Service members should see the 2.6 percent raise in their first January 2019 paycheck, typically January 15 for active-duty service members, and the payday following their first “drill weekend” for Guard and reservists.
The current partial government shutdown won’t affect most military members, since the DoD is funded for 2019. However, Coast Guard members may see their pay, along with any raises, delayed, since they operate under the Department of Homeland Security. That department did not have its 2019 funding approved before the government went into partial shutdown as Congress departed the capital for its holiday break.
Special Pay(s) (based on occupations: Language Skills, Combat, Flight, Hazardous Duty).
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This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The main reason most people cite for their energy drink consumption is to get enough caffeine to get through the day. Been there, done that. I’m pretty sure there are more soul-sucking jobs in existence than fulfilling ones–we can’t all write for We Are The Mighty and spend the rest of our time surfing… the waves are getting crowded and that’s my job, you can’t have it.
Let’s look at the math for exactly how much caffeine is in the average energy drink versus a cup of coffee.
Does he look cool or just tired? Hand tattoo optional…
The average cup of coffee contains up to 170 mg of caffeine. In some cases, like a 20 oz venti from Starbucks, it could contain up to 415 mg of caffeine.
The caffeine content in energy drinks is anywhere between 47 to 207 mg.
With the recommended intake of caffeine per day maxing at 400 mg/day, it seems like you could easily get your caffeine fix from either drink. So what is the real case for spending over .00 on a can of what looks like nuclear reactor run-off?
Many energy drink companies associate themselves with athletics and extremely fit people. The insinuation is that if you drink this product, you’ll become a freak athlete, you’ll look great with your shirt off, and you’ll be jumping from balloons way up in the stratosphere in no time flat.
Well, my friends, let’s see if the research on energy drinks supports their subliminal messaging.
Before I poop all over your favorite energy drink, I will happily admit that they have been shown to increase alertness and performance if consumed immediately before a test or training session.
This makes sense, since the most popular pre-workout ingredient is caffeine, and these things are loaded with caffeine. But is that caffeine enough to carry someone through months and years of training to reach their true fitness goal?
Scientists have shown that energy drinks increase jump height, muscular endurance in the bench press, and performance in tennis and volleyball.
Real subtle…almost accurate, very bombastic.
(Photo by Sharon McPeak)
The bad and the toothless
However, a recent meta-analysis on energy drinks has shown that people who consume energy drinks have:
Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Increased risk of obesity
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Increased dental decay
Increased kidney issues
Increased sleep dissatisfaction
Increased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms
AND low academic achievement
Before you call bullshit, let me rein in these findings for you. Correlation does not equal causation. No one, even the scientists who conduct the cited studies, is saying that energy drinks in and of themselves cause all of these issues.
What is being said is that people who drink energy drinks also have these other issues. They are describing the profile of someone who tends to drink energy drinks.
This is similar to any other demonized substance or habit. Take for instance red meat eaters, or people who don’t exercise. Many of the same conclusions can be drawn for people that fall into these categories. This is just how science works.
What is true though is that if you are a fan of energy drinks, you probably have other crappy habits that will also contribute to you developing some of the above conditions.
We don’t see the same with coffee drinkers because nearly everyone, except Mormons, drink coffee. We can see similar effects on people who only drink double mocha f*ckaccinos though, because that’s an irresponsible decision.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bg8yXjkg1-z/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “I tend to forget about my teeth when considering the nutritional content of various foods. ? Found this bad boy at my first dentist visit…”
Long-term studies on energy drink drinkers show only negative effects. Some of these effects are directly related to the actual consumption of energy drinks, like dental decay, but many of them are due to a whole host of combined factors. And that is where the real devil is in these products.
Although they promote active lifestyles, they actually create a vicious cycle that leads to a sedentary lifestyle.
Energy drinks after 3 p.m. disrupt sleep.
Disrupted sleep leads to increased daily fatigue and tiredness.
Tired people are masters at coming up with excuses to not work out.
You can kiss any fitness goal you may have goodbye if you fall into this cycle. Period.
Used properly, energy drinks could be a force multiplier for you in the gym. Used irresponsibly, they will lead you to a slow decline into inactivity, a gross body, and loads of tearful regret about what could have been.
