DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots - We Are The Mighty
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DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots


DARPA is making your next kitchen appliance in the form of a robot named Baxter that can learn to cook your favorite dishes from watching YouTube videos.

Also watch: The 7 coolest high-tech military projects

According to DARPA researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by the agency’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. “Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy – without additional human input or programming,” DARPA said.

These scientists throwing the calculus of “cooking is as much of an art as it is a science” way off. Perhaps one day having a personal robot chef will be as commonplace as having a toaster, microwave or blender.

“If we have robots that are humanoid and they have hands, that will be the next industrial revolution,” said Yiannis Aloimonos, University of Maryland computer scientist. “I am particularly very happy to be participating in this revolution because it will change fundamentally our societies.”

Still, it’s hard to imagine Chef Ramsay getting any satisfaction out of yelling at a robot on an episode of Hell’s Kitchen . . .

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Here’s the robot in action.

Articles

These giant African rodents are used to sniff out land mines

A Belgian NGO is doing some incredible things with rats. The non-governmental organization, Apopo is dedicated to training African Giant Pouched Rats for land mine and tuberculosis detection. The critters make for very good pets because they are easily trained. This, with their sense of smell, said to be finer than a dog’s, make them perfectly suited for the job.


One rat can evaluate 100 samples in 20 minutes, equal to what a skilled lab technician, using microscopy, can do in two days. As of 2005, the rats were able to find 5 to 10 TB patients per week that were missed by microscopes.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Photo by Apopo

More importantly for sub-Saharan Africa, a heavily mined region, the rats are able to smell explosives just as easily. Here, they are used effectively to uncover land mines in these areas. Whenever they find a mine, they are rewarded with a treat. The rats are so good at the search, they’re able to clear more than 650 square feet of earth in twenty minutes. According to handling teams interviewed by The Guardian, the rats are very accurate.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Photo by Apopo

In Mozambique, heavily mined during the the country’s subsequent 15-year civil war, rat teams have found and destroyed more than 13,000 mines, reclaiming more than 11 million square meters.

If you’re worried about the rats setting off the explosives, rest easy. The rats weigh less than two pounds, not enough to set off the pressure-triggered anti-personnel mines.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Photo by Apopo

Training starts at four weeks old, when the rats become accustomed to humans and then desensitized to sights and sounds. They associate a clicker with a food reward and are then trained to indicate the holes that contain explosive substances by put their noses against the holes.  Finally, they’re trained to wear harnesses and find inactive mines under soil. After a blind test with a real handler, the animals become full-fledged minesweepers.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Photo by Apopo

The rats, once considered a pest animal, get more than just their food reward for good work. They are fed a steady, good diet of fruits and veggies and even get sunscreen to protect their ears and tails from the harsh sun.

Read more and donate to Apopo here.

Articles

Canada and Denmark are using booze and flags to fight over this island

Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.


For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.

The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Photo: Copyright Free/Twthmoses

But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.

Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.

The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
The small rock in the center of this satellite image is Hans Island. Photo: NASA

Still, the island has continued to exist in a polite limbo. Canada even suspended operations on and near the island in 2013 amid worries about creating an international incident with Denmark.

Potential solutions to the issue have been discussed many times, and splitting the island down the middle or sharing it is the solution proposed most often.

Articles

Why NATO should use Russia’s massive wargame as an intel dump

When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.


Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.

“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Tsentr-2015 strategic headquarters military exercises. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.

The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.

Midterm Exam

Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.

“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.

“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.

Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”

Structural Reforms

In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.

Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.

“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.

While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.

Real-World Laboratory

That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Pro-Russian rebels shoot in the air at funeral of a fellow fighter killed in a battle for Marinka near Donetsk. Eastern Ukraine, 6 June, 2015. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.

For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.

The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
Russia celebrating National Guards’ Day. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.

That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”

Articles

The Pentagon wants armed citizens to stop standing outside of recruiting centers

The Department of Defense is asking armed citizens to stop standing outside of military recruiting centers, USA Today reported Friday.


“We take the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer — including our recruiting stations,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

Some citizens have armed themselves and have stood outside recruiting centers in the wake of the July 16 shooting rampage by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez in Chattanooga, Tennessee that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. Marines and one sailor.

But armed non-military personnel — some affiliated with militia groups — has gotten some military leaders worried, according to Stars Stripes.

“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” reads a letter from Army Recruiting Command, which urges recruiters to report the vigilantes to local law enforcement.

The Pentagon issued the statement after a man accidentally fired his AR-15 outside of a recruiting center in Lancaster, Ohio, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

“We felt it was prudent to issue this statement in order to help potentially prevent other incidents like this from occurring,” a defense official told The New York Times. “The absolute last thing we want is to see any other loss of life.”

