Here's how active and former military members can get Amazon discounts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how active and former military members can get Amazon discounts

Amazon is giving massive discounts on Prime memberships to current and former military members in recognition of Veterans Day, the company said Nov. 5, 2019.

The offer cuts the cost of Amazon’s yearlong Prime membership by more than 30%, to $79 from $119.

Amazon is offering the promotion to US veterans, as well as active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard members. Both new and existing Prime members can take advantage of the offer, the company said.


To receive the discount, military members must visit this landing page on Amazon’s site between Nov. 6 and Nov. 11, 2019, to verify their eligibility.

(Photo by Bryan Angelo)

Once eligibility is verified, the discounted Prime membership will be added to the customer’s cart, and the customer will be directed to complete the process by checking out.

People interested in the promotion should also know:

  • The discounted rate applies to only one year of Prime membership.
  • The promotion will extend the memberships of current Prime members by one year.
  • Customers can attempt eligibility verification only three times online. Amazon instructs anyone having trouble with verification to contact its customer-support team by email after the first failed attempt.
  • Prime Student and other discounted Prime members are not eligible to receive the discount.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This film shows every nuclear blast in history as deadly martial arts moves

Nuclear weapons take less than a millionth of a second to detonate. Meanwhile, the resulting fireball from a thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb can swallow and incinerate a 1-mile area in about a second.

Such rapid and raw power can seem as abstract as it is terrifying. But humanity has triggered and observed more than 2,420 nuclear blasts since the first one in July 1945, according to a recent tally by Alex Wellerstein, an historian of physics and nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

To make the legacy of nuclear blasts more accessible to the average person, Brooklyn-based artist Eric LoPresti tried something unusual and symbolic: He filmed his Aikido dojo members reenacting every known nuclear blast as hand-to-hand combat moves.


“I wanted to make it visceral,” LoPresti said. “Every time someone’s thrown, there’s this slight slapping noise on the ground. That’s a way of taking a fall — a potentially lethal fall — in a non-lethal and a safer way. It’s called a breakfall, and that sound reminded me of the sound of a sped-up nuclear explosion.”

LoPresti presented his video installation, called “ Center-Surround” at a public expo of Reinventing Civil Defense, a project that aims to “restore a broad, cultural understanding of nuclear risk.”

The art exhibit plays three different videos on three screens in sync. One displays a colored tile with the name and date of a nuclear explosion, while a second screen displays a supercut of the Aikido sparring that’s coordinated to mirror those detonations. A third screen displays a grid-style visualization of all the test names and dates.

There have been so many nuclear explosions — most of them test blasts by the US and Russia — that the film takes roughly two hours to complete one loop, despite the lightning-fast attacks. (There’s one Aikido attack roughly every 3 seconds.)

The trailer below shows a couple minutes of an earlier version of the video.

Center-Surround Trailer – 2 minutes

www.youtube.com

‘It’s painful, it’s effortful’

In an ideal setting, the music-less installation plays in a darkened corner lined with martial arts mats, which exhibit-goers can sit on.

LoPresti wants those who see “Center-Surround” to feel the effort that his dojo members (the artist is also in the film) put into working through thousands of nuclear blasts.

“We did survive without injury, but it’s painful, it’s effortful. I wanted that cathartic experience, almost like an endurance piece,” LoPresti said.

In full, the visual experience is meant “to humanize this vast subject” of nuclear weapons and their history, he added.

LoPresti said his choice of Aikido was deliberate, since it’s a martial art that “grew up around post-World War II Japan,” which is where the US unleashed the first two wartime nuclear attacks.

“Before the war, the founder of Aikido described it as sort of the most lethal martial art. It’s the most sophisticated. It was a combination of all that had come before it — one strike Aikido could kill. After the war, it became the ‘way of harmony,'” LoPresti said.

He added that the modernized form of the martial art is built around movements to protect both the defender and attacker.

“It’s premised on the idea that you should endeavor to engage in conflict resolution without defeating your enemy, right? Because if you defeat your enemy, they’re just going to come back for another round,” he said.

LoPresti’s exhibit debuted in late 2018, but it’s being updated with a grant from Reinventing Civil Defense, a project organized by the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Artist from a nuclear residence

LoPresti grew up in Richland, Washington, one of several communities that housed workers from the Hanford Site: a nuclear reservation where plutonium-239 was manufactured and refined for tens of thousands of US warheads.

A 99.96% pure ring of plutonium.

(Los Alamos National Laboratory)

LoPresti said nuclear weapons were a fixture of the town and, for his dad, a subtext for making a living. Hanford Site employed LoPresti’s father, a statistician, who worked on projects to clean up environmental damage left over from the decades-long Cold War nuclear arms race.

