This is what the Pentagon wants the 'smart' handgun to do - We Are The Mighty
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This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

We’ve all seen the cool James Bond clip where Q hands over a Walther PPK/S that can only be activated by 007’s palm print .


If a bad guy tries to pick it up and shoot the superspy, no joy.

For years the idea of a so-called “smart” gun like Bond’s has been largely out of reach for anyone but the covert operators of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to make one for real life. And the feds just took the first step in what could eventually be a handgun fielded to law enforcement and the military that only shoots for an authorized user.

As part of a series of executive actions on gun control released in January, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to look into what a smart gun should look like for military troops and federal agents. His intention was to deploy government resources to push the technology beyond what the civilian market has yielded in hopes of making smart gun technology available for most handguns.

“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality,” the White House said. “In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”

The Armatix iP1 is the first so-called “smart gun” available for consumers. It’s chambered in 22 LR and requires a special watch for the shooter to active the gun.

In July, researchers with the National Institute of Justice released its long-awaited specifications for what a smart handgun should be able to do and how its safety features should work. The requirements represent a high technological bar for military and law enforcement smart gun use, including overrides if the system is jammed, near instant activation and a 10,000 rounds before failure limit.

The Justice Department described “the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies,” the NIJ report said. “In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.”

The NIJ specs essentially call for a polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm or .40 SW handgun without any external safety. Basically, the specs point to a Glock 19 or similar modern handgun when it comes to ergonomics, size, and function.

Researchers said the smart gun should able to be programmed to work only for authorized users, could be activated with a wearable device such as a ring or bracelet, and should be able to shoot even if the smart safety fails.

But the researchers went on to call for functions that go well beyond what current technology allows, including that “the security device shall not increase the time required by the operator to grasp, draw from a holster and fire the pistol as a pistol of the same design that is not equipped with the security device.”

That means zero lag time for the pistol to draw, authorize and fire in a split second.

The smart gun will also have to detect and alert the shooter if there is an attempt to jam the system and be able override the safety and fire despite the countermeasures. And the gun must be able to fire with both a bare or gloved hand, making it tough for technology using biometric sensors to read fingerprints.

Most importantly, the smart gun will have to endure 10,000 rounds with 2,000 draws between any failure. Engineers who build systems like small lights and lasers that attach to handguns have said one of the biggest technological challenges to building miniature electronics is making them tough enough to withstand the repeated recoil of a pistol.

Skeptics have long argued smart guns insert an unreliable technology into a system that’s build to work every time at a moment’s notice and that forcing anyone to use an electronic safety on a handgun could mean the difference between life and death.

“Generally speaking, additional complexity brings increased risk of malfunction and error,” the Justice Department has said. “The types of firearms most commonly used by law enforcement and the broader American public … are relatively straightforward mechanical devices, and manufacturers have faced significant engineering challenges as they seek to seamlessly integrate electronics into firearms’ operations.

But the White House has signaled its intention to push the technology to the field as soon as possible, and the latest NIJ report shows just how solid that technology has to be for troops and law enforcement to trust it with their lives.

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The Army ROTC program is using Hollywood to train future officers

“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.


While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”

The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.

As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”

Here is that video:

 

Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.

 

“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:

 

“Top Gun” adds one as well.

 

Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.

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Vet congresswoman wants Air Force to put down tubas and pick up guns

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
We’re headed for the rifle range right after we finish this whacky jam session, we promise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker)


Representative Martha McSally, R-Az., an Air Force veteran, launched into the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing in the Capitol after they testified that manning levels were too low and budget cuts were too high. According to a story posted at Air Force Times, McSally called their logic the “newest excuse” for prematurely retiring the venerable A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, and she questioned if it wouldn’t be wiser to cut non-essential personnel like “the hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet.”

“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said during the hearing. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Then Lt.Col. McSally about to get her BRRRRTTT! on. (USAF photo)

“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally said.

“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, CJCS, replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”

“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.

McSally knows a thing or two about the topic of military aviation. She graduated from the Air Force Academy and then spent 22 years serving as an attack pilot, including commanding an A-10 squadron. In 2001 she famously sued DoD over the policy of making female service members wear veils while stationed in Saudi Arabia. She retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel and spent a year as a college professor in Germany before running for Congress. She lost a close race for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and then won a close race two years later.

And, for the record, the Air Force says it currently has about 540 enlisted airmen and 20 officers assigned to band billets.