NOW: Stunning photos show Air Force Thunderbirds flying over Niagara Falls

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.

“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.

That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.


“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”

Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)

An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.

“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.

For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.

“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.

Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.

“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.

Robinson echoed his sentiments.

“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.

Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

A C-17 Globemaster III.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”

That capability means filling a variety of roles.

“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”

Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.

“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.

“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”

Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”

The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.

Those partnerships are important.

“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”

For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.

Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.

That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.

“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.

The result was a total redo of network systems.

“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”

It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.

“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.

“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.

The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.

“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”

Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.

“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.

“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army just taught Girl Scouts to use military robots

Soldiers of the 773rd Civil Support Team took their survey robot to Sembach Middle School in Germany to help the Girl Scouts earn their robotics patch.


Sembach Juniors Troop 991 hosted the Army Reserve soldiers for the afternoon. The three-person team demonstrated the capabilities and the functions of the Talon IV robot, nicknamed “Veronica” by the survey team.

“I think they enjoyed everything about the robot, seeing it move, being able to touch it,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick McNeely, survey team member with the 773rd CST. “I think they were just thoroughly excited about the whole idea of seeing a robot.”

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
A Talon tracked military robot. (DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders not only got to see the robot in action, climbing stairs and opening a door, but also were able to ask the soldiers questions about how the robot worked.

Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, the survey team chief, and Spc. Jonathan Boyden answered the questions and showed the girls all the things Veronica can do.

“Today we experienced a mechanical robot,” said Gabrielle Shields, a fifth grader at Sembach Middle School and member of the troop. “It can detect smoke bombs and it can smell and sense stuff … and it goes on missions and it can go under water and it can move up and down stairs.”

Also Read: This robotic Kobra bites IEDs and can move an NFL lineman

The robot can do amazing things, said Madison Perkins, another fifth-grader.

“I loved that it could climb stairs and that it has a laser and it had some cool lights on it,” she said.

The 773rd CST soldiers stayed for the rest of the Monday afternoon meeting and helped the juniors to plan and build their robots.

Here are a few photos from the day:

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 examine the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School. The Juniors were earning the robotics patch, and the 773rd CST brought the robot for the meeting.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, shows Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 how the Talon IV surveying robot can open a door Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, demonstrates the Talon IV surveying robot to the Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 react to the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, 773rd Civil Support Team survey team chief, talks to Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 as her team prepares to demonstrate the Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 pose with Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(U.S. Army Reserve photos by Lt. Col. Jefferson Wolfe)

Articles

The 6 rations troops are thankful the military got rid of

A good meal after a hard day in the field can make everything a little bit better. MREs aren’t that meal but they try to be. Everyone has their favorite ration meal, even if he or she has to doctor it up a bit by mixing different parts from other packages (here’s a list of ration recipes).


DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Related: These 17 hilarious reviews of new MREs from troops in the field will bring back memories

No matter how U.S. military rations change, there is always one meal in the box which makes you wonder who thought it would be a good idea. This is a list of those meals that made us yearn for the days of lettuce and powdered eggs from a field mess.

1. Vegetable Omelette

It’s understandable the military would want to come up with vegetarian options. Why anyone decided eggs would be a good idea is what’s hard to understand. Cheese tortellini wasn’t bad, why not use that as a starting point?

Instead, we have this monstrosity, aka the “vomelet,” which has all the flavor of cold scrambled eggs and all the texture of dried papier maché. It’s every bit what you imagine eating Spongebob Squarepants must be like.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

2. Ham and Lima Beans

This is a throwback meal to the days of C-Rations. Lima Beans and Ham (aka “Ham and Motherf**kers”) was so bad, it was the Voldemort of field grade lunches, as troops wouldn’t even dare to say this meal’s name. When GIs gave rations to hungry civilians in Korea, the Koreans would throw this particular meal back at them. Troops added cans of cheese sauce and/or cracker crumbs to try to make this war crime palatable.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

3. Jamaican Pork Chop

Jah, mon! Come on have little slice of this leather with some pepper on it. Uncle Sam try’nta save jah money by feeding jah garbage rejected by hog farms.

