The U.S. Army hasn’t really flown fixed-wing combat aircraft since the Army Air Forces became the Air Force in 1947. An agreement on U.S. military policy written in Key West in 1948 divvied up the roles of aircraft used by the United States for air defense, interdiction of enemy land forces, intelligence, mine-laying, airlift, and pretty much anything else aircraft might have a role in doing.
Ever since, the Air Force is solely expected to provide close-air support, resupply, airborne operations, and pretty much everything else the Army might need fixed-wing aircraft for. Now one lawmaker wants to upend all that.
The top leadership of the world’s new superpower came together after World War II to form this gentleman’s agreement on whose air forces would perform what tasks because it was better than leaving it to Congress to codify it. Solving the problem before it became one also gives the Pentagon more flexibility in the future to control how it fights war, rather than forcing Congress to change legislation so it could get on with the business of defending America.
Seeing as how the Pentagon – and the Army in particular – need the tools required to execute that mission, one lawmaker is getting impatient with Air Force foot-dragging over a new close-air support attack aircraft. He’s ready to give the contract and the money to the Army if the project doesn’t get a move on.
Florida Rep. Michael Waltz is promoting his legislation to allow the U.S. Special Operations Command to get its own light attack aircraft, separate from the U.S. Air Force fleet. The House has already given the idea the green light (but not the money yet), and Waltz wants to extend that same courtesy to the Army. The reason is that the Air Force has been too slow in rolling out new, prop-driven attack planes for land interdiction.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said.
The Air Force has been working on the plane for the past 12 years, unsure if it really wants the platform over the A-10 or the newest F-35 fighters. The argument for the prop planes is that they provide better CAS coverage while costing much, much less than flying an F-35 for hours on end, all while carrying the same armaments. There’s only one problem – prop planes are really easy to shoot down.
The A-26 Super Tocano is just one of the types of light attack craft tested by the Air Force.
Waltz is a former U.S. Army Special Forces operator who believes low-intensity conflict will not go away in the coming years but rather will likely increase. He also believes the U.S. military’s main mission shouldn’t stray too far from its counterterrorism role.
“Whether it’s Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South America, we are going to be engaged with our local partners on the ground in low-intensity conflict…” he said. “If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority.”
The Air Force is looking to produce six A-29 Super Tocanos or six AT-6 Wolverines for training and advisory missions overseas and here at home. While the Air Force program has no set date for rollout, the legislation to give the Army the authority to roll out its own is part of the House version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.
Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.
And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.
Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.
“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.
“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”
That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.
However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.
Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.
“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News. “The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “
According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.
“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.
Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.
By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.
Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”
He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.
When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.
However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.
“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains. “You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”
While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.
The US Navy announced in May 2018, that it was restarting the 2nd Fleet to oversee the western Atlantic Ocean, including the North Atlantic and the US East Coast.
The decision comes after several years of tensions between NATO members and Russia — and several warnings from Western officials about growing Russian naval activity, including more sophisticated and more active submarines.
NATO has responded in kind, with a special focus on antisubmarine warfare — a capability that has waned among Western navies since the end of the Cold War.
For NATO members and other countries, augmenting antisubmarine abilities means not only adding ships but also advanced maritime-patrol aircraft to scour the sea. A number of aircraft on the market fill this role, but the US-made P-8A Poseidon is among the most sophisticated.
“What it can do from the air, and tracking submarines, is almost like Steven Spielberg,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early May 2018.
“I went up on a training flight,” he said, “and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above.”
“It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”
‘The best ASW … platform in the fleet’
In 2004, the US Navy picked the P-8A Poseidon to succeed the P-3 Orion, which had been in operation since the 1960s. The first Poseidon entered service in 2013, and more than 60 are in service now.
The jet-powered P-8A is based on Boeing‘s 737 airliner, but it is specialized to withstand more strain, with aluminum skin that is 50% thicker than a commercial 737. Every surface is equipped for deicing.
A commercial 737 can be built in two weeks, but a P-8A takes roughly two months.