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The Soviets’ 1957 launch of Sputnik (sort of) inspired the creation of the Internet

While the World Wide Web was initially invented by one person (see: What was the First Website?), the genesis of the internet itself was a group effort by numerous individuals, sometimes working in concert, and other times independently.  Its birth takes us back to the extremely competitive technological contest between the US and the USSR during the Cold War.


The Soviet Union sent the satellite Sputnik 1 into space on October 4, 1957. Partially in response, the American government created in 1958 the Advanced Research Project Agency, known today as DARPA—Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency’s specific mission was to

…prevent technological surprises like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies.

To coordinate such efforts, a rapid way to exchange data between various universities and laboratories was needed. This bring us to J. C. R. Licklider who is largely responsible for the theoretical basis of the Internet, an “Intergalactic Computer Network.” His idea was to create a network where many different computer systems would be interconnected to one another to quickly exchange data, rather than have individual systems setup, each one connecting to some other individual system.

He thought up the idea after having to deal with three separate systems connecting to computers in Santa Monica, the University of California, Berkeley, and a system at MIT:

For each of these three terminals, I had three different sets of user commands. So if I was talking online with someone at S.D.C. and I wanted to talk to someone I knew at Berkeley or M.I.T. about this, I had to get up from the S.D.C. terminal, go over and log into the other terminal and get in touch with them…. I said, oh man, it’s obvious what to do: If you have these three terminals, there ought to be one terminal that goes anywhere you want to go where you have interactive computing. That idea is the ARPAnet.”

So, yes, the idea for the internet as we know it partially came about because of the seemingly universal human desire to not have to get up and move to another location.

With the threat of a nuclear war, it was necessary to decentralize such a system, so that even if one node was destroyed, there would still be communication between all the other computers. The American engineer Paul Baran provided the solution to this issue; he designed a decentralized network that also used packet switching as a means for sending and receiving data.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Sputnik 1

Many others also contributed to the development of an efficient packet switching system, including Leonard Kleinrock and Donald Davies. If you’re not familiar, “packet switching” is basically just a method of breaking down all transmitted data—regardless of content, type, or structure—into suitably sized blocks, called packets. So, for instance, if you wanted to access a large file from another system, when you attempted to download it, rather than the entire file being sent in one stream, which would require a constant connection for the duration of the download, it would get broken down into small packets of data, with each packet being individually sent, perhaps taking different paths through the network.  The system that downloads the file would then re-assemble the packets back into the original full file.

The platform mentioned above by Licklider, ARPANET was based on these ideas and was the principle precursor to the Internet as we think of it today. It was installed and operated for the first time in 1969 with four nodes, which were located at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of California at Los Angeles, SRI at Stanford University, and the University of Utah.

The first use of this network took place on October 29, 1969 at 10:30 pm and was a communication between UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute. As recounted by the aforementioned Leonard Kleinrock, this momentous communiqué went like this:

We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI… We typed the L and we asked on the phone,

“Do you see the L?”

“Yes, we see the L,” came the response.

We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O.”

“Yes, we see the O.”

Then we typed the G, and the system crashed… Yet a revolution had begun.

By 1972, the number of computers that were connected to ARPANET had reached twenty-three and it was at this time that the term electronic mail (email) was first used, when a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson implemented an email system in ARPANET using the “@” symbol to differentiate the sender’s name and network name in the email address.

Alongside these developments, engineers created more networks, which used different protocols such as X.25 and UUCP. The original protocol for communication used by the ARPANET was the NCP (Network Control Protocol). The need for a protocol that would unite all the many networks was needed.

In 1974, after many failed attempts, a paper published by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, also known as “the fathers of the Internet,” resulted in the protocol TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), which by 1978 would become TCP/IP (with the IP standing for Internet Protocol). At a high level, TCP/IP is essentially just a relatively efficient system for making sure the packets of data are sent and ultimately received where they need to go, and in turn assembled in the proper order so that the downloaded data mirrors the original file.  So, for instance, if a packet is lost in transmission, TCP is the system that detects this and makes sure the missing packet(s) get re-sent and are successfully received.  Developers of applications can then use this system without having to worry about exactly how the underlying network communication works.

On January 1, 1983, “flag day,” TCP/IP would become the exclusive communication protocol for ARPANET.

