10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?

That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.

But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.


A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.

1. North Korea tightly controls the internet

North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.

But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.

As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”

Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.

2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people

North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.

Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.

It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.

3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at

According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”

Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.

4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it

According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Street scene in Pyongyang, North Korea.

(Photo by Random Institute)

Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.

5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country

North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.

The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.

Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.

Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.

6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn

Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.

They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.

“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.

An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.

But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0

Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.

But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.

7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies

North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)

According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.

8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games

In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.

The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.

The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.

The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.

9. Open WiFi networks are banned

North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).

For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.

Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.

10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech

North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.

According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.

People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.

This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 epic military movie mistakes you have missed

Military movies are emotional to watch as many are based on real and fascinating stories of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle and fulfill his or her goals and destiny and all that sh*t.


With so many important aspects to pay attention to, filmmakers commonly make mistakes that veteran moviegoers can spot.

So check out some epic mistakes we managed to find in our favorite Hollywood war films.

1. Where did the German tank go?

“Saving Private Ryan” is one of the best war movies ever recorded on film, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. In the 3rd act — just as the final firefight is about to end — Capt. Miller fires his pistol at a tank headed toward him. After firing a few shots, the tank blows up, bursting into flames and stopping dead in its tracks.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
Bang! Bang! (Source: Dream Works)

The tank surprisingly blowing up isn’t the mistake, but moments later the Tiger tank vanishes.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
It must have been magic, right? (Source: Dream Works)

2. Playing musical chairs

In Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” Desmond Doss sits on the right side of the bus saying his goodbye to his girl.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
Good movie, but a humorous mistake. (Source: Lionsgate)

Cut to a few moments later and Desmond is now sitting on the left side of the bus after it departs the station.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
Either that or it’s a 180 break. Either way, we’re confused. (Source: Lionsgate)

3. No force protection…at all

In the Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper,” the SEAL team enjoys a meal with an Iraqi man and his family who is about to be discovered for being a bad guy. Although the team is on a crucial mission, the lights are on, and someone forgot to close the curtains on the window.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
A good sniper would love to take a pop shot through that window. (Source: WB)

4. A non-combatant?

We love the film “Full Metal Jacket” just as much as other veterans, but this Stanley Kubrick directed film has a lot of screw-ups — especially here. As the Marine squad advances on the Vietnamese sniper, you can spot a crew member in the bottom of the frame. Oops!

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
He should have ducked a little better. (Source: WB)

5. Marine sniper training on an Air Force base?

In 2006, Universal pictures gave us the Desert Storm film “Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes. In this scene, Anthony Swofford (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) reports for bugle tryouts at the Marine Corps parade deck. Look at the water tower behind him; the Air Combat Command emblem is clearly represented in this shot. The A.C.C. is a major command of the Air Force and wouldn’t be located on the Marine Corps base.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
WTF! (Source: Universal)

The Air Combat Command emblem up close.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What will happen to the foreign ISIS fighters in Syria?

October 2019, US President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the US combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.

Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already “defeated” ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.

This was, at best, only partly true.


While US-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.

Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to the Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.

The SDF has said it is holding more than 12,000 men suspected of being ISIS fighters across seven prisons it operates, estimating that more than 4,000 of those prisoners are foreign nationals, the BBC said.

The fate of those prisoners remains uncertain, particularly in the wake of the US pullout.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

ISIS

Turkey has taken over parts of Syria, and with it, ISIS prisoners

On Oct. 22, 2019, Russia and Turkey took advantage of the power vacuum that had been created and signed an agreement to expand their control in Syria and minimize Kurdish territory.

As part of the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards entered the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, pushing Kurdish forces back to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border.

Turkey says it will use the reclaimed area to create a “buffer zone” along its border and will use the land to resettle more than 1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the war.

But as Turkey gains land in Syria, it has also taken on the task of figuring out what to do with former Islamic State detainees, many of whom are now under its control. Turkey has faced criticism in the past for its porous border, which allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State to begin with.