(U.S. Navy photo)
It has a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and, unlike the P-3, is designed to do most of its work at high altitude, where it has better fuel efficiency and its sensors are more effective. The Poseidon’s top speed of 564 mph is also 200 mph faster than the older Orion, allowing it to get to its station faster and reposition more quickly.
Among its sensors is the APY-10 radar, which can detect and identify ships on the surface and even pick up submarine periscopes. It can also provide long-distance imagery of ports or cities and perform surveillance along coasts or on land.
An electro-optical/infrared turret on the bottom of the plane offers a shorter-range search option and can carry up to seven sensors, including an image intensifier, a laser rangefinder, and infrared, which can detect heat from subs or from fires.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)
The Poseidon’s ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure acts as an electromagnetic sensor and can track radar emitters. Its Advanced Airborne Sensor can do 360-degree scans on land and water. Other electronic surveillance measures allow it to passively monitor a wide area without detection.
The original P-8A design did not include the Magnetic Anomaly Detector that the P-3 carried to detect the metal in sub’s hulls. The MAD’s exclusion was controversial, but the P-8A can deploy sonar buoys to track subs, and recent upgrades allow it to use new buoys that last longer and have a broader search range.
It also carries an acoustic sensor and a hydrocarbon sensor designed to pick up fuel vapor from subs. The P-8A’s cabin can have up to seven operator consoles, and onboard computers compile data for those operators and then distribute it to friendly forces.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Kofonow)
The P-8A carries its own armaments, including Harpoon antiship missiles, depth charges, MK-54 torpedoes, and naval mines. It can also deploy defensive countermeasures, including a laser and metallic chaff to confuse incoming missiles.
A dry-bay fire system uses sensors to detect fires on board and extinguish them, a P-8A pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.
“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” the pilot said.
‘The next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft’
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)
Russia’s submarine fleet is a fraction of its Cold War size, but its subs are more sophisticated and have been deployed as US and NATO attention has shifted away from antisubmarine efforts.
“We have found in the last two years we are very short of high-end antisubmarine-warfare hunters,” Royal Navy Vice Adm. Clive CC Johnstone, commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, said in January 2018.
Along with interest in buying subs, “you see an increased focus on other types of antisubmarine, submarine-hunter platforms, so frigates and maritime-patrol aircraft and stuff like that,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider earlier this year.
In 2016, the UK announced it would buy nine P-8As. In 2017, Norway announced it was buying five.
Those purchases are part of efforts by the US, UK, and Norway to reinvigorate the Cold War maritime-surveillance network covering the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK, known as the GIUK gap, through which Russian subs are traveling more frequently between their Northern Fleet base and the Atlantic.
In June 2017, defense ministers from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey agreed to cooperate on “multinational maritime multimission aircraft capabilities.” The US Navy has increased its antisubmarine activities in Europe, leading with the P-8A.
The US’s 2018 defense budget included $14 million to refurbish hangers at Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland, where antisubmarine forces hunted German U-boats during World War II and patrols scoured northern latitudes during the Cold War.
The US Navy decided to leave Keflavik in 2006, but recent modifications would allow P-8As to be stationed there, though the Navy has said it doesn’t currently plan to reestablish a permanent presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)
Poseidons operate over the Black Sea to track the growing number of Russian subs there. P-8As based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy have reportedly helped hunt Russian subs lurking near NATO warships and taken part in antisubmarine-warfare exercises around the Mediterranean.
“The Poseidon is becoming the next front-line, high-end maritime-patrol aircraft,” Nordenman said. “Not only for the US, but increasingly for our allies in Europe, too.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more US rotations to Keflavik and deeper cooperation between the US, the UK, and Norway on maritime-patrol-aircraft operations in the Atlantic,” he added. “I would say this is just a first step.”
‘There is a requirement need out here’
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Like Russia, China has been investing in submarines, and its neighbors have growing interest in submarines and antisubmarine-warfare assets — including the P-8A.
India made its first purchase of the P-8I Neptune variant in 2009, buying eight that deployed in 2013. New Delhi bought four additional planes in 2016, and India’s navy chief said in January that the service was looking to buy more.
