Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Afghanistan’s government wants the U.S. to redeploy the A-10 Thunderbolt to bolster efforts to fight the Taliban, according to a Military Times report.


A senior Afghan defense official said that country’s government wants the vaunted A-10, which is highly regarded for its durability and lethality in close-air-support operations, to return to Afghanistan.

No decision on A-10 deployments has been made, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who directs U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. “The discussions of what forces we move to Afghanistan or drawdown from Iraq and Syria are all ongoing,” Bunch said.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

After the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October, respectively, operations against ISIS in those two countries, in which the A-10 played a major role, have begun to wind down.

President Donald Trump has also started to pursue an expansion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the later half of 2017 and the Air Force may see increased operations in Afghanistan as a part of that expansion.

In September, the Air Force chief of staff said the force was “absolutely” reviewing greater involvement following Trump’s decision on Afghanistan strategy.

The Air Force has deployed six more F-16 fighter aircraft — bringing the total to 18 F-16s — and a KC-135 tanker aircraft to Afghanistan in recent months. And the air war in the country has already intensified. (Though the Pentagon has begun classifying previously available data about military operations in Afghanistan.)

The numbers of weapons released by U.S. combat aircraft in Afghanistan have hit highs not seen since the 2010 surge. Air Forces Central Command data released in October showed 751 weapons dropped in September, eclipsing the 503 released in August and setting a new five-year high. (Data released in November adjusted September’s total down to 414 and recorded a new high — 653 — in October.)

Now Read: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also turned their attention to the Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade in an effort to cut into the insurgent group’s financing. Advanced F-22 fighters, joined by B-52 bombers and Afghan A-29 Tucano propeller aircraft, attacked drug labs in November.

Since then, about 25 Taliban drug labs in northern Helmand province — a hotbed for Afghan drug production — have been destroyed, costing the Taliban almost $16 million in revenue, according to Bunch, who said the air campaign against Taliban financing had only “just begun.”

In 2017, area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 63% over the previous year, according to U.N. data. Even though eradication increased 111% during that period, the number of opium-poppy-free provinces declined from 13 to 10.

The Taliban has gotten heavily involved in the drug trade. The insurgent group has also expanded its territorial control in Afghanistan — from 11% of the country’s 407 districts in February to 13% in August.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Dead poppies mark the destruction of a poppy field in the district of Por Chaman in Farah Province, Afghanistan, May 10. The destruction of the poppy field occurred in the presence of Farah Provincial Governor Rahool Amin, as an effort to promote positive agricultural solutions such as wheat cultivation. (ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylan K. Albright)

Trump’s new strategy will also deploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan — some of whom will embed with Afghan forces closer to the fighting. That could put them in harm’s way and will likely lead to more U.S. aircraft providing close air support, at which the A-10 excels.

The Air Force backed away from plans to begin mothballing its A-10 fleet earlier this year. The Air Force has pushed Congress for additional funding to produce new wings for 110 of its 283 Thunderbolts, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson assured lawmakers this month that money allotted for that project would keep the A-10 dominant.

“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

French officer is accused of giving NATO documents to Russian intelligence

Russian intelligence agents appear to have corrupted another Western military officer. The latest incident came at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization base in Italy where French officials accused one of France’s senior military officials there of passing sensitive documents to the Russians.

A French lieutenant colonel was arrested during a vacation in his native country.


“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly told European news agencies. The minister also said that French military forces have taken the necessary precautions in the wake of the information leak.

The alliance has been on high alert since Russian troops intervened in Ukraine in 2014, reports Deutsche Welle.

Tensions between east and west have flared since 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. Ukraine had been part of the Soviet Union until its fall in 1991 and had been trying to join NATO and the European Union (a process that is ongoing). Russia, not wanting to lose its influence in Ukraine, annexed the Russian-speaking Crimea and supported an insurgency in the Russian speaking eastern part of Ukraine.

Since then, NATO and the EU have slapped Russia with sanctions. Until the Russian intervention in Syria, Ukraine was the main focal point for NATO-Russian tensions.

NATO was formed in 1949, following the end of the Second World War as a check on the growing power and influence of the Soviet Union in Europe and elsewhere around the world. It was a means for the Western powers – the United States, Canada and much of Western Europe – to ensure the freedoms of their democratic societies.