But Turkey doesn’t want to deal with them, and neither does the rest of the world 

According to a 2016 report by the World Bank, foreign ISIS fighters have been recruited from “all continents across the globe,” though it named Russia, France, and Germany as the top Western suppliers of ISIS’ foreign workforce.

Data from the Institute for the Study of War also indicated that significant portions of foreign fighters also came from European countries like the UK, Belgium, and France between December 2015 and March 2016.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(ISW)

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, and warned that Turkey would not become “a hotel” for militants.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Turkey began deporting foreign nationals said to be linked to ISIS back to their home countries.

One of those foreign nationals was from the US, a spokesperson for Turkey’s interior minister said, though according to the BBC the man remained stranded at the Greek border after choosing not to return to the US. On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said that the man would be brought to the US.

Turkey’s interior minister added the country was planning to deport “several more terrorists back to Germany” this week, and that legal proceedings against two Irish nationals and 11 French citizens captured in Syria were underway. A spokesperson for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that three men, five women and two children were being returned to Germany this week.

But many of those countries have not put a concrete policy in place for what to do with ISIS foreign fighters or their families that remain in displacement camps in Syria, or have refused to allow them to return.

Trump said in his statement in October 2019 that he discussed the issue of repatriating foreign fighters with France, Germany, and other European nations but they “did not want them and refused.”

Foreign nationals abroad are traditionally entitled to consular services abroad, though many European nations have been cautious about offering help to citizens who joined ISIS on national security grounds. Under international law, it is illegal to strip people of their citizenship if it will leave them stateless.

In April 2019, Germany approved a bill stripping dual nationals of their citizenship if they traveled overseas to fight in a foreign terror group, though the law does not apply to women and children. In June 2019, France passed legislation stating that it would repatriate French jihadists on a case-by-case basis.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

There are concerns that ISIS may take advantage of the uncertainty to regroup

But the UN has stood firm on pushing countries to take responsibility for their citizens.

“It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2019.

“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she added.

The UK is currently debating what to do about those who left the country to join ISIS. In February 2019, it stripped British-born Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria to become an ISIS bride at the age of 15, of her citizenship, citing national security risks. Begum has appealed the decision, and the UK government is said to be considering options for repatriating British members of ISIS held in prison camps in Syria.

As the West works through the complicated process of absorbing foreign fighters, Islamic State militants in Syria appear to be taking advantage of the chaos.

Last month, the SDF said ISIS fighters committed three suicide bombings on its positions in Raqqa as Kurdish fighters moved from their posts to respond to Turkish assault. And SDF General Mazloum Kobani has warned on Nov. 13, 2019 that the West should “expect” major attacks from Islamic State fighters who may be looking to capitalize on the chaos in order to regroup.

“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger,” he told Sky News.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

X-44 Manta: How Lockheed nailed the NGAD in the 90s

Way back in 1999, Lockheed Martin had a plan to field a delta-shaped stealth fighter that skipped the need for a conventional tail section, in the F-22-based X-44 Manta.

Instead of using a conventional tail section with both vertical and horizontal control surfaces, the Manta aimed to leverage thrust vector control, or directing the flow of the engine’s thrust to give the aircraft the acrobatic capabilities it would need in a high-end dogfight. Today, more than two decades later, that same concept appears to be found consistently across nearly all official renderings of the Air Force’s next air superiority fighter being developed under the NGAD, or Next Generation Air Dominance, program, begging the question… could elements of the X-44 Manta have found their way to America’s next top-of-the-line fighter?

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
NGAD Artist’s rendering (USAF)

Last year, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and tested a prototype aircraft out of their Next Generation Air Dominance program. This new jet promises to be more advanced than any fighter to ever come before it, designed to not only do battle with the advanced 5th generation fighters being churned out by America’s opponents in Russia and China, but to dominate them for decades to come.

