Toiling away deep in the U.S. Army’s research and development arm of the Special Operations Command are the scientists crafting the Tactical Assault Light Operations Suit. It looks slick. It looks awesome. It looks like it’s going to change the battlefield in a big way.
The only problem with it is that when military journalists cover it, they see how it looks and immediately attribute it to some sci-fi universe by saying something like, “it’s a real-life Iron Man suit!” So, let’s take a closer look and determine where, exactly, within the broad horizon of nerdom this high-tech exo-suit belongs.
We weren’t exaggerating: Right off the bat, a comparison to Iron Man’s suit is invariably struck by nearlyeverysinglenewsoutlet. To a degree, we can see why. The suit, officials have said, will be considered complete when it’s functional, bullet-proof, and weaponized.
Even Jim Geurtz of SOCOM jokingly told NPR that it’s “not at the Iron Man-flying-suit, you know, flying-at-50,000-feet level.” Since he’s developing the suit, he gets a pass on calling it an Iron Man suit — but a more apt comparison is a War Machine suit. Since the suit is not going to be powered by a nuclear fission reactor and fire lasers, it’s a better match with War Machine’s kinetic arsenal.
(Punisher Vol 1. #218)
Though there’s no proof, we’re pretty sure the name TALOS is a backronym designed to share a name with the ancient Greek legend. In mythology, Talos is a bronze automaton said to have protected Crete from pirates and scoundrels (and is the God of Man in the Elder Scrolls universe, but that’s fantasy and not sci-fi). Coincidentally, Talos’ mythological job would fit it perfectly within the Boba Fett-inspired H&K AR500 suit. Looking at their helmet design, it’s obvious that they know full-well who they want it to look like.
A comparison that the TALOS suit doesn’t get often enough is to the armor of Halo’s Space Marines. The design is strikingly similar to the armor worn by non-player characters in the series.
The suit was also once projected to be able to relay vital information to the wearer via a heads-up display. Command information could also be relayed to the user through their fancy set of glasses. The early designs weren’t too far off from the in-game version, but that was also back when they thought Google Glass was going to change the battlefield…
In the Air Force, we call them wingmen. In the Army, they’re called battle buddies. In the Marines, they’re swim buddies. Name aside, the idea is simple and clear: Accompany your wingman in all possibly dangerous or questionable situations. You keep your wingman out of trouble or, in some cases, make sure they don’t get in trouble alone.
For the most part, the concept is well understood and regularly executed. There are, however, a few absolutely unacceptable areas of failure when it comes to implementing the concept. Here’s a tough pill to stomach: Sexual assault is, unfortunately, all too common throughout the military.
Having a few good wingmen can play an instrumental role in preventing such behavior. And while, ultimately, only the assaulter is responsible for their actions, it’s up to you, the wingman, to keep a watchful eye. Implementing these techniques will help make the military a safer culture for everyone.
It’s that simple.
(Photo by sholefet.com)
Consent is not optional
If you see any kind of behavior that’s flirting with the line, don’t take (or let anyone take) a chance.
This one’s simple enough, and it deserves to be at the top of this list.
Have a plan.
Establish your team and roles before you go out
It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you going out or an entire group, build set of rules for everyone to stick by. Know exactly who is responsible for watching who and make sure everyone has at least one person accountable for their safe return. Set up a triple-check system for when someone is breaking away from the group.
As long as everyone sticks with the established rules and takes care of who they are expected to take care of, everyone will get home fine.
Actual footage of the new Sergeant’s first weekend off.
Know your limits… and your team’s limits
It’s almost as if they issue you a stronger liver and a standard-issue drinking habit upon swearing in. As a result, many of us tend to carry on as if liquor isn’t impairing our judgement and decision-making abilities. Here’s a fact: it is.
Knowing what you can actually handle (and what your buddies can handle) is crucial to having an incident-free night. Know your team.
It is a yes? An undeniable and clear yes? Does it ever become a no? Please understand consent.
Consent should be simple. No means no, and that’s that.