Seriously, if we’re talking about jerks, it’s the clowns who wanted to give us some of our favorite international cuisine but decided Jamaica was close enough. This is like eating the sole of your boot with noodles. To be fair, the guys over at MRE Info love this one.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

 4. Country Captain Chicken

Country Captain Chicken will give you Current Traumatic Stress Disorder. Imagine someone squished together a handful of Chicken McNuggets, flattened it out, then dried it in the sun for ten days. Then imagine they soaked the newly formed patty in a bath of tomato sauce and citrus juice, and what the hell, let’s throw a couple of almonds in there. Chunks of tomato and black beans round out the most awful thing anyone ever tried to pass off as food.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

5. Buffalo Chicken

Buffalo Chicken might be the signature flavor of America and while the MRE version of Buffalo Chicken may not be all that bad, the effect on your stomach is like having forty tailgating Bills fans making a mess of your insides. Dig the latrine before you crack this bad boy open.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

6. Beef Frankfurters

You know a meal has to be good when its nickname is “Fingers of Death,” right? Right. Beef Frankfurters deserved every single insult ever lobbed at them. While I can understand the urge to give troops in the field a taste of home through a good ol’ American hot dog, if you’ve ever tried this ration, the only home it makes you think of is Hannibal Lecter’s.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Image: WATM/MREInfo.com)

For the record, the military does try to taste test these things on service members. When they created a new menu in 2007, the received some interesting responses. The Smoking Gun found the comments for some of the tested meals, in case you’ve ever wondered just how some of these meal ever made it to production.

Do they still serve Chicken Tetrazzini?

Articles

VA Secretary about to sign draft master plan for West LA campus

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Photo: LA Times)


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.

In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).

But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.

Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission.  The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.

“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.

“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”

“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.

“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”

Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.

“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Scalpel missile was designed for a precision cut

Cluster bombs and napalm are two of the most underappreciated yet effective types of munition that a plane can drop on the bad guys, but they’re not suited for every purpose. Yes, cluster bombs can do thing JDAMs can’t and yes, napalm does provide the age-old “smell of victory,” but when the bad guys are using local civilians as human shields, precision is paramount.


Thankfully, there’s a bomb for exactly that. On display at SeaAirSpace Expo 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Lockheed’s newly developed bomb is appropriately called the “Scalpel.” The Scalpel is a “precise, small weapon system with low collateral damage” designed for use “particularly in urban close air support (CAS) environments.”

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

(Lockheed-Martin)

The bomb weighs all of 100 pounds. That’s about the size of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a weapon that’s proven extremely effective against terrorists and tanks facing American troops. Like the Hellfire, the Scalpel is laser-guided, but there is one big difference: While the Hellfire has a relatively small, 20-pound, high-explosive warhead that detonates on impact, the Scalpel has options.

This new, laser-guided system has a “kinetic” option. What this means, simply, is that it can be set to not explode if not needed. This might sound like a waste of a bomb, but even without an explosion, a long (six feet, three inches), thin, 100-pound rod dropped from at least 15,000 feet doesn’t need to go off to put a world of hurt on some bad guys.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

The Scalpel weighs about as much as a Hellfire, and uses Paveway mountings and settings.

(U.S. Navy)

The Scalpel is also quite easy for pilots to employ. The guidance system is the same as that of the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs, and the Scalpel uses the same computer settings as the GBU-12 laser-guided bomb. It has been used on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, Mirage 2000, Mirage F-1, and the Jaguar.

The Scalpel is capable of hitting within about six feet of its aim point. It’s a safe bet that, with more military operations taking place in urban environments, the Scalpel will be used to tactically cut apart enemy positions without making too much of a mess.

Articles

Former U.S. Army officer killed in Israel terror stabbing

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots
(Photo: Vanderbilt University)


Former U.S. Army officer Taylor Force was stabbed to death on a recent graduate school trip to Israel. Force was in Israel on a trip with his Vanderbilt University classmates when he was stabbed in Jaffa, an ancient port city that is now part of Tel Aviv. The attack was part of a wave of violence that injured a dozen civilians and police officers throughout Tel Aviv.

The Israeli government and Vice-President Joe Biden, who was in Israel this week, called the stabbing an act of terror. The assailant, allegedly a Palestinian, was shot and killed.

Force grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was an Eagle Scout. He graduated from West Point and served in Iraq from September 2010 to August 2011 and in Afghanistan from October 2012 to July 2013. Force made captain before separating from the Army to pursue his MBA at Vanderbilt. He was in Israel to learn about global entrepreneurship. He was due to graduate in 2017.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Navy SEALs wore blue jeans in Vietnam

Nothing screams Americana more than rock and roll, blue jeans, and the toughness of our fighting men and women. If you mix them all together, you get the Navy SEALs who fought in the jungles of Vietnam. They were unquestionably rugged, they were probably rocking out to some CCR, and they wore blue jeans throughout.