At right around the same time, the Air Force also unveiled a birthday-celebrating image seemingly showing a wedge-shaped aircraft with no conventional tail section, prompting some to wonder if the artist’s handiwork had anything to do with the NGAD announcement that came alongside it. Since then, other official images out of the Air Force, along with renderings from prominent aviation firms like Lockheed Martin, have all shown similar wedge-shaped aircraft.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
(USAF)

Some, including me, have pointed toward Northrop’s highly capable but ultimately passed-over YF-23 Black Widow II as the stealthy precedent for this tailless design, but Northrop isn’t the only show in town that knows how to build a stealth fighter without a tail.

In fact, based on some of these artist’s renderings and the practical limitations of developing a new fighter on a short fuse, the X-44 Manta may represent an early iteration of what has or will become at least part of America’s next prizefighter in the sky.

X-44 MANTA… or the Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

The X-44’s name, or more appropriately, its acronym, gets straight to the intent behind the concept. After decades of rapid fighter development, some things had simply come to be considered standard fare for a capable tactical aircraft: things like a conventional tail section with vertical and horizontal control surfaces. While both the F-22 and later, the F-35, adopted slightly different tails than you’d find on a non-stealth 4th-generation fighter like the F-16, the X-44 Manta aimed to pull off the same sort of maneuverability without the need for all those tail surfaces. With no tail section, the aircraft’s radar return would be dramatically reduced, creating an even stealthier fighter than America’s highly capable F-22.

So, logically enough, Lockheed Martin partnered up with NASA to talk about how to bring this concept to fruition. Successfully making an acrobatic fighter that could forgo using its tail for handling would mean relying heavily on using thrust vector controls to change the direction of the fighter’s flight path. NASA had already had a great deal of success using thrust vector controls on a high-performance fighter in the F-15 ACTIVE, which was a modified F-15 Eagle that used front wing canards (taken from the tail section of an F/A-18 Hornet) and thrust vectoring jet nozzles to produce a fighter that could outperform the legendary Eagle in almost every appreciable way.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
F-15 ACTIVE (Courtesy of NASA)

Put in its simplest terms, thrust vector control offers the ability to aim or point the nozzle of the jet engine. In some platforms, like the F-22 Raptor, that nozzle aiming is done on a single plain (up or down), while in other jets like Russia’s 4th-generation Su-35, the nozzle can move in 360 degrees, offering even more dramatic options when it comes to rapidly shifting directions.

In a head-on engagement, the F-22 Raptor’s thrust vectoring can allow the pilot to point the nose and weapons of the fighter down at an enemy jet as it passes by, all while continuing to push in the same original direction. In a close-up scrap between two fighters who are trying to successfully turn tighter than the other to get weapons lock, that same thrust vectoring capability allows jets like the F-22 and Su-35 to change directions far more aggressively than any advanced jet without thrust vector controls can.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
(NASA)

While the F-22 leverages thrust vector control alongside its more conventional tail section, Lockheed Martin proposed using the F-22 design as a starting point for this new technology demonstrator that could prove just as capabley as the fighter designs we’ve come to see as conventional in recent decades.

An F-22 Raptor without the tail

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher L. Ingersoll)

Because the concept wasn’t being pursued as a clean sheet fighter development program, but rather as a technology demonstrator effort, starting from scratch on an aircraft design didn’t seem practical. Instead, Lockheed Martin volunteered the F-22 Raptor. While not the most recent stealth fighter out of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works (the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter began test flights three years prior), the F-22 was–and is—America’s best and most capable fighter when it comes to engaging enemy jets. It also already boasts thrust vector control, making it a logical choice for an experiment so focused on that specific capability.