While you’re out partying and sparks fly with someone, typically, there’s some amount of intoxication involved, and that can muddle things up. What might start as a “yes” might morph as the night goes on. It’s simple: When you hear a “no” (or anything that isn’t explicitly a “yes”) stop immediately. Do not slow down and creep on creepin’ on. Do not try to guilt or coerce the other party into continuing. Do not do anything other than stopping. Just stop.
Use your words and have a conversation that may (or may not) lead to a sober and completely consensual hook-up down the line. Or better yet, maybe you’ll leave the conversation with an understanding of one another. Best of all, you’ll come away without inflicting or sustaining any horrifically permanent scars.
To keep it very simple, just remember: No means no.
That’s all there is to it. Nobody should stop you from having a good time, but it’s up to you to be a good wingman and keep your buddies out of trouble.
The United States’ win over Japan in World War II won’t be nationally celebrated on again until its September anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it whenever you want. Grab yourself a bottle of Old Crow bourbon and let’s get down to it with the Marine Corps’ finest beverage.
The capture of Guadalcanal in World War II marked another turning point in the war for the Pacific. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy was irreversibly trounced at Midway, the Japanese were still making gains in the war. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, all that ended. America took the initiative and Imperial Japan never again recovered their post-Pearl Harbor momentum.
When the Navy dropped the Marines off at Guadalcanal, Admiral Chester Nimitz left them with some cases of Old Crow bourbon. To make the limited supply last, the Marines rationed their bourbon to two to four ounces of the hard stuff per day. Being the disciplined warriors that the Marines are, they took the rationing a step further and cut the bourbon with their supply of unsweetened grapefruit juice.
U.S. Marines landing at Guadalcanal.
While unsweetened grapefruit juice and warm bourbon may seem like a harsh combination, keep in mind that some Japanese positions captured by the Marines also featured icehouses. Being able to cool down their beverages was a nice added bonus to wresting positions from Japanese control. Even if they couldn’t ice it down, harsh cocktails were hardly the biggest worry the Marines face on Guadalcanal.
For just over six months, Marines made amphibious landings to capture heavily-defended airfields and ridgelines as the Navy battled it out with Imperial Japanese submarines and battleships off the coast. At its outset, victory at Guadalcanal for the United States Army and Marines was anything but guaranteed. By the end of it, even the Japanese began to call Guadalcanal “the graveyard of the Japanese Army.”
So, if you’re looking to toast to the bravery of U.S. Marines, mix some Old Crow Bourbon with some fresh grapefruit juice, serve it over ice, and enjoy!
The back squat is often referred to as the king of all exercises, especially by those who frequently squat — and those who like a nice booty. But does it live up to the hype? And, more importantly, should you be squatting to get you closer to your fitness goals?
That’s what I call full-body stimulation. Even the face gets a workout…
(Photo by Senior Airman Alyssa Van Hook)
The squat is touted as that exercise which recruits the most muscle mass with the most weight possible.
You may immediately think of thrusters as an exercise that proves this previous statement false. The problem there is that, strength-wise, the upper body lags behind the lower body. So, a weight that may be difficult for you to press overhead will likely be very easy to squat to depth with.
The back squat, on the other hand, isometrically engages the upper body without impacting the work of the lower body.
The barbell back squat actively works just about every muscle from the ribs down if performed correctly, and it also works the shoulders and upper back isometrically.
If you’re one of my clients, you are familiar with the cue, bend the bar over your back. This cue engages the pulling muscles of your back and arms even more, since you are literally trying to bend the bar over your back with your hands. This cue also has the benefit of locking your core into a tighter contraction, so that you can transfer more force from your legs into the weight.
This is the same concept as trying to push a button with a noodle vs a rod. If it’s a really light button, you may be able to do it with a noodle, but it’ll be a lot harder because much of the force is being lost. The rod directly transfers all your energy straight into the button efficiently.
There isn’t another exercise that allows you to move as much weight as the back squat with so many muscles. It can be considered a true test of total strength. Not only that, but it can save you time.
If you only have 45 minutes for a workout, you will be able to hit more muscle groups faster by chunking them into compound exercises like the back squat. Five sets of squats will always be faster than 5 sets of leg extension, 5 sets of leg curl, 5 sets of calf raises, and 5 sets of glute bridges.
