12 intense photos of the Army's grueling sniper school - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.


“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.

Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.

Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:

12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Students listen to their instructor at the US Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
During the first week of training, sniper students at the U.S. Army School at Fort Benning, Georgia, are given demanding physical training tests. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
A sniper school instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, inspects camouflage after students prepared the top of their ghillie suits. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Students are taught camouflage and concealment techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. They learned to weather a ghillie suit by crawling through ditches filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Students learn that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job during training at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Students at the U.S. Army Sniper School endure a constant supply of stressors; some physical, but mostly mental stressors. Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the sniper course. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Brian Moran explains the importance of proper camouflage techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Specialist Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry, waits to proceed through a stalking lane during the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer)

3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
A U.S. Army Paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a recon and sniper break contact live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 6, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Sgt. Ian Rivera-Aponte, a U.S. Army Reserve sniper and infantryman with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Honolulu, Hawaii, poses for a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve recruiting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 26, 2017. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to fire a World War II bazooka

Infantry have long been looking for a way to deal with tanks. Today, missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) can give even the lightest of infantry forces the ability to give an armored unit a bloody nose.


12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment patrol the fields in Marjeh, Afghanistan on Feb. 22, 2010. Marines are securing the city of Marjeh from the Taliban. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Andres J. Lugo)

In World War II, those lethal tank-killers weren’t around, but the need for a tank-killer a grunt could carry was obvious. After all, the Nazis used the blitzkrieg tactic across Europe to great effect. The Americans had an decent anti-tank grenade, but it was so heavy that the effective range made using it like a grenade suicidal.

Then someone had the bright idea to make the grenade a rocket. The M1 bazooka entered service in 1942. According to modernfirearms.net, the M1 fired a 60mm M6 anti-tank rocket that had an effective range of about 300 yards. It could do a number on a Nazi tank – and many Nazi tank crews were unavailable for comment about the bazooka’s effectiveness.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
The M1 bazooka with two rockets. (Smithsonian Institution photo)

Like the modern FGM-148 Javelin, the bazooka had a two-man crew. But while the Javelin has a range of just over one and half miles, the bazooka couldn’t even reach one-fifth of a mile. Still, though, it was a major improvement over nothing.

The crews had to be well-trained to handle this weapon. Part of the problem was that for a simple-looking weapon, the bazooka was complex. Among things crews had to be careful of were broken wires (the weapon fired electically), drained batteries (the ones shown in the film seem to be AA batteries like you’d use in a remote), or a dirty trigger mechanism.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
The bazooka also proved to be very capable against machine gun nests, pillboxes, and bunkers. (U.S. Army photos)

The bazooka served in World War II and the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had shifted from a tank-killer to being used as a light infantry support weapon, largely because tanks like the German Tiger and the Russian T-34 were shrugging off the rockets.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy tradition that rewards ice cream for rescued pilots

Imagine you’re a Navy torpedo pilot in World War II. Your life is exciting, your job is essential to American security and victory, but you spend most days crammed into a metal matchbox filled with gas, strapped with explosives, and flying over shark-filled waters of crushing depths. But your Navy wants to get you back if you ever go down, so it came up with a novel way of rescuing you: ice cream bounties.


12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

The wake coming off this thing could easily drown even a strong swimmer.

(U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command)

Before helicopters were stationed on carriers after World War II, those massive ships had few good options for rescuing pilots who had to bail out over the sea. It’s not like they could just pull the floating city up alongside the swimming pilot and drop him a line. After all, carriers displace a lot of water and could easily swamp a swimmer. And rescuing a pilot like that would restrict or temporarily stop aircraft launches and recoveries.

So, carrier crews came up with a silly but effective way of rewarding boat crews and those of smaller ships for helping their downed pilots out: If they brought a pilot back to the carrier, the carrier would give them gallons of ice cream and potentially some extra goodies like a bottle or two of spirits.

The exact amount of ice cream transferred was different for different carriers, and it seems to have changed over time. But Daniel W. Klohs was a sailor on the USS Hancock in World War II, and he remembered being on the bridge the first time a destroyer brought back a pilot:

I told the captain (Hickey) that it was customary to award the DD with 25 gallons of ice cream for the crew and two bottles of whiskey for the Capt. and Exec. We ended up giving 30 gallons of ice cream because it was packed in 10-gallon containers. This set a new precedent for the return of aviators.