In early 2014, Australia agreed to buy eight P-8As for $3.6 billion. They are expected to arrive by 2021, and Canberra has the option to buy four more.
India and Australia are the only buyers in Asia so far, but others, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are interested. South Korea said in February 2018, it would buy maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign buyer — Boeing and Saab are reportedly competing for a contract worth $1.75 billion.
“There is a requirement need out here in the Asian region for P-8s,” Matt Carreon, Boeing’s head of sales for the P-8A, said in February 2018, pointing to the high volume of shipping, threat of piracy, and the “current political climate” as reasons for interest.
But overall sales have been underwhelming, likely in part because the Poseidon and its variants are relatively expensive, and their specialized features require a lengthy procurement process.
US Navy P-8As have also been more active around Asia, where their crews work with non-US military personnel, take part in search-and-rescue operations, and perform maritime surveillance over disputed areas, like the South China Sea, where they have monitored Chinese activity.
As in Europe, this can lead to dicey situations.
In August 2014, a P-8A operating 130 miles east of China’s Hainan Island had a close encounter with a Chinese J-11 fighter jet, which brought one of its wings within 20 feet of the P-8A and did a barrel roll over the patrol plane’s nose.
The jet also flew by the P-8A with its belly visible, “to make a point of showing its weapons,” the Pentagon said.
“I think the maritime mission is going to be as big as the land mission in the future, driven by Asian customers like Australia, India, Japan, Korea, and … other countries will certainly play a role,” Joseph Song, vice president for international strategic development at General Atomics Aeronautical, told Reuters.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you think of companies that deliver combat aircraft to the United States military, you probably think ‘Lockheed’ and ‘Boeing’ right away. Historic companies like Grumman, Curtiss, and McDonnell-Douglas might also spring to mind — but not Cessna. However, that company delivered a nifty little counter-insurgency plane.
Over the years, Cessna delivered some slightly-modified, single-engine planes, like the O-1 Bird Dog, which was used for spotting artillery fire and by forward air controllers. The company also delivered the T-37 Tweet, which served a valuable jet trainer for over five decades — but the Tweet proved it could be more than a trainer.
As the Vietnam War heated up, the United States was looking for a plane to support troops on the ground. To fill this need, Cessna converted 39 T-37 Tweets into new A-37As, dubbed “Dragonfly.” The converted planes performed so well, the Air Force ordered another 577. The National Museum of the United States Air Force notes that 234 of these were sent to South Vietnam.
The fall of South Vietnam meant that a number of these planes fell into the hands of the Communist regime that ruled Vietnam. However, the A-37 was soon acquired by other American allies, and also saw service with Air Force Special Operations Command as well as the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
The A-37 had a top speed of 506 miles per hour and a maximum range of 932 miles. It could carry a pilot (for close-air support missions) or a pilot and observer (for use as a forward air controller). It was armed with a 7.62mm Minigun, which meant the Dragonfly could deliver kind of a mini-BRRRRRT to the enemy, and it had eight hardpoints for bombs, rockets, or guns.
Game of Thrones may have come to an end on HBO Sunday night but the saga continues off-screen, in the yet-unfinished series of books penned by George R.R. Martin which inspired the hit show. On May 20, 2019, the author reacted to the finale and also hinted at what’s to come for fans.
“Let me say this much — last night was an ending, but it was also a beginning,” Martin wrote in a post on his website, Not a Blog. “There are characters who never made it onto the screen at all, and others who died in the show but still live in the books… if nothing else, the readers will learn what happened to Jeyne Poole, Lady Stoneheart, Penny and her pig, Skahaz Shavepate, Arianne Martell, Darkstar, Victarion Greyjoy, Ser Garlan the Gallant, Aegon VI, and a myriad of other characters both great and small that viewers of the show never had the chance to meet.”
George R. R. Martin speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Game of Thrones”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.