Triple-amputee veteran Bryan Anderson shows us his unique way of taking his dog, Maya, for a walk – or rather, the way Maya takes him for a ride! Walking the dog may seem like a chore to everyone else, but to Bryan it’s a chance to zoom 20 miles per hour on his skateboard #BryanStyle.
U.S. media outlets say terrorist groups have been testing explosive devices that can be hidden in a laptop and that can evade some commonly used airport security screening methods.
CNN and CBS said on March 31 that U.S. intelligence officials had told them militants with al-Qaida and Islamic State have been developing innovative ways to plant explosives in electronic devices.
Military Police Company conduct security at entrance to Main Command Post, Rafha Airport, Northern Province, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 8, 1991. (XVIII Airborne Corps History Office photograph by SSG LaDona S. Kirkland)
The news organizations said the new intelligence suggested that the terror groups have obtained sophisticated airport security equipment to test how to conceal the explosives in order to board a plane.
They said the intelligence played a significant role in the Trump administration’s recent decision to prohibit travelers flying out of 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and Africa from carrying laptops and other electronic equipment onboard in the cabin area.
Earlier in March, the U.S. government banned laptops and other large electronic devices, including iPads and cameras, from the passenger cabin on flights to the United States from 10 airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Britain also took similar measures.
Passengers on those flights must place electronic devices larger than cellphones in their checked luggage.
In a statement to media outlets, the Department of Homeland Security said, “As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics.”
CNN said the intelligence that contributed to the ban on electronic devices was specific, credible and reliable, according to three officials who used the same words to describe it. One official called the intelligence “hair-raising.”
When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.
Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.
To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.
The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.
“Brave For My Family”
While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.
“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.
Story behind the story
While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.
After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.
From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.
Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.
Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.
“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.
An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”
In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.
To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.
Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.
As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.
The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.
“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”
Father and son share their story
Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.
“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.
For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.
An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”
“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.
For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.
“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”
Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.
“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”
Video of a remarkable aerobatic display by Lockheed Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts in a new LM-100J Super Hercules variant is lighting up the internet in the last couple of days. Roberts flew an incredible demonstration routine at the Farnborough Air Show in the new civilian variant of the legacy C-130 Hercules. It is almost certainly the most remarkable demonstration flying ever in a C-130 variant. At one point during the display the LM-100J was completely inverted.
We’ve seen smaller tactical transports demonstrate some impressive aerobatics, including the Italian Air Force C-27J display at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT). But we’ve never seen video of a C-130 variant flying a routine that is this dynamic, including the momentarily completely inverted portion of the display.
The LM-100J is a new version of the highly successful Lockheed C-130 intended for the civilian cargo lift, firefighting and utility market. The original C-130 first flew a remarkable 64 years ago. It is also the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. C-130 variants are used as gunships, bombers, tactical transports, weather reconnaissance, electronic warfare, search and rescue and other special missions with militaries around the world.
The new LM-100J Super Hercules uses the new, more powerful Rolls Royce AE 2100D3 engines. It first flew with these engines on May 25, 2018. The LM-100J Super Hercules is a replacement for the older L-100 version of the Hercules built from 1964 until 1992. There were 115 of the original L-100s built.
According to Lockheed, the flight test program for the LM-100J should be “done by year end” and the aircraft could receive FAA certification in 2019.
Lockheed pilot Wayne Roberts told the website C-130MRO.com that [the new LM-100J], “It flies as wonderfully as it always has. For 60 years, [the C-130] has operated into some of the shortest runways in the world. It still does that extremely well, but it now has new avionics and engines too.” The writers at C-130MRO.com went on to say that the LM-100J is, “Essentially a tweaked version of the C-130J tactical transport, the civil freighter benefits from the over 20 years and 1.5 million flight hours of the military model.”
Some fascinating features on the new LM-100J not normally seen on civilian oriented transports will eventually include night-vision-goggle and air-drop capability, although these will not be certificated initially. This raises the possibility of the aircraft being used by government contractors and intelligence agencies. The C-130J is offered in both long- and short-fuselage variants, the freighter will only be sold in its longer, 34.37m (112ft 9in) version. In addition to being a cargo transport, Lockheed sees potential for the LM-100J to perform missions including aerial firefighting, search and rescue, and even VIP transport.