Carriers could rarely swing about, slow down, and pick up their own pilots, especially in the heat of battle. But a small destroyer or PT boat could fire a salvo of torpedoes at enemy subs and ships and then swing around and try to get a swimming pilot aboard.

Obviously, sailor to sailor, these rescues would’ve happened anyway. But the carriers figured that any goodwill they could foster in the other crews to rescue their pilots might help the aviators’ chances in the water. And while some submarines and other vessels had their own ice cream, it was a rare treat in most of the deployed Navy and Army. But carriers had massive freezers and stockpiles.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

​Destroyers like the USS Yarnall could look forward to some well-earned desert if they were the ones to pass an aviator back to his carrier.

(U.S. Navy)

Tom Kocurko spent World War II in the Navy, serving on cruisers and destroyers and even wading ashore with Marines to direct naval gunfire. It was while he was on a destroyer escorting a carrier that he found out about the ice cream tradition.

“We’d get 10 gallons of ice cream every time we picked up a pilot, which was a real treat. So we started joking, ‘Let’s shoot one down.”‘

For the pilots, this could feel a bit reductive. Lt. Cmdr. Norman P. Stark was a Hellcat pilot in World War II, and he was shot down while attacking Japanese positions on Okinawa. After a controlled dive and crash into the ocean, his fellow aviators marked his location and called for rescue. A floatplane from a battleship pulled him out.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Coast Guard pilot Lt. John Pritchard helped rescue air crews in Greenland and surrounding waters, eventually disappearing while rescuing crewmembers from a lost bomber. Small planes like his could land in the water, pick up pilots, and return to a cutter or other ship.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

But then the battleship transferred him to a destroyer, and the destroyer crew was happy to have him … because of the ice cream:

After disembarking from the canvas bag, I was greeted like a long lost brother. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that they weren’t seeing me, but what I was worth to them–10 gallons of ice cream. Destroyer crews loved to rescue pilots. A pilot returned to his carrier was exchanged for 10 gallons of ice cream.

A little later in his history, available here, Stark says:

The Yarnall came alongside the Wasp, shot a line which was made fast, and I was transferred back to my Carrier. This was a dry trip. The 10 gallons of ice cream was passed to the Yarnall, and as they pulled away, I saw grins, from ear to ear. At least I had finally ascertained my true value–10 gallons of ice cream.

As carriers began to receive their own rescue helicopters after World War II, the tradition became less important. A Naval Aviation News reporter asked a helicopter crew about it in 1958:

Does the carrier greet the rescue crew with special treatment when a pilot is saved, like the old practice whereby a carrier gave a destroyer five gallons of ice cream for returning a downed pilot?
“You kidding?” a pilot asks. “They give us a hard time for delaying operations!”

But the first helicopter rescue of a carrier pilot was actually effected by a civilian crew from Sikorsky there to sell the Navy on the value of rescue helicopters in 1947. Since the helicopter pilot was a Sikorsky employee and not a member of the carrier crew, the carrier ponied up 10 gallons per pilot rescued.

The Sikorsky crew had picked up three downed pilots and so was lined up for a 30-gallon bounty which the carrier gave them all at once on their last day aboard. The Sikorsky pilot had to quickly gift the ice cream back to the carrier crew in an impromptu ice cream social since he couldn’t possibly eat 30 gallons in mere minutes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are the changes to the combat uniform the Army is testing right now

In January 2018, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier’s continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.


Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.

“Today’s Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. “[We’re] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment.”

Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.

In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Program Executive Office Soldier officials discussed improvements to the hot weather uniform and jungle combat boot programs during a media roundtable event on Fort Belvoir, Va., Dec. 7, 2017. The 25th Infantry Division is slated to field test the new uniform and boot starting in January. (U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

Improvements to the combat uniform

To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry-time of the current uniform.

In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:

  • mandarin collar eliminated.
  • shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides.
  • zipper closures replaced by buttons.
  • breast and back trouser pockets removed.
  • crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts.
  • knee articulated for better maneuverability.

Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.

Also Read: Army goes dark with new PT uniform

Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.

Jungle Combat Boots Version 2

In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a “Version 2” of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on “Version 1” of the boot Soldiers field-tested earlier this year.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Program Executive Office Soldier officials discussed improvements to the hot weather uniform and jungle combat boot programs during a media roundtable event on Fort Belvoir, Va., Dec. 7, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Devon L. Suits)

After field testing Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.

