from 1940 to 1941. RAF pilots were heralded as heroes, Bader especially. Bader had racked up a stunning 23 aircraft kills, counting the one at Dunkirk. This made him the 5th most lethal pilot in the RAF.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Bader, his luck ran out Aug. 9 when he was hit over northern France and forced to bail out. At the time, Bader thought it was due to a collision with a Messerschmitt 109, but historical research decades later pointed to the possibility that another British pilot may have shot him down on accident.

Regardless, Bader found himself in a plane going down but was stuck in the cockpit because a prosthetic had become trapped under the rudder pedal. Bader made it out of the plane, but his right prosthetic was torn off in the process.

When he hit the ground, he was quickly captured by a group of Germans. In the United Kingdom, the Battle of Britain pilots had become famous and the double amputee/wing commander/fighter ace was one of the best-known pilots on the Allied side. The Germans quickly realized who they had captured and attempted to give Bader a pretty easy run of it. They recovered his wrecked leg and repaired it as best as they could.

Bader immediately attempted to escape on the repaired leg, climbing down a rope made of blankets and running away. He was soon recaptured.

Despite Bader’s escape attempt, the Germans offered safe passage for a British bomber to drop a replacement prosthetic for the damaged leg, but the RAF knew that the Germans would use it for publicity. Instead, they sent the leg on a bombing mission and had a Blenheim bomber drop the leg onto the camp during an otherwise normal bombing mission.

Bader again attempted to escape once he got his new leg. The pilot was transferred from one camp to another, attempting to escape whenever he could until the Nazis finally sent him to Colditz Castle, a prison that was considered inescapable.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Colditz Castle as seen in 1945. The castle was used as a POW camp by the Nazis until it was liberated in 1945. Photo: US Army

There, Bader’s attempts to escape slowed but he found ways to make life miserable for the guards. One day, he refused to go to the formation to be counted. When the guards arrived at his room to order him out, he engaged in a shouting match with the guards and eventually told them, “My feet would get cold in the snow. If you want to count me, come to my room and do it.”

The guard then drew his pistol on Bader who immediately changed his tact and infuriated the guard further. “Well, of course I’ll go if you really want me to,” Bader said before picking up a stool, dragging it out to formation, and sitting on it to be counted.

Bader continued his hijinks for the rest of the war. The RAF promoted him to group captain and Bader led a 300-aircraft victory formation over London after the Axis forces surrendered.

In 1946 he turned to a civilian career. He was knighted in 1973 for his work to help other amputees before dying in 1982 of a heart attack. His story was featured in the 1956 movie, “Reach for the Sky.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s some social media security tips from an Army special agent

Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.

Special Agent Deric Palmer, program manager for the Digital Personal Protection Program, part of the Major Cybercrime Unit at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, explained how those who aren’t careful or aren’t paying attention can unwittingly provide scammers and other online criminals all the information they need to exploit them.

Social media accounts, Palmer said, serve as fertile ground for digging up the kinds of information that can be used to impersonate someone, steal identities or break into other online accounts, such as banking or insurance.


A Facebook page, for example, might contain current and past physical addresses where a person has lived, phone numbers, email addresses, names of pets, significant events such as birthdays and anniversaries, hobbies and other interests. Just browsing a Facebook page, Palmer said, he can figure out your favorite music, books, TV shows, political and religious leanings.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

(Photo by Austin Distel)

All that, he said, serves as “an attack vector” that an unscrupulous person can use to communicate with users further and gain their trust. Additional communications can bring out even more details that might later be used to break into online accounts or exploit users in other ways. Some social media users, Palmer added, even volunteer critical information that could be used to access their online financial accounts that they’d never divulge if they were asked by a stranger.

Some online memes, he noted, pose as games that get users to volunteer information that, coupled with other easily obtainable information, can be used to exploit them. A quick search online reveals a simple graphic meme that purportedly allows users to choose “your new cat name” and then post the results, along with the meme itself, on their own social media feed.

For the “cat name” meme, users would use the last digit of their phone number as a selector for any of nine name prefixes, their zodiac sign to choose from a list of 12 middle names, and their favorite color to choose from a list of eight potential last names.

A user might end up with “Count Sassy Pants” as a silly name for their cat. When they post that on their social media feed, along with the meme image itself, would-be criminals will know their phone number ends in 8, they were born in either August or September, and that their favorite color is yellow. Coupled with data already on their social media feed, and with data that can be obtained from data brokers, the information makes it easier to exploit users, Palmer explained.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

Image memes such as this one ask users to construct and share on their social media feeds new, “fun” information that is constructed from their personal information.

Military personnel also are candidates to be impersonated online — malicious users might opt to use imagery of real-world service members available online to exploit other users. The U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions in the nation, and online criminals, Palmer said, take advantage of that.