Transport aircraft often take a back seat to high performance jets and aerobatic teams at airshow demos. But there is no doubt that with the sensation across the internet over the remarkable flying of pilot Chief Pilot Wayne Roberts in the LM-100J that harkens back to pilots like Bob Hoover in the Rockwell Aero Commander, this last demonstration series by Roberts will be remembered for a long, long time.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
It’s a new world for military movies, a world where realism is just as important as the story. While movies like Heartbreak Ridge, The Hurt Locker, and Three Kings are memorable and entertaining, they just aren’t grounded in reality. That’s a big problem for a lot of veterans. It’s difficult to be immersed in a story set in your world when everything you see is slightly off in some way.
But the filmmakers behind Tango Down want to do more than produce a film that gets it right; they want to be able to produce other veteran films — with as many veterans working the films as possible. That vision just starts with Tango Down.
That’s where Andrew Dorsett and Rick Swift come in. They are Marine Corps veterans who decided to start writing after leaving the service.
Dorsett was in Marine Corps aviation between 1998 and 2010. After he got out, he became pretty sick of the corporate world and decided to start writing.
“Veterans are the most critical audience you can have,” says Swift. “One chevron out of place and you’ve lost them. And so many feel like Hollywood just doesn’t get it.”
Swift has loved movies his entire life and became a writer as soon as he got out of the Corps (he also writes a review blog called Film Grouch). He soon started working with actress Julia Ling (Chuck, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) on the web series Tactical Girl. Now Ling, Swift, and Dorsett are collaborating on their short film, Tango Down.
“It’s very important to work with veterans when creating stories like this one, because they have the real experience,” says Micah Haughey, a producer on the film.
Where Tactical Girl was a funny, tongue-in-cheek series, Tango Down is a serious film, with a serious subject. It’s a film by veterans, for veterans. Still, don’t assume that’s what Tango Down is about. The team is serious about their work with the veteran community, but Tango Down isn’t about PTSD.
“There will be some levity in it,” says Swift. “It’s geared towards the veteran community, so there’s going to be some inside jokes that only veterans will get with insider things that only veterans will understand.”
The film is about the bonds formed through military service. It’s a film with action – but not so much an action film – that shows how real veterans might overcome significant challenges using the morals and integrity instilled in them through military service. From Afghanistan to the U.S., the film follows the paths of two friends after they leave the military.
If that sounds vague, you’re right. The filmmakers are careful not to give too much away.
“It’s going to be controversial,” says Dorsett. “It’s not about the broken veteran and that’s an important part. But it’s a very positive message. No politics, no criticism of policy. It’s a character study. We aren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We laugh, we crack jokes, but we know when to be serious.”
There are number of veteran-produced movies that made or are currently making the rounds on social media. Most famously was the film Range 15, an entirely crowdfunded effort by a group of prominent veterans to make “the best military movie ever.” Marine Corps veteran Dale Dye is pushing project designed to be as historically accurate as possible. And they all want to include as many veterans as possible.
So does the team making Tango Down. But Dorsett, Swift, and Ling aren’t just trying to make a movie, they’re trying to build a community of veterans who come together to make movies. In their view, a lot of veterans are adrift right now, seeking a voice. They want to show the world that vets have talent and don’t want to be viewed as a faceless mass.
Tango Down wants them to come and rejoin a unit with a mission – the first of hopefully many opportunities, including feature-length films.
“For all of the veterans working on Tango Down, there’s a genuine mission behind it to connect veterans, to create a community where veterans actually can connect with each other,” says Ling. “At the same time, we hope civilians can watch it and say ‘Wow, I appreciate the military a little bit more after watching this film.'”
To learn more about Tango Down or to see how you can be part of the community, visit their website. To help fund the film and the community, donate here.
The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.
The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn’t exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.
It’s unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren’t usually available as many drones don’t come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company’s servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.
As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.
While the alert didn’t single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.
In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.
DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS’s reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don’t transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.
DJI’s full statement is below:
At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.
By now you’ve seen (ad nauseam) the results of FaceApp, a Russian-based photo filter app that realistically adds wrinkles, grey hairs, and, well, years to faces. Further investigation to the origins of the app — and its Terms & Conditions — has prompted a demand for a federal investigation into the company behind the app and the potential security risks it poses to Americans.
