Russia's new exoskeleton probably isn't all it's cracked up to be - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

One of Russia’s largest defense contractors, Rostec, released new footage of their most advanced military exoskeleton in use on Monday, and as is so often the case when Russia makes such an announcement, a number of media outlets have taken their claims at face value in their reporting.


https://www.twitter.com/gunfighter2020/status/1311379576573001730
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However, historical precedent would suggest that we might want to hold off on congratulating Russia on cracking the exoskeleton egg. Russia has a long history of headline-grabbing military tech claims that have repeatedly proven misleading at best, and downright fabricated at worst.

Perhaps the most egregious falsehood Western Media briefly fell for in recent past was the Russian bipedal robot dubbed “Borris” that was unveiled in December of 2018 at the Putin Youth Forum in the city of Yaroslavl, Russia. The robot performed impressively, seemingly handling a number of complex tasks with ease, suggesting to many that Russia may be further along in the robotics game than many had previously suspected.

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That is, until some people began to notice that it looked an awful lot like their incredible new Boris robot was actually nothing more than a person in a robot suit.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

(Screen capture from Russian State television)

That theory was soon proven true.

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The tweets translate to:

“At the youth forum Putin was shown “the most modern robot Boris”. But this is just a man in a suit.”
“Here is that “modern robot” for you – an exclusive photo of the preparations for Putin’s youth forum in Yaroslavl.”

Of course, that wasn’t Russia’s first robotic claim to be full of hot air in 2018. In April, famed AK-47 maker Kalashnikov unveiled their own intimidating battle suit that was hailed by Western media outlets as something “straight out of Aliens the movie,” despite actually being little more than a statue with automated arms… that bears a closer resemblance to Robocop’s Ed-209… in that it too can’t go up stairs.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Kalashnikov claimed a more mobile version would be unveiled in 2020, but has yet to manifest. (Kalashnikov)

Not all of Russia’s exoskeleton or robotic failures have been quite so openly fabricated, and indeed some could be chalked up to little more than Russia’s propaganda machine spinning up faster than the nation’s real military technology could keep pace. Such was likely the case with Russia’s (once again) headline-grabbing Uran-9 unmanned ground combat, or infantry support, vehicle.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Russia’s Uran-9 in rehearsal for the Moscow Parade (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)

The entire world reported on Russia’s announcement that their armed infantry drone, the Uran-9, would be deployed to Syria for combat operations and further testing. The fact that Russia was already placing an armed, semi-autonomous robot into combat suggested to many that Moscow was demonstrating a significant lead when compared to Western efforts to do the same… but after a flurry of coverage regarding the deployment, coverage ceased regarding it’s use. The reason was that Russian state-media outlets (where most Western coverage of these advancements are derived) stopped covering the platform.

It wasn’t until months later that the Uran-9’s long list of deficiencies made its way to the public, not through press coverage picked up by the West initially, but rather after discussions between military leaders held months later found their way online.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Uran-9 unmanned combat ground vehicle displayed in 2016 (WikiMedia Commons)

In 2018 discussions at a Russian security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security,” held at the N.G. Kuznetsov Naval Academy in St. Petersburg, made their way to the press. The truth regarding the Uran-9, it was revealed, was not nearly as impressive as its coverage in the West would have suggested.

A.P. Anisimov, a Senior Research Officer from the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry, concluded that the platform was incapable of performing the tasks it was designed for. Press coverage claimed a three-kilometer range for the control of the ground drone, but the truth was that operators lost control of it at distances as short as 300 meters or any time they lost line of sight. Operators lost complete control of the vehicle for at least one minute on new fewer than seventeen separate occasions, with two of those instances lasting longer than an hour.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Keeping it on the truck for the Moscow Parade was probably a good decision. (Dmitriy Fomin on Flickr)

Other significant issues included the chassis repeatedly failing, forcing repairs in the field, the cannon failing to function on six different occasions, and its targeting system proving so poor that engaging targets at any distance was almost impossible.