The 70-year-old went on to add that he’s still working on the next installment in the series, The Winds of Winter, which was originally supposed to be published in 2015. “Winter is coming, I told you, long ago… and so it is,” he promised. “[The next book] is very late, I know, I know, but it will be done. I won’t say when, I’ve tried that before, only to burn you all and jinx myself… but I will finish it.”
And that won’t even be the last book. Martin said that fans can also expect A Dream of Spring to round out what he thinks will be a total of 3,000 pages between the final two reads.
As for whether the books will end the same way as the show, Martin remained vague, saying, “well… yes. And no. And yes. And no. And yes.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Marine veteran is a gold mine of experience and practicality. Marines are realists who call it like it is — and that can be a major advantage if you have a thick skin and a sense of humor.
Just ask us about the Legend of Wagner and the thing he loves.
Note: The Marine Infantryman is a particularly elusive breed. Companionship with outsiders is rare but does occur more often in post-service life. Their namesake is “03,” which is derived from the first two numbers of their MOS. They are fiercely loyal and take care of their own.
1. You won’t find a better drinking buddy
All Marines can trace their lineage back to a common birthplace of Tun Tavern. Our cultural traditions involve copious amounts of alcohol and an occasionally shaky moral compass. When you’re the tip of the spear, party like it.
2. They’re prepared for anything
Marines have a plan for zombies, the apocalypse, and natural disasters. Personally, I have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in my car. It’s better to have than have-not in an emergency, even if it’s basic.
3. They pay attention to detail, all the time
Marines are very good at cleaning. It’s almost like it was drilled into them or something…
4. They are unparalleled travel companions
Marines like to show off how savvy they can be while off the grid. They have the innate ability to find the best food, lodging, and parties. Actual survival techniques may vary.
5. They want you to succeed
Veterans are a cut from a different cloth of society. Marines are honest — albeit indelicate — when stating the facts, but it comes from a good place. When people want to see you fail, they’ll do it in silence. If you need a kick in the ass to get your sh*t together, Marine buddies will provide it.
6. Marines love comedy
When life gets rough, all you can do is laugh. So, Marines laugh a lot. Rest assured that if you tell a Marine a dark joke, no judgment will be passed. However, prepare yourself for one of our own, because it’s going to change your life.
[Slays in Marine humor]
7. They’re great with animals
Our pets have better healthcare than we do. We’ll do anything to keep our little buddies healthy and happy. When shown compassion or leadership, animals have been known to join a wild pack of patrolling Marines.
8. Marines are romantic
Marines excel at two things: fighting wars and making babies. Anyone who has deployed can testify to a newfound appreciation for the opposite sex. They’re going to make the most out of every opportunity to get lost in the throes of passion.
If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.
After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?
Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.
“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”
NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.
Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.
To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.
“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”
As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.
SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.
“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.
They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.
Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.
“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
China is threatening the US with the possibility that it may withhold rare earth elements critical to the production of a number of different US products, including missiles and stealth fighters.
The US has been turning up the heat on China in the ongoing trade war. Now, Chinese media is warning that China can up the stakes.
“United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back,” the People’s Daily, the paper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote May 29, 2019, according to Reuters.
“Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all? The answer is no mystery,” the newspaper explained in a commentary, ominously adding, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”
Other Chinese media outlets released similar articles.
Rare earth elements, of which China produces the overwhelming majority, play an important role in the production of defense systems. For example, a US Navy Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine requires 9,200 pounds of rare earth metals, while an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer needs 5,200 pounds.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class RJ Stratchko)
US defense contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin use rare earth metals to make high-end guidance systems and sensors for missiles and other military platforms, Reuters reported.
An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth jet built to give the US an edge over rivals like China, requires 920 pounds of rare earth materials, according to Asia Times, which reported that the US has an almost nonexistent ability to produce rare earth materials.
“The US side wants to use the products made by China’s exported rare earths to counter and suppress China’s development,” the People’s Daily argued May 29, 2019. “The Chinese people will never accept this!”
The paper’s rhetoric suggests that China would intentionally take aim at the US defense sector, which Beijing believes is working to contain China’s rise.
