The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on - We Are The Mighty
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The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) works on some very outlandish projects. One of its stated mission goals is to cause “technological surprise” for America’s enemies. Basically, they want enemy fighters to get to the battlefield, look at what they’re facing off against, and go, “What the hell?”


These are the DARPA projects that make that a reality.

1. Airships that can haul 2 million pounds of gear

Yeah, they’re back. DARPA’s attempt at new airships was scrapped in 2006 due to technology shortcomings, but the project was revived in 2013. The goal is for a craft that can carry up to two million pounds halfway around the world in five days. This would allow units to quickly deploy with all of their gear. Tank units would be left out though, unless they suddenly had a …

2. A super-fast lightweight vehicle that drives itself

The Ground X-Vehicle looks like a spider mated with a four-wheeler. Troops could directly control it or simply select a destination and focus on the intel the vehicle provides. Either way, the vehicle would decide how to deal with incoming attacks, ducking, sidestepping, or absorbing them as necessary.

3. Aerial platforms that allow drones to land and refuel

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: DARPA

Flying platforms for landing and fueling drones would keep the U.S. drone program well ahead of its enemies, especially combined with the project to have drones fight as a pack. Hopefully these will be more successful than the last airborne carriers the military made.

4. Robots that gather intel and eat plants for fuel

The unmanned ground vehicle programs at DARPA want a UGV that could conduct reconnaissance indefinitely without needing to be refueled. The Energy Autonomous Tactical Robot will do that by eating plants and converting them to energy. It would also be able to steal enemy fuel when necessary.

5. Remote-controlled bugs that spy on the bad guys

Basically, remote control bugs that provide power to sensor backpacks. DARPA has already implanted control devices into pupae (insects transitioning into adults) and created electrical generators that use the insects movements for power. Now, they just have to couple those technologies with tiny sensors and find a way to make them communicate with each other and an operator who would collect intelligence from the insects.

6. Cameras that can see from every angle

DARPA isn’t sure yet how this would work, but they’re looking for ways to use the plenoptic function to create a sensor that can see an area from every angle. Though it would work differently, this would give capabilities like Jack Black has in “Enemy of the State.”

7. Nuclear-powered GPS trackers

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: DARPA

Don’t worry, the nuclear material is for determining velocity, not powering anything or exploding. The military has trouble directing vehicles and missiles in areas where GPS signals might be blocked or scrambled, like when submarines are underwater. Chip-Scale Combinatorial Atomic Navigator (C-SCAN) is very technical, but it would allow precise navigation without a GPS signal by precisely measuring atoms from nuclear decay.

8. Brain implants that could hold the key to defeating post-traumatic stress.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Strictly for therapy, DARPA promises. The idea may be a little unsettling, but SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies)  would allow electrical currents in the brain to be mapped and then altered. This could be a major breakthrough for PTSD and traumatic brain injury sufferers.

9. Pathogens that fight back against enemy biological weapons.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Bruce Wetzel

One of the emerging threats to U.S. operations is biological weapons using antibiotic resistant bacteria. DARPA wants to nip it in the bud before an enemy can cause massive infections to American forces or civilians. To do so, they’re investigating pathogens that could be cultured and deployed in victims of attacks. These killers would seek out the bacteria wreaking havoc and murder it on a microscopic level.

AND: This Retired Navy Jet Is Finding New Life In The Fight Against ISIL 

OR: DARPA wants to implant chips in soldiers’ brains 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Norwegian frigate is one of the best in the Arctic

With Russia making a huge push in the area of smaller surface combatants that pack an out-sized punch, there is an open question about what this means for NATO. However, in the Arctic, a ship to counter Russia’s combatants has been in service for over a dozen years.