Of course, does a history of making up news related to Russia’s military exoskeleton and robotic capabilities in the past mean this new Rostec system is similarly more hype than function? Not necessarily. Exoskeleton design has been at the top of many firm’s priority list in recent years. In fact, the Marine Corps started receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing earlier this year, though the Corps is focused on using them for logistics, rather than combat — as the margin for error is much higher in a warehouse than a firefight.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Marine Corps exoskeleton (Sarcos Defense)

Of course, America’s tech innovations aren’t immune to being propagandized either, but the Marine Corps’ decision to slow the introduction of exoskeletons until the technology is robust enough for combat at least seems like a more realistic progression.

There are a few more related announcements made by Russian military tech firms recently that later proved to be bunk, aside from their unconfirmed claims about the capabilities of real (and likely largely functional) platforms like the Su-57 stealth fighter, the PAK-DA stealth bomber, or the Su-70 Okhotnik-B stealth UCAV.

In 2018, Russia claimed to have developed active camouflage that could hide soldiers and even vehicles behind a Predator-style cloak of invisibility. Those claims were also made by Rostec, the same firm responsible for this new exoskeleton, and have yet to materialize.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

The Ratnik-3 combat suit. (Rostec)

In another social media gaff, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti tweeted that Vladimir Putin was observing the exercises of Russian military robots, again hyping Russia’s emphasis on combat robotics. The news outlet reported that the students were demonstrating their own robot invention.

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However, it was soon revealed that the robots were actually South Korean-sourced toys that can be purchased on Amazon.

In other words, based on historical precedent… it would be logical that we hold our applause until some evidence of Rostec’s system actually functioning properly in field conditions finds its way to the media.

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


Articles

The Lightning will take concealed carry to a whole new level of lethal

Stealth is becoming more and more common — but just because you designed an invisible (to radar) plane doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it, to be very blunt. In fact, the job’s only half done.


You see, the plane isn’t the only thing that the radar waves bounce off of. They also will reflect very well off of the missiles your F-35 carries. All the stealth tech does no good if the stuff you intend to drop on the bad guys is seen on radar while you’re still minutes — or even an hour — away.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. Note that the F-35 is carrying missiles externally, rendering it more visible to radar. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

At SeaAirSpace 2017, mock-ups of a number of new missiles in development were displayed, so more can be carried internally on the F-35 and other stealthy jets (like the B-21 and B-2, for instance). In essence, this is taking concealed carry to a whole new level.

For instance, one such weapon being displayed was the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range. The AARGM-ER is a development of the AGM-88E AARGM, in essence: a vastly upgraded HARM. AARGM is already in service with the Navy, with more being produced, and it is used on the F/A-18C/D/E/F Hornet and Super Hornet airframes on their pylons, easily the most capable anti-radar missile they have ever carried.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
The AGM-88E AARGM on display at a 2007 air show. Note the huge fins, which limit it to external carriage on the F-35. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But with the F-35, there is a problem — those big-ass fins on the AARGM. That means AARGM has to be carried externally, which means the F-35 will be seen. If the F-35 is seen, an enemy will shoot at it. And when the enemy shoots at a F-35, they could hit it — and if the plane is hit, it could be shot down. That’ll ruin everyone’s day.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
A mock-up of the AARGM-ER at SeaAirSpace 2017. Note the absence of the huge fins at the middle of the missile, and the clipped fins at the rear. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Where AARGM-ER, though, seeing the F-35 becomes much, much harder. Why? The answer is what you don’t see. The big fins in the middle of the AARGM aren’t there. The tail fins have also been pared back. This means the missile can now fit in the internal weapons bay.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
In this photo from a handout at ATK’s booth at SeaAirSpace2017, the AARGM-ER mock-up fits into the F-35’s weapons bay. (Scanned from ATK handout)

In other words, the F-35 now can get closer — and the AARGM-ER will not only fit in the weapons bay, it can also be fired from twice as far as the current AARGM. It’s as if this missile has been designed to put down the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-21 Gargoyle.