For the average trainee, this efficiency approach is more than sufficient for satisfying your need for muscular stimulation. If you are a bodybuilder, a different more isolative approach may be required. Remember, everything is dependent on your goals.
More muscle mass equals more testosterone. The squat is highly effective at building lower-body mass.
(Photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)
The typical bro-scientist states that the back squat is superior in raising anabolic hormones, like testosterone and growth hormone, which then act like a systemic steroid that boosts your muscle-gaining ability throughout your whole body. This is true to an extent, specifically when you are training at 90% intensity with heavy weights. The boost lasts for about 15-30 minutes.
A 15-30 minute spike of testosterone is enough to make you feel awesome, boost your mood (it has been shown to positively affect both anxiety and depression), and help you keep on gettin’ after it in the gym. 15-30 minutes isn’t enough to boost whole body muscle growth to any considerable degree though. Don’t worry, though — it still helps.
I’ll let that sink in…
You don’t need growth hormone to get huge. You do need it to keep those muscles on the bone though.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)
Growth hormone, despite its name, doesn’t help grow your muscles at all. Its name is super misleading and will probably continue to confuse people — at least until we start communicating via telepathy and no longer have a use for words.
Growth hormone actually grows connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments. It’s still super important, because without it, your huge muscles would tear right off the bone when you flex.
350+ lbs on your back will stimulate growth and your desire to be strong.
(Photo by Airman BrieAnna Stillman)
The real benefit
This spike in testosterone that you experience from heavy squats is enough to make you hungry for more weight, more reps, and more gains, which will result in higher motivation to continue getting in the gym.
The more consistent you are with your lifting sessions, the more muscle mass you will put on. That increase in muscle mass directly correlates to an increase in overall testosterone throughout the entire day, not just during your workout. It raises your testosterone baseline. That means you will have more energy, feel stronger in general, and have a higher capacity to burn fat in general.
Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.
On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.
“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”
On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.
I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.
You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.
Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:
Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.
“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…
At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
“A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…
Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.
This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.
In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.
But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.
Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?
NATO is launching its largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mustering tens of thousands of troops in what the head of the Western alliance called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.
“The main phase of exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2018. “This is an important day because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.”
The drills are drawing criticism from Moscow amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.
Another source of discord is what NATO says is Russia’s deployment of a missile that violates a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.
“Trident Juncture sends a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all allies against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The exercise “is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together,” he said.
Without mentioning Russia by name, he said that “Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated” in recent years and that NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.”
“Trident Juncture will include around 65 ships, 250 aircraft, 10,000 vehicles, and 50,000 personnel. All 29 NATO allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said of the exercise, which will run in two phases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and Nov. 13-24, 2018.
“It is ambitious and it is demanding,” he said.
Moscow has frequently said that it views NATO’s enlargement to include former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states since the 1991 Soviet collapse as provocative, and Russia and NATO have repeatedly accused each other of aggressive action repeatedly in recent years.
Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.
A Russian T-72B3 during Zapad-2017.
The Defense Ministry said the weeklong Vostok-2018 (East-2018) war games involved some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
Speaking at a joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian defense ministries in Minsk on Oct. 24, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the scale of [NATO] operational and combat training near our borders is expanding, its intensity is growing. The bloc’s member states are practicing the objectives of conducting offensive combat actions.”
Describing the exercise, Stoltenberg said the personnel will be split into “South Forces” and “North Forces” that will “take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces. The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an ally — in this case Norway — after an act of armed aggression.
“This scenario is fictitious but the lessons we learn will be real,” he said.
Norway shares a short border with Russia in the Arctic.
More pieces from an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific have been found, the Japanese defense minister revealed May 7, 2019.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019. The day after the crash, pieces of the tail were found floating on the surface of the water, but the rest of the fifth-generation fighter was nowhere to be found.
The fighter, believed to be lying somewhere on the ocean floor, has been missing for weeks, despite the best efforts of the US and Japanese militaries to find it.
Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced May 7, 2019, that parts of the flight recorder and cockpit canopy had been discovered at an unspecified location on the ocean floor, CNN reported. The flight recorder was retrieved by a US Navy salvage team dispatched to assist in the search.