The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.

Come January, the Version 2 boots — 150 from each of five manufacturers — will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s new stealth fighter isn’t actually all that stealthy

Russia’s “fifth-generation,” “combat-tested,” “stealth” fighter jet has a lot of dubious claims made about it, but recent close-up photography of the plane from Russia’s Victory Day parade on May 9, 2018, reveals it’s just not a stealth jet.

Russia has tried to sell the plane as a stealth jet to India, but India backed out. Considering a shrinking economy and defense spending, it’s unclear now if Russia will ever produce the Su-57 in reasonable quantities.


Business Insider asked a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft how to evaluate the plane’s stealth, and the results were not good.

Take a look at the pictures below and see if you can spot what’s wrong:

The scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of stealth work, pointed out six major problems from the pictures.

First, take a look at the seams between the flaps on the aircraft — they’re big. For reference, look at the US’s F-22, the stealthiest fighter jet on earth:

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
(Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)

The flaps at the end of the wing have very tight seams, which don’t scatter radar waves, thereby maintaining a low profile.

Secondly, look at the Su-57’s vertical rear tails. They have a wide gap where they stray from the fuselage. Keeping a tight profile is essential to stealth, according to the scientist.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
An earlier version of the Su-57.
(Photo by Marina Lystseva)

Look at the F-35’s rear tails for reference; they touch the whole way.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
(Lockheed Martin)

Third, look at the nose of the Su-57. It has noticeable seams around the canopy, which kills stealth. The F-35 and F-22 share a smooth, sloped look.

It’s likely Russia doesn’t have the machining technology to produce such a surface. The actual nose of the Su-57 looks bolted on with noticeable rivets.

Finally, take a look at the underside of the Su-57; it has rivets and sharp edges everywhere. “If nothing else convinces that no effort at [stealth] was attempted, this is the clincher,” the scientist said.

Russia didn’t even try at stealth, but that’s not the purpose

Su-57

As the scientist said, Russia didn’t even appear to seriously try to make a stealth aircraft. The Su-57 takes certain measures, like storing weapons internally, that improve the stealth, but it’s leaps and bounds from a US or even Chinese effort.

This highlights the true purpose of Russia’s new fighter — not to evade radar itself, but to kill US stealth jets like the F-35 and F-22.

The Su-57 will feature side mounted radars along its nose, an infrared search-and-track radar up front, and additional radars in front and back, as well as on the wings.

As The Drive’s Tyler Rogoway writes, the side-mounted radars on the Su-57 allow it to excel at a tactic called “beaming” that can trick the radars on US stealth jets. Beaming entails flying perpendicular to a fighter’s radar in a way that makes the fighter dismiss the signature of the jet as a non-target.

Any fighter can “beam” by flying sideways, but the Su-57, with sideways-mounted radars, can actually guide missiles and score kills from that direction.

Russia has long taken a different approach to fighter aircraft than the US, but the Su-57 shows that even without the fancy percision-machined stealth of an F-22, Moscow’s jets can remain dangerous and relevant.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

Soldiers can’t achieve peak performance when they’re chilled to the bone. So in winter weather, some soldiers may don up to seven layers of clothing. That much fabric can weigh them down. Later, soldiers might find themselves overdressed, now getting hot and sweaty. That sweat, in turn, can turn to ice if the weather is super cold. But it doesn’t have to. Researchers have just come up with a way to lighten a winter warrior’s load and fight the threat of frozen sweat.


They’ve designed a new high-performance fabric. It could become the basis of underwear for troops deployed in places blasted by Arctic cold. Scientists unveiled it here, last August, at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Paola D’Angelo is a bioengineer. She uses principles of biology to solve problems. Elizabeth Hirst is a chemist. Both work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts. Their team got the initial idea for this innovation from some earlier work by a group at Stanford University in California. Their new fabric improves on that earlier research. It also adds an important new twist.

Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D'Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers' uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D'Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski) Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D’Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers’ uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D’Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski)

Hot stuff

Yi Cui and Po-Chun Hsu are materials scientists at Stanford University. Their team already had been using metal nanowires to create see-through electrical conductors. Such materials could be handy for things such as thinner smartphones, displays on car windshields and more. Teeny, tiny nanowires have diameters at the scale of billionths of a meter.