The Royal Norwegian Navy had been looking to replace the Cold War-era Oslo-class frigates. These were built in the 1960s, and despite an upgrade in the 1970s, they were becoming less effective. The lead ship, HNoMS Oslo (F300), was lost after running aground in 1994. According to the 1995 edition of Combat Fleets of the World, after modernization, the Oslo-class ships had two three-inch guns, a Mk 29 NATO Sea Sparrow launcher, four Penguin anti-ship missiles, and 324mm torpedo tubes.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
An Oslo-class frigate, the predecessor to the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates. (Wikimedia Commons)

To replace the aging ships, Norway turned to a scaled-down version of the Spanish F100 frigate design that became the Alvaro de Bazan class. Naval-Technology.com reports that the Fridjof Nansen-class frigates (named for famous Norwegian explorers) addressed many of the shortcomings of the preceding frigates, including cramped living quarters.

But the biggest change is that the Norwegian Navy went from having one of the weakest frigates in the NATO arsenal to one of the best. The Nansen-class ships have a single 76mm gun of a more modern design than the one used on the Oslos, an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system carrying 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles directed by the Aegis combat system, two quad Naval Strike Missile launchers, as well as the ability to operate a NH90 helicopter.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Two Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates docked at Oslo. (Wikimedia Commons)

But that is not all the frigate can carry. MilitaryFactory.com reports that this ship could add a second 76mm gun, or swap out is current 76mm gun for a five-inch gun. A close-in weapon system and an additional eight vertical-launch cells could also be added. In short, Russia’s ships could face a difficult fight in the Arctic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvD4WLNEUi8
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The US Army is planning to combine 2 legendary weapons into one

The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.


The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Soldiers fire a .50 caliber machine gun at Camp Atterbury, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.

The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.

The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.

 

The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”

The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The hot barrel of an M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun. |US Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

New lightweight .50 cal

The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”

“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
A US Army soldier with an MK-19 grenade launcher. | Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Parsons

An intimidating combat-tested weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.

The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.

“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”

The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.

The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.

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These are the creepy fake towns used for 1950s nuclear tests

Deep in the Nevada desert — approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — sits a small town where the human population on a non-work day is zero. But this town wasn’t made for real people to inhabit. Rather, it was specially built just to test atomic blasts that would consume the area with its crushing power and unbelievable heat.


In the 1950s, nuclear testing began at the Nevada National Security Site as technicians mounted the Apple-2 bomb on top of a detonation tower.

The tower stood 1,500 feet above ground level so that when the colossal explosion occurred, the fireball blast wouldn’t effect or damage the monitoring equipment.

Related: This failed nuclear engine might be able to power your city

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
One of many of the detonation towers used during the nuclear testing. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

The testing facilities’ employees manufactured and assembled shops, gas stations, and homes made of brick and wood —  dubbing these areas “Doom Towns.”

Inside these buildings, the workers staged the interiors with full-size mannequin families wearing various types clothing to witness how the different fabrics would hold up during the energy bursts and extreme heat. After denotation, the homes that were within 6,000 feet from ground zero lost rooftops, suffered broken windows and the several coats of paint blistered and scraped off in a matter of a few moments.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
A single-story home before the nuclear test located near ground zero before the blast. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

By contrast, the homes that were located near the initial blast zone were completely incinerated and their ashes sailed into the wind.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The same single-story home during the nuclear blast. (Source: Smithsonian Channel / Screenshot)

The test site contained 28 clusters and stretched 1,360 square miles and now supports the Stockpile Stewardship Program. This video from the Smithsonian Channel shows us what it was like to live through doomsday.

Also Read: EOD airmen can build and defuse anything from a pipe bomb to a nuclear weapon

 

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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The Air Force is bringing the C-5 galaxy back into action

Senior Air Force officials want to return a number of C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft to active duty after budget cuts pushed them out of service over the last few years.


The C-5 Galaxy is the largest airlifter in the Air Force, standing 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan.

The C-5M model, first deployed in 2009, featured more powerful engines that allowed it to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.

The C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.

It can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies. The C-5M also set 45 aviation records in one flight.

Also read: The first Marine F-35 squadron is gearing up for a Pacific deployment

Because of previous budget cuts as well as sequestration, the Air Force has already moved 12 C-5s and C-5Ms into backup aircraft inventory, “which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them,” Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II told lawmakers at the end of March.