Also in 1983, Paul Mockapetris proposed a distributed database of internet name and address pairs, now known as the Domain Name System (DNS).  This is essentially a distributed “phone book” linking a domain’s name to its IP address, allowing you to type in something like todayifoundout.com, instead of the IP address of the website.  The distributed version of this system allowed for a decentralized approach to this “phone book.” Previous to this, a central HOSTS.TXT file was maintained at Stanford Research Institute that then could be downloaded and used by other systems.  Of course, even by 1983, this was becoming a problem to maintain and there was a growing need for a decentralized approach.

This brings us to 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) developed a system for distributing information on the Internet and named it the World Wide Web.

What made this system unique from existing systems of the day was the marriage of the hypertext system (linked pages) with the internet; particularly the marriage of one directional links that didn’t require any action by the owner of the destination page to make it work as with bi-directional hypertext systems of the day.  It also provided for relatively simple implementations of web servers and web browsers and was a completely open platform making it so anyone could contribute and develop their own such systems without paying any royalties.  In the process of doing all this, Berners-Lee developed the URL format, hypertext markup language (HTML), and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Around this same time, one of the most popular alternatives to the web, the Gopher system, announced it would no longer be free to use, effectively killing it with many switching to the World Wide Web. Today, the web is so popular that many people often think of it as the internet, even though this isn’t the case at all.

Also around the time the World Wide Web was being created, the restrictions on commercial use of the internet were gradually being removed, which was another key element in the ultimate success of this network.

Next up, in 1993, Marc Andreessen led a team that developed a browser for the World Wide Web, named Mosaic.  This was a graphical browser developed via funding through a U.S. government initiative, specifically the “High Performance Computing and Communications Act of 1991.″

This act was partially what Al Gore was referring to when he said he “took the initiative in creating the Internet.”  All political rhetoric aside (and there was much on both sides concerning this statement), as one of the “fathers of the internet,” Vincent Cerf said, “The Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the Vice President [Al Gore] in his current role and in his earlier role as Senator… As far back as the 1970s, Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship…  His initiatives led directly to the commercialization of the Internet. So he really does deserve credit.” (For more on this controversy, see: Did Al Gore Really Say He Invented the Internet?)

As for Mosaic, it was not the first web browser, as you’ll sometimes read, simply one of the most successful until Netscape came around (which was developed by many of those who previously worked on Mosaic).  The first ever web browser, called WorldWideWeb, was created by Berners-Lee.  This browser had a nice graphical user interface; allowed for multiple fonts and font sizes; allowed for downloading and displaying images, sounds, animations, movies, etc.; and had the ability to let users edit the web pages being viewed in order to promote collaboration of information.  However, this browser only ran on NeXT Step’s OS, which most people didn’t have because of the extreme high cost of these systems. (This company was owned by Steve Jobs, so you can imagine the cost bloat… ;-))

In order to provide a browser anyone could use, the next browser Berners-Lee developed was much simpler and, thus, versions of it could be quickly developed to be able to run on just about any computer, for the most part regardless of processing power or operating system.  It was a bare-bones inline browser (command line / text only), which didn’t have most of the features of his original browser.

Mosaic essentially reintroduced some of the nicer features found in Berners-Lee’s original browser, giving people a graphic interface to work with. It also included the ability to view web pages with inline images (instead of in separate windows as other browsers at the time).  What really distinguished it from other such graphical browsers, though, was that it was easy for everyday users to install and use.  The creators also offered 24 hour phone support to help people get it setup and working on their respective systems.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bonus Internet Facts:

  • The first domain ever registered was Symbolics.com on March 15, 1985.  It was registered by the Symbolics Computer Corp.
  • The “//” forward slashes in any web address serve no real purpose according to Berners-Lee.  He only put them in because, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”  He wanted a way to separate the part the web server needed to know about, for instance “www.todayifoundout.com”, from the other stuff which is more service oriented.  Basically, he didn’t want to have to worry about knowing what service the particular website was using at a particular link when creating a link in a web page. “//” seemed natural, as it would to anyone who’s used Unix based systems.  In retrospect though, this was not at all necessary, so the “//” are essentially pointless.
  • Berners-Lee chose the “#” for separating the main part of a document’s url with the portion that tells what part of the page to go to, because in the United States and some other countries, if you want to specify an address of an individual apartment or suite in a building, you classically precede the suite or apartment number with a “#”.  So the structure is “street name and number #suite number”; thus “page url #location in page”.
  • Berners-Lee chose the name “World Wide Web” because he wanted to emphasize that, in this global hypertext system, anything could link to anything else.  Alternative names he considered were: “Mine of Information” (Moi); “The Information Mine” (Tim); and “Information Mesh” (which was discarded as it looked too much like “Information Mess”).
  • Pronouncing “www” as individual letters “double-u double-u double-u” takes three times as many syllables as simply saying “World Wide Web.”
  • Most web addresses begin with “www” because of the traditional practice of naming a server according to the service it provides.  So outside of this practice, there is no real reason for any website URL to put a “www” before the domain name; the administrators of whatever website can set it to put anything they want preceding the domain or nothing at all.  This is why, as time goes on, more and more websites have adopted allowing only putting the domain name itself and assuming the user wants to access the web service instead of some other service the machine itself may provide.  Thus, the web has more or less become the “default” service (generally on port 80) on most service hosting machines on the internet.
  • The earliest documented commercial spam message on an internet is often incorrectly cited as the 1994 “Green Card Spam” incident.  However, the actual first documented commercial spam message was for a new model of Digital Equipment Corporation computers and was sent on ARPANET to 393 recipients by Gary Thuerk in 1978.
  • The famed Green Card Spam incident was sent April 12, 1994 by a husband and wife team of lawyers, Laurance Canter and Martha Siegal.  They bulk posted, on Usenet newsgroups, advertisements for immigration law services.  The two defended their actions citing freedom of speech rights.  They also later wrote a book titled “How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway“, which encouraged and demonstrated to people how to quickly and freely reach over 30 million users on the Internet by spamming.
  • Though not called spam, back then, telegraphic spam messages were extremely common in the 19th century in the United States particularly.  Western Union allowed telegraphic messages on its network to be sent to multiple destinations.  Thus, wealthy American residents tended to get numerous spam messages through telegrams presenting unsolicited investment offers and the like.  This wasn’t nearly as much of a problem in Europe due to the fact that telegraphy was regulated by post offices in Europe.
  • The word “internet” was used as early as 1883 as a verb and adjective to refer to interconnected motions, but almost a century later, in 1982, the term would, of course, be used to describe a worldwide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks.
  • In 1988, the very first massive computer virus in history called “The Internet Worm” was responsible for more than 10 percent of the world’s Internet servers shutting down temporarily.
  • The term “virus,” as referring to self-replicating computer programs, was coined by Frederick Cohen who was a student at California’s School of Engineering. He wrote such a program for a class. This “virus” was a parasitic application that would seize control of the computer and replicate itself on the machine. He then specifically described his “computer virus” as: “a program that can ‘infect’ other programs by modifying them to include a possibly evolved copy of itself.” Cohen went on to be one of the first people to outline proper virus defense techniques. He also demonstrated in 1987 that no algorithm could ever detect all possible viruses.
  • Though it wasn’t called such at the time, one of the first ever computer viruses was called “Creeper” and was written by Bob Thomas in 1971. He wrote this virus to demonstrate the potential of such “mobile” computer programs. The virus itself wasn’t destructive and simply printed the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” Creeper spread about on ARPANET. It worked by finding open connections and transferring itself to other machines. It would also attempt to remove itself from the machine that it was just on, if it could, to further be non-intrusive. The Creeper was ultimately “caught” by a program called “the reaper” which was designed to find and remove any instances of the creeper out there.
  • While terms like “Computer Worm” and “Computer Virus” are fairly commonly known, one less commonly heard term is “Computer Wabbit.” This is a program that is self-replicating, like a computer virus, but does not infect any host programs or files. The wabbits simply multiply themselves continually until eventually causing the system to crash from lack of resources. The term “wabbit” itself references how rabbits breed incredibly quickly and can take over an area until the environment can no longer sustain them. Pronouncing it “wabbit” is thought to be in homage to Elmer Fudd’s pronunciation of “rabbit.”
  • Computer viruses/worms don’t inherently have to be bad for your system. Some viruses are designed to improve your system as they infect it. For instance, as noted previously, the Reeper, which was designed to go out and destroy all instances of the Creeper it found. Another virus designed by Cohen would spread itself on a system to all executable files. Rather than harm them though, it would simply safely compress them, freeing up storage space.
  • Al Gore was one of the so called “Atari Democrats.” These were a group of Democrats that had a “passion for technological issues, from biomedical research and genetic engineering to the environmental impact of the greenhouse effect.” They basically argued that supporting development of various new technologies would stimulate the economy and create a lot of new jobs. Their primary obstacle in political circles, which are primarily made up of a lot of “old fogies,”  was simply trying to explain a lot of the various new technologies, in terms of why they were important, to try to get support from fellow politicians for these things.
  • Gore was also largely responsible for the “Information Superhighway” term becoming popular in the 1990s. The first time he used the term publicly was way back in 1978 at a meeting of computer industry workers. Originally, this term didn’t mean the World Wide Web. Rather, it meant a system like the Internet. However, with the popularity of the World Wide Web, the three terms became synonymous with one another. In that speech, Gore used the term “Information Superhighway” to be analogous with Interstate Highways, referencing how they stimulated the economy after the passing of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. That bill was introduced by Al Gore’s father. It created a boom in the housing market; an increase in how mobile citizens were; and a subsequent boom in new businesses and the like along the highways. Gore felt that an “information superhighway” would have a similar positive economic effect.

