When the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) came under attack multiple times in October 2016, the ship was able in at least one instance to use its defenses to shoot down the incoming Noor anti-ship missiles.
But there are times when a ship can’t shoot down the missiles – and thankfully, U.S. Navy vessels have plenty of options.
There are a number of reasons why a U.S. Navy ship may not be able to fire. In some cases, it may be due to restrictive rules of engagement. Other times, the inability to shoot may be due to battle damage. Perhaps there’s concern about what a miss might do.
In those cases, the Navy relies on decoying an inbound missile in one of several ways.
One option is via electronic countermeasures, or “ECM.” Specifically, the goal is to interfere with the guidance systems on the missiles by confusing or blocking the seekers on radar-guided ones.
The confusion angle is very simple. An ECM system like the AN/SLQ-32 would create false targets. This gets the missile to hopefully chase into empty ocean. Another method is to reduce the seeker’s effective range with jamming. This would allow the ship to get outside the seeker’s ability to acquire a target — again sending the missile off on a merry chase to nowhere.
However, missile makers are wise to the countermeasures and haven’t stood still. The field of electronic counter-countermeasures exists to help make seekers both more powerful and more intelligent, enabling them to beat the ECM. Thankfully, there is another option.
Most U.S. Navy ships also have launchers for chaff. Like the deception portion of ECM, it creates a false target for a missile seeker. Unlike the deception portion of ECM, since it is actually physically metal, it creates a real “target” for the seeker to home in on.
Furthermore, firing a bunch of the rockets makes a bigger “target” – which the incoming missile will hopefully go for.
You can see a Burke-class destroyer launch a chaff rocket in the video below.
These are known as “soft” kills. The enemy missile is negated, but it is misdirected as opposed to being shot down. “Soft” kills do have a potential to go bad, though.
During the Argentinean air attacks on the Royal Navy on May 25, 1982, a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Ambuscade, fired off chaff to decoy incoming Exocet anti-ship missiles. The missiles flew through the chaff cloud and locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, a merchant vessel carrying supplies for the British forces. Two missiles hit the vessel, which sank three days after being hit.
It is not Iron Man. It isn’t even Iron Fist. Lockheed Martin’s newest exoskeleton is more like Iron Leg. But for a soldier humping his weapons, ammo and body armor up a mountain in Afghanistan or a high-rise building in a future urban battle, a device to take the load off would be welcome. And, unlike science fiction supersuits, we can build it now.
Exoskeletons are part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which seeks to use robotics and artificial intelligence to enhance humans on the battlefield, rather than to replace them. There’s no area where the need is more acute than in the infantry, which takes the vast majority of casualties.
One particularly persistent problem: weight. US foot troops have been overburdened since at least D-Day, where some men drowned in shallow water under their heavy packs. The problem has become especially acute since 9/11, with US troops in body armor laboring to chase Taliban in flip-flops. The military is constantly looking at ways to make equipment lighter, but those improvements are mainly on the margins, a pound shaved here or there. It’s also experimenting with wheeled or tracked robots that can carry some of a squad’s equipment, but these robotic mules can’t yet keep up with nimble infantrymen over rough terrain.
So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.
How It Works
The Lockheed exoskeleton’s full and unwieldly designation is FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD), which makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover. In fact, it’s a sophisticated synthesis of multiple technologies:
a rigid load-bearing framework to transfer weight off the wearer to the ground; compact actuators at the knee to increase strength (future models may add actuators at the hip as well); soft materials that buffer between the human being and the rigid frame, helping translate analog human movements into digital signals to the actuators; and an artificial intelligence that adjusts the machinery to move seamlessly with the wearer — unlike past earlier exoskeletons that often resisted the body’s natural movements.
In tests, elite Tier One special operators wearing K-SRD found they could do twice as many squats lifting 185 pounds of weight, going from an average of 20-25 reps to over 50. There were similar improvements climbing stairs carrying a 185-lb simulated casualty, said Lockheed product manager Keith Maxwell, a former Navy and “Other Government Agency” operator himself. “It literally pushes you up flights of stairs,” he told me. “(You) do it faster, with much less fatigue.”