Everhart also said the C-5 inventory had fallen from 112 C-5s a few years prior to just 56 now.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bowcock

In the coming years, the Air Force wants to move at least eight of the mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, according to DodBuzz.

“We’re going to buy back two a year for four years, if we’re able to have a predictable budget to get the fleet back to higher quality,” Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee this week.

Also read: This is the Army’s super secret special ops aviation unit

“I need them back because there’s real world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March. The C-5M’s increased range makes it doubly valuable in the vast Pacific theater.

“Recently, one of these aircraft flew from Travis Air Force Base, California, to Yokota, Japan,” Everhart said of the C-5M. “It’s the only airlifter in the inventory that can make the flight nonstop, which means we can put the American flag on the ground in hours versus days.”

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
AP Photo by Francois Mori

Air Mobility Command also intends to improve its current active fleet of airlifters, “upgrading the avionics to improve communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance as well as adding new safety equipment and installing a new autopilot system,” according to an Air Force release.

The project, slated to wrap up in 2018, will also upgrade C-5As, C-5Bs, and C-5Cs into C-5M Super Galaxies by installing the F-138 commercial engine, the release said, giving them a “22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter takeoff roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances.”

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These 5 World War II jobs were more dangerous than being an infantryman

If you jumped into a time machine and found yourself at a recruiting office during World War II, what job would be safest to sign up for? While most people hoping to stay alive would just pick “anything but infantry,” there were actually other jobs that proved to be even more dangerous. Here are a few examples:


1. Ball turret gunners

 

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: US Army Air Force

Ball turret gunners flying over enemy targets had one of the war’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the standard fears of being shot down, these gunners had to deal with the fact that they were dangling beneath the aircraft without any armor and were a favored target of enemy fighters.

Worse, their parachute didn’t fit in the ball and so they would have to climb into the plane and don the chute if the crew was forced to bail out. They were also more exposed to the elements than other aircrew members. Turret gunners oxygen lines could freeze from the extremely low temperatures.

2. Everyone else in the airplane

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, all aircrews over enemy territory had it bad. While planes are often thought of us a safe, cush assignment these days, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II. Deadly accurate flak tore through bomber formations while fighters picked apart aircraft on their own.

And crews had limited options when things went wrong. First aid was so limited that severely injured crewmembers were sometimes thrown from the plane with their parachute in the hopes that Nazi soldiers would patch them up and send them to a POW camp. Flying over enemy territory in any aircraft was so dangerous that paratroopers actually counted down until they could jump out and become safer.

3. Merchant mariners

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
A Merchant Marine ship burns after a torpedo attack in the Atlantic. Photo: US Navy

The military branch that took the worst losses in World War II is barely considered a military branch. The Merchant Marine was tasked with moving all the needed materiel from America to Britain, Russia, and the Pacific. While U.S. papers often announced that two Merchant Marine ships were lost the previous week, the actual losses averaged 33 ships per week.

One out of every 26 mariners died in the war, a loss rate of 3.85 percent. The next closest service is the Marine Corps which lost 3.66 percent of its force to battle and noncombat deaths. If the Air Force had been a separate service in World War II, it would likely have been the only service to suffer as horrible losses as the guys who were delivering the mail.

4. Submariners

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The USS Squalus, which sank due to mechanical failure during a test run, breaches the surface during one of the attempts to raise it. Photo: courtesy Boston Public Library

Submariners had to descend beneath the surface of the ocean in overpacked steel tubes, so how could the job be any more dangerous than you would already expect? First of all, torpedoes were prone to what is called a “circle run.” It happens when a torpedo drifts to one side and so goes in a full circle, striking the sub that fired it.

If that didn’t happen, the sailors still had to worry about diesel fumes not venting or the batteries catching fire. Both scenarios would end with the crew asphyxiating. That’s not even counting the numerous mechanical or crew failures that could suddenly sink the vessel, something the crew of the USS Squalus learned the hard way.

5. Field-telephone layers and radio teams

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Photo: US Army

Most soldiers know you should aim for the antennas on the battlefield, and that made a common POG job one of the most dangerous on the front lines in World War II. The antennas belonged to forward observers and commanders, so snipers homed in on them.