First operational F-35A Lightning II presented to JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing at Misawa Air Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)
The defense minister said the flight recorder is in “terrible” condition. Critical memory components are reportedly missing, meaning that key data about the crash, the first for an F-35A, may be unavailable. Exactly what happened to the stealth fighter remains a mystery.
The downed F-35, which was built by Lockheed Martin but assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd., is one of a growing fleet of Japanese stealth fighters. In response to the crash, Japan grounded its remaining F-35s. They will remain on the ground while the related investigation is ongoing.
Japan currently has 12 F-35s, but it has another 147 stealth fighters on order. B variants with that need little runway to take off and land are expected to eventually serve on Japanese light aircraft carriers while the A variant will become the primary fighter of the Japanese air force.
The search for the missing fighter and its pilot is expected to continue.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.
Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?
Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.
This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.
The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.
However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.
Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.
There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.
Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.
When it comes to advances in recruiting campaign marketing, the United Kingdom has retaken the crown. The innovative style that was once the backbone of the British Empire’s recruiting posters (which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Army) experienced a resurgence in the past year, appealing to the finer qualities of the younger generation’s digital habits. It raised a lot of eyebrows, but it worked.
Applications to join the British Army have nearly doubled since the campaign began.
Every generation has its chosen medium. Some veterans may have been persuaded by the call to “Be All That You Can Be” via television ads. Others might have been swayed to join the Navy after watching a little movie called Top Gun.
At least one salty Marine out there was swayed with the promise of a muscle car. Enjoy that lease, Corporal.
On Jan. 3, 2019, the British Army launched a recruiting campaign that recalled the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” ads of the First World War. The 1914 poster featured the Empire’s Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, in a Field Marshal’s uniform, pointing to the viewer, calling on them to join the British Army to fight the Central Powers on the Continent.
Or wherever they were needed.
The ad was so successful and iconic it was later adopted in the United States, featuring J.M. Flagg’s Uncle Sam calling on Americans to do the same. Other countries also adopted the idea. And just over a century later, it’s back – and the passage of time hasn’t diluted its power one bit.
The original Kitchener poster along with its American and scary German imitations.
According to the Telegraph, the British Army has been struggling with retention and dwindling numbers. More people are leaving the service than joining. It stands to reason the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is (probably) happy to report that the ads still pack a wallop. In a “resounding success” the first month, applications to join nearly doubled. In January 2019, applications rose to a five-year high, double from the same timeframe the previous year and almost twice from the previous month. The day the ads debuted, more people applied to join in a single day than any other day in the previous year. Hits to the Army’s website also doubled in January.
With monikers dubbing millennials and Gen-Zers “selfie addicts,” “binge gamers,” and “phone zombies,” the MoD called on the new generation of Britons to service. Surprisingly, the advertisements didn’t go straight to Instagram or Facebook, they went to billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising.
“The premise of the campaign is that this is the generation with the skills, the attitude, the drive to succeed; an army that’s not in the army yet,” Command Corporal Major, Warrant Officer Class One Steve Parker told the Telegraph. “People are the army, not in the army.”
The campaign uses these perceived weaknesses to highlight their useful, untapped potential in a series of video ads aired on television and on the internet that followed the release of the billboards.
Back in 2008, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury emerged from the shadows to talk to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about “the Avengers initiative.” Now, 11 years and more than 20 films later, Marvel has released an alternate version of that famous post-credits scene, and it’s pretty surprising. Not only is the scene a bit longer than the 2008 release, but it also somehow teases both Spider-Man and the X-Men, even though neither was anywhere close to the MCU at that point in time.
On Sept. 14, 2019, at the Saturn Awards, Marvel boss Kevin Feige screened an alternate version of the famous Nick Fury post-credits scene. You can watch it right here.
In the scene, Nick Fury complains about “assorted mutants” and “radioactive bug bites” obvious references to both Spider-Man and the X-Men. At the time, in 2008, Iron Man was distributed by Paramount Pictures, and the umbrella term of “Marvel Studios” and the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still fairly new. Obviously, the rights issues to the X-Men were still owned by Fox at that point, and Spider-Man was still with Sony. Still, it seems like this scene cleverly got around those issues by not outright naming Spider-Man or the X-Men, specifically. (Though, it’s conceivable that the term “mutants” was maybe too far, in terms of legality at the time.)