At Cui’s suggestion, the Stanford team set out to use conductive nanowires in a fabric. It would be “warm, lightweight and breathable,” explains Hsu. That way, it could help reduce the energy needed for indoor heating.

The team got itty bitty wires of silver to form a mesh across cotton fabric. The silvery metal can reflect body heat back to someone’s skin. The treated fabric also can carry an electrical current. So, batteries could deliver extra heat when needed.

Now the Army’s team has been tweaking that idea to work not just with cotton, but also with high-performance fabrics. Athletes, soldiers and others often turn to such fabrics when they’re doing things that call for lots of physical activity or that expose them to extreme conditions.

Also Read: Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Examples of these special fabrics include polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics. Their fibers are engineered by people, instead of coming from natural materials, such as plant fibers or animal hair. The Army uses synthetic fabrics (or blends that include synthetics) for gloves, socks and a soldier’s base layer. That’s the “underwear” that sits closest to the skin. And it’s for that layer that this team has been building upon the Stanford group’s work.

Besides getting the concept to work with other fabrics, the Army researchers tested the ability of such fabrics to hold up through repeated washings. And their fabric indeed performed well.

In addition, the Army team packed more fibers onto each area of fabric than the Stanford team had. That denser wire mesh can carry more current and provide more warmth. Three volts of electricity is enough to warm a test swatch that’s 6.45 square centimeters (1-square-inch) in one minute by 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), D’Angelo reports. A typical watch battery is all that’s needed to provide those 3 volts.

Soldiers won’t want their underwear that hot. But the fabric could provide quick heat in a hurry. With the right controls, soldiers could even customize how warm their clothes get.

Super soakers for sweat

That material would still not be a perfect solution for working in cold weather, however. Even if it were used under with the Army’s current winter wear, soldiers can get sweaty as they hike, climb or carry out other tasks. That’s because the synthetic fabric of the base layer is not good at wicking away moisture, Hirst explains. Instead, sweat soaks into the fabric. As water in the sweat cools, it can ice up. That’s “obviously very uncomfortable,” she adds.

To deal with this, her team is working with hydrogel beads. A hydrogel is a type of “super soaker” material that can absorb a lot of water. In this case, the beads can sop up as much as 40 times their weight in water, Hirst says. The molecules of the beads are made from polymers. These are long chains of identical repeating units. A part of each unit in the hydrogel has a segment that attracts water.

Researchers could tweak the hydrogel to act differently at different temperatures, Hirst points out. As a soldier sweats, the fabric would warm. That warming could lead the hydrogel to soak up any sweat, moving moisture away from the skin. Later, when the soldier took off the underwear, it would cool down. Moisture in the hydrogel beads could then evaporate into the air. Now the fabric would be ready to wear again.

Don’t expect to see the new fabric on soldiers just yet. “We are in the basic research stages,” Hirst says. Among other things, her team will play with different ways to attach the hydrogel beads to the wired fabric. Her group also wants to work on a protective coating for the nanowires. That would help the silver resist tarnishing, which could reduce its reflectiveness.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
This sketch shows how a new fabric might work for gloves. Silver nanowires (labelled AgNW on the bottom layer) would reflect body heat and could carry an electric current to warm fingers even more. At the same time, hydrogel beads in the fabric would pull sweat away from the skin toward the outer edge (shown on top in green).(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center)

“We look forward to seeing their cloth combining silver nanowire and hydrogel together,” says Hsu. In his view, it makes good sense to combine features that would provide both heating and cooling as needed. “In the future stages of this research,” he suspects, “there might be some trade-off between the total amount of heating and cooling that the cloth can provide versus its compactness and weight.”

In addition to developing better winter underwear, the Army team hopes the new fabric might lead to warmer gloves and socks. After lots and lots of field testing by soldiers, the fabric might find its way into civilian clothes, too. Then anyone could wear it for skiing, winter walks, snowboarding or other cold-weather fun.

The outdoor temperature topped 32º C (90º F) when the researchers unveiled their new fabric in Washington, D.C. Few folks at the meeting were ready for winter. Later, however, many might appreciate that some scientists and engineers had been thinking ahead.

Articles

5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.


Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.

In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.

So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?

1. Getting the nuclear house in order

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Photo: US Navy

Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.

Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.

America’s nuclear arsenal needs to be updated, quickly.

2. Streamlining the civilian workforce

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
(U.S. Navy photo by Mark Burrell)

Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.