An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The US relies on China for as much as 80% of its rare earth materials, according to Bloomberg. “Rare earths are a niche specialty and critical to the Defense Department,” Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told the outlet.
“Rare earths are essential to the production, sustainment, and operation of US military equipment,” a 2016 Government Accountability Office report explained, adding that “Reliable access to the necessary material, regardless of the overall level of defense demand, is a bedrock requirement for DOD.”
Were China to pull the plug, it could certainly lead to complications, although there is the possibility that the department could turn to alternative sources given that its requirement is only 1% of the total US demand for rare earth elements.
Beijing has not yet said that it will take this step, but is certainly troubling that Chinese media is threatening this move as a potential response to US actions in the trade war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth.
Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the “propulsion” category titled, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions”.
The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Business Insider first learned about in a post by Paul Szoldra at Task & Purpose.) The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy” — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.
“Control of this higher dimensional space may bе а source of technological control оvеr the dark energy density and could ultimately play а role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, а warp drive,” the authors write. “[T]rips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”
However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.
“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t.” Carroll said. “This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”
James Т. Lacatski, a Defense Intelligence Agency official listed as a contact on the report, did not immediately to respond a query from Business Insider.
Where the warp-drive study came from
The nature of this study is still making its way to the public.
What is known is that it’s an “acquisition threat support” reference document, which helps the US military anticipate or describe new enemy technologies — apparently including (very, very) notional ones. It was also one work in “а series of advanced technology reports” for something called the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program, or AAWSAP.
The New York Times and Politico revealed AATIP’s existence in December 2017. The outlets said former Nevada senator Harry Reid helped organize it and secure millions in secret government funding (sometimes called “black money”) for the effort.
A large share of this money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow — a real-estate mogul who’s working to build private space stations through Bigelow Aerospace, is a friend of Reid’s, and someone who has funded his own UFO research for years. The billionaire reportedly formed a separate entity, called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, to secure the government funding and use it to hire 46 researchers and “dozens of other support personnel,” KLAS-TV said.
An anonymous senior intelligence official told Politico that AATIP began mostly to root out the existence of unknown Chinese and Russian military technologies. But after a couple of years, “the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” the official said. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find.” AAWSAP and AATIP reportedly ran out of funding in 2011 or 2012.
Scientists are also skeptical of UFOs, even after viewing spooky videos obtained by AATIP, one of which shows an undated encounter with “an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves,” the Times wrote.
Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute previously told Business Insider that, after 50 years of reported alien visits, “the really good evidence that we’re being visited still has failed to surface.” He added: “It is a little odd that aliens would come hundreds and hundreds of light-years to do nothing.”
The larger program that looked into the feasibility of warp drives, wormholes, and stargates is meeting similar scrutiny from established experts.
The physics of warp drives
In the warp-drive study, the authors laid out several well-established ideas in physics.
Those concepts include dark energy; general relativity, which Albert Einstein pioneered and predicted some bizarre-yet-real phenomena in the universe (like the warping of spacetime and gravitational waves); the Casimir effect, which describes the existence of a quantum “vacuum energy”; and M-theory — the idea that perhaps seven extra dimensions (which a warp drive could exploit) may be wrapped up in the four we’re familiar with, including time.
It then mashes this work together to lay out a potential use of these properties that’d circumvent Einstein’s cardinal rule: Nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum.
“If one is to realistically entertain the notion of interstellar exploration in timeframes of а human lifespan, а dramatic shift in the traditional approach to spacecraft propulsion is necessary,” said the report, which goes on to suggest that a warp drive might be feasible.
The study includes a table of various destinations and how quickly they might be reached by bending spacetime to travel 100 times faster than light.
The way this might work, the report says, is by using a lot of dark (or negative) energy to expand an extra dimension into a “bubble.” Such a bubble would be made large enough to fit a spaceship of perhaps 100 cubic meters — roughly the size of a semi-trailer truck.
A contracting region of spacetime in front of the ship, plus an expanding region behind it, would then propel the bubble and ship down a sort of spacetime tube without technically exceeding the speed of light.
