The Navy needs to start saving money, and one of the ways it wants to do that is by retiring one of its old Nimitz-class carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman, rather than just overhauling the ship. The Truman is barely halfway through its lifespan. It began its service in 1998, is scheduled for a nuclear refueling in 2024, and set to serve for at least 50 years.
But the plan to retire the carrier is already facing opposition from Congress, despite saving billions of dollars and ensuring the construction of two new Ford-class carriers.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
Congressional leaders were “blindsided” by the Navy’s decision, especially considering a number of seapower doctrines the move will break, including the minimum force law (yes, it’s a law, 10 U.S. Code § 5062) of maintaining at least 11 aircraft carriers and a call for an increase to 12 carriers. Resistance to the Navy’s plan is already mounting among members of Congress, despite the backing of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.
The arguments for the retirement of the Truman include a – billion savings over the next few decades, increased employment for the building of two new Ford-class carriers, and a 12-carrier Navy. Former seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman questioned the move as it relates to the Navy’s plan of providing two carriers constantly on station with three more able to surge forward.
The USS John C. Stennis, the 7th Nimitz-class carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Retiring the Truman would keep the total force of carriers below the number required for several years, which is what lawmakers are currently concerned about most. The Navy would have a difficult time with its global power projection abilities. Still, Gen. Dunford argued about the wisdom of refueling a 25-year-old ship vs. investing in new technologies that would allow for greater projection of global power and the use of new technologies, such as unmanned vehicles.
But Congress has to deal with the monetary issues of having already purchased the Truman’s new reactor cores and the feasibility of new technologies to be integrated into the Navy’s maritime strike capabilities.
“I don’t think the president’s going to turn to the secretary of defense and say, ‘where are my unmanned surface vessels’ when a conflict breaks out in the world,” said Rep. Elaine Luria. “They’re going to turn and ask, ‘where are my aircraft carriers?'”
President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.
The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.
“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”
Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.
Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.
World War II
The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.
The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.
An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.
Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.
The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.
The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.
105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.
Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.
In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.
General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.
The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.
In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.
Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the signature wounds of the War on Terror has been the traumatic amputation of limbs. Today, advanced prosthetics help wounded troops recover much of their independence and live their lives more fully than those who’ve lost limbs in the past. And while the science and engineering of prosthetics has markedly advanced, the military is working on ways to make those prosthetics flesh and blood– including innovative technology using salamanders.
According to military doctors and scientists, Army medical researchers are trying to figure out how salamanders are able to re-grow their limbs, and apply that to wounded troops who have lost limbs.
“What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities,” Lt. Col. David Saunders said during a recent Military Health System research symposium.
The symposium also featured technologies closer to current science. A number of projects involving synthetic grafts have shown amazing potential, including one involving bone fillers that are treated to reduce the possibility of infection. Other projects have focused on recovering or preserving nerves, or regrowing muscle.
One researcher is even looking at a mouse to help improve the treatment of burn victims. In this case, the African spiny mouse has been known to lose much of its skin to escape a predator, yet it can quickly recover the skin with a minimum amount of scarring.
“Warfighters and civilians alike suffer large surface [cuts] and burns, and these result in medically and cosmetically problematic scars,” said Dr. Jason Brant of the University of Florida. “The ability to develop effective therapies will have an enormous impact not only on the health care system but on the individuals as well.”
One Army officer, though, is developing biocompatible sponges that can also reduce scarring by promoting better skin healing. Major Samuel Tahk of Fort Detrick noted that in addition to the sponges being a step along the path towards furthering regenerative medicine, the devices could also cut costs by making treatment of patients simpler.
With this host of new technologies inspired by humble salamanders, it’s no wonder Saunders is excited, not only noting that wounds to limbs have become far more survivable, but also about the many advances “emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
Europe is wilting under record heat that has already sparked deadly fires and looks unlikely to relent any time soon.
The heat is exacerbating another problem that European countries have long dealt with: Still-potent weaponry left over from World War II.