AARGM-ER isn’t the only missile at SeaAirSpace 2017 designed for internal carriage. Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile is also being designed for internal carry on the F-35. In short, the F-35 will be practicing a very potent form of concealed carry.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only enlisted submariner to receive the Medal of Honor

The U.S. Navy submarine service was barely two decades old when the submarine USS O-5 began taking on water in the Panama Canal Zone in October 1923. A cargo ship slammed into the submarine without warning and the boat began taking on water. The crew began to abandon ship.

One lifelong sailor, Henry Breault, could have escaped, too, but he went down with a shipmate that couldn’t escape. The two were trapped in the sunken hull until the next day. For that heroism, President Calvin Coolidge presented Breault with the Medal of Honor.


He was the first member of the submarine service to receive the award and the only enlisted submariner to receive it for duties aboard a sub.

The USS O-5 was never a very lucky ship. Fifth in the line of 16 O-class submarines, she entered service six months too late for World War I. Before even leaving for Europe, an explosion killed her skipper and one of her officers. By Oct. 28, 1924, Breault and the USS O-5 were among a contingent of submarines moving to enter the Panama Canal. That’s when disaster struck.

Or more accurately, that’s when the United Fruit Company struck.

Either through human error or miscommunication (or likely a mix of both), the UFC’s SS Abangarez was moving to dock when it hit the USS O-5 on its starboard side, creating a 10-foot hole in its control room. The ship rolled to the left and then right before sinking bow first.

Most of the crew were rescued but five were missing, including Breault and Chief Electrician’s Mate Lawrence Brown. Breault had actually escaped the sinking boat when he realized Brown was still asleep down below. He went back into the submarine and closed the deck hatch behind him. The two ended up trapped in the torpedo room below the surface.

When divers discovered crewmen were alive inside, work began to get them out. The only way to do that was to lift the boat the full 42 feet above the waterline. Luckily for them, they happened to be in the Canal Zone, the home of some of the world’s heaviest lifting cranes. The crane barge Ajax, one of the largest in the world, made its way to the wreck as soon as possible.

After three failed attempts and a full 31 hours, the canal crews and sailors were able to lift the sub up high enough to open the torpedo room hatch and free their comrades.

Breault had been sailing since age 16 and was a sailor for the rest of his life, dying just two days before the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor on Dec. 5, 1941.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy introduced the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships

In the 1970s, the United States Navy was looking to upgrade their amphibious warfare capabilities. The Iwo Jima-class landing platform, helicopter (LPH) vessels had proven capable, but the Navy is always on the hunt for the next step in ability.


The Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship displaced only 11,000 tons, which makes it about the size of Commencement Bay-class escort carriers that were commissioned late in World War II. It could operate helicopters, OV-10 Broncos, and even AV-8 Harriers.

But the Navy wanted something bigger and better — the answer was a new class of amphibious assault ships.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

A North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco of U.S. Marine Corps observation squadron VMO-1 takes off from the flight deck of the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) in 1983.

(U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Dougherty)

The lead ship of a planned nine-ship class was named in honor of the Battle of Tarawa. It was much larger than Iwo Jima-class ships, displacing nearly 40,000 tons. In addition, it was over 200 feet longer, could go two knots faster (reaching a top speed of 24 knots), and had a wider flight deck. This enabled it to operate far more helicopters, Broncos, and Harriers than its predecessors. It also had a well deck, which enabled it to operate landing craft or amphibious assault vehicles.

USS Tarawa was commissioned in 1976 and four more of the class were in service by end of 1980. Although the high inflation rates of the 1970s put a premature stop to the program, the five constructed vessels proved to be a massive leap in capability for the Marines and Navy.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) prepares to launch a CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Super Stallion from its flight deck during Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) integration training.