“FaceApp was developed by Russians. It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks,” read a security alert from DNC chief security officer Bob Lord, as reported by CNN.
In a letter to the FBI and the FTC, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including foreign governments. I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hand of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government.”
See the full letter right here:
BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp:
The @FBI @FTC must look into the national security privacy risks now
Because millions of Americans have used it
It’s owned by a Russia-based company
And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos datapic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr
NPR reported that FaceApp had topped Apple’s and Google’s app download charts by Wednesday, July 17, attracting big celebrities and your roommate and that guy you went to high school with alike. While it can be fun to see what forty years can do to a face, there are a number of potential risks involved.
First there’s the matter of privacy. In order to use the app, you give FaceApp access to your device and some personal information. According to NPR, data privacy experts warn against these kinds of apps, especially after Facebook reported up to 87 million of its users’ personal information was compromised by a third party analytics firm.
Second, we are in a new age of facial recognition software, which can be used to target certain groups or individuals, potentially putting innocent people at risk.
Many Russia-watchers are questioning or makinglight of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.
“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.
Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.
“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.
Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.
Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”
The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.
Every year, the cadets at West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis meet to put on one of the most patriotic games of the year: the Army-Navy game. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines all cheer on their respective branch as future officers fight for bragging rights on the football field.
And while most troops are watching from the sidelines or the chow hall, gritting their teeth and waiting to see who comes out on top, there’s a secondary, unofficial contest going on — which team has the best uniform. Each year, both teams bust out a special uniform, just for this game.
This time around, West Point chose to honor the 1st Infantry Division on the centennial anniversary of the WWI armistice. The midshipmen, on the other hand, are going with a design that honors their own treasured history by showcasing Bill the Goat.
On the surface, it may seem simplistic, but in actuality, it’s steeped in Navy and Naval Academy lore.
Could it have been the gifted football players that gave their all on the field that day? Or could it have been the spirit of the goat, channeled through two goofy ensigns who did pretty much the opposite of what they were told to do? The world will never know.
(U.S. Naval Academy)
Navy’s uniform, produced by their sponsor, Under Armor, features the Navy’s traditional white, blue, and gold color scheme. Emblazoned on the right side of the helmet is Annapolis’ mascot, Bill the Goat, with the player’s number on the left — a nod to classic football helmets.
Bill the Goat, for those who don’t already know, became the Naval Academy’s mascot entirely because of the Army-Navy Game. Legend has it, two ensigns were tasked with taking the body of their ship’s beloved goat to the taxidermist. They got “lost” on their way and ended up at the Army-Navy game.
During halftime, one of the ensigns took the goat skin, wore it as a cape, and ran around the sidelines to thunderous applause from the sailors and midshipmen in attendance. The Naval Academy — and presumably the ensigns’ commander — never took disciplinary action against them because it’s believed Bill the Goat was responsible for the Midshipmen winning that day.
Each uniform also has the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” embroidered on the bottom. This was the famous battle cry (and last words) of Capt. James Lawrence as he fell to small arms fire sustained during the War of 1812. It has since become the rallying cry of all sailors as they head into battle.
The pants of the uniforms sport a stripe with six dashes. These six dashes are a reference to the Navy’s first six frigates, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the USS Constellation, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, and the USS Congress.
Check out the unveil video below. Go Navy! Beat Army!
The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.
The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.
Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)
The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.
The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.
Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.
Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)
The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.
If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.
“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.
(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)
‘An art, not a science’
The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.
Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.
Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.
“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.
A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.
Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.
The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.
“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.
U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.
“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.
Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.
Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.
A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”
The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.
To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.
Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.
During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.
“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”
“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.
Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.
The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.
On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.
“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.
“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.
“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.
“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”
“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”
A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.
(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)
‘You’re in a small club’
The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.
The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.
The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.
Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.
Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.
A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.
The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.
It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.
After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.
For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.
“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon’s science and technology research arm is launching a vigorous push into a new level of advanced artificial intelligence, intended to integrate advanced levels of “machine learning,” introduce more “adaptive reasoning” and even help computers determine more subjective phenomena.
It is called the “AI-Next” effort, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to leverage rapid advances in AI to help train data to make computer analysis more reliable for human operators, agency Director Steven Walker recently told a small group of reporters.