That childhood in what he called a “nuclear town” guided his future relationship with atomic weapons. Today, LoPresti said, his art strives to take nukes out of the realm of what philosopher Timothy Morton called a “hyperobject” — something so large a person can’t think about it, yet without it the world wouldn’t make sense — and into one that’s comprehensible.

“Center-Surround” is LoPresti’s first video installation; most of his other works are paintings. His prior exhibits almost all focus on nuclear weapons, too, and several lean on his obsessive visual studies of the Nevada National Security Site, which sits about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Previously called the Nevada Test Site, the 1,350-square-mile desert laboratory is where the US set off more than 1,000 nuclear weapons, some 921 of them in underground chambers. This left behind a pockmarked landscape of hundreds of roughly 800-foot-wide craters.

These radioactive scars show up in many of LoPresti’s paintings.

“I would submit this is a better way to think about nuclear weapons than a mushroom cloud,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are one of those very strange things, which is both omnipresent, everywhere, and also sort of impossible to visualize in a concrete way. Because most of it happens invisibly.”

With “Center-Surround,” LoPresti hopes to make nuclear weapons something anyone can understand as part of US history. He said he’s watched people go into his exhibit and relax, only to shudder as they learn about what the numbers and their Aikido representations mean.

“But there wasn’t that fear, an amnesia of terror,” he said — and quashing that fear is what he believes is a vital step to doing something about nukes.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants America’s spot on the Human Rights Council

Russia wants a spot on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) following the US’s withdrawal on June 19, 2018.

Russia quickly swooped in on the empty seat and put forward its candidacy for a three-year term starting in 2021.

“The UNHRC operates on the basis of the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation. It is a UN body that, like the entire UN system, is called upon to serve all Member States, not just one country or group of countries,” Russia’s UN mission said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our colleagues in Washington do not understand this or do not recognize it.”


Russia added that the US had attempted to use the council as an “obedient tool to promote only their interests” and punish unfavorable countries.

“Against this background, attempts by the US to blame the politicization of the work of the Council and the failure of its initiative by almost the whole world, including its traditional allies, seem cynical,” it said.

The US officially pulled out from the UNHRC on June 19, 2018, for being a “cesspool of political bias,” particularly against its ally Israel.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a press conference that the move was “not a retreat from human rights commitments,” and blasted the 47-member council as “a hypocritical and self serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”

US Ambassador Nikki Haley

The human rights arm of the United Nations was established in 2006. Members grouped by region are voted in by the General Assembly for three year terms, and can be suspended if they are found to grossly violate human rights during their tenure.

Russia previously served one term on the council but lost its reelection in 2016 because of its support for the Assad regime’s war in Syria.

Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and China, have been criticized by rights groups for their places on the council despite their systematic violations of human rights.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

The Trump administration has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month, the Pentagon said Jan. 4.


A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Rob Manning, said President Donald Trump agreed to the delay in consultation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“The Department of Defense supports the President’s decision and what is in the best interest of the ROK-U.S. alliance,” Manning said, referring to the U.S. defense treaty with the Republic of Korea.

President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The decision pushes back a set of annual military exercises known as Foal Eagle, which normally are held between February and April. Foal Eagle is a series of exercises designed to test the readiness of the two countries’ militaries. North Korea routinely objects to such maneuvers as a rehearsal for an invasion.

The Jan. 4 decision came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years.

In a tweet early Jan. 4, Trump claimed his tough stance on nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula is helping push North Korea and South Korea to talk.

Trump tweeted, “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong, and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North.”

Earlier this week, Trump seemed open to the possibility of an inter-Korean dialogue after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare overture toward South Korea in a New Year’s address. But Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations insisted that talks won’t be meaningful unless the North is getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

Also Read: South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

The overture about talks came after Trump and Kim traded more bellicose claims about their nuclear weapons.

In his New Year’s address, Kim repeated fiery nuclear threats against the U.S. Kim said he has a “nuclear button” on his office desk and warned that “the whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike.”

Trump mocked that assertion Tuesday evening, tweeting: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Articles

Report: Trump plans to shrink intelligence agencies, including CIA

President-elect Donald Trump is planning to restructure two of the nation’s top intelligence agencies, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.


The newspaper writes that Trump plans to reduce the size of the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, fearing the agencies have become too large and politicized.

Related: 5 challenges the Trump Pentagon will face in 2017

“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized,” The Journal quoted someone close to Trump’s transition team as saying. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”

The apparent plans come as Trump continues to mock US intelligence agencies and dismiss their reports that Russia hacked and leaked emails from Democratic officials in an attempt to influence the US election.