However, the gains are greatest with vertical movement and least on level ground, Maxwell emphasized. On a 15-degree slope, he said, the device reduces the human’s energy expenditure — the “net metabolic cost” — by only about 9 percent. On level ground, it doesn’t save any energy, he said. Why? Humans evolved over millions of years for long-distance chases across the savannah: The theory of persistence hunting suggests our ancestors, lacking bows and arrows, simply ran after prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing modern technology can make is likely to improve on human performance over level ground, at least any time soon.
With K-SRD on level ground, said Maxwell, “what we’re able to do is break even” — which is a marked improvement over past exoskeletons. Lockheed spent years on an 85-lb rigid exoskeleton called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which was good at carrying heavy weights but lousy at matching human movements. “The problem was that terrain is irregular and human gait is infinitely variable,” Maxwell said, so HULC’s computer kept misunderstanding what the wearer wanted to do and moving the wrong way. Overall, Maxwell said, walking around in a HULC actually cost 15 to 25 percent more energy than having no exoskeletal “help” at all.
Lockheed moved on to the less ambitious FORTIS, essentially a rigid support frame — it doesn’t require electricity because it doesn’t have actuators — that could help factory and shipyard workers handle heavy tools without fatigue. The wearer has enough mobility to relocate, tools in hand, to another worksite within 100 yards, but the industrial FORTIS far too awkward for the battlefield.
The FORTIS K-SRD, by contrast, uses its mix of rigid and flexible components, and a much more sophisticated set of algorithms than HULC, to move with the wearer’s body. Testers were able to operate it with only 15 minutes of training, Maxwell said, and some of the special operators didn’t bother with the training at all.
“They can run, they can climb, they can squat,” Maxwell said. They can hit the dirt, take cover, and crawl, then jump up and dash forward and take cover again. They can even walk along a balance beam although for such precision movements he recommends turning the strength-magnifying actuators off, done with a simple thumb movement on the controls. One tester even found his K-SRD comfortable enough to sleep with it on.
The Case Against Iron Man
After decades of exoskeleton development, Lockheed wants to get this device out into the field soon. The K-SRD team is working mostly closely with the Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which they expect to buy a number of K-SRDs for test purposes and institute a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) in the next 30-60 days. Other partners include the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad initiative. Lockheed is even working with theDepartment of Homeland Security and some foreign fire departments on potential firefighting and rescue applications, since those also involve heavily burdened humans climbing up and down with life and death and stake.
Maxwell did not mention Special Operations Command, whose TALOS program envisions a full-body suit of mechanical armor able to resist point-blank gunshots — what then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven compared to Iron Man’s suit.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relies on the JARVIS artificial intelligence to help pilot his Iron Man suit — the kind of “human-machine teaming” that increasingly intrigues the Pentagon. (Marvel Comics/Paramount Pictures)
“Can we have an up-armored solution that’s capable of breaching and entering and being relatively invulnerable to 7.62 AP (armor piercing) bullets at point-blank range? Yeah, we can do that,” said Maxwell. That said, it’d probably be heavy and slow, far from the flight-capable suit in the comics.
“Iron Man has…hurt exoskeleton development,” Maxwell said, because it’s created impossible expectations — literally impossible, since the CGI suit in the movies routinely violates the laws of physics. When Iron Man drops from the sky to a neat three-point landing, in particular, the sudden deceleration would liquefy Tony Stark inside the suit.
Nevertheless, Maxwell said, while real-world exoskeletons may not copy the comic books, they’re still a marvel. When our best troops put them on, he said, “they become something more than human.” They become something more than mere machines, as well, he said: “The man in the machine will beat the machine (by itself) every time.”
That’s the so-called centaur model of human-machine teaming at the heart of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy. It’s the synergy of a human imagination and agility controlling the strength and speed of a machine, like the mythical centaur combining rider and horse into a single being.
“As long as there’s judgment (required) in situations in which the person is going to have to make a call, we’re going to want a human in the loop. Eventually, if we can get machines to do that for us…we’ll just make these robots,” Maxwell told me. “Until then…you take the absolute best human beings and combine them with the absolute best in machines.”
Quick translation into the regular alphabet gives you: “3am, two dead men, and Kandahar.” Kandahar, Afghanistan, is more than likely where Frank Castle was deployed, since he mentioned to an old Marine veteran back in Daredevil Season 2 that he was in Afghanistan.