More from Today I Found Out

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Green Beret wants to help you find your personal A-Team

In Army Special Forces parlance, an A-Team is not a fictional squad featuring Mr. T – it’s a real thing. An Operation Detachment-A Team is made of 12 operators, each with a different specialty (but is of course cross-trained to another), to form the core team that makes up the Green Berets.

Greg Stube, a former Green Beret, believes anyone is capable of operating at the Green Berets’ level. His new book shows you how to build an A-Team in your own life to achieve your goals.


Stube enlisted in the Army infantry in 1988. Just four years later, he was reclassing as a Special Force Medical Sergeant. As a Green Beret, his training went much, much further. He learned surgery, dentistry, and veterinary medicine. He also went to dive school and SERE school, and became a master parachutist. Like every Green Beret, he became fluent in a foreign language – his language was Russian.

He was ready to conquer anything. He would have to be in the coming years.

Listen to our interview with Greg Stube on the Mandatory Fun podcast:

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His career spanned 23 years and included the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the start of the Global War on Terror. During Operation Medusa in Afghanistan in 2006, Stube and his Green Beret team were outnumbered in the Battle of Sperwan Ghar – a week-long battle against the Taliban. Stube took a hit from a powerful IED, was shot numerous times, and was even on fire. He suffered wounds to his lower body and even nearly lost a leg. But after 17 surgeries in 18 months, Greg Stube miraculously recovered.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

In that time, he learned that applying the way Green Berets are taught to accomplish a mission by any means necessary to his personal life he really could overcome any obstacle and any situation. His new book, Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team, is a leadership book designed to help anyone use that mentality to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Stube’s newest mission is to share what he’s learned and to help make other people’s life a little better through his experiences.

“This is my attempt, from my life and career, to sum up the things I’ve done and witnessed in peace, conflict, and healing,” Stube says. “I just want people to know it’s not reserved for the military or a special forces team. Everything we learn and refine in those desperate situations can be used without all the pressure – without the life and death risk.”

Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team is available on Amazon and will soon be available as an audiobook download on Audible, read by the author himself.

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Russian bombers buzz international airspace close to Alaska

The U.S. military has intercepted a pair of Russian bombers flying off the coast of Alaska, a Pentagon official says amid escalating tension between Moscow and Washington over a recent U.S. strike on Syria.


Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross made the announcement on April 18, saying that two US Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft had intercepted the Russian TU-95 Bear bombers within 160 kilometers of Alaska’s Kodiak Island a day earlier.

The American stealth fighters escorted the Russian long-range bombers for 12 minutes before they reversed course and headed back to their base in eastern Russia, according to the official.

Ross said the intercept was “safe and professional,” and there was no violation of U.S. airspace and any international norms.

The Pentagon spokesman noted that Russia’s TU-95s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but there was no indication that the planes were armed.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The provocative move comes at a time when the U.S. and Russia are at odds over a six-year conflict in Syria and Russia’s engagement in fight against the Daesh terrorist group (ISIL) in the Arab country.

In a recent development on April 7, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered two U.S. Navy destroyers to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield, in retaliation for a deadly chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun, which American authorities have blamed on the Syrian air force without providing any evidence.

Damascus and Moscow argue that the incident was a result of an air strike hitting a chemical depot belonging to militants fighting the Syrian government. At least 87 people were killed in the town on that day.

This is while the Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the U.S. back in 2013.