(U.S. Navy)

The Tarawa-class design was later used as the basis for Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, with some slight modifications, including a well deck for three LCACs, a more spacious flight deck, and less vulnerable command and control facilities.

The five Tarawa-class ships have since been retired. One is looking at a future in a museum, another was scrapped, a third was sunk as a target ship, and the remaining two are in reserves. Learn more about these ships in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFo2t8i5iVA

www.youtube.com


MIGHTY CULTURE

From Vietnam to Afghanistan: How two deployment stories connected generations

My great uncle deployed to Vietnam when he was around 21 years old. I didn’t know about his deployment until I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2009. My uncle, unlike most of the friends and family I had, knew the reality of what was coming. He had already supported me as a military service member, but when the word deployment became a part of the conversation, everything changed.

It wasn’t until my first care package from my uncle arrived that I realized how deeply our paths were connected. The care packages he sent were different from all the other care packages I received. Each one told a story. It could have been the contents of the box or the letter it contained. But no care package was sent without thought and care of what he would have liked to have opened while serving overseas. It was different from all the other care packages because he had been on the receiving end before.


One care package he sent had the book, The Pearl by John Steinbeck. The book on its own would have been nice to have something to read, but there was a story that went with it. In one care package he received from a family in Coos Bay Oregon for Christmas in 1967, he received The Pearl and read it throughout his deployment. I read it too. And sitting on my bunk in my tent, I felt a connection. That book, unlike most of the books I received, made it home with me and sits on my shelf. And every time I see it, I think of my uncle and the bond we share.

Years later after coming home I wanted to do a series for my blog focused on deployment stories. I loved reading the stories in the letters from my uncle and it inspired me to search out more stories and create a series with stories from the past and present-day wars. Not surprisingly, I was excited to include my uncle in this series. So, I sent off my questions and waited for a response. To my surprise, the response was not full of distant stories and fond memories. Instead, I could feel the hurt and pain that deployment can sometimes bring when hidden inside for years. It was something I had struggled with at times as well. Dark memories are sometimes easier to keep hidden.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I was disappointed with his short answers, but I understood his pain. Even though I write and talk about my deployment, sometimes questions can hit me off guard and a wall can go up so fast. And so, I quickly expressed an apology for bringing up pain and thanked him for the answers I received while I also worked to change my questions to focus on the story and not the combat. I was not giving up hope that a story was there.

He responded with an apology and a chance to start again. He said he had reread his answers and realized he was blunt and grumpy. Instead of receiving one-word answers and angry responses I received pieces of history gifted to me through his words and photos. It was a treasured gift and opened my eyes to the history of the Vietnam War and the struggles and challenges he faced. You can read the full interview here.

And it may seem silly or trivial to say that one interview, one group of questions, could help someone who had been hurt so deeply from war and then by those who treated him with indifference on his way home, heal. But there is power in telling your story. There is power in bringing the darkness to light. He once told me, “Until you asked about it, it never occurred to me that anyone would be interested in my story because I made it home in one piece when so many of my buddies didn’t…”

But the story isn’t over. My uncle continues his healing journey and is signed up and waiting for his turn to attend an Honor Flight to Washington DC. He talked about the excitement, anticipation and so many other emotions of going to the Vietnam Memorial and what that trip means to him. He knows it is the next step in his journey and knows it will mean a lot to him.

I never thought my deployment experience would have such an impact on my uncle’s life. I did not realize that the path to my deployment would cause me to want to hear more stories and share more experiences with others. How many people are out there thinking no one wants to know about their experience because they came home alive? But it is through the stories of those who are still alive that we can honor the legacy of those we lost.

There is so much power in telling your story and it is part of the healing journey. It likely won’t be easy but it is so important to share.

Do you know someone who has deployed to Vietnam?