DARPA scientists explain the fast-evolving AI-Next effort as improving the ability of AI-oriented technology to provide much more sophisticated “contextual explanatory models.”
While humans will still be needed in many instances, the 3rd Wave can be described as introducing a new ability to not only provide answers and interpretations, but also use “machine learning to reason in context and explain results,” DARPA Deputy Director Peter Highnam said.
In short, the AI-Next initiative, intended to evolve into a 3rd Wave, can explain the reason “why” it reached the conclusion it reached, something which offers a breakthrough level of computer-human interface, he added.
“When we talk about the 3rd wave, we are focused on contextual reasoning and adaptation. It requires less data training,” Highnam said.
This not only makes determinations more reliable but massively increases an ability to make more subjective interpretations by understanding how different words or data sets relate to one another.
A computer can only draw from information it has been fed or given, by and large. While it can add seemingly limitless amounts of data almost instantaneously, AI-driven analysis can face challenges if elements of the underlying stored data change for some reason. It is precisely this predicament which the 3rd Wave is intended to address.
“If the underlying data changes then your system was not trained against that,” Highnam explained.
For instance, 3rd wave adaptive reasoning will enable computer algorithms to discern the difference between the use of “principal” and “principle” based on an ability to analyze surrounding words and determine context.
This level of analysis naturally creates much higher levels of reliability and nuance as it can empower humans with a much deeper grasp of the detailed information they might seek.
“That is the future — building enough AI into the machines that they can actually communicate, share data and network at machine speed in real time,” Walker said.
Yet another example of emerging advanced levels of AI would be an ability to organize hours of drone collected video very quickly – and determine moments of relevance for human decision makers. This exponentially increases the speed of human decision making, a factor which could easily determine life or death in combat.
“In a warfighting scenario, humans have to trust it when the computer gives them an answer…through contextual reasoning,” Highnam said.
Given these emerging 3rd Wave advances, making more subjective decisions will increasingly be a realistic element of AI’s functional purview. For this reason and others, DARPA is working closely with the private sector to fortify collaboration with silicon valley and defense industry partners as a way to identify and apply the latest innovations.
DARPA’s 1st, 2nd & 3rd wave of AI
The third wave, described in DARPA materials as bringing “contextual explanatory models” and a much higher level of machine learning, is intended to build upon the 1st and 2nd Waves of DARPA’s previous AI progress.
The 1st Wave, according to available DARPA information, “enables reasoning over narrowly defined problems.” While it does bring certain elements of learning capability, it is described as having a “poor level of certainty.”
This points to the principle challenge of AI, namely fostering an ability to generate “trust” or reliability that the process through which it discovers new patterns, finds answers, and compares new data against volumes of historical data is accurate. Given this challenge, certain existing models of AI integration might have trouble adjusting to changing data or determining sufficient context.
The 2nd Wave enables “creating statistical models and training them on big data,” but has minimal reasoning, DARPA materials explain. This means algorithms are able to recognize new information and often place it in a broader context in relation to an existing database.
The 2nd Wave, therefore, can often determine meaning of previously unrecognized words and information by examining context and performing certain levels of interpretation. AI-enabled computer algorithms, during this phase, are able to accurately analyze words and information by placing them in context with surrounding data and concepts.
With this 2nd wave, however, DARPA scientist explain that there can be limitations regarding the reliability of interpretation and an ability to respond to new information in some instances; this can make its determinations less reliable. Highnam explained this as having less of an ability to train existing data when or if new information changes it. Therefore, this Wave is described by DARPA information as having “minimal reasoning.”
Can AI make subjective determinations?
Raytheon, for example, is currently exploring a collaborative research deal with the Navy to explore prognostics, conditioned-based maintenance and training algorithms to perform real-time analytics on otherwise complex problems. It is a 6-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore extensive new AI applications, company developers said.
Raytheon developers were naturally hesitant to specify any particular problems or platforms they are working on with the Navy, but did say they were looking at improved AI to further enable large warfigthing systems, weapons, and networks.
Todd Probert, Raytheon’s Vice President of Mission Support and Modernization, told Warrior Maven in an interview what their effort is working on initiatives which compliment DoD’s current AI push.