Similarly, cable was laid so leaders could speak without fear of the enemy listening in. The “cable dogs” tasked with running the telephone wires would frequently be shot by snipers hoping to stop enemy communications. Similarly, both radio carriers and cable dogs were targeted by planes and artillery units.

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Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first leak is coming full circle.

Last month a US appeals court ruled the NSA’s post-9/11 dragnet of millions of Americans’ phone-call records is illegal, noting that a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order “leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden” and published by The Guardian served as the catalyst for the decision.

The FISC order directed Verizon to produce to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The US government had justified the program by saying it was covered under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but the court ruled that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by § 215.”

On Monday, Section 215 and two other provisions of the Patriot Act expired — at least temporarily.

So for the first time since 9/11, partly thanks to Snowden, 31, the phone records of US citizens are not being scooped en masse under a law ruled illegal.

But the order comes from just one of as many as 1.77 million NSA documents Snowden allegedly stole while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013. And he gave only an estimated 200,000 documents to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

On June 9, 2013, four days after The Guardian published the Verizon order, Snowden revealed himself in a video before going underground to seek asylum.

Snowden’s epic heist and search for asylum spans more than 10,000 miles, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in after Snowden decided to expose NSA spying.

Now that Snowden’s first leak is vindicated, here’s a look at three of the outstanding questions about his journey:

Whom did Snowden contact when he arrived in Hong Kong?

Snowden says he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone” — at least until Hong Kong.

“When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here,” The New York Times reported on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers, told The Times the person was a well-connected Hong Kong resident and became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.”

Snowden told The Guardian that after the “very carefully planned and orchestrated” theft of NSA information, he didn’t cover his traces in Hong Kong.

“I only tried to avoid being detected in advance of travel … on the other side I wanted them to know where I was at,” Snowden said. “I wanted them to know.”

In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden “arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name.”

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

Where did Snowden spend the first 11 days?

Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn’t check into the Mira Hotel until June 1, a couple of days before he met Poitras and Greenwald.

“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been ‘holed up’ in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1,” Epstein reported.

“I confirmed that date with the hotel’s employees,” Epstein wrote.” A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card.”

Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that “US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts” between May 20 and June 1.

What exactly happened to the documents Snowden didn’t give to journalists?

After checking out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, Ho said, Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of his carer’s friends.

On June 12, Snowden showed The South China Morning Post (SCMP) an unknown number of documents revealing “operational details of specific [NSA] attacks on [Chinese] computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks, and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.”

Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP that he possessed more NSA intel.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”

Eleven days later, Snowden got on a plane to Moscow.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

In October 2013, James Risen of The Times reported that Snowden told him over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told me that the report was inaccurate.)

Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.

“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”

More to come

Snowden, who appears via video conference semi-frequently, has not explained these discrepancies yet.

In the meantime, as the effects of Snowden’s leaks reverberate in the US and the world, the saga continues.

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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‘Lion Capturing’ was the worst military work detail in history

Work details and additional duties are a part of military life — always have been and likely always will be.


We’ve all been on a terrible detail. Some of us get stuck vacuuming the flightline or doing some other kind of FOD cleanup.

Others have it worse.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Way worse.

In Basic Training, I was on the Day Room Crew, which meant I had to chase dust bunnies for a half hour twice a day. It’s much better than having to chase real bunnies. Or lions. I wouldn’t want to chase real lions, either.

Luckily for me, that is not (usually) a detail that happens in the modern U.S. military.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Most of the time, anyway. (Texas State photo)

In the Roman Legions, however, it was a fairly common practice. While many are aware of the Roman propensity for forcing people to fight animals of all kinds for fun and profit, few actually consider the logistics of getting animals to Rome – or who catches those animals.

In 2002, The Guardian newspaper talked to Roger Wilson of Nottingham University about where these animals originated and who set out to take them alive. Archeologists discovered the logistical network through a series of bone fragments, mosaic art, and written records dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.

Interestingly enough, some of these troops weren’t on a special work detail. This was their job.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Good thing he’s wearing a reflective belt.