Be sensitive, open and sincere and ask them about their story. Know that they might not be ready to tell their story, but you will never know if you don’t ask. And even if you never hear their story the power of asking one question can help them realize they do have a story to share and that might just be the first step in their journey that they need.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Things I wish I knew before becoming a MilSpouse

It’s now been a couple of years since my husband retired from 31 years of active military service. I was along for the ride from the beginning, as I met him mere months after he arrived at his first duty station.

We were so young when we married (19 and 22), and I had no idea what I was getting myself into — no, I really didn’t. I hear so many military spouses say the same, even if they grew up in a military family. Being the spouse of a service member is such a unique experience. In the past two years, I think I’ve gained some hindsight and perspective in looking back at those decades of military life, and I’m thinking about what I wish I’d known, what I’d do differently, what surprised me, and what I’m glad for.


Whether you’re a brand new milspouse or nearly at the end of your journey too, see if any of this resonates with you. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.

What I wish I’d known

1. Not to underestimate the effect military life would have on our family.

While by this point in the military spouse world it’s been drilled into us how important it is to create our own identity, pursue our own dreams and passions, that we’re not just military spouses (all good things, of course), it does no good to pretend military life won’t have an impact on the spouse and family. It will have an effect, whether it’s where you’re living, how much you see your spouse, if your kids will change schools numerous times, or the rest of the family stays put while the military member moves. It isn’t just another job, one that can be picked up and put down at will. It’s a completely different way of life.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

U.S. Army Sgt.1st Class Danny J. Hocker, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is embraced by his family during a welcome home ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, Oct. 23, 2008.

(US Army Photo by SPC Pastora Y. Hall)

2. To not look back with rose colored glasses.

Whether location, friends, a church, or community, lingering too long on the things I loved from past assignments did not serve me well in the early days at a new base. While it’s important to grieve and take stock before moving on, at times, dwelling on what was carved out a hollow space within me that refused to be filled with the new. This led to prolonged times of loneliness and disillusion that I think might have been shorter if I hadn’t played the comparison game.

3. To take care of myself.

I think younger spouses these days may have a better handle on this than I did, but I had to learn the hard way that the world would not stop spinning on its axis if I took a nap, planned a walk alone, or said a firm no to the latest volunteering opportunity so that I could make self-care a priority more often.

4. Friendships won’t look the same, and that’s ok.

Back to comparisons. It just stinks to say goodbye to the best friend you’ve ever had and be forced to start over again. Sometimes it’s easier to just…not. It’s exhausting to lay the groundwork for friendships and community connections, knowing it’s temporary anyway. But I wish I could tell young me that making room for others, whether they resemble any friend you’ve ever had or would even look for, is important and can also be surprising.

5. Don’t wait for people to make the first move or make me feel welcome.

There’s no sense in standing to the side and expect people to bring the welcome wagon to you,because you’re the new one after all. Sometimes you have to be brave first.

6. Not worry so much about how our kids would turn out.

I spent a lot of needless worry on this one. A lot. This is not to say that military life isn’t hard on kids–it is. But I had way too many sleepless nights on this. Of course, making sure my military kids had the resources they needed was important and I’m glad I gave attention to that. Heck, maybe they did turn out as functioning adults because I worried so much? We’ll go with that thought.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

(US Army photo)

7. To make space for my husband again at the inevitable end of military life.

I’ll be honest–I wish I had done this better. While you’re in the thick of military life, it’s hard to believe it won’t always be like this. And while I gave lip service to how glad I’d be when he’d be home again regularly, no longer deploying, and become a regular part of the household after literally years of separation, the transition to civilian life was a little bumpier than I’d expected. I’d so carefully groomed my independent side for years (I had to, to survive), that creating space for him and for us as a couple was a much bigger adjustment than I’d expected.

What surprised me

1. How glad I am for the hard times.

They changed me, my perspective, and how I relate to others. It sounds cliche, but I wouldn’t have grown or appreciate life like I do now without the losses and pain that walked hand in hand with years of military life. I’m not sure I would have learned that lesson so well otherwise.