The interesting thing is, that now, of course, Spider-Man has been a part of the MCU, and the X-Men are set to be incorporated into the new Marvel canon at some point in the future. But now, it’s almost like Marvel Studios is retroactively saying that the X-Men were always a part of these movies because, in a sense, Tony Stark and Nick Fury already had a conversation about them. We just didn’t see that conversation the first time around.
At this time, there’s been no official announcement about reboot X-Men films in the MCU. But, that could change any day now.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In the early 1960s, international communications were limited to transmissions through undersea cables or occasionally unreliable radio signals bounced off of the ionosphere. As you might imagine from this, many in the Western world weren’t too keen on the state of the situation given that were to someone, say, the Soviet Union, cut those cables before launching an attack, international communications with overseas forces and foreign allies would have to rely on the mood of said ionosphere.
For those unfamiliar, the ionosphere is a layer of the upper atmosphere about 50 to 600 miles above sea level. It gets its name because it is ionized consistently by solar and cosmic radiation. In very simple terms, X-ray, ultraviolet, and shorter wavelengths of radiation given off by the Sun (and from other cosmic sources) release electrons in this layer of the atmosphere when these particular photons are absorbed by molecules. Because the density of molecules and atoms is quite low in the ionosphere (particularly in the upper layers), it allows free electrons to exist in this way for a short period of time before ultimately recombining. Lower in the atmosphere, where the density of molecules is greater, this recombination happens much faster.
What does this have to do with communication and radio waves? Without interference, radio waves travel in a straight line from the broadcast source, ultimately hitting the ionosphere. What happens after is dependent on a variety of factors, notable among them being the frequency of the waves and the density of the free electrons. For certain types of radio waves, given the right conditions, they will essentially bounce back and forth between the ground and the ionosphere, propagating the signal farther and farther. So clearly the ionosphere can potentially play an important part in the terrestrial radio and communication process. But it is the constantly shifting nature of the ionosphere that makes things really interesting. And for that, we’ll have to get a little more technical, though we’ll at the least spare you the math, and we’ll leave out a little of the complexity in an effort to not go full textbook on you.
To begin with, the ionosphere’s composition changes most drastically at night, primarily because, of course, the Sun goes missing for a bit. Without as abundant a source of ionizing rays, the D and E levels (pictured right) of the ionosphere cease to be very ionized, but the F region (particularly F2) still remains quite ionized. Further, because the atmosphere is significantly less dense here then the E and D regions, it results in more free electrons (the density of which is key here).
When these electrons encounter a strong radio wave of certain types, such as AM radio, they can potentially oscillate at the frequency of the wave, taking some of the energy from the radio wave in the process. With enough of them, as can happen in the F layer, (when the density of encountered electrons is sufficient relative to the specific signal frequency), and assuming they don’t just recombine with some ion (which is much more likely in the E and D layers in the daytime), this can very effectively refract the signal back down to Earth at sufficient strength to be picked up on a receiver.
Depending on conditions, this process can potentially repeat several times with the signal bouncing down to the ground and back up. Thus, using this skywave certain radio signals can be propagated even thousands of miles and, most pertinent to the topic at hand, across oceans.
Of course, given the unpredictability of this form of communication, and potentially even times when communication would be impossible, military brass during the Cold War wanted another option.
Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, the project was initially called “Project Needles” by Professor Walter E. Morrow in 1958 when he first dreamed up the idea. It was later re-named “West Ford”, presumably after Westford, Massachusetts, a nearby town. The idea was to place potentially even billions of tiny (1.78 centimeters 0.7 inches long and microscopically thin) copper antennae or dipoles in a medium Earth orbit to be used for communication signals at 8 Ghz.
The first set of well over a hundred million needles was launched on Oct. 21, 1961, but unfortunately this test failed when the needles didn’t disperse as planned.
On a second attempt in May 9, 1963, a batch of 350 million needles was placed on the back of an Air Force satellite and sent into orbit. Once dispersed, properly this time, the needles spread to form a sparsely concentrated belt with approximately 50 dipoles per cubic mile.