California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.

There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.

3. Acquisition Reform

It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.

By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.

4. Cyber warfare

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Wikileaks tweeted this photo along with a plea for supporters to stop the cyber-attack

With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.

And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?

5. Old Equipment

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.

MIGHTY FIT

3 hiking tips you hadn’t thought of from a U.S. Marine

One of the most arduous parts of Marine Corps life and training has to be the long-distance rucks. Covering a lot of miles with a lot of weight on your back may seem like a simple enough proposition, but as time goes by, you start to pick up on a few things that can make an otherwise grueling hike just a bit more pleasant–or at least, a bit less likely to cause you the sort of nuisance injuries that can really make a week in the field feel more like a week in hell.

While the nuts and bolts of a long distance hike are simple enough (bring adequate food, water, and appropriate emergency gear, then just put one foot in front of the other until you’re finished) there are some things you can do before you set out or carry with you on the hike that will pay dividends throughout the hump and after, as your body recovers.


12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

It doesn’t matter if it’s made for a man or a woman, all that matters is that it works.

(Courtesy of the author)

Use dry deodorant to manage chafing

Despite how much I’ve worked out throughout my adult life, I somehow never quite managed to get one of those “thigh gaps” all the girls on Instagram keep talking about, and as such, chafing in my groin and between my thighs has always been a concern on long-distance hikes. The combination of sweat, the seams of my pants, and my rubbing thunder thighs always conspire to leave my undercarriage raw, which quickly becomes a constant source of pain as I log the miles.

Even with spandex undergarments and an industrial supply of baby powder, chafing can rear its head and ruin your day, but you can relieve a lot of that heartache (or, I suppose, crotch-ache) by rubbing your dry stick deodorant all over the affected area. The deodorant creates a water-resistant barrier that protects the raw skin as you keep on trucking. This trick has worked for me in the savannas of Africa, the busy streets of Rome, and even in the relentlessly humid Georgia woods. Remember–it’s got to be dry stick deodorant. Gel stuff just won’t do the trick.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Also comes in handy if any of your buddies passes out early at a party.

(Courtesy of the author)

Carry a sharpie to keep tabs on bites

Spider and other insect bites can be a real cause for concern on the trail, and not necessarily for the reasons you think. It’s not all that likely that you’ll get bitten by a spider with the sort of venomous punch to really make you ill, but even an otherwise innocuous spider or insect bite can turn into big problems in a field environment. Bites create a high risk for infection, and not everyone responds to exposure to venoms, bacteria, or stingers in the same way. That’s why it’s imperative that you keep an eye on any questionable bites you accumulate along your hike.

Use a sharpie to draw a circle around the outside perimeter of a bite when you notice it, then note the time and day. As you go about your hike, check on the bite sporadically to see if the swollen, red area is expanding beyond the original perimeter. Add circles with times as you check if the bite continues to grow. If the bite grows quickly beyond that first drawn perimeter, is bright or dark red, and feels warm and firm to the touch, seek medical care for what may be a nasty infection. If you experience any trouble breathing, that’s a strong sign that you may be going into anaphylactic shock due to an allergy, and you need immediate medical care.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

One of the best feelings in the world, followed by one of the worst feelings (putting your boots back on)

(Marine Corps Photo By: Cpl. Matthew Brown)

Add moleskin to blister prone spots on your feet before blisters form

If you’ve done any hiking, you’re already familiar with moleskin as a go-to blister treatment, but most people don’t realize how handy moleskin can be for blister prevention as well.

If you know that you tend to get blisters on certain spots on your feet during long hikes (the back of the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot are two common hot spots, for instance) don’t wait for a blister to form to use your moleskin. Instead, cut off a piece and apply it to the trouble spots on your feet ahead of time, adding a protective buffer between the friction points of your boot and your feet themselves.

It helps to replace the moleskin about as often as you replace your socks, to prevent it from peeling off and bunching up on you (causing a different hiking annoyance), but when done properly, you can escape even the longest hikes pretty blister free.

Articles

China helps search for missing US Navy sailor

China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the US Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.


The ministry said in a statement August 3 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the US in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”

The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. August 2. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school
Guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) is underway in the East China Sea. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Smith.

China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the US in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.

The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the US considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.

China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy in the South China Sea.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat IDs poisoning suspect as Russian intel officer

One of the men accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in England has been identified as a high-ranking member of Russia’s intelligence service.