Reunited

2. The utter relief that came with the end of his military service.

The knowledge that we wouldn’t ever have to move again unless we choose to, that I won’t be holding down the fort as my husband deploys or leaves for training, or that military life will no longer define every detail of our existence struck me the day the words “you are relieved from active duty” were spoken at my husband’s retirement ceremony. I didn’t realize how heavy that weight was until it was gone.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Capt. Joe Faraone reunites with his wife, Suk, Jan. 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

3. What I’d miss.

The instant camaraderie, the shared experiences with other military families can’t be understood unless you’ve been there. The unique language, the dark sense of humor that comes with the “deployment curse,” the understanding of what we all go through is hard to replicate. Hearing the notes of reveille played basewide to start the day, the National Anthem at the end of the duty day, and the heartbreaking sound of Taps each night — the sadness of which will forever make tears gather in my eyes–those are some ‘little things’ I still miss. The travel, the adventure, the not knowing what would be around the next corner? Yes, I miss that, too.

4. How strong I am. How strong we all are.

One reason I stay involved in my work with military spouses is because it’s now part of me. Military families are a special breed. Military spouses have my heart, and will forever. I have witnessed families go through unspeakable things, times that would crush a normal person, and come out stronger and also willing to reach out and help others going through the same thing. Whether it’s creating a non-profit to make life easier for other military families, embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and start a pop-up business at a desolate duty station, or simply rolling out of bed each morning to tote kids to school and themselves to work while their spouse serves hundreds of miles away….you inspire me every day.

My husband retired after 31 years in the Air Force. Shortly after, I stumbled across this poem and felt it was written just for him…for us.

The Last Parade

Let the bugle blow

Let the march be played

With the forming of the troops

For my last parade.

The years of war and the years of waiting

Obedience to orders, unhesitating

Years in the states, and the years overseas

All woven in a web of memories.

A lifetime of service passes in review

As many good friends and exotic places too

In the waning sunlight begin to fade

With the martial music of my last parade.

My last salute to the service and base

Now someone else will take my place

To the sharp young airmen marching away

I gladly pass the orders of the day.

Though uncertain of what my future may hold

Still, if needed-before I grow too old

I’ll keep my saber sharp, my powder dry

Lest I be recalled to duty by and by.

So let the bugle blow

Fire the evening gun

Slowly lower the colors

My retirement has begun.

-Author Unknown

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A deployed carrier has a coronavirus outbreak. Her husband is on board.

Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.


Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.

Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.

Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.

When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”

But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.

“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”

While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”

Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”

Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to suffer a German U-boat attack

The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.


Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.

One of the biggest dangers was of U-boat attack, when even a single boat could wipe out an entire convoy, provided that the boat was able to surface and attack using its deck gun.

The mariners were in danger from the moment they lost view of the land. U-boats would typically attack deep into the Atlantic, but they liked to remind Americans that they weren’t safe at any time, so some U-boats were sent to hunt right off the coast.

Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.

German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage

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When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.

These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.

And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.

That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.

If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.

What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.

But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.

(U.S. Navy)

When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.

If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.

But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.

(U.S. Navy)

Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.

To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.

And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.

Luckily for mariners, British innovation and American industry eventually gave the sub hunters the edge over the submarines, culminating in “Black May” 1943 when German losses got so steep that subs essentially withdrew from the Atlantic, allowing the Merchant Marine to finally sail largely in peace.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran amputee was denied a Six Flags ride — but here’s why

Retired Marine Johnny “Joey” Jones, who lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while deployed, was asked to exit a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia; since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets and sparked a heated conversation.

The Washington Post reported that Jones was “concerned with the way the park’s policy was presented to him” and that “the policy is too restrictive to accommodate people with disabilities.”

But there’s a good reason for roller coaster parks to be restrictive.


In 2011, U.S. Army Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer was ejected from a ride in a New York theme park and died.