President Barack Obama late last year instructed the DNI to investigate potential meddling in US presidential elections dating back to 2008 amid the findings.

Trump cited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday in his latest dismissal of the cyberattacks. Assange had denied Russia was the source of the stolen emails in an interview with Fox News.

The president-elect’s comments angered lawmakers from both parties concerned that the incoming president appeared to trust Assange over top US intelligence officials.

“We have two choices — some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law … who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina.

“I’m going with them.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US aircraft carriers aren’t that easy to kill, here’s why

Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.

That’s certainly easier said than done.

The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.


The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.

These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)

“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.

At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.

China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.

The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.

China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.

China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.

These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.

“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)

US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.

Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.

“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.

Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.

The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”

The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.

Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.

There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.

“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.

US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).

(US Navy)

US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.

Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.

Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.

For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.

The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.

There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.

Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.

Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.

“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.

US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.

They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.

There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.

This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.

“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”

And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)

To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.

China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.

In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.

The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.

“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.

The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?

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

Articles

This British sniper took out six insurgents by detonating a Taliban suicide vest

A 20-year-old Lance Cpl. of Britain’s Coldstream Guards was right on target in December 2013. His quick shooting prevented a major offensive by Taliban fighters when he hit the trigger of an enemy suicide vest – with a round from his L115A3 rifle.


The L115A3 is the primary weapon of British military snipers. (MoD photo)

The UK’s Telegraph reported that his unit was hundreds strong during a joint patrol with Afghan counterparts in Helmand Province, near Karakan. They came under heavy fire from a Taliban ambush. The commanding officer of the 9/12 Royal Lancers, Lt. Col. Richard Slack, did not give the name of the sniper, but acknowledged his decisive action.

“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun. … They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded.”

It was the lance corporal’s second shot of his tour. When he hit the vest’s trigger, the man exploded, taking out five more of his fellow fighters. He was 930 yards away.

An Afghan Taliban suicide vest. (Khaama Press)

The sniper’s first shot killed an enemy machine gunner during the same engagement. That shot was from more than 1,400 yards away.

When the smoke cleared, British forces found a second vest containing 44 pounds of explosives.

Holly Watt of the Telegraph called it “one of the dwindling number of gun battles between British forces and the insurgents.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China prepares forces in contested waters for war

China’s commander-in-chief has ordered the military command overseeing the contested South China Sea to “concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command Oct. 25, 2018, again stressing the need build a force that can “fight and win wars” in the modern age. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war,” he explained, adding that the command has a “heavy military responsibility” to “take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly.”


“You’re constantly working at the front line, and playing key roles in protecting national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” Xi said, according to the China Daily, “I hope you can fulfill such sacred and solemn missions.”

The powerful Chinese leader has made strengthening and modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a top priority.

As Xi delivered his speech in Guangdong province, Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe warned that China will not give up “one single piece” of its territorial holdings, adding that “challenges” to its sovereignty over Taiwan could lead China to use military force.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The US Navy recently sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait, a move that, like the US military’s frequent bomber overflights and freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, angered Beijing.

Tensions have been running particularly high in the South China Sea in recent months, with regular US B-52 bomber flights through the region and Chinese PLA Navy warships challenging American military ships and aircraft that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories in the disputed waterway.

US Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said Oct. 29, 2018, that the US Navy will continue to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations and challenge “illegitimate maritime claims.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.


Barrage balloons over London in World War II.

(Public Domain)

Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.

But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?

Well, no.

First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.

A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets

(Australian War Memorial)

So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.

Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.

It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.

Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.

(Royal Air Force)

Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.

Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.

But the barrage balloons couldn’t be ignored either, because they had thick steel cables or else entire nets hanging from them in order to catch enemy fighters attempting to fly under them. And they flew high enough that few World War I fighters or bombers could come over the top and still be effective. By World War II, the balloons were set lower, but only to steer the enemy aircraft up to over 5,000 feet where anti-aircraft artillery was most effective.

American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.

(Public Domain)

So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.

Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.

America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.

German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.

(State Library of New South Wales)

Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.

Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.

Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.

He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These DARPA simulators could predict a war before it starts

DARPA, BAE Systems, and the Air Force Research Lab are working to pioneer new computer simulations, algorithms, and advanced software to provide military decision makers with organized, near real-time information on causes of war and conflict in operational scenarios.

Drawing upon a range of otherwise disconnected sources of raw data, the new software program is designed to use reasoning algorithms and simulations to analyze intelligence reports, academic theories, environmental factors, and details from operational scenarios and other kinds of user input.