The UK in early September 2018 accused two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the names were most likely aliases.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has long denied having any knowledge of the attack, initially claimed that the two men’s names “mean nothing to us,” then said that they were civilians.


Petrov and Boshirov also appeared on Russian TV to say they were visiting Salisbury as tourists.

But according to an article by the investigative-journalism site Bellingcat, Boshirov is actually Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU, Russia’s intelligence service.

Chepiga, 39, had been assigned the alter ego of Boshirov by 2010, Bellingcat said. This was the name used in his passport when he traveled to the UK in early 2018.

Bellingcat said it confirmed Chepiga’s identity after speaking to multiple sources familiar with Chepiga or the investigation.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant also cited Chepiga’s acquaintances in his home village, Berezovka, saying of Bellingcat’s findings, “That’s him … 100% of it.”

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Ruslan Boshirov, one of the men accused of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

According to Bellingcat, throughout his career, Chepiga had been given multiple rewards for his services, including the title of Hero of the Russian Federation — the highest award in the state, typically given by the president to a handful of people in a secret ceremony, according to the BBC.

The award was confirmed by Chepiga’s military school, the Far Eastern Higher Military Command School.

It suggests Putin was aware of Chepiga’s identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were.

Bellingcat’s findings also cast doubt on Russia’s claims that Boshirov and Petrov were civilians and that the government had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.

The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.

May has also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, called Bellingcat’s findings “a new portion of fake news.”

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Surveillance footage of Alexander Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day Skripal collapsed.

Zakharova said on Facebook, according to a translation by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency, “There is no evidence, so they” — the UK — “continue the information campaign, the main task of which is to divert attention from the main question: ‘What happened in Salisbury?'”

The UK has issued international arrest warrants for the two men, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement to Business Insider. However, Russia does not extradite its nationals.

Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defense secretary, appeared to confirm Bellingcat’s findings in a tweet on Sept. 26, 2018 that he appears to have later deleted.

“The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel,” he wrote. “I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.”

A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense told Business Insider that Williamson’s tweet, which was posted on his constituency’s account, was unrelated to his role as defense secretary. Williamson’s constituency office did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The British Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office, and Metropolitan Police all declined to comment on Bellingcat’s findings.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA renamed facility after brilliant ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson

NASA has redesignated its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.”

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”


President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2018 an act of Congress calling for the redesignation. The facility’s program contributes to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring that mission software performs correctly. IVV now is in the process of planning a rededication ceremony.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

“It’s an honor the NASA IVV Program’s primary facility now carries Katherine Johnson’s name,” said NASA IVV Program Director Gregory Blaney. “It’s a way for us to recognize Katherine’s career and contributions not just during Black History Month, but every day, every year.”

Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career — spanning more than three decades — with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions.

At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow African American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who was later promoted to engineer — broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that currently extends across all levels of agency’s workforce and leadership. Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and, in 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, dedicated the new Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor. Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 26, 2018.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is seen after President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.


Since its inception more than 25 years ago, NASA’s IVV Program has performed work on approximately 100 missions and projects, including: the Space Shuttle Program, Hubble Space Telescope, Cassini, Mars Science Laboratory, Magnetosphere MultiScale, Global Precipitation Measurement and, most recently, the InSight Mars Lander. The IVV Program currently is providing services to 12 upcoming NASA missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System. It also provides general software safety and mission assurance services, including support for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

For information about the Katherine Johnson IVV Facility, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/ivv

For more information about Katherine Johnson, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New weapon gives ‘virtually unlimited protection’ from drones

Top Army air defenders and others from Army fires have been trying for years to figure out how to efficiently counter enemy drone swarms. We have missiles that can shoot them down, and weapons like C-RAM could easily be modified to fight drones, but both of them are expensive and can produce collateral damage. Now, Raytheon says it has a solution that’s cheaper, safer, and essentially unlimited.


12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

The high energy laser mounted on the back can take out one enemy drone at a time, but in quick succession. Its sister is a microwave system that can take down multiple drones at once.

(Raytheon)

Raytheon’s “advanced high power microwave and mobile high energy laser systems” are really two programs that work together to defeat entire drone swarms.

The High Energy Laser is super mobile and can even be mounted on all-terrain vehicles like the Polaris MRZR in use by special operators and airborne units, as well as other forces, in the Army. Only one high-energy laser can engage a drone at a time, but it can do so quickly. In a 2018 test, the laser burned out 12 drones as they attempted to maneuver.