A few years later, in 1955, the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries formed their own alliance, under the Warsaw Pact. For the duration of the Cold War, the two alliances fought each other in clandestine and diplomatic struggles. Outside of Europe, each side undermined the other in conflicts around the world.

In the years following the fall of the USSR, membership in the western treaty organization grew from its original 11 members to include more countries, many of which were once dominated by the Soviet Union and were members of the Warsaw Pact, including Albania, Romania and Poland.

It isn’t apparent what information was leaked by the French officer to Russian officials, but other Russian-NATO hotspots include encounters between allied naval forces and the Russians in the Black Sea, the alleged bounties paid to Taliban fighters for killing Americans in Afghanistan, and the ongoing series of “dangerous aircraft intercepts” along Russian and American airspace.

Articles

These American units will be first on the scene if World War III erupts

It seems like every week brings another potential flashpoint for global conflict. North Korea acts like it wants to go 12 rounds over its nuclear program. China threatens war to protect its control of Taiwan and the South China Sea. Russia stages major exercises near NATO borders and is currently occupying two regions of Ukraine.


And that’s without touching the cluster that is the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

But Americans can still sleep soundly because its military keeps teams ready to deploy at a moments notice, projecting power to any part of the globe within hours.

Related video:

These are the U.S. military units who, in conjunction with NATO and other allies, would be in charge of drawing first blood in a knockdown fight. We modeled the conflict based on the war in Syria erupting into something larger, but the scenario would play out similarly in other regions of the world.

Listen to the author and other vets discuss this World War III scenario on the WATM podcast.

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1. U.S. Air Force’s first move is to achieve air superiority.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
The F-22 Raptor. Photo by: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase

The Air Force is likely going to find itself the first one in the ring. Strikes in Syria fall under U.S. Central Command, but command and control for a conflict that spills into Turkey would shift to U.S. European Command.

As USEUCOM began coordinating the other military branches, the Air Force in Europe would defend itself and allied air forces. The six F-16s temporarily based in Turkey would likely be the first to fire. As they begin intercepting Russian jets, the Air Force would likely send in some of the other F-16s stationed around Europe and the four F-22s deployed there in order to achieve air superiority over Turkey.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
F-16s. Photo: US Air force Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

Within 24 hours, the Air Force would dispatch 1-2 “Rapid Raptor” teams. Each consists of four F-22s that can refuel in the air as they race to any spot on the planet in 24 hours. Their support crew and additional equipment follow them in a C-17. The rest of the planes in each squadron would come later.

And of course, the Air Force would support necessary ground operations. In Jul., A-10 pilots practiced operating from an abandoned Warsaw Pact Airfield in Poland and proved they could fly from nearly anywhere.

2. The Navy moves to protect major ships from submarine attack and push Russian assets back in the Mediterranean.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Navy Patty Officer 2nd Class Evan Kenny

The U.S. Navy 6th Fleet covers the Mediterranean and Black Seas and would find itself in a fierce fight if it suddenly had to secure itself from a full spectrum attack by Russia.

Putin commands an impressive fleet of extremely quiet submarines and the surface vessels of Russia’s Black Sea fleet are also impressive.

But the 6th Fleet has been preparing for these possibilities, training with allied navies with a focus on anti-submarine warfare. The destroyers of 6th Fleet have been conducting patrols through the Mediterranean and training to operate in the Black Sea.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

Currently, the 6th Fleet has no aircraft carrier or Marine expeditionary unit, but the USS Harry S. Truman is on its way to 5th Fleet and could be sent through the Suez Canal to 6th Fleet if necessary. Until the actual carrier arrived, the planes could fly missions supporting 6th Fleet by launching from the Truman and grabbing gas from a tanker over the Middle East on their way to the Mediterranean.

Also, other ships could surge from the U.S. into the fight if required. The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) recently left the Arabian Sea and could be sent back if necessary. The USS H. W. Bush (CVN 77) is in Norfolk going through training exercises.

3. Marines quickly secure U.S. nationals and evacuate embassies while preparing for a massive fight.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff. Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III

Marines stationed at vulnerable embassies throughout eastern Europe would quickly evacuate embassy personnel and destroy classified information. Obviously, the Moscow embassy would face the shortest timeline.

Deploying to back these Marines up, recover downed aircrews, and evacuate civilians as required is the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response–Africa. SPMAGTFCR-AF recently trained on how to work with regional allies and quickly deploy their 500 troops, six Mv-22s, and two KC-130Js.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler

Marines deployed to the Black Sea Rotational Force in Romania would provide expertise and assist in defending Romania’s coast from potential attacks by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Marines across the rest of the continent would prepare to repulse a land invasion from Moscow.