“It is about taking information from disparate sources which would be impossible for a person to consume in a short amount of time,” Jonathan Goldstein, Senior Principal Scientist, Autonomy Controls and Estimation, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The Air Force Research Laboratory recently awarded a $4.2 million deal to BAE Systems to develop CONTEXT; DARPA is sponsoring BAE’s efforts.

The emerging product, called Causal Exploration of Complex Operational Environments (CONTEXT) models different political, territorial, and economic tensions that often cause conflict. These nodes, or variables making up a complex, yet interwoven tapestry of causes, include things like economic tensions, terrorism, tribal or religious conflict and issues about resources or territorial disputes — among other things.

Gregory Feitshans, chief engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory
(DoD News photo by EJ Hersom)


“The technology evaluates causal insertions in different forms and innovates them into a model of interwoven causal relationships present in otherwise disconnected sources. We are building a model that can rapidly be used by an expert, so that when a new conflict flares up, decision-makers can understand the underlying issues,” Goldstein said.

While on the surface, organizing and performing some analytics of large pools of data might bring AI to mind, CONTEXT evaluates material input by users and does not necessarily access massive volumes of historical or stored data. Nonetheless, it does appear to perform some measure of automation and AI like functions, in so far as it organizes and integrates different sources for a human decision maker.

“This shortens the decision cycle. People are not good at maintaining a causal model with complexity in their head. The software creates a large graph of causes, evaluates approaches and examines the potential consequences of a given approach,” Goldstein explained.

Automation and AI, which are of course progressing at near lighting speed these days, are often described in terms of easing the “cognitive burden,” meaning they can quickly perform analytics and a range of procedural functions to present to a human operating in a command control capacity.

At the same time, causes of conflict are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined variables – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances, and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.

Leading AI and cybersecurity experts often say that advanced computer algorithms can analyze data and quickly perform procedural functions far more quickly than human cognition – yet there are nonetheless still many things which are known to be unique to human cognition. Humans solve problems, interpret emotions and at times respond to certain variables in a way that the best computer technology cannot.

“War causation is always over determined. Even with advanced statistical regressions on extremely large data sets, it is unlikely that what causes conflict can be determined with accuracy,” Ross Rustici, Senior Director, Intelligence Services, Cybereason – and former DoD Cyber Lead Intrusion Analyst and Technical Lead for DoD, East Asia, told Warrior Maven.

At the same time, despite natural limitations, using software and simulation to analyze data in this fashion is of course by no means useless, Rustici added.

Calling CONTEXT a “step in the right direction,” Rustici said “any effort to update war prosecution and war cessation planning will go a long way towards updating a military that has learned hard lessons in counterterrorism and regime building. Gaining a finer understanding of how populations and defeated military groups will respond to tactics for winning the war and securing the peace is something that is long overdue.”

Rustici further elaborated that human understanding of some elements of causality can without question have a beneficial impact in many respects. However, there are of course substantial limitations, and few would disagree that there are many concepts, feelings, variables and subjective factors informing causality — underscoring the widespread recognition that, despite the pace of technological computer advances, there are still many things which machines cannot do.

“This program is unlikely to have a significant impact beyond understanding how to conduct further modelling in the future,” Rustici said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel’s attack on a Syrian reactor prevented a nuclear ISIS

Israel’s military admitted on March 20, 2018, what intelligence communities around the world had long known — that Israeli airstrikes had taken out a would-be nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.


In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.

But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.

If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too

Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”

This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.

Related: ISIS reappeared in Syria to fight Asad troops in the capital

But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.

ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.

If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.

It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.

Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous

A woman protests the Iranian government’s policy requiring all women to wear headscarves. (Photo by My Stealthy Freedom/Facebook)

“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”

Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.

More: 6 most stubborn world conflicts happening right now

“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”

While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Declassified CIA images revealed a US spy technique against Soviets

According to the National Security Archives, the CIA used to spy on the Soviet Union in broad daylight at the nation’s military parades.

The archives have collected declassified images that were taken at ceremonies marking national holidays like May Day and the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

The parades were perfect settings for spies to collect intelligence on the Soviet Union, which was normally much more secretive about displaying its military capabilities.


Scrooge missiles pass by an image of Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, and Karl Marx.

(National Security Archive)

Taken in 1960, this image from a May Day parade in Moscow is labeled “400-mm (?) self-propelled guns.”

(National Security Archive)

Rocket launchers pass by an image of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx.

(National Security Archive)

SA-2 Guideline Rockets on transporter trailers, taken by a “Soviet source.”

(National Security Archive)

The CIA assessed them to be 210-mm rocket launchers.