“The U.S. military is viewed as a prestigious club … It’s an indicator of prestige,” Palmer said. “It’s instant respect. If I can pretend to be a U.S. general, unwitting people will respect me immediately.”

With that respect, he said, a criminal can exploit other users while pretending to be a member of the U.S. military. Palmer’s advice to service members: don’t post your picture in uniform with the name tape visible. “It immediately makes you a target,” the special agent said.

Palmer offered some tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Immediate red flag! Be suspicious if you are asked for money or a wire transfer to pay for a purported service member’s transportation, medical bills, communication fees or marriage-processing charges.
  • Be suspicious if the person with whom you are corresponding wants you to mail anything to a foreign country.
  • Be aware that military members at any duty location or in a combat zone have access to mail, cyber cafes, Skype and other means of communicating with their families, and they have access to medical and dental treatment.
  • The military will ensure that family members are notified should a service member is injured.
  • Insist on a “proof of life.” The scammers will not video chat with you, because they know you will catch them in their lie.
  • Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The special agent also provided eight points for better security online, and to make users less likely to be victimized by online criminals:

  • Permanently close old, unused accounts.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on any platform that allows it.
  • Use strong passwords, and use different passwords for every account.
  • On social media, accept friend requests selectively.
  • Configure the strongest privacy settings for each social media account.
  • Think before you post.
  • Limit use of third-part applications on social media applications, read the license agreement, and be sure exactly what those applications want to be able to access.
  • Change answers to security questions, and use false answers so that online criminals can’t use information they gather online to gain access to your accounts.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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This machine gun was big with Green Beret, CIA agents, and the cast of ‘Star Trek’

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban


It’s another weekly episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: The title – “Bread and Circuses.”

This time, Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to Planet 892-IV, a planet identical to Earth in almost every way – except Rome never fell.

Along with scantily clad space babes and gladiatorial games there are gun-toting Roman legionnaires. Not only did Rome never fall in this story, but apparently Denmark rises to become supplier of submachine guns to the empire, and a pretty badass submachine gun at that.

They are toting the Madsen M-50 9-millimeter submachine guns by Dansk Industri Syndikat. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance are stellar even if its popularity back on Earth was somewhat limited.

The M-50 is an open bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires only in full-auto at a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute. It has a 32-round box magazine and is slightly more than 30 inches long with the stock unfolded.

However, it’s most unusual feature is the way the operator field-strips the weapon. A barrel nut holds two halves of the hinged sheet metal receiver together – when the operator closes the stock and removes the barrel nut, he can open the receiver like it is clamshell housing, exposing the inner parts of the gun.

All the parts such as the bolt, operating spring and guide, and the barrel easily remove for cleaning. When finished, the person cleaning the weapon just reverses the process and snaps the sides of the receiver shut and replaces the barrel nut.

Besides, it looks exotic and foreign – probably one of the reasons movie and television armorers loved using it.

In the original Planet of the Apes films the M-50 was mocked-up in a futuristic shell to make the gun look even more alien – perfectly suited for a world where apes carried the guns and made the laws.

Also in 1968, the film Ice Station Zebra portrayed Soviet paratroopers carrying the gun, no doubt because of its foreign look.

Even legendary cinematic Italian crime families packed the gun. In The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Corleone “made men” are carrying M-50s as they provide security around the various family compounds depicted in the movie.

But “movie gun” was not what the Madsen’s manufacturer intended. In a world full of cheap, mass-produced World War II submachine guns like the M-3 “Grease Gun” or the Sten,  the Madsen put up with a lot abuse without jamming.

The Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook describes it as a “well-made weapon” that “incorporates low-cost production features, sturdiness and simplicity of disassembly seldom found in weapons of this type” and that it possessed a stock that was “one of the most rigid types available and the weapon can be fired as easily with the stock folded as it can with the stock unfolded.”

Latin American military and police units used it widely. During the 1950s, Dansk Industri Syndikat sold thousands of M-50s to Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

Brazil also purchased the gun, but then produced its own licensed version called the M-953 or the INA – for Industria Nacional de Armas of Sao Paulo.  The Brazilian makers of the INA originally chambered the weapon in .45 ACP, a caliber popular with most of their nation’s armed forces and police.

However, during the early 1970s Brazil’s defense ministers decided that 9-millimeter Parabellum would be a better choice in ammunition. They eventually ordered a massive conversion program to re-chamber the weapons in 9-millimeter as well as add a select-fire modification.

Special Forces and CIA operators during the Vietnam War frequently carried the M-50 or armed the “indigs” with the gun.

In South Vietnam, Green Berets frequently placed the weapon in the hands of the montagnards, the indigenous hill people who defended villages against the Viet Cong and served as rapid response forces alongside special operators.

Small enough to be secreted inside their woven pack baskets, M-50s gave the montagnards real firepower as they scouted hills and trails for Viet Cong activity.