At the end of July 2018, firefighters grappling with a forest fire southwest of Berlin were further challenged by unexploded World War II ammunition still buried there.
Firefighters had trouble getting inside a pine forest near Fichtenwalde, which is about 22 miles from the German capital, because of safety concerns. There were signs that some explosives had already gone off because of the fire.
The fire came within about a half-mile of the village of Fichtenwald before firefighters were able to halt the flames. Because of the leftover ammunition, they employed an extinguishing tank — a tracked vehicle used by emergency responders in dangerous situations. Such tanks are sometimes built on the frame of a battle tank.
The fire, which may have been sparked by a discarded cigarette, also caused road congestion and closures, but firefighters were able to contain it after four days, withdrawing on July 30, 2018.
Residents of Fichtenwalde and the firefighters who battled the flames there are not only ones who’ve been exposed to leftover munitions because of the heat.
The heatwave in Germany has driven water levels so low along the Elbe River that weapons and ammunition from World War II have started to emerge. At the city of Magdeburg, the water level is just a few centimeters above the historic low measured in 1934.
In Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany, police have warned people not to touch the grenades, mines, or other weapons that have started to appear. Munitions were found five places at the end of July 2018, and over the past few weeks there have been 24 such finds , compared to 12 during all of 2017. Specialists are working overtime to deal with the munitions — sometimes defusing them where they’re found.
A police spokeswoman from the region said most of the munitions were discovered by people walking through areas usually covered by water, but some people had gone out in search of leftover explosives. “This is forbidden and dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Even after decades underwater, the weapons can still be active — in some cases, sediment can build up and obscure rusted exteriors and the dangerous components inside. “Found ammunition is always dangerous,” the spokeswoman said.
Dense smoke over Lithi village during a wildfire on Chios island, Greece.
Little relief on the horizon
Temperatures in Saxony-Anhalt hit a high for the year so far on July 31, 2018, and the month of July 2018 is expected to be one of the hottest months on record for Germany. Temperatures are expected to remain high in the coming days, though below record levels.
The heatwave being felt in Germany has hit much of the continent, creating all sorts of problems.
Authorities in Poland banned swimming on some beaches along the Baltic during the final days of July 2018, as unusually warm weather had stoked the growth of toxic bacteria in the water. The Rhine and Elbe rivers have also soaked up so much heat that fish living in them have started to suffocate .
In Zurich, Switzerland, police dogs were issued special shoes to keep them from burning their paws on sweltering pavement. Swiss authorities have also canceled fireworks displays out of concern they could spark forest fires. Norwegian officials have warned drivers to watch out for reindeer and sheep trying to escape the heat in tunnels.
Mediterranean countries are issuing warnings for temperatures expected to top 104 degrees Fahrenheit in early August 2018.
Italy has given a red alert — the highest of its three warning levels — for the country’s center and north.
In Portugal — where blazes killed 114 people in 2017 — officials are warning that record heat in the coming days will create a high risk of forest fires. Nearly 11,000 firefighters and 56 aircraft are standing by.
The worst of the hit in Iberia is expected to hit Spain, where at least 27 of 50 provinces have been declared under “extreme risk” from high temperatures.
Wildfires in Greece killed 91 people in June 2018.
Sweden has also seen some of its worst wildfires in decades, including some blazes above the Arctic Circle (though recent rains have improved the situation). The fires overwhelmed responders and prompted some unusual measures.
Man’s best friend has also been man’s battle buddy for as long as dogs have been domesticated. The mechanical, industrialized slaughter in the trenches of World War I didn’t change that one bit. All the belligerents let slip the dogs of war, some 30,000 in all. They were used to hunt rats, guard posts as sentries, scout ahead, and even comfort the dying.
The last were the mercy dogs of the Great War.