Needles from “Project Needles” compared to a stamp.
While you might think surely this wouldn’t be dense enough to be effective for use in communication, in fact early results of the experiment were extremely promising, with communication established using the needle array from California to Massachusetts, some 3K or so miles or 4,800 km apart. As such, there were reports that the Air Force was considering launching two more belts to be placed more permanently in orbit.
There was a problem, however. Beyond the Soviets, allies and even Americans opposed the further deployment and continuance of this program.
Why? Astronomers, in particular, were afraid that the belt would interfere with their observations. The outrage of scientists and the reason for it was perhaps best expressed by Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who said: “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.” After all, the space above the Earth is not the United States’ alone to do with as it pleases without consulting other nations of Earth.
While you might consider this a bit of an overreaction, it’s important to understand the context here, with the U.S. up to and around this point having done a series of things in space without oversight that the international community was more than a little upset about. For example, consider that also smack dab in the middle of this time, the United States was busy accidentally nuking Britain’s first satellite, among many, many others.
The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.
Around nine months after the launch of the first batch of needles, on July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings.
As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl.
The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time.
Most pertinent to the topic of communications, this famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic and managed around 400 such communications before the U.S. accidentally nuked it. Funny enough, the Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional ionizing radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit. They were eventually able to get it back online for a short period via some clever software workarounds, but it didn’t last thanks to the extra radiation further degrading its systems.
It’s also noteworthy here that The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened a couple weeks earlier on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.
It should also be noted that the effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit.
The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Today in our digital world, of course, a similar electromagnetic pulse would have much more catastrophic effects, especially if near more populated centers, potentially even revealing the Lizard people’s Matrix, which would be catastrophic to our Draconian overlords’ (may they reign forever) plans…
The flash created by The Starfish explosion as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu 1,445 km away.
Needless to say, this, the needles in space, and other such projects had many in the international community concerned with the lack of any oversight on the United States’ activities in space. (Presumably it would have been even worse had everyone realized the United States had, a few years before this, planned to nuke the moon, more or less just because they could…)
Going back to the needle issue, a compromise measure was reached thanks to incorporating a sort of planned obsolescence; that is, none of the needles would remain in orbit longer than five years. (Or so they thought, more on this in a bit.)
Thinking more long term, several groups of scientists, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) demanded access and consultation in this and other such projects in the future. Ultimately an agreement was reached which granted the scientists the ability to participate in the planning and evaluation of space projects.
Of course, this particular issue quickly became moot as shortly after the second group of needles was dispersed, the military deployed its own first communication satellite system in 1966, making the needle system, while effective, obsolete. With this deployment of one object instead of hundreds of millions, the furor died down and people, for the most part, forgot about West Ford.
That said, while the project is largely forgotten, its effects are not with the consultation provisions of the original West Ford agreement with the IAU included in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, an agreement entered into by ninety-nine countries, that was designed to protect against the militarization and degradation of outer space. Among other things, in a nutshell, it provides that no country can claim ownership of space nor any celestial bodies; all countries will avoid contaminating both and are liable for any damage they cause; no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be deployed or placed in orbit or on any celestial body; and no military bases may be placed on any celestial bodies, including the Moon, something that unfortunately saw a planned military installation by the U.S. fully scrapped, as we covered in our article: That Time the U.S. was Going to Build a Massive, Death Ray Equipped, Military Moon Base.
On the bright side, the treaty also includes a Good Samaritan law that provides that astronauts are “envoys of mankind in outer space and [all] shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing.”
Going back to the needles, in case you’re wondering, despite the planned obsolescence, as of 2019, a few dozen clumps of them remain in orbit and are closely tracked to make sure they don’t cause any problems with all the other stuff floating around our little beautiful home space craft known as Earth.