The name of all of the episodes are:
“Two Dead Men”
“The Judas Goat”
“Front Toward Enemy”
“Virtue of the Vicious”
Following the standard 13 episode format for all of the series, this seems to make sense. The series of tweets ends with a very cryptic video meant to invoke the feeling of something being classified by the military.
The video ends with an ambiguous date in 2017. However, I have my own personal theory on this.
One of the directors on The Punisher accidentally revealed the show’s premiere month. The director said Netflix was planning to release his episode in November. Knowing the structure of every Netflix’s television show, this basically means that every episode drops with the whole season for maximum binging results. Netflix also releases a lot of their shows on a Friday, once again for maximum binging results.
If Marvel and Netflix were to drop it on any Friday to get the best results, it would be over Veteran’s Day weekend. The day before Veteran’s Day is also the Marine Corps’ Birthday. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps than by having its favorite fictional son’s television show released on the same day?
I’m open to criticism if I’m wrong, but if I’m right this could be one of the best birthday gifts ever.
The Navy will soon deploy a new missile aboard its Littoral Combat Ship that can find and destroy enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles, service officials said.
Called the Naval Strike Missile, or NSM, the weapon is developed by a Norwegian-headquartered firm called Konigsberg; it is currently used on Norwegian Nansen-class frigates and Skjold-Class missile torpedo boats, company officials said.
“The Navy is currently planning to utilize the Foreign Comparative Testing program to procure and install the Norwegian-built Naval Strike Missile on the USS FREEDOM (LCS 1). The objective is to demonstrate operationally-relevant installation, test, and real-world deployment on an LCS,” a Navy spokeswoman from Naval Sea Systems Command told Scout Warrior.
The deployment of the weapon is the next step in the missiles progress. In 2014NSM was successfully test fired from the flight deck of the USS CORONADO (LCS 4) at the Pt. Mugu Range Facility, California, demonstrating a surface-to-surface weapon capability, the Navy official explained.
First deployed by the Norwegian Navy in 2012, the missile is engineered to identify ships by ship class, Gary Holst, Senior Director for Naval Surface Warfare, Konigsberg, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The NSM is fired from a deck-mounted launcher. The weapon uses an infrared imaging seeker, identify targets, has a high degree of maneuverability and flies close to the water in “sea-skim” mode to avoid ship defenses, he added.
“It can determine ships in a group of ships by ship class, locating the ship which is its designated target. It will attack only that target,” Holst said.
Holst added that the NSM was designed from the onset to have a maneuverability sufficient to defeat ships with advanced targets; the missile’s rapid radical maneuvers are built into the weapon in order to defeat what’s called “terminal defense systems,” he said.
“One of the distinguishing features of the missile is its ability to avoid terminal defense systems based on a passive signature, low-observable technologies and maneuverability. It was specifically designed to attack heavily defended targets,” Holst said.
For instance, the NSM is engineered to defeat ship defense weapons such as the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS – a ship-base defensive fire “area weapon” designed to fire large numbers of projectiles able intercept, hit or destroy approaching enemy fire.
CIWS is intended to defend ships from enemy fire as it approaches closer to its target, which is when the NSM’s rapid maneuverability would help it avoid being hit and proceed to strike its target, Holst added.
Holst added that the weapon is engineered with a “stealthy” configuration to avoid detection from ship detection systems and uses its sea-skimming mode to fly closer to the surface than any other missile in existence.
“It was designed against advanced CIWS systems. It is a subsonic weapon designed to bank to turn. It snaps over when it turns and the seeker stays horizontally stabilized — so the airframe turns around the seeker so it can zero-in on the seam it is looking at and hit the target,” he said.
Raytheon and Konigsberg signed a teaming agreement to identify ways we can reduce the cost of the missile by leveraging Raytheon’s supplier base and supplier management, Holst explained.
Konigsberg is working with Raytheon to establish NSM production facilities in the U.S., Ron Jenkins, director for precision standoff strike, Raytheon Missile systems, said.
Konigsberg is also working on a NSM follow-on missile engineered with an RF (radio frequency) sensor that can help the weapon find and destroy targets.