Our canine companions can do much more than just fight alongside us in times of war. Modern-day uses of dogs include bomb-sniffing and locating the bodies of the fallen. World War I saw some uses of dogs unique to that war, especially in terms of hunting the rats that spread disease and ate corpses in the trenches. Dogs were used in scouting parties; their unique senses, especially smell, allowed them to detect the presence of enemy troops long before their human counterparts. When on guard duty, sentry dogs alerted their handlers to even the most silent of a human presence. But the dogs of mercy were truly the most unique among them.
Mercy dogs, also called casualty dogs, were first trained by the Germanic armies of the 19th Century, but their popularity only grew. The sanitatshunde were trained to find the wounded and dying anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes they carried medical supplies to help the wounded care for themselves until they could find care from a doctor or medic. If the soldier was too far gone for medical care, the dog would stay with him as he died, to ensure he wasn’t alone.
Mercy Dogs leave no man behind.
The most common kind of dog on the battlefields were German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, both of German origin. This was mostly due to their intelligence, endurance, and ability to be trained for even the most dangerous tasks. For the mercy dog, the most popular and able breed was the Boxer. Boxers are not only able to do what other breeds could but they were also fiercely loyal and on top of comforting the wounded and dying, they would also guard and defend them until the end.
If a mercy dog on the battlefield found a wounded man, it would return to friendly lines with its own leash in its mouth, indicating that one of their own was out there and in need of help. Most importantly, the dogs were able to distinguish between a dead and unconscious man. If he was dead, the dog would move on. If he were dying, the dog would stay with him.
Thousands of wounded troops owed their lives to these dogs.
The name rings bells. It’s got the glitz, having been the subject of two different Hollywood films complete with big-name Hollywood actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael B. Jordan, and Terrence Howard. That is wonderful and, I’m sure, absolutely appreciated by the surviving members and their family. There are some things that may not immediately pop out but are, nonetheless, extremely interesting.
The Tuskegee Airmen were one of the most accomplished groups of service members of any generation, but most can’t tell you why their name is so revered. Below are some of the most praiseworthy feats ever accomplished.
One of the first defenders of the Tuskegee Airmen
(Image courtesy of OnThisDay.com)
Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall? Yes, that Thurgood Marshall. Before you go off saying he wasn’t a Tuskegee Airmen, you have to consider his tie to them. While he was a young lawyer, he represented 100 black officers who were charged with mutiny after entering a club that was then considered off-limits to them.
He would eventually get them all released.
The photo that opened many doors.
(Image courtesy of RedTail.org)
The Tuskegee Airmen came to during an age of segregated America. While the Tuskegee Airmen, or the Tuskegee experiment as it was then known, was great it still lacked the prerequisite respect and support.
It wasn’t until a visit from FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt that support would begin to flow in. Photo and film from a flight around the field would be the push needed to get the support to really come in.
Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
(Image courtesy of AF.mil)
Three different members, or graduates, of the Tuskegee experiment, went on to become Generals. The first was Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. He was the first commander of the 332nd Fighter Group and the first Black General of the U.S. Air Force.
Daniel “Chapple” James was appointed brigadier general by Richard Nixon and also went on to become a General. The last, Lucius Theus, would retire at the rank of Major General after a 36-year career.
Batting a thousand..
The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 700 bomber escort missions during World War II. They wound up being the only fighter group to achieve and maintain a perfect record protecting bombers.
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is the home of the 1st Marine Division. The base also hosts the Marine Corps School of Infantry West. Spanning over 125,000 acres, it is one of the largest bases in the Marine Corps. Moreover, the base’s large training area serves as a natural resource preserve. A base sign seen from Interstate 5 famously reads, “Camp Pendleton U.S. Marine Corps Base Preserving California’s Precious Resources.”
Indeed, Camp Pendleton preserves many natural resources that might otherwise be lost. In fact, the base is home to 19 threatened or endangered species. There is, however, one unique species that calls Camp Pendleton home that is no longer threatened or endangered.
In the 1800s, the bison was nearly hunted to extinction. Throughout the century, an estimated 50 million bison were killed. By the end of the century, there were only a few hundred left. Luckily, preservation and breeding efforts have since brought the species back from the edge of extinction. Federally protected lands like Yellowstone National Park now serve as safe havens for these incredible animals. What many people don’t know is that Camp Pendleton is one of these protected lands.