The troops caught lions in what is today known as Armenia. They captured bears and boars from Northern Europe as well as elephants; giraffes; ostriches; leopards; and hippos from the African frontiers. All of them had to be subdued without spears, knives, or even tranquilizers. The legions could not risk killing the animals.

“Such was the ferocity of these beasts that their capture demanded special skills and the creation of a special post. An inscription in Cologne talks of the capture of 50 bears in a six-month period,” Wilson told The Guardian.

Wilson also said that posting men at the empire’s frontier to capture exotic animals was a good way to keep them occupied. It may have taken the troops quite a bit of time. But like modern forces, they could be very resourceful in completing the mission.

They would beat drums and drive the animals toward legions carrying nets. Sometimes they trapped the animals in deep pits. Other times they wore sheepskins and constantly distracted the animals until they dropped from exhaustion.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

The troops would be constantly on the move, as the games required a seemingly unending number of animals. In the year 80 alone — the opening days of the Colosseum in Rome — Romans used more than 5,000 animals in the games.

When the animals were killed, they were likely thrown into mass graves with humans killed in the games.

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Trump widens potential rift with Mattis over NATO

President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”

“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.

Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.

In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.

“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.

‘It’s Obsolete’

After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.

“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.

In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.

The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”

Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.

Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.

However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”

A Deal With Putin

Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”

The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.

In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”

“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.

Reassuring Europe

To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.

To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.

In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”

“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”

Articles

8 epic reflections on the career of the internet’s most badass military meme

The year was 1968 when Mike Vining was a senior in high school. According to his answers on his TogetherWeServed Page, Vining heard about the Tet Offensive and wanted to join the military with the expressed purpose of going to Vietnam.


His service afforded him the opportunity to do two things he likes to do, “work with explosives and climb mountains.” He probably never dreamed he would become Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining: the epitome of the modern American soldier…

1. He’s also the internet’s most casually badass meme.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

Now Read: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

Maybe it’s the kind eyes. Or the nice smile. Maybe it’s his age the large glasses of a bygone era that make him a grandpa-like figure. But the rank on his sleeve, fruit salad on his chest, the EOD and CIB pinned on his jacket, and Army Special Operations Command shoulder patch give all that away.

There’s much more to the story, and now we all know it.

2. He wasn’t just Delta, he was a founding member.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Mike Vining joined the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta) at Fort Bragg in 1978. His first commander was Col. Charlie Beckwith, who started putting together Delta Force the previous year.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

According to Vining, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was looking for something “more challenging,” he joined because Delta was looking for people with an EOD background. He spent almost 21 years in Special Forces.

3. His military résumé reads like a history book.

He spent two years in Vietnam as an EOD specialist with the 99th Ordnance Detachment, much of that time spent in combat.

Vining was also in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. He was aboard EC-130E Bladder Bird #4 when one of the RH-53D helicopters crashed into it.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

Also Read: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

He was also in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Uphold/Restore Democracy in Haiti.

4. It took 15 years to earn his Combat Infantryman Badge.

Though Vining saw plenty of combat in Cambodia and Vietnam, as an EOD Specialist, he wasn’t eligible for a CIB. Delta never got a chance to engage the Iranians at Desert One. So, despite Delta Force’s rigorous training and autonomy, his first combat action came in 1983 during the Richmond Hill Prison assault during Urgent Fury’s invasion of Grenada.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
U.S. Special Operations Forces in Grenada, 1983. (Defense Media Network)

5. He became infantry twenty years into his service.

“In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.”

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Vining and Delta providing close protection to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner)

6. His most significant action came just two years into his career.

His tour in Vietnam with the 99th Ordnance Detachment was one of the stand out moments of his time in the Army.

“[It] was the destruction of a cache found in Cambodia called ‘Rock Island East.’ The cache yielded 327 tons of ammunition and supplies, including 932 individual weapons, 85 crew-served weapons, 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The cache contained 999 rounds of 85mm artillery shells which are used for the D-44 howitzer as well as the T-34 tank. I was part of a seven-man EOD team that destroyed the cache on 16 May 1970.”