The X-44 Manta wasn’t the only F-22 based concept rolling around at the Pentagon at the time. As the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the first fighter to christen the new “5th-generation” of jets, and arguably the most potent air superiority aircraft ever to fly in service for any nation, it makes sense that the United States would have considered leaning into the F-22 program for other, more specialized roles. While the X-44 concept aimed to saw off its tail and make the F-22 even sneakier, the Sea Raptor effort would have placed F-22s aboard America’s fleet of supercarriers–offering a jet that could fly faster, further while carrying more ordnance than the F-35C’s now destined for Uncle Sam’s flat tops.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

The F-22 Raptor had already set itself apart from the rest of the fighter world thanks to its creators leveraging stealth as a part of the fighter’s very design. While previous and highly-capable air superiority fighters like the F-15 relied on sheer performance to win scraps in the air and only later incorporated things like radar-absorbent coating to slow detection, the F-22’s very design was intended to postpone or defeat detection entirely. From there, its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F119 engines could still push the stealthy fighter to speeds as high as Mach 2.25, and its thrust vector controls allowed it to pirouette away from any inbound missiles that may have managed to secure a hard-to-come-by lock. Today, the F-22 remains the most highly capable air superiority fighter on the planet, and in 1999, its lead over the competition was even more pronounced.

But even the incredible F-22 could be even better if it could be even stealthier, and that’s where a tailless delta design could have produced real results. If the X-44 Manta could have offered similar performance to the F-22 while also being even harder to detect, it may have been enough to push this aircraft concept off of Lockheed’s notebook pages and into their production facilities. But it wasn’t just stealth the X-44 did better. It also carried a whole lot more hate.

Some of the strengths of the F-16XL

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
The F-16XL flying under NASA (NASA photo)

While the tailless wedge shape of the X-44 Manta would benefit its stealth profile, it also came with some other significant advantages over America’s existing stealth fighters, like payload capacity and range. America’s F-22 Raptor can carry a maximum of six air-to-air weapons internally and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is limited to just four–but the broad fuselage of the wedged-shaped X-44 would almost certainly have allowed for far more ordnance, both in terms of carrying space inside the aircraft and overall payload capability as a measure of lift and fuel economy.

First developed as the F-16 SCAMP and later matured into the F-16XL that would compete with (now) Boeing’s F-15E Strike Eagle in the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, the F-16XL also leveraged a broad, wedge-shaped fuselage that granted it superior lift, range, fuel capacity, and payload over the standard F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16XL wasn’t worried about stealth, so it carried its weapons on external hardpoints, but thanks to the increased surface area of its wedged-wing design, the F-16XL had hard points for an astonishing 27 weapons, as compared to the F-16’s standard nine.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
An air-to-air left underside view of an F-16XL aircraft. The aircraft is armed with two wing tip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder and four fuselage mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles along with 12 500-pound bombs.

It’s unclear just what a sort of boost to payload or range the X-44 Manta may have offered over the F-22, but it would have benefitted not only from the increased internal payload space, but also the increased lift provided by the broader lifting body. That lift could help support more weight while also offering greater efficiency in fuel use.

Could the X-44 Manta be involved in the NGAD program?

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
(USAF/NASA)

Like most questions made about NGAD at this point, there’s no real way to definitely say for sure that the X-44 has been a part of the conversation leading up to fielding the F-22’s replacement. However, there are some parallels we can draw between the intent behind the X-44 and the goals in place for NGAD.

The premise behind the X-44 Manta was to build an even better stealth fighter than the F-22 Raptor, and in no uncertain terms, that is precisely the stated aim of the NGAD program. However, it’s also important to note that the X-44 concept was born in 1999, making its design just about as dated as the F-35 and the fighters NGAD will be tasked with killing–the Chinese J-20, and Russian Su-57, both of which also began development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In other words, simply dusting off the X-44 concept and pushing it into production really wouldn’t meet the needs of the NGAD program. Of course, because so much of the X-44 is based on the out-of-production F-22, kicking off that production line would be about as expensive as simply starting from scratch with a new fighter anyway.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
China’s Chengdu J-20 (WikiMedia Commons)