4. The Army looks to hold the line across over 750 miles of border.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Army

U.S. Army Europe has units across the continent, but most of the major unit headquarters are in Germany. USAREUR soldiers would rapidly deploy from there to plus up smaller garrisons. This deployment would include the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, the Strykers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the helicopters of the rotational aviation task force in Europe.

They would be backed up by the Global Response Force from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

5. Supporting all of this activity would be the special operators of Special Operations Command Europe.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Photo: US Army Spc. Travis Jones

Special Operations Command Europe has operators from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Army fields its oldest Special Forces group, the 10th, in Europe. Navy Special Warfare Unit 2 mostly supports forward deployed SEAL platoons but could also pivot missions to leading a Naval Special Warfare Task Unit that would support U.S. European Command.

Meanwhile, the Airmen of the 352nd Special Operations Group would plan the complex air missions supporting these other operators. The Air Force special operators from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron would provide pararescue, air traffic control, and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the fight progressed past the opening salvos, the branches and their subordinate units would slip into the NATO command structure with many U.S. troops deploying as part of NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps.

Articles

Tim Kennedy is possibly the busiest soldier on the planet

Tim Kennedy can’t sit still.


The Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class is fighting Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206 this weekend but that’s only one of a myriad of things that keeps him busy.

Since moving from active duty to the Texas Army National Guard in 2010, Kennedy has become one of the most high-profile veterans with a full resume of entertainment and business accomplishments.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Tim Kennedy with his Special Forces unit in Afghanistan. (Photos from Kelly Crigger)

You may recognize Kennedy from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but he’s also made a name for himself on the hugely successful HISTORY TV show “Hunting Hitler.” Kennedy is the host and treks throughout South America poking and prodding in the nooks and crannies of the continent for proof that German WWII criminals fled and potentially lived out their lives in secrecy there.

He also hosted The Triumph Games where wounded warriors compete for $50,000 cash prize on CBS Sports.

Is this going to be a trend? Are we going to see more of Tim Kennedy on our TVs?

“Yes,” Kennedy told WATM. “I like hosting TV shows so I’m going to do it more often. I get a lot out of it and hosting the Triumph Games was really  rewarding. I will always train myself year round but I’ll take sabbaticals to host TV shows when I get the chance.”

Kennedy isn’t just on the small screen. He had a big role in the veteran-funded cult classic movie, Range 15 — both in front of and behind the camera.

“Range 15 is a comedic war movie in a post apocalyptic world where military degenerates wake up from a night of debauchery to find the zombie apocalypse has happened and the only thing that can save it is these losers,” he says chuckling.

Range 15 was a collaboration between Ranger Up (which Kennedy co-owns) and Article 15, two veteran-run apparel companies who challenged the Hollywood mold and made a major motion picture funded largely by veterans.

Though competitors, the founders of each company set their differences aside and launched an Indiegogo campaign that raised over $1 million.

They then opened up the roles of zombie extras to veterans and got major Hollywood backing when Danny Trejo and William Shatner made cameo appearances.

“The zombie extras didn’t have all their limbs because many of them were blown off in combat,” Kennedy says. “It was so special to make this movie. Such an amazing experience. Range 15 could not have been a success without the help and support of the veteran community. Period.”

Besides entertainment and apparel, Kennedy also runs a defense tactics company called Sheepdog Response that he formed after running a seminar in Oklahoma. During that first seminar to law enforcement personnel, Kennedy noticed most everyone was good at one thing — either shooting or combatives — but rarely both.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Nick Thompson vs Tim Kennedy.

So he launched Sheepdog Response to reshape America.

“We’ve gotten soft and become a nation without fangs,” Kennedy says. “Sheepdogs protect the prey from the wolves and that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving people the skills to be the hardest person to kill.”

Kennedy himself is probably one of the hardest people to kill. Despite all his business and entertainment endeavors, Kennedy is still an Army NCO and deploys as part of a Special Operations Detachment for Africa from the Texas National Guard. His next reenlistment is up in 2017. Will he stay in the National Guard?

“There’s a good chance I’ll reenlist. I have a lot going on, but I still have a heart that bleeds green,” he says. “I don’t know that I can live without being part of the greatest fighting force on the planet.”