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7. Vining is still active in the veteran community.

Now fully retired, he travels with his wife much of the time. He writes about military and naval history, polar expeditions, and mountaineering postal history. He and his wife have a very active outdoor life of hiking, backpacking, rock and mountain climbing, biking, and skiing.

He is also a life member of the VFW, and a member of the National EOD Association and Vietnam EOD Veterans Chapter. He is also the historian for the National Army EOD Memorial at Eglin Air Force Base.

8. He would do it all over again. And recommends you do, too.

Vining calls his experience “rewarding” and recommends the military as a career to those who recently joined the Army.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

“Military service has given me the opportunity to do all the things I like to do: Work with explosives and climb mountains. I have gotten a chance to work with some of the finest people in the military.”

Mike Vining’s awards and decorations are too numerous to list here. Check them out and read about his experiences in his own words on his public TogetherWeServed profile.

Articles

‘Battalion 1944’ takes the FPS genre back to its World War II roots


It seems like it’s been a long time since there was a decent World War II shooter-game, but Battalion 1944 may put an end to that.

This multiplayer World War 2 shooter is in the works for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. And from the looks of the official announcement trailer (see above), it looks promising.

Players can fight in real world locations such as the streets of Carentan, the forests of Bastogne and many more in what a company release calls “a spiritual successor to the great multiplayer shooters of the past.”

Bulkhead Interactive reports, “In short, Battalion 1944 is an infantry based first person shooter with an emphasis on raw skill. No grinding, no ‘exosuits’, just you and your skill as a player. Battalion 1944 utilizes the most advanced industry technology to create a visceral and heart-thumping multiplayer experience that has been crafted by the designers who have grown up playing Medal of Honor and Call of Duty 2.”

Bulkhead Interactive was seeking $145,000 in crowdfunding on Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. The goal was reached after only two days.

Visit the crowdfunding page on Kickstarter here.

More screenshots (pre-alpha state) of the game below:

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The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

Stay tuned. Feel free to let us hear your opinion, if you support(ed) the project etcetera..

Articles

8 photos that show why the Coast Guard is America’s icebreaker

In addition to myriad other “brown water” missions the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for all icebreaking operations done by the U.S. government. Coast Guard assets include two arctic icebreakers, a Great Lakes-based icebreaker, and a fleet of smaller cutters to clear bays, rivers, and other waterways.


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USRC Bear and SS Corwin; Roadstead, Nome, Alaska.

The first icebreaker in the Coast Guard was not a true icebreaker, but the Revenue Cutter Bear, which featured a reinforced hull and spent its career with the Coast Guard’s predecessor, the Revenue Cutter Service, serving from Seattle to present day Dutch Harbor.

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UCCG Staten Island (WAGB-278) ex-Northwind; ex-Admiral Makarov; ex-Severni Veter; ex-Northwind

The Great Lakes and areas like the Hudson Bay are also serviced by 140-foot icebreaking tugs, such as the Biscayne Bay and Sturgeon Bay. In addition to icebreaking, these cutters also conduct search and rescue, law enforcement, and aids-to-navigation.

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U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker ‘Biscayne Bay’. Used in GLERL CoastWatch ice research. 1997. (NOAA Photo)

Today, ocean-going icebreakers serve several purposes. In addition to opening up shipping channels, they conduct scientific experiments, escort ships, conduct law enforcement and search and rescue, as well as enforce treaties and environmental protections. The Healy also boasts more than 4,000 square feet of laboratory space for civilian, military, and NOAA scientists to collect data and conduct experiments while the cutter is underway. The crews help facilitate environmental protections, such as cleaning up oil spills or other issues, as well as rescue operations and law enforcement as needed.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Ice liberty group photo, PUMA/RDC personnel and the Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew on the ice. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Shannon Riley)

Life on an icebreaker is hardly easy. The crew may be out of home port for more than eight months a year. Every person aboard must be accounted for twice a day. The job is hazardous, with deaths of crew members being documented due to accidents on both ocean-going icebreakers. Temperatures in the Arctic Circle can get lower than 35 to 50 degrees below zero.