But the more powerful, less mobile microwave system took out almost three times as many, 33, in the same test. The High Power Microwaves disrupt the drones’ guidance systems, and it can attack entire swarms at once. In the Army test in 2018, it was downing two or three at a time while the laser was smoking ’em one at a time.

But those early tests weren’t the end of the program. In April 2019, Raytheon brought the machines back out for an Air Force demonstration to prove it was mature and ready to fight.

A press release from that demonstration promises, “High power microwave operators can focus the beam to target and instantly defeat drone swarms. With a consistent power supply, an HPM system can provide virtually unlimited protection.”

As America faces a possible war with Iran, the ability to defeat drone swarms will come into sharp focus. Iran has famously adopted a tactic of attempting to overwhelm American defensive measures with dozens or hundreds of boats or drones. Since America has historically spent thousands or millions of dollars per intercept, a strategy of using cheap drones or boats en masse could overwhelm American logistics quickly.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

A Stryker with the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser equipped takes part in a test at Fort Sill.

(U.S. Army)

But if Raytheon’s new toys work as advertised, it shifts the cost back to the aggressor. With a steady power source, America could ravage an attacker’s fleet of vehicles for the cost of a few dozen gallons of diesel for the generators.

Unfortunately for the troops currently in the Middle East, this robust of anti-drone tech isn’t currently out there. But a Patriot battery is being deployed to protect troops from missiles and jet attacks, and there are plenty of assets in theater that can deal with nearly anything Iran has ready to fight.

But best of all is if current equipment like the Patriots and future options like microwaves and lasers can deter conflict entirely. Some American intelligence has leaked that says the current tensions with Iran can be credited to the regime trying to provoke an American attack or military overreaction that would restore support in Iran for the regime, essentially buying it years or decades more in control.

What’s needed are options that can protect American troops without being offensive threats to regimes. And lasers and microwaves fit that bill nicely. It remains to be seen if the branches will determine Raytheon’s offering are the best, though. The Army is working in-house on the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser 2.0, a Stryker-mounted weapon similar to Raytheon’s HEL. And plenty of companies are working to beat Raytheon in the counter drone space.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why America needs an independent Space Force

President Trump’s recent declaration of a new Space Force was met with ridicule in many quarters. Yet, the reality is that the United States does urgently need a dedicated military space branch that is separate from its Air Force.


Space matters

While the United States has somewhat neglected its space program over the past twenty-five years, China has escalated its efforts in this area, including launching numerous manned space flights, landed a rover on the moon, and deployed multiple unmanned space stations. This has spurred a regional space race with India, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, and Iran and more besides. The goal for the most ambitious of these states is not merely to equal American accomplishments, but to push past them, including establishing permanently manned space stations, landing astronauts on the Moon and Mars, and building lunar habitations. If achieved, these feats could knock the United States out of the lead in space for the first time since Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

The rise of these competitors poses real challenges for the United States, including most worryingly a possible militarization of space by unfriendly forces. China demonstrated this peril in 2007 when it used a satellite killer to destroy one of its own satellites, raising the possibility that it could deploy a battery of these kinetic kill vehicles to paralyze America’s communications grid in a future war. This is merely the tip of the iceberg of what China and others could do if they are allowed to dominate space, including constructing orbital missile platforms that could be used to intimidate or even attack the United States and its allies.

Resource competition is also a major concern, with the need to locate and tap into alternative resource pools becoming increasingly important as the world burns ever more rapidly through its remaining natural resources. The potential for the harvesting of metals, minerals, water, and other materials from the moon and asteroids by states such as China and Japan could begin as early as 2025. If the United States lags behind its rivals in building the capacity and human expertise in this area, as well as in protecting its own efforts to conduct this kind of resource harvesting, this will have a ripple effect on its ability to maintain its superpower status, both in space and terrestrially.

Finally, terrestrial communications increasingly depend upon Global Navigation Satellite Systems. America has possessed relative hegemony in this area through its Global Positioning System for decades, but this is now coming under fire from the new Chinese Beidou, European Galileo, and Russian GLONASS systems – with Japan and India in close pursuit. American can ill afford to risk having its systems potentially compromised should one or more other powers decide to try to shut its communications network down once their version is fully operational.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

American Society of International Law Space Interest Group

Space law is deficient

The United States needs to protect its interests and prevent other states from achieving dominance in space. It cannot depend upon international law acting as a check against the potential overreach and aggression of other states in this domain. One reason for this is that most space laws were drawn up during the Cold War and, as a result, are often vague towards current day issues or omit them altogether. This provides considerable leeway for the rising space states to act aggressively under the pretext of operating in legal grey zones, even if their actions go against the spirit of the law.