Despite obvious interest in the M-50, sales of the weapon were good but not great. Its biggest competition was the veritable flood of surplus submachine guns from World War II that inundated the military market during the 1950s.

So, it became a movie gun – whether it was in “space, the final frontier” (at least as it was portrayed on television) or in dozens of movies on the big screen.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Our 7 most favorite issued items ever

Everyone has their favorite piece of issued gear. It doesn’t matter why you love it, you just do. And chances are good that you loved it so much, it got “lost” during your last deployment.


Military people are good people, so I don’t like to use the word “theft.” We’ll call it the usual, “Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.”

7. IR patches

Do you know which country’s troops are the toughest in combat? The United States. Now, do you know which country’s troops would be the most lethal for U.S. troops to fight? The United States.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Those patches on their chests will light up in NVGs.

Those backward flags worn U.S. military uniforms keep blue-on-blue accidents from happening at night. While in the field, they’re worn on the chest or arm. When the wearer transitions to veteran status, it goes on their ball cap.

6. Multi-tools

No matter which brand you prefer, Gerber or Leatherman, this is one of the most useful things troops deploy with. The range of use is astonishing. You can use it for one of its many on-label functions, like a screwdriver. Or maybe you need to bend the lower receiver on a .50-cal back into place. Or maybe you need to pull some shrapnel out of your battle buddy. The multi-tool is what you need.

In your post-military life, your Gerber is likely to end up constructing Ikea furniture.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Or, in my case, breaking Ikea furniture.

5. Gen-III cold weather fleece

Everyone knows a fleece jacket is both comfortable as hell while making you look 20 pounds heavier. The Army’s extreme cold weather fleece has the same problem with the added benefit of being a part of a bigger cold weather system that actually works.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
I am warmer just looking at this photo.

The old issued M-65 field jackets were just like coats, in that you wear them, but they were about as protective as flip-flops.

4. Angle-head flashlights

In the event of nuclear war, two things will survive: cockroaches and your old, angle-head flashlight. These old things are beloved by veterans of many eras. Sure, they update the issued lights, they switched to surefire flashlights, and they even updated the angled heads on some models, but there’s a reason these are so iconic.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
And it’s not just because of how many movies and video games they’re in.

You may not have a daily use for a signal light, but chances are good this is in your home or car emergency kit — or even your bug-out bag.

3. The KA-BAR

This one only applies to Marines, but the KA-BAR is pretty much the utility knife. For whatever reason they might need a utility knife, Marines will always say their issued KA-BAR is indispensable. And none of them ever want to give it up at the end of the day.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Do not try to steal one of these from a Marine. You might get to know the pointy end very fast.

2. Woobie

Not every branch refers to the poncho liner as the “woobie,” but everyone can appreciate how useful this blanket is. It now even has a cult following of troops and veterans who turn their woobies into everything from smoking jackets to snuggies.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
This guy looks like he’s running for office and, frankly, I want to vote for him. (Facebook photo from The Woobie Smoking Jacket)

1. Camelbacks

If you don’t think the Camelback is an amazing advance in issued military equipment, try to remember what it was like to haul around a canteen on your LBV.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Me too.

You know what else is great about taking a camelback on a deployment? Or hiking, or boating, or literally anywhere else where you need to carry a lot of water? It doesn’t taste like sh*tty canteen water.

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Watch this test pilot pull 83 G-Forces and live

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Test pilot Lt. Col. John Stapp rides a rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base. Photo by U.S. Air Force.


Most people pass out from 5 G-forces. Some of the best fighter pilots can withstand 9. Test pilot Eli Beeding experienced 83 and lived to tell about it.

Before explaining how it’s possible, the following is a loose description of G-forces — or G’s — on the body, according to Go Flight Med.

Everyone walks around at 1 G, the natural gravitational force of earth. But if you go to space, you experience 0 G’s, or weightlessness.

Related: Watch as flight students gut out high G training

For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).

A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.

G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.

via GIPHY 

Beeding was sitting up going backwards, that is, he experienced the force back-to-front when he came to a screetching halt from 35 mph.

“When I hit the water brake, it felt like Ted Williams had hit me on the back, about lumbar five, with a baseball bat,” Beeding said, according to the video description.

via GIPHY 

Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.

He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.

When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.

This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siau78EFLgc
Jeff Quitney, YouTube
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First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.


According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.

Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.

“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.

“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban
Retired Rear Adm. Dick Lyon, the first Bullfrog, left, passes the Bullfrog trophy to Capt. Pete Wikul, the 13th Bullfrog, during the passing of the Bullfrog ceremony. The title Bullfrog recognizes the UDT/SEAL operator with the greatest amount of cumulative service. Wikul retired after 39 years and 4 months of Navy service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua T. Rodriguez)

After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.

In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.

The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

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