In 1973, the world-famous San Diego Zoo introduced the plains bison to Camp Pendleton as a gift. Between then and 1979, a total of 14 bison were brought to the base. Since then, the bison population has multiplied. Last surveyed in 2015, the Camp Pendleton herd now numbers approximately 90 bison. Incredibly, this is one of only two wild conservation bison herds in California. The other is on Santa Catalina Island off the southwest coast of Los Angeles.
Today, the bison is categorized as near-threatened. This is an amazing achievement considering that the species nearly went extinct just over 100 years ago. Thanks to conservation efforts and protected lands like Camp Pendleton, the bison population now exceeds 500,000 and continues to grow.
If you enjoy one of the saddest best shows currently on broadcast television, then you’re in for a good cry treat — NBC’s This Is Us is exploring the background of one of its central characters, Jack Pearson, a Vietnam veteran. But to tell the story about Jack’s enlistment, producers and writers on the show needed the perspective that only an enlisted Vietnam veteran could give them.
They got it from one of the war’s most famous veterans.
The show follows the lives of three family members — one adopted — and the history of their mother and father. The family’s patriarch, Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, died when the show’s three siblings (now in adulthood) were 17 years old. The history of the family’s mother and father is shown mainly through flashbacks. This season is exploring Jack’s service in Vietnam.
Not only did This Is Us put the actors in the show through a boot camp, they sent camera crews to Ho Chi Minh City — the city, as some Vietnam veterans remember, that used to be called Saigon. Most importantly, they wanted to give Jack and his brother Nicky as realistic a Vietnam experience as possible.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Ventimiglia in NBC’s This Is Us. His character is a Vietnam veteran.
Milo Ventimiglia’s character, Jack Pearson, deployed to Vietnam in 1971. He enlisted to follow his little brother, Nicky (as played by Michael Angarano), who was drafted into the Army. In reality, Ventimiglia’s Jack would have been rejected by a draft board for a heart condition. While the reason for Jack’s enlistment is a work of fiction, his experience in Vietnam may not have been.
In order to add to the realism of the show and to Jack’s tour of duty, This Is Us producers hired Vietnam veteran and author Tim O’Brien as a consultant. O’Brien, a draftee himself, wrote the seminal Vietnam war story, 1990’s The Things They Carried.
Author and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien
(Photo by Darren Carroll)
O’Brien told Variety he was pleasantly surprised by how well the show portrayed realistic Vietnam War firefights while playing up the dread felt by soldiers who were on jungle patrols in the country.
“You’d think you’d be afraid of dying, but you were afraid of your reputation being sullied, am I brave enough, can I stand up under fire? And the alternative is guys lost it, and you’d almost be insane if you didn’t lose it,” O’Brien told Variety.
For medics, like Angarano’s Nicky Pearson, O’Brien says there was very little protection for them — the best they could hope for was to not get killed while getting all their wounded onto helicopters and out of the fighting.
Tim O’Brien in Vietnam
O’Brien’s 1990 book is a collection of autobiographical short stories and essays inspired by his service in Vietnam. The author was drafted into the 23rd Infantry Division – the Americal Division – from 1969 to 1970. His unit operated in the area around Mai Lai, where a massacre was perpetrated the year before O’Brien arrived in country. O’Brien describes the lives of Vietnam War medics well.
“There wasn’t much you could really do. And watching people die and die on you day after day and lose feet and legs, you could expect how a guy could lose it,” the author says.
Jack Pearson in Vietnam, from NBC’s ‘This Is Us.’
The Things They Carried is routinely listed as one of the top books on Vietnam ever written, is listed as one of the 22 best books of the last 25 years by the New York Times, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. O’Brien himself is the recipient of numerous awards for The Things They Carried and his other works. Most recently, he received the Mark Twain Award in literature. For the show’s producers, collaborating with the Vietnam veteran was a rare treat.