Hackemer had been wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead that caused the loss of his left leg and most of his right. He, like Jones, wore prosthetic limbs. After an investigation, a reportedly seven-figure settlement was reached between the lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and Hackemer’s family.

Jones didn’t see the handicapped sign for the ride when he climbed in with his 8 year-old son — but the ride operator noticed Jones’ prosthetics. Jones told The Washington Post that he wasn’t upset about being asked to leave the ride, but rather that the employees didn’t seem trained to properly accommodate his condition.

According to Fox News, Six Flags issued an apology:

“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” Six Flags said in a statement to Fox News. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act. Our policies are customized by ride and developed for the safety of all our guests. Our policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure we continue to accommodate the needs of our guests while simultaneously maintaining a safe environment for everyone.”

Nonetheless, Jones took to Twitter to call out the park:

twitter.com

In a follow-up Tweet, Jones maintained that this ride didn’t truly appear to have a safety policy as much as a liability policy, which is where his argument truly appears to stem from.

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He’s advocating for fellow amputees and individuals with handicaps so they can feel included — rather than excluded — as they continue to live their lives.

Intel

How The US Military Is Countering The Rise Of Enemy Drones

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
Photo by Thierry Ehrmann


The U.S. has been using drones for years, but now that technology has become more available to other nations how will the U.S. protect itself?

Also Read: A Navy F/A-18 Flew Low Over Berkeley, California And People Lost Their Minds

Vice News’ Ryan Faith discusses what the U.S. is doing to counter drones:

Earlier this year, VICE News was one of the first media outlets ever granted access to the US military’s annual Black Dart exercise, a decade-old joint exercise that focuses on detecting, countering, and defeating UAVs.As we watched tens of millions of dollars worth of military equipment go up against $1,000 drones, Black Dart demonstrated the way rapidly evolving drone technology is challenging the military’s most basic assumptions about controlling the air. (One civilian drone maker we visited told us that the technology he has at his fingertips is outpacing some RD efforts at big aerospace contractors.) And so Black Dart continues to encourage innovation in the effort to keep the US military one step ahead in the cat-and-mouse game between drones and drone killers.

Watch here:

MIGHTY CULTURE

DARPA wants AI to dogfight, but not for reasons you think

The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.


DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.

So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.

And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.

In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.

(DARPA)

From a DARPA release titled Training AI to Win a Dogfight:

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.

Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.

This may sound like far future stuff, but it’s likely DARPA will find solid proposals fast. They’re soliciting proposals through May 17, but University of Cincinnati students created an AI named ALPHA in 2016 that repeatedly defeated a retired Air Force colonel in simulated dogfights. If that AI and similar tech can be properly adapted to work in current or future fighter aircraft, then we’ll be off to the races.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the ways to lose the “once a Marine, always a Marine” status

You see and hear this term all the time: “former Marine.” And, wherever you see it, you’ll also see Marines telling you (and everyone else) why we hate it. Sure, there are a few folks out there who agree with it, but those of us who hold the title near and dear to our hearts will tell you a different story.

In my opinion, there’s a damned good reason for the expression, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Others disagree.


To be fair, this is not a mentality exclusive to Marines. Just because you “get out” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marine, soldier, airman, coast guardsman, etc. You don’t just instantly forget everything you’ve learned and experienced over the past few years once you get your DD-214. Joining the military makes you a part of a fraternity and you’ll find that you resonate better with other veterans than you do with people from any other walk of life for one simple reason: You became a part of something much larger than yourself.

Your membership was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears, along with the countless hours you spent dedicated to the cause. To say a veteran is an “ex-” anything is highly inaccurate.

However, there are certain qualities (mostly conscious choices) that define a former Marine. These are just a few of those qualities:

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Maybe you just need some new Drill Instructors…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Severe lack of discipline

It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your discipline slide when you get out — in fact, a lot of us are guilty of this. But at some point, we pick it back up and we reintegrate it into our lives. To allow this discipline to drop off entirely is most definitely a conscious choice — one that can lead to the discontinuation of other hard-earned qualities.