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4 photos of soldiers chilling in dictators’ houses

Long before the Facebook profile was a thing, American soldiers saw the value of photos taken in historical landmarks like Hitler’s retreat or Hirohito’s palace.


1. The Band of Brothers hung out together in Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

View post on imgur.com

As World War II was ending, American soldiers coming off of frontline conflict were assigned to guard important structures from both looting and attempts by criminals to destroy evidence of war crimes. 101st paratroopers from the famous Easy Company were given the task of guarding Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest.”

2. American troops toured, lived in, and worked in Saddam’s palaces.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: US Army Pfc. Jason Jordan

After the fall of the Baath Regime, U.S. commanders looking for headquarters turned to buildings abandoned by the Iraqi Army in their retreat. Among those repurposed for American military operations were a number of Hussein family palaces. The “Victory Over America Palace” was a part of many tours.

3. An Italian Palace became a way station for Allied troops pushing up through the “soft underbelly” of Europe.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
A US Army soldier is baptized by a chaplain in the fountain at the Palace of Caserta. Photo: US Army

The Palace of Caserta was originally commissioned for Charles VII of Naples but he abdicated his thrown and so it passed to his son Ferdinand IV of Naples in the late 1700s. Ferdinand’s two major claims to fame were being curb-stomped by Napoleon twice and executing a bunch of his own citizens.

The palace of this amazingly ineffective dictator was one of the largest palaces in the world and was in good shape when World War II rolled around. Allied soldiers moving up the Italian peninsula moved into the palace grounds and used the fountains for swimming and baptisms as shown above.

4. Gen. MacArthur hung out with the Japanese emperor.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: US Army Lt. Gaetano Faillace

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was tasked with occupying Japan after the island nation’s surrender that ended World War II.

As part of the effort to both diminish the emperor in Japanese eyes and to raise the stature of the American occupiers, MacArthur had photos taken of himself and the emperor together, a surprising visual for the Japanese people. He also had men stationed on the palace grounds.

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US special ops are trying to figure out how to counter Russia’s new way of warfare

US special operations is researching how to counteract a new breed of warfare that Russia, China and Iran have been using quite successfully in recent years, Defense News reported 


Known as gray-zone conflict or hybrid warfare, it encompasses “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

In response, US special ops is looking to develop “predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Theresa Whelan told Congress on May 2.

Related: Special ops may try to develop ‘super soldiers’ with performance-enhancing drugs

That’s because in hybrid warfare, aggressors will try to mask who they really are, such as Russia’s use of “little green men” in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine where its own special operations forces helped support an insurgency.

“Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention,” according to NATO REVIEW Magazine.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

The Pentagon study will help the US identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, Whelan said.

Many people in countries along Russia’s border, especially in the eastern part of those countries, have close cultural ties, like language and history, to Russia. Therefore public opinion about identity and Russia in these regions is oftentimes sharply divided.

No one yet knows how the US will actually try to counteract such warfare, but “technology will play a significant role,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider, specifically mentioning artificial intelligence, robotics and drones.

The presence and use of special ops will also increase, as they already have in places like Iraq and Syria. “More special ops died last year than conventional forces,” Lemmon said. “I think that points to the future of warfare.”

This new kind of warfare also brings up questions about the rules of engagement, and how the US can counteract it without triggering a full-scale conventional war.

“I genuinely think no one can answer that,” Lemmon said. “It is taking the idea of warfare into a totally different realm.”

While the results of the study are two years late, the Pentagon expects to have an “answer with our thoughts” before the end of June, Whalen told Congress.

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This Afghan warlord gave up the fight in exchange for amnesty

Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.


The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.

The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)

Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.

He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.

Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.

Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.

But the event was canceled without explanation.

A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.

Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.

Also read: 600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.

Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.

In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.

The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.

While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.

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5 cool weapons that would make UAVs deadlier

With the news that the Reaper is getting a new bomb to add to its versatile arsenal, maybe it’s about time to think about what else unmanned aerial vehicles can carry. There already is a push to add guided mortar rounds to UAVs, but that may just be scratching the surface.


The options, really, are as limitless as what regular planes can carry. Here are some cool things that could be dropped from a UAV.

1. Mk 54 MAKO Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes

The United States has deployed an anti-submarine warfare UCAV before. The QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter was deployed for a few years off smaller vessels before being retired. They were carrying weapons long before the CIA put Hellfires on Predators.