(National Security Archive)

The missile, identified as the V-301, had a maximum speed of Mach 2.5, according to the CIA.

(National Security Archive)

The CIA identified this as the SS-9, a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

According to a CIA memo, the SS-9 premiered during a Moscow parade in 1967.

This photo was labeled, ‘Exempt from automatic downgrading and declassification.’

(National Security Archive)

The missile system shown here was assessed to be a new anti-ballistic missile capability.

(National Security Archive)

This image from the 49th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution shows typical Soviet propaganda in Red Square.

This photo appears to be mislabeled.

The ABM-1 Galosh was an anti-ballistic missile defense system arranged to protect Moscow.

ABM-X-2 is the nomenclature for project Aurora, an apparently unsuccessful attempt to expand the Galosh system.

(National Security Archive)

The SCUD missile identified here was a mobile ballistic missile with a warhead that weighed up to 1,500 pounds.

(National Security Archive)

Although these images were clearly geared towards the weapons systems, it’s just as interesting to see the scenery and propaganda of the era.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 fictional countries America should invade

Ever since a 2015 poll revealed that a certain slice of Americana supported bombing Agrabah, the fictional city Disney’s Aladdin calls home, it’s been interesting to consider what other fictional countries have actually messed with the United States and totally gotten a pass. Agrabah didn’t actually damage its relations with the U.S., presumably because the U.S. either doesn’t exist yet in that world, or because they don’t have oil.


Or because Magic isn’t considered a WMD… yet.

Meanwhile, a number of other countries have attacked America and/or its American heroes and haven’t yet met the full-on retaliation they deserve.

1. Pottsylvania — “Rocky and Bullwinkle”

These guys have been sending special agents to try and kill American heroes FOR YEARS. Pottsylvania is populated entirely by special agents and saboteurs.

Their children are taught assassination techniques and espionage practices from an early age, their highest medal is the Double Cross and their mysterious dictator (known only as “Fearless Leader”) makes Kim Jong-Un look like a teddy bear. Their two most active agents are skilled infiltrators and have never been captured.

They are pictured on this surveillance photo, planting an IED.

2. Bilya — “Iron Eagle”

Bilya is supposed to be a fictional Arab state in the Middle East. These guys had the balls to shoot down an American F-16, capture its pilot, and then sentence him to hang in a show trial.

This is not the face of someone who is just going to let that happen.

Luckily, the pilot’s 16-year-old son Doug (an Air Force Academy reject) and Chappie, an Air Force Reserve pilot, steal two F-16s of their own and fly off to Bilya to rescue him. What should have happened was America launching an all-out raid on Bilyan infrastructure and military targets. Then, after they released the American they took for no reason, the Bilyans would pay us back the $18 million they owe us for shooting down our F-16.

3. Val Verde — “Commando,” “Predator,” and “Die Hard 2

This nondescript South American country has more coups than a flock of pigeons (say that sentence aloud for the full effect). For some reason, all of their worst representatives seem to end up in the United States, ready to coerce American heroes to do their bidding.

Fortunately, John Matrix lives inside an unlimited ammo cheat code world.

In “Commando,” a deposed dictator named Arius kidnaps John Matrix’ daughter to force him to kill the current president (of Val Verde). Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t even make it to Val Verde. Instead, he ices every single person who came near his daughter.

I hope Val Verde at least has good veteran’s hospitals.

In “Die Hard 2,” terrorists hit an airport to free another captured dictator, ruining John McClane’s Christmas, everyone’s flight schedules, and never taking any blame for what they do.

And that is United Airlines’ job.

In “Predator,” Dutch Schaeffer’s commando team has to mount a hostage rescue from guerrillas in Val Verde. You might know what happens next (hint: it has something to do with an invisible alien).

Seriously, how many times do they get to mess with America before we do something about this? Who is the President in this movie universe? And I am dying to know more about this place – what are the exports, other than terrorism and contras?

4. Latveria – Marvel Comics

Latveria: a perfectly normal country.

Latveria is an Eastern European nation tucked back into the Carpathian Mountains, led by a guy whose name is freaking Dr. Victor von Doom. Even George W. Bush could convince the world that this guy needed to be ousted, and he wouldn’t have to throw Colin Powell under a bus to do it.

Besides, Russia already has a Dr. Doom.

Dr. Doom is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism. Doom is responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, attempted assassinations of allied heads of state, and oh so many crimes against humanity.

And like many 20th century dictators, Dr. Doom got the Henry Kissinger seal of approval.

The Fantastic Four can bring down Hitler, a being who eats planets, and the Prince of Darkness, but can’t seem to overthrow this tiny country and oust its metal-faced dictator? It’s time to send in the Marines.