Forgotten core values

No matter which branch you join, you’ll first learn the core values and then you’ll embody them. Those values shape your personal code and you live by them while you’re in the military. When you get out, if you aren’t still using them to find some direction in life, you’ve earn the “ex” in front of your title.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Just remember what you learned.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Lack of leadership

Almost everyone comes out of the military with some type of leadership capabilities. Something you hear often in the military is, “in the absence of leadership, be a leader.” This applies heavily to civilian life because there’s often severe absence of leadership. If you get out of the military without learning how to take control from time to time, you likely didn’t learn much else.

Lack of punctuality

We’re all guilty of being late to something at some point. It just happens, it’s the way of life. But, those who learned anything from time in service will remember the factors that played into that tardiness, both self-inflicted and external, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re choosing to be late because you just don’t care — you’ve given up your title.

Russia’s new exoskeleton probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

If you define yourself as an “ex-Marine,” by all means.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

A conscious decision to no longer be a Marine

There’s a common belief among those who served that states you should always work to justify the fact that you’ve earned the right to be called a Marine (or solider, or airmen, etc). You should continuously employ the values learned in service in forming your civilian life.

There is, however, another side to this — and it’s simple. If you decide you’re no longer fitting of that title because you’ve grown a beard or whatever other, arbitrary reason, then you aren’t.

Many of us still believe in our titles and we’re willing to continue to honor it. It’s a lifetime effort and, if you’re not willing to make the commitment, nobody else will make it for you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US met with the Taliban for peace talks in Doha

Perhaps unthinkable as early as just a year ago, diplomats from the United States met with representatives of the Afghan Taliban to discuss terms for ending the 17-year long conflict in Afghanistan. It all began when Afghan government under Ashraf Ghani and Taliban senior leadership agreed to a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. When it actually happened, not only did Afghans across the country rejoice, it legitimized the prospect of a permanent end to the fighting.

Of course, violence didn’t cease entirely for the most important holiday in Islam. Fighters under the flag of the Islamic State continued pressing attacks from the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province, killing 30.


Related: The ISIS vs Taliban war in Afghanistan is heating up

Elsewhere in the country, however, Afghans were able to breathe a much-welcomed sigh of relief for the first time in over a decade, even if it was only temporary. Fighters from both sides even joined each other in some areas to celebrate the holiday, sharing a salat prayer or jelabi sweets. For a few days, their automatic rifle fire was directed into the air, instead of at each other. After the holiday, the fighters reluctantly returned to the routine of war they have endured for 17 years.

The joint celebrations made it apparent that many in Afghanistan are ready to see an end to all fighting in the country and that some kind of agreement could be reached between the opposing sides — including the U.S.-supported Ghani government. Now, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Alice Wells, a senior official for U.S. relations in Afghanistan, traveled to Doha to meet with the Taliban.

Taliban officials were excited at the meeting, telling journalists it yielded “very positive signals,” in their eyes. Representatives of the Afghan government were not present at the talks. It was Ashraf Ghani’s central government in Afghanistan that first offered the Eid ceasefire agreement.

The two sides agreed to meet again in the very near future.

The biggest wrench in recent peace works is the rise of a relatively new force arising in Afghanistan, one the United States and the Taliban seem to deem a greater threat than one another: ISIS.

As a newcomer to the fighting in the country, ISIS is not as capable, having neither the technical and numerical superiority of the United States nor a force of battle-hardened Afghans who have been fighting for decades, some as far back as the 1979 Soviet invasion. The terror organization also does not have the entrenched backing of rural Afghans like the Taliban does in many areas.

The difference between this U.S.-Taliban meeting is that previous American administrations demanded that any peace talks be held between the Taliban and the Afghan government, whereas the Taliban would only agree to talk to the United States — and the biggest demand for peace in the country is that all foreign forces withdraw.

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