Given AM radio signals can propagate for thousands of miles via the aforementioned skywaves, particularly at night, this can become a major problem as there are only a little over 100 allowed AM radio frequencies (restricted to keep signals interfering too much with one another), but around 5,000 AM radio stations in the United States alone. As a result, at night, AM stations in the United States typically reduce their power, go off the air completely until sunrise the next day, and/or possibly are required to use directional antennas so their specific signal doesn’t interfere with other stations on the same frequency. On the other hand, FM stations don’t have to do any of this as the ionosphere doesn’t greatly affect their signals, which has the side benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of severely limiting the range of the FM signals, which rely on groundwave propagation.
Speaking of Radio and space, while not a job ever mentioned by my school career counselor, it turns out “Space DJ” is a thing, if you work at NASA, going all the way back to 1965 during the Gemini 6 mission on December 16th, likely initially as a joke. During this mission, astronauts Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford were woken up by a recording of singer Jack Jones and Hello Dolly. This musical wake-up call quickly became a regular occurrence intended as a way of bolstering morale while allowing astronauts a few minutes to wake up slowly before having to respond to ground control. Over the years, wake-up calls became one of NASA’s most beloved traditions, with the role of picking the songs given to the mission’s Capsule Commander (CAPCOM)… Yes, just to be clear, not only do these people get to put CAPCOM for NASA on their resume, but they can also add in “Space DJ”. Thanks Career Councilor… If you’re wondering, the songs chosen over the years have been wildly eclectic, ranging from classical music by composers like Bach and Beethoven to Metallica and the Beastie Boys. Thanks to the extensive records NASA keeps, we not only know every song played for astronauts in orbit since 1965, we also have the astronaut’s responses to some of the more unusual choices played. For example, for a 2008 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, officially designated as STS-123, CAPCOM played a brief snippet of the theme song from the presumably epic film Godzilla VS Space Godzilla as well as part of the Blue Oyster Cult song, Godzilla, for Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, signing off by saying:
Good morning Endeavour. Doi san, ohayo gozaimasu, from mission control here in Houston, take on today like a monster.
An amused Doi responded that he was “happy to hear Godzilla,” before himself signing off to get to work. According to Fries’ extensive archives, Godzilla’s iconic theme song is apparently a popular choice for Japanese astronauts, as are the themes from other well-known films like Star Wars, Star Trek and Rocky.Predictably, songs with a space theme are also popular choices, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man being noted as some of the most commonly played.In addition to songs, NASA has, at various points, played private messages recorded by the astronauts’ loved ones (including the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday” where applicable) and even occasional messages from celebrities. Notable examples of the latter include personalised greetings from William Shatner, Paul McCartney and Elton John, a skit performed by Jim Henson involving Miss Piggy, and even a song sung by Darth Vader set to backing music from The Beatles.Perhaps best of all was the crew of Atlantis on November 25, 1991 being woken to none other than Patrick Stewart stating (with Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music playing in the background),
Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Its ten-day mission: To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth… To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body… To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario — this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so.
As for today, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, this wake-up call tradition has partially been left in the dustbin of history, though occasionally is still observed on the International Space Station, and presumably will be reinstituted as a regular activity once NASA begins sending people to space themselves again.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The US conducted its second flight test of a missile that would have been banned under the restrictions of a now-defunct arms control agreement with Russia, Air Force officials told Insider on Thursday.
The US military tested a prototype conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) Thursday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
“We are currently evaluating the results of the test,” officials told Insider.
Thursday’s missile launch marks the second such test since the US formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in August in response to alleged Russian violations of the 1987 agreement.
On Aug. 18, 2019, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile.
The first post-INF Treaty test was conducted in mid-August, when a conventional GLCM “exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Pentagon said at the time.
Thursday’s test saw the missile travel over 500 kilometers as well, Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in a statement. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” he said.
The INF treaty prohibited the US and Russia from developing, testing, and fielding missiles with intermediate ranges, ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). Earlier this year, the US accused Russia of violating the accord with its Novator 9M729 missile, a weapon NATO refers to as SSC-8.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said that the “Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles,” calling efforts to develop ground-launched intermediate-range missile capabilities a “prudent response to Russia’s actions.”
Esper has also indicated that the US is looking at the development of these weapon systems to counter China.
“Eighty percent plus of their [missile] inventory is intermediate-range systems,” the secretary has said, adding that it “shouldn’t surprise [China] that we would want to have a like capability.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.