Backing Ramming from Ben Harden on Vimeo.

A variety of cutters were used for icebreaking in the north Pacific, but the first true icebreaker was built for the Coast Guard in 1942. The Staten Island was the first of seven Wind-Class cutters built for the Coast Guard. At 269 feet in length, the cutters had the ability to list, or tilt, side to side to break free from ice.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
Current Cutter Mackinaw showing off the ability to list side to side. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The two iterations of the Mackinaw were both created to serve upon the five great lakes. The main reason for the icebreaking mission on the Great Lakes is to keep commercial vessels moving throughout the winter. The first cutter was built in 1944 and served for 62 years before being decommissioned and turned into a floating museum.

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A U.S. Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguard helicopter landing on the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, the Polar Star and the Healy make icebreaking voyages. The Healy and Polar Star have participated in voyages to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to help resupply the missions there. In 2015, the Healy became the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied. While the Healy has made voyages south, she generally is the Arctic icebreaker due to her lighter weight. The heavier Polar Star is an Antarctic icebreaker.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star enters an ice field near the Balleny Islands Jan. 5, 2015, while en route to Antarctica in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation. Military support to the USAP, dubbed Operation Deep Freeze 2015, is a multi-agency mission to support civilian scientific research in Antarctica. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

While it may seem that two icebreakers is enough for America’s needs, it hardly compares to other Arctic nations. Russia boasts twenty-seven nuclear powered icebreakers, and even Sweden has a fleet of five. There is little room for failure in missions to the Arctic and Antarctic, as there is only one cutter to service each area and there are no other backups. The Coast Guard has requested new icebreakers from Congress, but they have not been authorized due to the $1 billion price tag that comes with each new icebreaker.

The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on
The icebreaker USCGC Glacier is shown approaching McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A cargo vessel is seen in the left foreground docked at a floating ice pier. The U.S. Navy commissioned the Glacier in August 1955, after which she participated in the first Operation Deep Freeze, which included the construction of McMurdo. The Navy transferred the Glacier to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1966.

A lack of funding for the Coast Guard has long been one of the service’s biggest issues, and with an aging fleet of cutters and aircraft, the small allowance the USCG gets yearly to replace assets is spent elsewhere first. As the ice melts in the Arctic, traffic and commerce will continue to increase, and other Arctic nations are beginning to create a larger foothold in the area. Both Russia and Finland have contracts for even more icebreakers, leaving the U.S. stranded in the ice if the government cannot compete.

Editor’s note: A special thanks to Ensign Sam Krakower, USCG for his expertise in Coast Guard Arctic Policy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China unleashes its ‘Reaper’ copy in exciting footage

The developers of one of China’s newest and most advanced combat drones have released a new video showcasing its destructive capabilities.

The video was released just one week prior to the start of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, where this drone made its debut in 2016.


China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s CH-5 combat drone, nicknamed the “Air Bomb Truck” because it soars into battle with 16 missiles, is the successor to the CH-4, which many call the “AK-47 of drones.”

CH-5 UAV appears in recent video released

www.youtube.com

Resembling General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drone, the developers claim the weapon is superior to its combat-tested American counterpart, which carries four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound precision bombs. The Reaper is one of America’s top hunter-killer drones and a key weapon that can stalk and strike militants in the war on terror.

The CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency,” Shi Wen, a chief CH series drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told the China Daily two years ago.

But, while the CH-5 and the MQ-9 may look a lot alike, it is technological similarity, not parity. The Reaper’s payload, for instance, is roughly double that of China’s CH-5. And, while China’s drone may excel in endurance, its American counterpart has a greater maximum take-off weight and a much higher service ceiling.

The sensors and communications equipment on the Chinese drone are also suspected to be inferior to those on the MQ-9, which in 2017 achieved the ability to not only wipe out ground targets but eliminate air assets as well.

Nonetheless, these systems can get the job done. The CH-4, the predecessor to the latest CH series drone, has been deployed in the fight against the Islamic State.

China has exported numerous drones to countries across the Middle East, presenting them as comparable to US products with less restrictions and for a lower price.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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