Carroll also said that the concept of a warp drive “is not crackpot” — Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, invented the concept in 1994.
“You can’t go faster than the speed of light. But what you can can imagine doing is effectively twisting spacetime so that it looks like you’re moving faster than the speed of light,” Carroll said. “If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, for example, you can ask yourself, ‘Well, could I bend spacetime so that Alpha Centauri is next to me, so that it takes a day to go there, rather than tens of [thousands of] years? Can I make the warping of spacetime do that?’ And the answer is sure, you can do that.”
But Carroll said the DIA report goes too far in its analysis.
“There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there’s dark energy. All of these things are true,” he said. “But there’s zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that.”
The problems and perils of faster-than-light travel
Carrol said warp drives are so removed from plausible reality because no one knows what negative energy is, how to make it, or how to store it, let alone put it to use.
What’s more, the amount of negative energy you’d need to reach a place like Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to Earth, at 4.367 light-years away — in a couple years with a 100-cubic-meter ship is truly astronomical.
“If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that’s how much energy you’d need, except you’d need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make,” Carroll said. “We’re not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We’re making them cease to exist.”
Then this energy has to be captured, stored, and used with 100% efficiency.
“It’s completely crazy talk,” Carroll said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, we need better transistors.’ This is something that is not anywhere within the realm of feasibility.”
The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure “is, indeed, an incredible number,” and adds that “a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away.”
However, it suggests “that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider оr developments in the field of M-theory could lead to а quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations.”
Nearly a decade on, none of these developments have panned out. The LHC has yet to find any evidence of particles that’d crack the mysteries of dark energy, nor have experiments really advanced M-theory.
But assuming negative energy could somehow be extracted, a planet’s worth of exotic matter fed into a spaceship’s warp drive engines, and a suitable destination picked out, the crew might encounter a number of show-stopping problems.
Interstellar travelers may lose control of their ship the moment they start it due to the warping of space itself. Hawking radiation — which is theoretically found at the edges of black holes and other highly warped regions of space — might roast passengers while shutting down their warp field. And slowing down may be deadly: Several light-years’ worth of cosmic dust and gas between the origin and destination might turn into a dangerous shockwave of high-energy particles and radiation upon arrival.
“It’s possible in the sense that I can’t actually rule it out, but I don’t think it’s actually possible,” Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. “I think if we knew physics better, we’d just say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Have you seen the hilarious memes surrounding military spouses and social media? It’s a wild frontier, y’all. Military spouses are not bound by the same standards as their service members, yet there are definitely some guidelines that should steer any digital footprint — and we’re not just talking OPSEC. Here are 7 rules to keep milspouses savvy on social:
Just because you aren’t employed…
Relaxing standards when you’re not working feels good. But for a community who finds themselves walking in and out of careers, we’re suggesting not going full-blown IDGAF online. The digital dirt you’re kicking up doesn’t settle in the virtual world. Instead, every sassy comment or a drunken rant you go on is all there for your future employer to find. If what you’re about to type would likely get you fired if you were employed, opt for yelling into a pillow instead.
Quit pulling faux or metaphorical rank on each other
In case you haven’t heard, your service member’s rank does not carry over to you. Nothing is more annoying or quite frankly detrimental to the spouse community than when the perfume you’re wearing stinks of superiority. Sharing help, tips, insight and posting questions online should be met with equality, not discrimination or judgment. So be nice.
Oversharing is emotional vomit
It’s amazing what the digital world has done for military friendships and connectivity, but it’s not (always) the right space to show everyone your private stash of special. Spouses need to use online pages for their intended purpose, and that purpose only. Don’t divulge your marital issues on a “for sale or free” page. Instead, ask for local run chapter pages of organizations like InDependent, a dedicated space for overall spouse wellness and connection.
Dirty laundry goes in the washer, not on the internet
What’s the easiest way to spot a spouse going through a life change or marital issue? They go from cardigan selfies to bikini shots real quick. We’re hoping for all of humanity that decorum isn’t dead and everyone ready to step it up in a rough patch would have first put that amount of energy into saving their marriages.