The new missile is being built to integrate into the internal weapons bay of Norway’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Konigsberg and Raytheon are submitting the missile for consideration for the Navy’s long-range beyond-the-horizon offensive missile requirement for its LCS.
“The Navy has identified a need for an over-the-horizon missile as part of their distributed lethality concept which is adding more offensive weapons to more ships throughout the fleet and they wanted to do this quickly,” Holst explained.
The Navy’s distributed lethality strategy involves numerous initiatives to better arm its fleet with offensive and defensive weapons, maintain a technological advantage over adversaries and strengthen its “blue water” combat abilities against potential near-peer rivals, among other things.
They are pitching the missile as a weapon which is already developed and operational – therefore it presents an option for the Navy that will not require additional time and extensive development, he said.
“The missile is the size, shape and weight that fits on both classes of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Holst said.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Rarang, Senior Airman Tormod Lillekroken and Staff Sgt. Seth Hunt, all 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controllers, walk along a road as part of a training scenario during exercise Serpentex 16 in Corsica, France, March 15, 2016. JTACs are considered qualified service members who direct the action of air and surfaced-based fires at the tactical level. They are the Airmen on the ground with the authority to control and call in airstrikes on target.
Airman 1st Class Anthony Mahon, of the 436th Airlift Wing, performs a visual inspection on a C-17 Globemaster III during thick fog prior to the aircraft’s launch from Dover Air Force Base, Del., March 17, 2016. Experienced reservists from the 512th Airlift Wing frequently train active-duty Airmen in various career field tasks.
Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, with support from a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (Griffins) CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew, conduct sling load training with a M777 towed 155mm howitzer during an exercise at the 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 22, 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, conduct pre-flight checks on a U.S. Army South UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, March 10, 2016.
WATERS SURROUNDING THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 23, 2016) Sailors clean an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled U.S. 7th Fleet deployment.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 20, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Dwight D. Eisenhower is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in preparation for a future deployment.
Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Group 28, conduct an underwater gear shed during a basic swim qualification course at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 16, 2016. Marines are required to demonstrate proficient combat water survival skills to complete the basic qualification.
A candidate assigned to Delta Company, Officer Candidates Class-221, breaks the surface of the murky water of ‘The Quigley’ at Brown Field, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on March 15, 2016. The mission of Officer Candidates School (OCS) is to “educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled, challenging, and chaotic environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.”
Seaman Anthony Fritz conducts firefighting training aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Albacore in Bristol Bay, Rhode Island, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Albacore is an 87-foot cutter home ported in New London, Connecticut.
Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point conduct a practice formation flight around the Island of Oahu, March 4, 2016. The Dolphin aircrews along with an HC-130 Hercules aircrew practice proficiency with multiple aircraft flying at once.
In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.
One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.
As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.
Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.
He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.
When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”
It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.
Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.
According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.
“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.
But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.
“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — The Air Force went deeply into its history to name its proposed new strategic bomber, announcing Sept. 19 that it will be the called the B-21 “Raider” in honor of Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo raiders from World War II.
The name was announced by retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s copilot and is the last surviving member of the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb multiple targets in Japan.
The USS Hornet had 16 U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchells on deck, ready for the Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Cole, now 101, said he was “humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the raider. I wish they were here.”
The announcement came in the opening session of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference here. Cole was introduced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said “the legacy of Air Force strategic air power continues” with the proposed stealthy bomber, which is to be built by B-2 Spirit bomber builder Northrop Grumman.
Retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole, a B-25 Mitchell bomber co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, answers questions in the Airman’s Hall at the Pentagon, Nov. 5, 2105. Cole toured the Pentagon and met with service members to share the history of the Doolittle Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)
The Air Force has said it wants at least 100 B-21s at a projected cost of $550 million each. It would replace the B-52Hs, which are approaching 50 years old, in the nuclear deterrence missions. Later, it also could replace the 1980s-vintage B-1Bs, which are limited to conventional bombing.
But the program already has come under attack from arms control advocates and from other defense critics who argue that the nation cannot afford another hyper-expensive aircraft while still struggling with the fifth generation F-35 fighters.
James listed the B-21 among the Air Force’s top three acquisition programs, along with the Lockheed Martin produced F-35 and the KC-46A aerial refueling plane, being built by Boeing.