Even in those cases where the law is clear, the new space states may break it to achieve particularly high priority goals (even if they will never acknowledge their acts as breaches of the law). History is plagued with examples of these violations on earth, such as the recent Russian illegal annexation of Crimea and China’s decision to disregard the 2016 ruling by the International Court of Justice against its activities in the South China Sea. There is no reason to believe that states that have placed their strategic interests ahead of the law on earth in the past are likely to behave any differently in space in the future.

The limitations of international space law, along with the likely willingness of the rising space states to disregard it when advantageous to them, means that the United States needs to supplement its respect for the law with the maintenance of an effective military space force. This is essential for helping it to protect and advance its interests in space, as well as to avoid falling behind its rivals.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

(NASA photo)

Space-mindedness

Some analysts might agree with the above points but argue that this force requirement can be best met by maintaining America’s military space assets inside its Air Force.

This was the same logic that was advanced regarding the Air Force itself during the early 20th century, at which time America’s air assets were housed primarily in the Army and to a lesser degree the Navy. Keeping America’s military air assets split between the Army and Navy was a bad idea because it inherently shepherded the use of air power towards the accomplishment of ground and maritime goals. This prevented America’s air power from achieving its full potential by hampering the appearance of a more comprehensive approach towards airpower at tactical, operational, and strategic levels, often referred to as “Air-Mindedness.” The narrow-sightedness of this approach was finally recognized and corrected in 1947 when the U.S. Air Force was created as a separate branch.

Today, most of America’s military space assets operate as Air Force Space Command in the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). This places them as a branch of the Air Force, operating under a broader combined command that involves seven different mediums. This may be admirably inter-service in intent, but subordinating America’s military space assets to other entities in this way limits the ability of space power specialists to develop a “Space-Mindedness” in the same way that keeping America’s air assets within the Army and Navy hindered the development of “Air-Mindedness.” This curtails America’s space assets from being able to concentrate on pivotal new space challenges, such as space-to-space (rather than just space-to-ground) interactions with rival powers and the defense of American military and civilian equipment in orbit and beyond.

America’s military space assets have also been bedeviled by a constrained ability to represent their importance to the government and the public directly. Despite protestations that the Air Force already does space, it allocates surprisingly few resources to this area: Space Command consists of just 38,000 personnel and an estimated budget of billion. This can be compared to an overall Air Force tally of roughly 320,000 personnel and 5 billion. By standing as an independent agency, the Space Force could lobby more effectively for space to feature higher on the Pentagon’s agenda and for it to be allocated the budget that the domain deserves.

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

Apollo 11: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Misplaced critiques

Despite these advantages, considerable opposition has been voiced against moving America’s military space assets out of the Air Force. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that considerable clamor also broke out against the idea of an independent Air Force before 1947.

Some of the backlash is probably fuelled by the well-known maxim that government agencies inherently resist efforts to slim themselves down. Resistance also likely stems from a habitual attachment to known structures and systems, along with the other inevitable causes of reticence towards change that afflict most organizations facing major shake-ups. These reasons are insufficient to reject the creation of a separate Space Force, but they do speak to the need for the transition to carefully planned and sensitively handled.

There is also a fear that an independent Space Force might become parochial and that coordination between the new agency and the Air Force would suffer. This concern has some merit, but it is still flawed. When the Air Force was detached from the Army back in 1947, inter-service rivalries did occur, but the two branches have worked on ironing these out, and cooperation has improved. They certainly have a better relationship now than they would have done if one had continued to be hierarchically superior to the other. There is no reason to believe that an independent Space Force would abandon its ties with the Air Force, but the two agencies would want to acknowledge the concern and work to ensure that inter-agency coordination endures and even grows after the split.

We live in a world where China, India, and other powers are rushing to the Moon and beyond with their space programs. The United States cannot depend exclusively upon international space law to preserve its leadership in this domain, but must instead create an independent Space Force that can work holistically to protect and advance American interests in space.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.