So, which UAVs would be using the Mk 54? The Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scouts come to mind, but the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-4C Triton also could do it. Seeing as both Iran and North Korea have lots of mini-subs, UAVs, with their long endurance and advanced sensor suites, could be very helpful.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
USS Roosevelt (DG 80) launches a Mk 54 MAKO torpedo, the evolutionary descendant of the Mk 24 Fido. (US Navy photo)

2. Cluster bombs

Many of the weapons UAVs carry are precision-guided systems that are intended to reduce collateral damage as much as possible. But there are some things JDAMs and Hellfires can’t do that a cluster bomb can. Since the MQ-9 Reaper already can carry 500-pound bombs, it would seem pretty easy to add something like the CBU-100 Rockeye to its arsenal.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions. The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground-based navigation aids. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. Iron Bombs

Along a similar vein, the Mk 82 iron bomb, which is the basis for the GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, would make sense for the MQ-9.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Ordies (in red jerseys) load 500-pounders onto Super Hornets aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

4. Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

This is a laser-guided 70mm Hydra rocket. When it comes to reducing collateral damage, this is probably the best system one could add to the MQ-9. Furthermore, they come in pods of seven or 19. This allows the Reaper to kill a lot more targets.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
A MH-60 Seahawk fires an Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rocket. (US Navy photo).

5. GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb

Sometimes, a target can be pretty far off. In this case, the Small Diameter Bomb could not only allow a MQ-9 to hit more targets, but to do so from outside the range of many air defense systems. That helps the UAV survive a fight – which will make the accountants happy.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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 is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. 

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall/US Air Force

The lights along the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shine under the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights March 18, 2015. Eielson is home to RED FLAG-Alaska, a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/US Air Force

NAVY

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 26, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) for a replenishment-at-sea during Multi-Sail 2015.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Dionne/US Navy

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 27, 2015) U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Multi-Sail 2015. Multi-Sail is an annual Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase warfighting capabilities in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is participating in Multi-Sail for the first time.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/US Navy

ARMY

The sun sets on Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, after conducting a tactical road march from Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase to Smardan Training Area, Romania, March 24, 2015. The Soldiers are preparing to partner with Soldiers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and Romanian forces for a multinational training event in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner/US Army

Paratroopers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conduct an after action review after completing a night live-fire, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.during U.S. Army Alaska’s Exercise Spartan Valkyrie, March 23, 2015.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Love/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015. COMPTUEX gives the Marines of VMM-161 the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios and hone their skill sets.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/US Marine Corps

A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 18, 2015. The purpose of the course was to maintain proficiency, and enhance the Marines skills in water survival techniques.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard members from Coast Guard Sector Boston, Coast Guard Station Merrimack River and the First Coast Guard District conduct flare training on Plum Island, Mass., Dec. 15, 2014. The participants fired several different types of flares to gain familiarity with the operation and appearance for each type of flare.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class MyeongHi Clegg/US Coast Guard

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014. Coast guard Cutter Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels along with the USS Constitution, in American military service.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/US Coast Guard

NOW: Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

AND: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the military

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’22 Pushup Challenge’ official calls Air Force ban ‘disgraceful’

You’d think Air Force brass, who struggle with suicides and overweight airmen, would welcome any incentive its troops could have to raise morale and get in a few extra pushups for their fellow veterans.


Not so.

The service warned airmen against joining hundreds of other service members and veterans in 22Kill’s 22 Pushup Challenge while in uniform or on duty. That didn’t sit well with Matthew Nelson, the Executive Director of 22Kill’s Boston office.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” said Nelson. “Heaven forbid you get some extra PT in raising awareness for an issue that affects the warrior class of society. The Air Force has a history of this weak-minded mentality.”

22Kill is intended to raise awareness for veteran mental health issues — including the infamous 22-per-day-suicide rate — as well as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury issues.

 

The challenge is to do 22 pushups in honor of a person or for a cause and to upload a video of you doing it to social media. Airmen from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida are uploading photos and videos doing their part for the cause.

Even soldiers from the UK are showing their support.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Airmen from Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado participate in 22Kill’s 22 Pushup Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force, however, doesn’t want troops to make it seem like the service is endorsing one private charity over another, officials say.

“Airmen may participate in non-profit organizations, including fundraising for non-profits, so long as they do so in their personal capacity, not in uniform,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis told WATM.

“That is a passive cop out and they know it,” says Nelson.