Stop telling hackers all of your information
How gullible do you have to be to not realize that the “list your last 5 hometowns in order, or cars or pets names” isn’t a total scam? Stop sharing it. We’re lucky enough to have six street names and five possible cities to use for a password that might actually make it difficult to guess. Why spoil it by just divulging all of that with the world?
Make social media work in your favor
Scrolling isn’t all bad, in fact, it could lead to your next career. Building up a network of potential leads, resources and communities can work in your favor if you play your cards right. If you’ve followed suggestion number one, your social profile becomes a bit resume-like in the best way. Researching the major players in your next area before you move and “showing up” as who you want the world to see you as might just catch the eye of your next boss.
Keep pages separate
What’s more annoying than your online friend going from zero to MLM salesman of the year? Nothing, nothing is more annoying. Take it from someone who enjoyed one or six careers in their life and keep social media pages consistent or make a new one. You can’t go from daily donut love to a fitness “expert” in the blink of an eye. Authenticity takes time, so take the time to consider if this next stage is here to stay, or would be better suited as a group or subpage.
Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.
As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”
NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.
Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018
(US Marine Corps photo)
“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”
But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.
Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”
Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.
US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.
In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.
Russian officials have also warned both of them.
Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”
Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.
“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.
US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”
But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.
Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”
Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.
Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)
Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.
Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.
They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.
“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.
“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ayyub Faleh al-Rubaie, who’s best-known as Abu Azrael (“Angel of Death”), is a legendary Shia militiaman whose bravery and reputation have also earned him the title of “Iraq’s Rambo.” He’s become the people’s champion in resisting ISIS in Iraq.
His methods and appearance match the brutality of the Islamic State. For instance, the infamous militiaman has been shown holding axes, waving swords, and even abusing the corpses of ISIS fighters. He also has a flair for social media publishing viral posts and inspiring tribute fan pages and groups. Abu Azrael has even coined his own catchphrase when addressing ISIS “illa tahin,” which means “grind you into dust,” according to the France 24 video below.
If there’s one ship that is iconic of the United States Navy’s dominance of the ocean, it is the Nimitz-class supercarrier. These vessels, the first of which entered service in 1975, are yuge (to use the parlance of the present commander-in-chief). They’re also quite fast and have plenty of endurance, thanks to the use of nuclear reactors.
Their primary weapon isn’t a gun or a missile — it’s up to 90 aircraft. When the Nimitz first set sail, the F-14 Tomcat was the top-of-the-line fighter. Today, a mix of F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are carried on board, and many Nimitz-class ships will operate F-35 Lightnings in the years to come.
The Nimitz-class carriers just missed the Vietnam War. Its participation in the failed 1980 hostage rescue mission in Iran was the class’s baptism by fire. The Nimitz also starred in the 1980 action-adventure film, The Final Countdown, in which it was sent back in time to just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the first of ten ships of its class,
In 1981, the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) took part in freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra. During these exercises, Libya got a little bold and sent two Su-22 Fitters out to sea to pick a fight with two Tomcats and lost. Throughout the Cold War, Nimitz-class ships helped hold the line against all potential threats.
A F/A-18 Hornet is launched from the carrier USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75).
In 1990, the Eisenhower was one of two carriers that responded to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. While the Eisenhower did not launch combat missions, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) did. The Nimitz-class remained in production even as the post-Cold War saw America’s carrier force shrink from 15 to 11. The Eisenhower was also used to help move an Army brigade for a potential invasion of Haiti in 1994.
Not only does the United States have more aircraft carriers than any other country, they have the most powerful, dwarfing vessels like HMS Illustrious.
Since then, Nimitz-class carriers have taken part in operations over Iraq, the Balkans, and as part of the Global War on Terror. The United States built ten of these ships. These seafaring behemoths displace over 100,000 tons, have a top speed of over 30 knots, and have a crew and air wing that totals over 5,800 personnel.
Learn more about one of these massive vessels that serve as both a crucial component and symbol of American naval power in the video below.