But that’s not to say the X-44’s DNA won’t find its way into the Air Force’s next top dog. As Air Force renderings have repeatedly shown, the branch seems intent on a wedge-shaped, tailless design for the NGAD. Many analysts have indeed pointed to the similarities between this concept and Northrop’s very real YF-23, but it’s important to note that these design images of the X-44 actually bear a stronger resemblance to what the NGAD is proposed to look like. So, if Northrop’s old stealth fighter is in this fight, it seems logical that so are advanced iterations of Lockheed’s more successful one.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world
(Modified version of Air Force poster courtesy of the The Aviationist)

The idea of using no conventional tail section and a wedge-shaped design keeps bubbling to the surface in other places as well–like this image from the Air Force Research Lab (part of a video they released a few years ago):

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Or these images from Northrop Grumman:

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Or this image from Boeing:

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

So, at the end of the day, the question might be: Will the Air Force draw its inspiration from wedge-shaped aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s proposed X-44 Manta and Northrop’s YF-23 Black Widow II for it’s next generation fighter? Or perhaps more aptly… has the whole aviation industry already done that?

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the funeral costs the VA will actually pay

It’s something none of us want to think about: our demise. What will happen after we’re gone? Will we have a big funeral? Will anybody show up?

If you want to have a big funeral and a fancy tombstone in a nice cemetery, it will cost a lot. That’s OK. You’re a veteran; the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay. Right?

Well … not so fast.


The high cost of dying

Before we discuss what the VA will pay, let’s discuss the major costs associated with dying.

Funeral prices

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral with burial in 2017 was ,755; the average cost of a funeral with cremation was ,260.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Hazard)

That’s just the cost of transporting and preparing the body, and holding a small viewing. If you want a service and a wake, expect to pay more.

Casket prices

If you want a fancy casket, expect to pay an average of ,000 for it. Amazon, Costco, and Walmart sell caskets for less than id=”listicle-2632767403″,000, but some fancy ones cost more than ,000.

If you just want to be buried in a pine box, be sure to check local laws. Some states don’t allow that.

Cemetery prices

The cemetery will cost you even more.

While some states allow you to be buried in biodegradable caskets and some even have natural burial preserves where they allow you to be buried in the woods, most don’t.

A burial plot in a public cemetery will cost between 0 and ,000. If you want to be buried in a private cemetery, that price can go up to ,000 in some places. If you’re in a city, the price can easily go up to ,000 for the gravesite alone.

If you want to be cremated and have your ashes buried, expect to pay up to ,500 for the plot.

Of course, there are additional fees. You have to pay for them to dig the hole and fill it back up; this can cost more than ,000. Just doing the paperwork (some places require a permit to be buried) can reach up to id=”listicle-2632767403″,000. Some fancy cemeteries even charge a fee for “perpetual care;” this is the cost of upkeep for the cemetery — cutting grass, planting trees etc.

If you want a tombstone, expect to pay at least 0 to ,000.

Paying the high cost of dying

Cemeteries aren’t regulated by the federal government. They don’t have to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which requires an itemized bill allowing you to pick and choose which services you wish to buy. Some states have regulations, but many do not.

Don’t expect to get a line of credit from the funeral home or cemetery, either. They want payment up front. What will they do if your family doesn’t pay the bill, dig you back up?

What will the VA pay?

Since you’re reading this, you probably are a veteran. Doesn’t the VA pay for all of this?

It will pay some, but not all, of your burial costs, and probably very little of your funeral costs. Of course, all these benefits are only for veterans with at least an “other-than-dishonorable” discharge.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Burial and plot allowance

The VA will pay a burial allowance to an eligible veteran’s family to help defray burial and funeral costs. The burial allowance is a tax-free benefit paid automatically. If you are eligible for a plot allowance the VA requires receipts to show the actual cost paid.

  • If the death occurs while hospitalized by the VA, it will pay a 0 burial allowance and 0 for a burial plot.
  • If the death is considered service-connected, the VA will pay a burial allowance of up to ,000 and may reimburse some of the costs of transporting remains.
  • If the death isn’t service-connected, the VA pays a burial allowance of 0.
  • For an indigent veteran with no next of kin, the VA will furnish either a casket or cremation urn for interment in either a national, state or tribal veterans cemetery.
  • The Social Security Administration also will pay a death benefit of 5.