In a panel session later in the day, Gen. Rand, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command which would employ the new bomber, said the B-21 was necessary to keep the nation’s long-range strike capabilities reliable and effective.
Rand said he has set 100 B-21s as the absolute minimum required, based on the current and projected requirements from the geographic combatant commanders. And, Rand noted, the Air Force currently has 158 combat ready bombers. “I cannot imagine the nation or the Air Force having one less than we have now.”
Although the actual buy would be determined after the first of the new bombers are delivered, Rand said, “I’m going to stick to my guns, that 100 is the minimum.”
The panel was asked how they could expect the B-21 coming in on time and at the estimated cost when every major weapon system in decades has fallen behind schedule and run well over projected price.
Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said they were doing a base lining study with the contractor, but had a cost-plus contract for research and development that has incentives for Northrop “to deliver on cost and on schedule. The contract also sets a fixed price for the first five blocks of bombers, “which normally are the most expensive,” Holmes said.
“All indications are we will beat the $550 [million] estimated cost,” he said.
The B-21 program also is being managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with procurement.
Randall Walden, director of that office, said the B-21 was being designed with “open architecture” requirements, which make it easier to upgrade technology, particularly in the sophisticated electronic systems that drive up much of the cost of new high-tech weapons. He estimated that could save “upward of 50 to 80 percent of the cost” over the life of the bomber.
Holmes was asked how the Air Force could afford its top three procurement program along with all the other expenses it had and the limited budgets expected. He said that because the F-35, KC-46 and B-21 were the top priorities, they are funded first when the Air Force crafts its budget and the other programs are funded with what is left.
He also said the Air Force plans to push through some of the lesser programs, such as replacing the Vietnam-vintage UH-1 helicopters that provide security and mobility at its Minuteman III missile bases, before the big spending starts on the B-21 and the Minuteman replacement.
The panel also was asked about whether the B-21 would be manned or remotely piloted. Rand and Walden both said current plans were to have it manned.
Rand said some future systems could be unmanned. “Personally, I like the idea of having a man, or a woman, in the loop,” he said.
The Department of Defense has released video of the combat debut of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb.
FoxNews.com reported that the April 13 air strike which killed 36 members of the Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also called ISIS-K or the Khorasan Group, targeted a cave and tunnel system in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Heavy fighting between Afghan government forces and the terrorist group has been reported, and local residents were eager to see more bombings.
“I want 100 times more bombings on this group,” Hakim Khan told FoxNews.com.
On April 8, a Green Beret died of wounds suffered in a firefight with ISIS in that province. Pentagon officials denied that the use of MOAB was in retaliation for the loss.
“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using [improvised bombs], bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan said in a Department of Defense release. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”
The GBU-43 is a 21,700-pound bomb that uses GPS guidance to hit its target with over 18,000 pounds of high explosive. The bomb replaced the BLU-82, a 15,000-pound bomb used since the Vietnam War. Both bombs are dropped from the back of MC-130 cargo planes modified for use by Special Operations Forces.
Below is the 30-second video of MOAB’s combat debut.
Everyone gets Facebook friend requests from strangers. We used to worry about them being identity thieves. Nowadays, those strangers might be spooks.
Many experts agree cyberspace is the battleground of the future, and for good reason. We see that future playing out in many ways, even now. There are real cybersecurity threats out there, as the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management demonstrates. Experts estimate the cost of information lost to hackers could be as high as $4.6 billion.
This isn’t The Pirate Bay sharing films and music via free torrent downloads. This is actual damage from ideological foes like ISIS and North Korea. China alone accounts for 70% of intellectual property theft. One Air Force counter strategy took a play from Russia’s playbook: create an online army of trolls.
Russian trolls pump out 135 comments, 50 news article posts, and maintain 6-10 Facebook and Twitter accounts per 12-hour shift. But Russia uses actual humans to do this work, while the Air Force commissioned software to allow one service member to control the same number of online identities, accounts known as “sock puppets,” toward purposes not specified.