“Part of deploying AI is about gaining the confidence to trust the AI if operations change and then break it down even further,” Probert said. “We are training algorithms to do the work of humans.”
Interestingly, the kinds of advances enabled by a 3rd Wave bring the prospect of engineering AI-driven algorithms to interpret subjective nuances. For instance, things like certain philosophical concepts, emotions and psychological nuances influenced by past experience might seem to be the kind of thing computers would not be able to interpret.
While this is of course still true in many ways, as even the most advanced algorithms do not yet parallel human cognition, or emotion, in some respects, AI is increasingly able to make more subjective determinations, Probert said.
Probert explained that advanced AI is able to process certain kinds of intent, emotions, and biases through an ability to gather and organize information related to word selection, voice recognition, patterns of expression, and intonations as a way to discern more subjective phenomena.
Also, if a system has a large enough database, perhaps including prior expressions, writing or information related to new information — it can place new words, expressions and incoming data within a broader, more subjective context, Probert explained.
AI & counterterrorism – Torres AES
Other industry partners are using new levels of AI to fortify counterterrorism investigations and cyber forensics. For example, a US-based global security firm supporting DoD, the US State Dept. and friendly foreign governments, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, employs advanced levels of AI to uncover otherwise obscured or hidden communications among terrorist groups, transnational criminals or other US adversaries.
While much of the details of this kind of AI application, company developers say, are naturally not available for security reasons, Torres cyber forensics experts did say advanced algorithms can find associations and “digital footprints” associated with bad actors or enemy activity using newer methods of AI.
As part of its cyber forensics training of US and US-allied counterterrorism forces, Torres prepares cyber warriors and investigators to leverage AI. Torres conducts cyber forensics training of US-allied Argentinian and Paraguayan counterrorism officials who, for instance, often look to crack down on terrorist financial activity in the more loosely-governed “tri-border” area connecting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
“The system that we train builds in AI, yet does not eliminate the human being. AI-enabled algorithms can identify direct and indirect digital relationships among bad actors,” said Jerry Torres, Torres AES CEO.
For instance, AI can use adaptive reasoning to discern relationships between locations, names, email addresses, or bank accounts used by bad actors.
To illustrate some of the effective uses of AI for these kinds of efforts, Torres pointed to a proprietary software called Maltego — used for open-source intelligence analysis and forensics.
“AI can be a great asset in which our defensive cyber systems learn about the attackers by increasing the knowledge base from each attack, and launching intelligent counter attacks to neutralize the attackers, or feign a counter attack to get the attacker to expose itself. AI is critical to countering attackers,” Torres added.
The software uses AI to find relationships across a variety of online entities to include social media, domains, groups, networks, and other areas of investigative relevance.
The growing impact of AI
AI has advanced quickly to unprecedented levels of autonomy and machine learning wherein algorithms are instantly able to assimilate and analyze new patterns and information, provide context, and compare it against vast volumes of data. Many now follow the seemingly countless applications of this throughout military networks, data systems, weapons, and large platforms.
Computer autonomy currently performs procedural functions, organizes information, and brings incredible processing speed designed to enable much faster decision-making and problems solving by humans performing command and control. While AI can proving seemingly infinite amounts of great relevance in short order — or almost instantaneously — human cognition is still required in many instances to integrate less “tangible” variables, solve dynamic problems or make more subjective determinations.
When it comes to current and emerging platforms, there is already much progress in the area of AI; the F-35s “sensor fusion” relies upon early iterations of AI, Navy Ford-Class carriers use greater levels of automation to perform on-board functions and Virginia-Class Block III attack submarines draw upon touch screen fly-by-wire technology to bring more autonomy to undersea navigation.
Other instances include the Army’s current experimentation with IBM’s AI-enabled Watson computer which, among other things, can be used to wirelessly perform real-time analytics on combat relevant maintenance details on Stryker vehicles. In a manner somewhat analogous to this, a firm called C3IOT uses AI-empowered real-time analytics to perform conditioned-based maintenance on Air Force F-16s.
“Despite higher levels of autonomy, in the end a human will make the decision, using computers as partners. We see the future as much less having machines do everything but rather humans and machines working together to fight the next battle,” Highnam explained.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.