“Tim has been a writing hero of mine since college,” the shows’ creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman told Deadline. “It was incredibly intimidating bringing him into our room to discuss a Vietnam plot line – and it was even more rewarding.”
In late summer 2017, two unarmed Russian military planes flew over critical American defense areas, completely unescorted, unintercepted, and completely unabated in any way. In Washington, a plane flew over the Pentagon, the Capitol, and even the White House – areas off limits to most other pilots, from the U.S. or elsewhere.
But Russia can fly over them whenever it wants.
Putin will find a way to troll the US with this power.
The Tupolev Tu-154M also flew over the CIA headquarters building in Langley, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and even the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Another Russian Tupolev Tu-154M military plane flew over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump was taking a break from the White House.
They both left from Dayton, Ohio.
Leaving: One of the best things to do in Dayton.
It may sound fishy, but there’s a good reason for the unrestricted flyovers. The United States and Russia are both party to the Open Skies Treaty, along with 32 other member states. It dictates that area controlled by a member state is open to observation by any other signatory. Any unarmed plane can fly over even the most sensitive areas of another country who signed on to the treaty. This is how the United States was able to prove military activity in Eastern Ukraine was a Russian build up over Moscow’s vehement denials.
So Russia can fly right over the White House on July 4th.
Usually they just buzz American ships at sea.
The treaty was talked about as early as 1955, but the Soviet Union (rightly) believed it would compromise their national security. It was formally re-introduced after the fall of Communism in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. All aircraft and its sensor equipment will carry home country observers and submit to an inspection to ensure its sensors are in line with treaty stipulations.
Only once was an Open Skies Treaty request ever turned down. In February 2016, Turkey denied Russia an Open Skies flight over NATO airbases in the country as well as areas near the Syrian border. In September 2018, the United States almost denied another Russian flyover by refusing to certify Russia’s latest Open Skies plane. Though the U.S. eventually relented, it said it was a response to Russia’s refusal to allow American flights over Kaliningrad, near the Poland-Lithuania border.
In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.
Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.
That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.
What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.
Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.
How did the new coronavirus get into people?
The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.
Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.
Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.
A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.
Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.
For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.
New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.
Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.
Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.
What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?
Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.
The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.
A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.
Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.
Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.
What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?
First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.
The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.
Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.
Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.
What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?
Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.
Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.
One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.
Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.
Why do young people face the least risk of dying?
On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.
Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.
It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.
Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”
One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.
Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.
Can you get reinfected?
The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”
There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.
Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.
Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.
A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.
Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.
How seasonal is the coronavirus?
Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.
An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.
But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.
Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.
Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?
There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.
Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.
Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?
Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.
Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.
The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.
Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.
What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?
It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.
Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.
While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.
“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.
“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”
Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.
In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced in May 2018, it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.
Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It’s unclear.
“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.
“The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email on June 1, 2018.
“Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.
But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.
“I think there’s a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations,” Aboulafia told Military.com on May 30, 2018.
Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack — especially in the context of the Air Force’s ongoing experiment with light attack platforms — saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.
For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.”We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory,” Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.
Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.
For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.
“What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there’s absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat,” Aboulafia said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)
He added, “If there’s either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn’t materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency.”
While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.
The Air Force selected two aircraft — Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7, 2018, and will run through July 2018, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.
Anduril Industries, the military tech company founded by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, has unveiled a new kind of attack drone.
Anduril demonstrated the drone, which is capable of locking onto other drones and then knocking them out of the air to Bloomberg and NBC news. The drone seeks out target drones, identifies them, and then asks an operator’s permission to attack.
Anduril cofounder and CEO Brian Schimpf said the Interceptor weighs roughly the same amount as a bowling ball, and can go 90 to 100 mph.
“The only thing that can take out a swarm of fast drones is a bigger swarm of faster drones, and that’s exactly what we’re building,” Luckey told Bloomberg.
A render of Anduril’s Interceptor drone.