In 2010, Air Force contractors took bids for developing this software on FedBizOps (which is a real government website, despite sounding like a subsidiary of Cash4Gold) as legally required for potential contractor opportunities. According to the contract synopsis the Air Force wanted:
“50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”
That’s 500 people spreading disinformation and propaganda, much more than the mass emails your parents send to all their friends.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has the same technology. It might even be better than the Air Force’s request, as CENTCOM’s can fool geolocating services, allowing for misinformation and propaganda (or anything else the software could provide) from anywhere in the world.
“This contract supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda,” said Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM’s digital engagement team.
In contrast, the Air Force’s guidelines for actual humans posting on blogs and social media is actually pretty well constructed.
One of the original bidders for the software was the now-defunct HBGary, whose CEO infamously bragged he was able to take down hacker collective Anonymous, the same collective who subsequently dumped HBGary’s secret documents onto the Internet, where it was found HBGary had developed similar software as a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing not-so-secret supervillain plan to destroy the Wikileaks website.
Whatever the persona technology was for, it was launched in March 2011, presumably in support of Operation Earnest Voice. For the record, it would be illegal for the Air Force or CENTCOM to use “sock puppet” accounts against American citizens.
The U.S. Army will continue with its Modular Handgun System effort despite heavy criticism from the service’s own chief of staff who called it too bureaucratic and costly for a low-tech item such as a pistol.
Army acquisition leaders recently attended a high-level meeting with Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to determine what to do about the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, effort — keep as is, restructure or cancel it and start over, according to an Army acquisition official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“The decision was to stay the course with MHS,” the official said.
This will likely ease a lot of worry from gun-makers competing in the effort since Milley has made no secret about his contempt for service’s effort to replace the current M9 9mm pistol.
The general has used recent public appearances to chastise a bureaucratic acquisition system for making it overly complicated to field equipment in a timely manner, citing the service’s MHS effort as a prime example.
But behind the scenes, Milley moved beyond criticism. His office recently asked the Army Special Operations Command’s G-8 office, which oversees fielding of equipment, if there is room for the Army to join its pistol contract to buy Glock 19s, according to another Military.com source who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The compact Model 19 is one of Glock’s most popular handguns. New Glock 19s retail for $500-$600 each. USASOC is currently paying a base price of about $320 for each Glock 19, the source said.
With that price, the Army would pay about $91.8 million if the service were to buy 287,000 pistols, the quantity requirement outlined in the MHS effort, which is currently set to cost at least $350 million.
“The thing no one is talking about is the can of worms the chief has opened,” the Army acquisition said.
“I think it is good that the Army leadership is taking a bigger role in acquisition. On the other hand, there are huge risks when people like the chief have wrong or incomplete information, or jump into the middle of an active competition, the source said. “There are certain things one does not do, unless one is willing to live with the consequences.”
In this case, consequences mean the possibility of protests or lawsuits by gun makers participating in the MHS completion.
“Enough companies have submitted bids for there to be a good MHS competition,” the acquisition official said. “No one is saying how many that is or who they are. If they include the larger companies … it increases the prospects for litigation because they have the requisite resources, and that is what they do.”
Milley’s stance on MHS continues to draw attention from Congress.
Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, questioned senior Army officials about it at an April 5 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee hearing.
“This has been a real big issue,” she said. “Why is it so difficult for the Army to buy a basic item like a pistol?”
Lt. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy chief of staff of the Army’s office for programs, or G-8, agreed that the service has been down a “torturous path” on the handgun program.
“I will guarantee you [Gen. Milley] is involved with the testing, requirements and source selection, when we get to that point, in every intimate detail,” Murray said, describing how he has had “several very long and painful meetings with him in the past week or two and dug into how we got where we are and how do we fix this.”
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45-caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Gun-makers had until Feb. 12 to submit proposals to the Army.
The request for proposal calls on gun-makers to submit packages that include full-size and compact versions of their handgun as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds for testing.
One of Milley’s biggest criticisms of MHS is that the testing program is scheduled to last two years and cost $17 million.
In a break from tradition, the Army is also requiring competing firms to prove that they are capable of delivering millions of rounds of pistol ammunition per month in addition to delivering thousands of new handguns per month, according to the request.
The competition will also evaluate expanding or fragmenting ammunition, such as hollow-point bullets, that have been used by law enforcement agencies for years. The Army’s draft solicitation cited a new Defense Department policy that allows for the use of “special purpose ammunition.”