These amounts usually change every year.

Cemetery

All veterans with other-than-dishonorable discharges are eligible for free burial in a national VA cemetery. Space is limited; the VA recommends you request a pre-determination of burial eligibility to avoid any delay when the time comes.

Most states have their own veterans cemeteries. Usually, the eligibility requirements are the same as for federal cemeteries.

In most cases, spouses are eligible for burial next to the veteran at little or no cost. Also, markers are provided.

Arlington National Cemetery has very limited space for burial; there is more space available for inurnment of cremated remains. Only certain veterans are eligible for burial at Arlington.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

If you wish to be buried in a civilian cemetery, the VA may pay a small fee, as described earlier, for your plot allowance. It will also provide a free headstone. Some states also help with the cost of burial and the cost of setting a headstone.

You can always choose to be buried at sea from a Navy ship.

Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to make a plan. Also, remember that the funeral director can help with a lot of this stuff. They know how to submit the paperwork to the VA, and usually how to get the most out of your state benefits as well.

Check out all our information about memorial benefits, including requesting military honors at a funeral.

Stay on top of your veteran benefits

Military benefits are always changing. Keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox while giving you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

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To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

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Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

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Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

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Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five 9/11 Memorials from around the world

Earlier this year, a French publisher had to issue an apology after a huge social media backlash emerged against their undergraduate-level history textbook which claimed that the attacks on 9/11 were “orchestrated by the CIA.” “This phrase which echoes conspiracy theories devoid of any factual basis should never have been used in this work,” the publisher said. “It doesn’t reflect the editorial position either of Ellipses publications or the author.”

Despite the incredible oversight of the publisher, it’s worth noting that the French have stood in solidarity with the United States in remembering 9/11 with a temporary memorial on its 10th anniversary. However, other nations across the free world have erected permanent memorials. After all, 9/11 began the War on Terror that freedom-loving countries have been fighting for 19 years. Here are some memorials that stand out.


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(Dr. Avishai Teicher—Public Domain)

1. 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza—Jerusalem, Israel

Opened in 2009, the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza is a cenotaph remembering and honoring the victims of the attacks. It measures 30 feet tall and is made of granite, bronze, and aluminum. A piece of melted steel from Ground Zero forms part of the base on which the monument rests. The names of all the victims, including five Israeli citizens, are embedded on metal plates and placed on the circular wall. It is also the first and only monument outside of the United States to list all the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.

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(Memoria e Luce)

2. Memory and Light—Padua, Italy

Inaugurated on the 4th anniversary of the attacks, Memoria e Luce, as it’s known in Italian, was a gift from the United States to the Italian city of Padua. It features a six meter long, twisted steel beam recovered from Ground Zero. The structure in which it is housed mimics an open book and is reminiscent of the facades of the Twin Towers. The book is also open in the direction of the Statue of Liberty, further cementing the relationship between our two nations.

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(SINCE 9/11 Charity)

3. Since 9/11—London, England

Throughout the War on Terror, Britain has been one of our strongest allies in combating those who wish harm on the West and the free world. Located at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, the memorial sculpture was a gift from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the United Kingdom. It is made entirely out of steel recovered from Ground Zero. The memorial is cared for by the SINCE 9/11 charity. Founded on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the charity’s focus is educating British students on 9/11 to “ensure that the legacy of 9/11 is one that builds hope from tragedy.”

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(Memorial Mapping)

4. Twin Towers and Lost Dogs Monument—Ontario, Canada

Located in the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society Park, this stone sculpture represents the Twin Towers. The towers rest on a pentagonal base and honors both the human and canine rescuers who took part in the search and rescue effort following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The memorial is particularly dedicated to a Yellow Labrador police canine named Sirius who died in the collapse of the South Tower. The plaque on the memorial reads, “This plaque honors the devotion and bravery shown by the many K-9 police units during the search, rescue, and recovery of victims of these attacks. Their heroic deeds will not be forgotten.”