The Interceptor is apparently ready to be deployed, as Bloomberg reports the Interceptor drones have already been shipped to military bases and conflict zones. Anduril declined to give any details about where exactly the drones have been sent when contacted by Business Insider.
B-1B functional check flight pilot Maj. Michael Griffin, with the 10th Flight Test Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., evaluates critical aircraft systems, such as upgraded navigation procedures, radar systems and aircraft terrain, Dec. 15, 2015. (U.S. Air Force/Kelly White)
The Air Force just wound up a major upgrade on its B-1B Lancer fleet that took eight years to complete.
The service announced that it finished the Integrated Battle Station, or IBS, modification earlier this month on 60 of the 62 long-range bombers in its inventory. Two aircraft are routinely reserved for testing operations.
To keep the Lancer viable in the future battlespace, the Air Force initiated IBS, likely the largest and most complicated modification the bomber will see in the near term — in 2012. The B-1 fleet is expected to be fully retired by 2036.
Roughly 120 maintainers working in shifts executed 1,050,000 hours of planned work at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base to give “the flight deck a whole new look,” according to a service news release.
“This upgrade drastically improves aircrew situational awareness with color displays, and enhanced navigation and communication systems are projected to significantly enhance B-1B mission readiness,” Lt. Col. James Couch, 10th Flight Test Squadron commander, said in the release.
“All aircraft outfitted with the Integrated Battle Station modification enhancements provide the four members of the aircraft with much greater ‘battlefield’ awareness of surrounding threats, whether those threats are air-to-air or ground-to-air, and provides a much faster capability to execute both defensive and offensive maneuvers needed in any conflict,” Rodney Shepard, 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director, added in the release.
In 2017, the upgrade was more than half done, with 33 planes converted to the new system.
The modifications targeted three developmental programs for the bomber: the central integrated test system, a fully integrated data link, and the vertical situation display upgrade, according to officials who spoke with Military.com at the time.
The central integrated test system, or CITS, works as a diagnostic and recording system to give crew more information in flight, as well as diagnostic information for maintainers on the ground, Master Sgt. Brian Hudson, a B-1 avionics manager at Air Force Global Strike Command, explained during an interview in 2017.
The plane is already outfitted with the Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol, known as JREAP, which extends tactical data link communications over long-distance networks. But the Fully Integrated Data Link, or FIDL, gives “the addition of Link 16, so really what FIDL [does] is to add Link 16 and integrate with beyond-line-of-site JREAP, and merge those two together and push that information onto the displays inside a cockpit,” added Maj. Jeremy Stover, B-1 program element monitor and instructor weapons systems officer, in 2017.
Link 16 supports digital exchange of imagery and data in near-real time with aircraft, ships and some ground vehicles.
The total program cost for the IBS upgrade is estimated at id=”listicle-2647851209″.1 billion, officials said.
“Big thanks to the team at Tinker for doing a remarkable job retooling the B-1 and getting it back in the fight,” Gen. Tim Ray, the AFGSC commander, said in the release following the completion of the program. “The work the B-1 and our Airmen are doing is a great example of how we’re making a huge impact on Dynamic Force Employment to support the National Defense Strategy. These modifications have revitalized the B-1 for the high-end fight, allowing our precision strike force to remain strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
During the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space and Cyber conference earlier this month, Ray said the readiness of the bomber fleet is improving, and its recovery and maintenance are well ahead of schedule, thanks to concentrated resources dedicated to bringing the workhorse airframe out of its previous abysmal state.
“[The Lancer is] probably six or seven months ahead of where we thought it would be,” he said Sept. 16.
“On any given day, I probably can fly well over 20 of the B-1s,” Ray said, referencing the fleet’s mission-capable rate, or the ability to fly at a moment’s notice to conduct operations.
Within the last year, the airframe has endured frequent inspections and time compliance technical orders, or TCTOs, which often mandate modifications, comprehensive equipment inspections or installation of new equipment.
The additional maintenance was necessary after the service overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade; the repeated deployments caused the aircraft to deteriorate more quickly than expected, Ray said last year.