Rare criticism by an Iranian Health Ministry official of China’s controversial COVID-19 figures has angered hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom asked if he was speaking on behalf of the country’s archrival, the United States.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said at a press briefing on April 5 that China’s statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are “a bitter joke.”
He added that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].”
The comments did not go down well with Chinese officials or hard-liners in Iran who reminded Jahanpur that China has stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and crushing economic sanctions applied by Washington.
Many questions have been raised in the Western media recently about China’s official coronavirus figures amid suggestions that the real numbers are likely much higher.
Officials wait outside a Beijing metro station to monitor for anyone infected with the coronavirus.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China’s ruling Communist Party on April 3 of being involved in a “disinformation campaign” regarding the virus that is being used to “deflect from what has really taken place.”
But similar criticism from an Iranian official whose country enjoys strong relations with China led to raised eyebrows and has provoked crunching criticism.
“At a time when China has been Iran’s major helper in the fight against the coronavirus and has provided the country with several strategic products while bypassing the [U.S.] sanctions, Jahanpur suddenly becomes the spokesperson of [U.S. President Donald Trump] and [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu,” the editor of the hard-line Mashreghnews.ir, Hassan Soleimani, said on Twitter on April 5.
Others, including Hossein Dalirian, a former editor with Tasnim news, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), went as far as calling for Jahanpur’s dismissal from the ministry.
China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, also joined the chorus, telling Jahanpur he should follow press briefings by China’s Health Ministry “carefully” in order to draw his conclusions.
Amid the mounting criticism and in what appeared to be damage control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi tweeted in support of China, saying the country has led the way in suppressing the coronavirus while also “generously” helping other countries.
“The Chinese bravery, dedication, and professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserves acknowledgement,” Musavi tweeted on April 5, adding that Iran has been grateful to China in these trying times with the hashtag #Strongertogether.
Musavi’s tweet was retweeted by Chang, who said “Rumors cannot destroy our friendship.”
The Gvt. ppl. of #China lead the way in suppressing #coronavirus generously aiding countries across . The Chinese bravery, dedication professionalism in COVID19 containment deserve acknowledgment. has always been thankful to in these trying times. #StrongerTogether
For his part, Jahanpur attempted to calm the waters by publicly praising China for supporting his country during the outbreak.
“The support of China for the Iranian nation in [these] difficult days is unforgettable,” he said on Twitter on April 6.
He also said the Iranian government and the nation are grateful and will not forget the countries that stood with them during the pandemic.
Jahanpur’s tweet was welcomed by Ambassador Chang, who retweeted it while writing in Persian: “Friends should help each other, we fight together.”
Citing current and former intelligence officials, The New York Times reported last week that the CIA has told the White House since February that China has understated the number of its infections.
China has claimed that it has been open and transparent about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which emerged in December in Wuhan, where the virus has officially claimed the lives of 2,563 people and a nationwide total of 3,331 as of April 6. Beijing also claims some 81,708 total infections.
Radio Free Asia issued a report on March 27 suggesting tens of thousands of more people had died in Wuhan from the coronavirus than the official total given by Beijing.
Some Iranian officials believe the country’s coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst in the Middle East, began because of Tehran’s ties to China, which has been buying a limited amount of Iranian oil despite strict U.S. sanctions and penalties.
Iranian officials think the virus reached Qom, Iran’s epicenter of the outbreak, through Chinese workers and students residing in the city who had recently traveled to China. Flights conducted to and from China by Iran’s Mahan Air — even after coronavirus cases were registered — have been also blamed for exacerbating the epidemic.
Since the outbreak in Qom in February, Chinese officials have sent Iran regular shipments of relief materials — including masks, test kits, and other equipment — to help the country battle against the coronavirus.
According to official figures released on April 6, COVID-19 in Iran has killed 3,739 people and infected 60,500.
Much like the case of China, many people inside and outside of Iran have questioned Tehran’s official figures on the pandemic.
An ongoing investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that studies figures released by officials from Iran’s 31 provinces puts the total number of deaths in Iran at 6,872 people as of April 5, with some 94,956 infections.
The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.
Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities. This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.
We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported. A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.
While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States. Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.
Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)
Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.
America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.