In a speech delivered to Congress in May, 1961, President John F. Kennedy recognized the need for special operations as a measure against guerrilla warfare. Meanwhile, the Navy was already putting together elite units for exactly that task. The Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams grew into the SEALs we know today and they were baptized in the waters of Vietnam.


DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Navy SEALs are truly masters of both hiding and seeking.

(U.S. Navy)

These men were experts in hand-to-hand combat, high-altitude parachuting, demolitions, and foreign languages — all skills that would prove useful in Vietnam. At the beginning of 1962, SEALs were mobilized into South Vietnam to take on an advisory role. Less than a year later, they were participating in the covert, CIA-sponsored Phoenix Program.

Details of the Phoenix Program are blurry (as covert CIA stuff tends to be), but what is known is that it involved the SEALs doing what they do best: Capturing and assassinating high-value targets. This meant that they would infiltrate deep behind enemy lines and directly engage the enemy when they thought they were safe.

The SEALs were constantly on the move through rough and unforgiving terrain to complete their mission. As anyone who’s ever donned a military uniform can tell you, the “lowest bidder” joke wears off after you’ve ripped a hole in the crotch of your seventeenth pair of trousers.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

So, which one of these guys are you gonna scold for wearing blue jeans? None of them? Good choice.

(U.S. Navy)

So, SEALs wore whatever was durable enough to complete the mission — and Vietnam demanded blue jeans. It allowed the SEALs to sneak into enemy compounds without worrying about catching their pants on a branch, loudly ripping some fabric, and blowing the element of surprise. It also didn’t hurt that jeans are damn comfy.

SEALs, along with the rest of the Special Operations community, have an advantage over most conventional troops: No one outside of Special Operations is ballsy enough to walk up to a bearded SEAL and berate them for not being in uniform. Anyone who dared was quickly laughed at and then soiled their regulation uniform trousers as they watched the SEAL flex.

If you want to operate like a SEAL, then you need to dress like one. 5.11 Tactical‘s got you covered.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Astronomer photographs secretive space plane on classified mission

Noted astronomer and satellite expert Ralf Vandebergh of Nijswiller, Limburg, Netherlands, spent months searching the skies for one of the Holy Grails of sky spotting, the secretive U.S. Air Force Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. In May 2019, he finally succeeded.

Remarkably, on June 30 and July 2, 2019, that Vandebergh finally captured some rare photos of the secret military spacecraft. Fifty-year veteran space journalist and author of the new book, “Moon Rush: The New Space Race”, Leonard David broke the story about Vandebergh’s sighting and photos on Saturday, July 6, 2019 on LiveScience.com. The photos are now being republished and shared around the world.


Journalist Leonard David quoted astronomer Ralf Vandebergh in his story on LiveScience.com as saying, “When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn’t meet the predicted time and path.” Vandebergh went on to tell Leonard David in his article that, “It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers’ network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2.”

The Air Force’s X-37B began as a test project with NASA in 1999 but was acquired by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2004. Most sources list two operational X-37B spacecraft and a single X-37A. The fact that only three exist, their missions and roles are classified and they operate in space makes them incredibly difficult to get photos of, especially when performing an active mission as in Vandebergh’s photos.

Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

www.youtube.com

Even more remarkably, according to Vandebergh’s photo analysis, he may have actually captured the X-37B with its cargo bay door open, performing some type of experiment or operation.

Vandebergh told reporters, “It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometers [186 miles] altitude, so don’t expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle. We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail.”

Vandebergh used a 10-inch F/4,8 aperture Newtonian telescope fitted with an Astrolumina ALccd 5L-11 mono CMOS camera to capture his photos. He tracked his elusive quarry across the sky by hand using a small 6×30 spotting scope to line up his telescope for the photos.

DARPA wants your mess cranks to be robots

Official USAF photo of X-37B (left) and astronomer Ralf Vandebergh (right).

(USAF and Ralf Vandebergh)

Little is known about the current role of the two X-37Bs and the single X-37A. Most likely the X-37Bs are in some form of “operational test” use with the USAF while the X-37A reportedly remains a combined Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA spacecraft with an equally secretive role.

While most information in the public domain lists both the X-37B and X-37A as “test” vehicles, the X-37B has performed unusually long duration space flights for testing. Remarkably, the current mission being performed by the X-37B in Vandebergh’s photos is designated “Mission OTV-5”. This mission began 670 days ago on September 7, 2017 when it was boosted into orbit on the SpaceX Falcon 9 orbital delivery spacecraft that launched from the NASA facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

While little is known about the actual mission of this current X-37B flight, author Leonard David may provide some insights in his report for LiveScience.com where he wrote:

“X-37B missions are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This squadron oversees operations of the X-37B and is tagged as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.”

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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