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

(Memorial Mapping)

5. Donadea 9/11 Memorial—Donadea, Ireland

Dedicated in 2003, the Donadea 9/11 Memorial was crafted by a local stonemason and sculptor. The structural representation of the Twin Towers features the names of victims inscribed on the stone. Though it serves as a memorial to all 9/11 victims, it is dedicated to Irish American firefighter Sean Tallon, whose father was born in Donadea. Tallon was a Corporal in the USMC Reserves and probationary firefighter at Ladder 10, the fire station directly across from the World Trade Center. He was one of the first people on scene when the first plane hit and was killed when the towers fell.

After 9/11, Americans swore that we would never forget. The beautiful and touching memorials listed here show that good people around the world won’t forget either.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s rhetoric on Kim Jong Un does a complete 180

President Donald Trump on April 24, 2018, again praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying Kim was “very honorable” and “very open” ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders that could come as soon as May 2018.

“Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters amid a White House visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the North Koreans wanted such a meeting “as soon as possible.”


Trump has signaled an eagerness to meet and conduct diplomacy with Kim, despite spending much of 2017 threatening to annihilate North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.

Since the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim has also apparently opened up to diplomacy.

Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing in March 2018, to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April 2018.

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North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un andu00a0Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim — announced in March 2018, by South Korean officials visiting the US — though it appears he did so without first consulting his secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson.

Trump said in 2017, that he’d be “honored” to talk to Kim — something he now looks likely to achieve.

Trump has also expressed admiration for Kim’s leadership of North Korea, though human-rights groups have accused the government of numerous violations, including running prison camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

Trump said of Kim in January 2016: “You’ve got to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden… he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss.”

In an interview with Reuters in 2017, Trump again noted Kim’s youth when he became leader.

“Say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump said.

Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader. Meanwhile, Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands of denuclearization already.

But experts Business Insider has talked to have noted that North Korea has previously entered into and backed out of talks with the US and said it now may be working to gain relief from sanctions as its economy falters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Listen to eerie audio of the first recorded ‘marsquake’

NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, 2019, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”


The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA’s InSight

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“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Listen to audio of this likely marsquake at: https://youtu.be/DLBP-5KoSCc

For more information about InSight, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/insight

For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Flying aircraft carriers are totally possible (and sort of crazy)

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.


10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

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(DARPA)

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

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(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

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The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

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View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Fake text messages about a military draft are being sent to Americans

The US Army issued an warning against “fraudulent” text messages that claimed the recipients were selected for a military draft.

A spokesperson from US Army Recruiting Command (USAREC), the organization responsible for attracting prospective soldiers, told Insider the text messages were being sent “across the country from different brigades” this week.

USAREC said it received multiple emails and calls about the text messages, and that it was in no way associated with the US Army; the people behind the emails claimed to serving in the Army.


The text messages claimed that the sender was “contacting you through mail several times and have had no response,” according to photographs obtained by Insider.

The messages, which advised the recipient to “come to the nearest branch” in the Florida and New Jersey area, falsely claimed that the recipient would be “fined and sent to jail for a minimum 6 years” if there was no reply.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

U.S. Army recruits wait in line for their initial haircut while still partially dressed in their civilian clothes during basic combat training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

The decision to enact a military draft is initiated by the Selective Service Administration. All American males between 18 and 25 years of age are required by law to register with the organization. The database for these individuals are compiled in the event Congress declares a military draft.

“The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” the Selective Service System previously said in a statement. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”

The text messages comes amid the US airstrike against Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday. Following the attack that also killed the leader of the Shiite Iran-backed militia responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq, search queries like “World War III” and “military draft” began trending on social media platforms.

The last time the draft was implemented was in 1973, during the Vietnam War.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

10 ways North Korea keeps citizens ignorant about outside world

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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