The Air Force, with its high ops tempo and historically low manpower, struggles with an airman suicide rate that it can’t control.

“We just don’t have a good track record with it,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said at last year’s Air Force Association Air and Space Conference. “What we have is a track record of pushing people beyond what’s reasonable and sustainable. We’re going to lose our best people if we don’t get this right.”

Air Force spokesman Lewis reinforced the service’s dedication to suicide prevention, mentioning Air Force participation in the DoD’s own #BeThere campaign.

“It is commendable that Airmen desire to participate in, and support, organizations to raise awareness or funding for suicide prevention in their personal capacity,” said Lewis. “We just want to make sure airmen are aware of what they can and can’t do in uniform according to established regulations.”

Meanwhile, a recent Military Times story called the Air Force out as a “close second” to being the most overweight service in the U.S. military, with the Army taking the top slot, according to data the paper obtained during an investigation.

While the Army doesn’t allow soldiers to participate in the Pushup Challenge, it told Air Force Times it never felt the need to issue a statement on the issue. The Navy and Marines have not issued a statement either.

 

“All DoD employees must abide by the Joint Ethics Regulation, which is clear concerning such activities,” Navy spokesman Ensign Marc Rockwellpate told Air Force Times. The Navy hasn’t specifically advised sailors as the Air Force has, but Rockwellpate mentioned that sailors are required to abide by Joint Ethics Regulation 3-209, which says:

“Endorsement of a non-federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by DoD or DoD employees in their official capacities. [T]itles, positions, or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non-federal entity except those specifically listed.”

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz)

Endorsement or fundraising is not the intent of the 22Kill effort, Nelson said. The original intent was a combined effort to pushup 22 million times “to raise awareness to veteran suicide prevention through education and empowerment,” according to 22Kill’s pushup page.

“While [airmen] are allowed to participate in activities to honor fallen airmen or bring awareness to issues like suicide, if these activities are associated with any type of nonprofit, non-federal entity, or fundraising or membership campaign, it cannot be done in an official capacity,” the Air Force said without mentioning the 22Kill program by name.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Celebrities like John Krasinski, Candace Cameron Bure, Chris Pratt and Anna Faris, and The Rock also participated in the challenge.

“The military is synonymous with pushups and the challenge is to spread the word about our organization,” 22Kill’s Nelson says. “22Kill helps our warrior class through camaraderie, support, empowerment, and brings light to the small amount of people that defend this nation.”

The counter currently reads 227,880,412 pushups.

“Maybe whoever made that decision should spend some more time in Arlington,” Nelson says, “thinking about what’s important, what is petty, and what causes harm or discriminates against another.”

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Look, we’ve all been super busy dreaming about destroying ISIS with a bunch of “pew pew” and “BRRRRRT!” and we completely forgot to get you a Christmas present.


Just take these 13 funny military memes instead:

1. There are certain skills the military imbues you with (via Air Force Nation).

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
For POGs it’s the ability to quickly get lint out of a Skillcraft pen.

2. Think he can get into the DFAC with that?

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Must require one hell of a CAC reader.

SEE ALSO: It’s time for the WATM classic: ‘How the Sergeant Major Stole Christmas’

3. Just surprised it only took 10 months (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

4. Seriously, even basic training makes the knees creak (via Team Non-Rec).

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
But hey, you might get 10 percent VA and free ibuprofen for life.

5. With motor pools like these, who needs cots?

(via Marine Corps Memes)

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
The real reason troops wear such spiffy hats is so they’ll always have an improvised pillow.

6. One of these things is not like the others (via Team Non-Rec).

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Actually none of these dudes match one another, so the Stormtrooper is probably fine.

7. Army Strong, not smart.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
Spelling is something the cadets will have to learn at their units.

8. The best Christmas lights are on their way to Syria:

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
A few minutes after the light show, there’s a killer fireworks display.

9. Must’ve been rough, having to fold all those towels.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

10. This Christmas caroller only knows one song …

(via Save the A-10)

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
… but it’s a classic. BRRRRRT!!

11. She has a lot of wisdom to share.

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
But no one knows why she has to share it when you’re already 10 minutes late.

12. You have to kill the time somehow (via Marine Corps Memes).

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do

13. Just because they don’t celebrate Christmas …

This is what the Pentagon wants the ‘smart’ handgun to do
… doesn’t mean we cant get ISIS something nice.

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