On Dec. 10 Kennedy will face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 206 in Toronto, which is a last minute change. He was previously scheduled to fight former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 205 in New York City, but Evans couldn’t get cleared by the athletic commission.

But if anyone is prepared for change, it’s Kennedy.

“It’s a great matchup. He’s a very tough, young kid with a lot of talent, but not the most discipline,” Kennedy says. “He misses weight a lot, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hit hard and is one hell of a fighter.”

“I have to be the best me to win this fight but I’m definitely ready.”

Articles

Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

Grunts, eat your hearts out.


As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.

It’s part of an 18- to 20-month experiment that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade is calling the “Über Squad.”

Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.

The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.

The squad is set to be a miniaturized, weapons-focused version of what the Corps is doing with its “experimental battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced in 2016 that 3/5 would serve as a testing platform for technologies ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to robots mounted with machine guns, all while remaining an operational infantry battalion.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
U.S. Marines will get helmets with built-in hearing protection. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Santino D. Martinez)

The unit deployed to the Pacific this spring. As part of its experimental efforts, 3/5 Marines have been equipped with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is carried by Marine automatic riflemen, but service officials have discussed the possibility of fielding the weapon as the new service rifle for all or most infantrymen.

Wade has pioneered similar efforts within 2nd Marine Division. He spearheaded an effort last year that put rifle suppressors in the hands of three different companies within 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to assess how troops fared using them on deployments around the globe.

For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.

“This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”

Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well – so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.

“Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.

He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
A US Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Following the kitted-up squad through training and the Corps’ traditional pre-deployment event, the integrated training exercise, or ITX, at Twentynine Palms, California, will give Marines the chance to assess the value of the various gear elements and whether they add net cost or value to the warfighter.

Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.

“For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”

As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.

While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.

“What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Marines will assess the value of the various gear elements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.

While the technology the Marines will carry is not new or experimental the way a gun-wielding robot is, it has never been issued to individual Marines at the squad level.

Wade plans to survey Marines at the start and end of the effort about their personal feelings and perceptions carrying the gear, and will couple those observations with objective data showing how the squad stacks up against other units at exercises such as ITX.

“We want to know what the Marines’ perception is, do the Marines have confidence in [the gear],” he said.

MIGHTY GAMING

The Navy will recruit drone pilots using video games

Can a video game help the U.S. Navy find future operators for its remotely operated, unmanned vehicles (UxV), popularly called drones?

To find out, the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and Adaptive Immersion Technologies, a software company, are developing a computer game to identify individuals with the right skills to be UxV operators. The project, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is called StealthAdapt.


“The Navy currently doesn’t have a test like this to predict who might excel as UxV operators,” said Lt. Cmdr. Peter Walker, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This fast-paced, realistic computer simulation of UxV missions could be an effective recruitment tool.”

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, UxV have played ever-larger roles in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other missions. Consequently, there’s an increasing need for well-trained UxV operators.

In recent years, the Air Force established its own formal screening process for remotely piloted aircraft operators, and the Marine Corps designated an unmanned aviation systems (UAS) career path for its ranks.

The Navy, however, doesn’t have an official selection and training pipeline specifically for its UxV operators, who face challenges unique to the service. For UAS duty, the Navy has taken aviators who already earned their wings; provided on-the-job, UAS-specific training; and placed them in temporary positions.

However, this presents challenges. It’s costly and time-consuming to add more training hours, and it takes aviators away from their manned aircraft duties. Finally, the cognitive skills needed for successful manned aviation can vary from those needed for unmanned operators.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

StealthAdapt is designed to address this issue. It consists of a cognitive test, personality assessment, and biographical history assessment. The cognitive exam actually is the game-based component of the system and takes the form of a search-and-rescue mission. Each player’s assignment is to rescue as many stranded friendly forces as possible, within a pre-set time limit, while avoiding fire from hostile forces.

If that’s not stressful enough, players must simultaneously monitor chat-based communications, make sure they have enough fuel and battery power to complete missions, memorize and enter authentication codes required for safe rescue of friendlies, decode encrypted information, and maintain situational awareness.

“We’re trying to see how well players respond under pressure, which is critical for success as an unmanned operator,” said Dr. Phillip Mangos, president and chief scientist at Adaptive Immersion Technologies. “We’re looking for attention to detail, the ability to multitask and prioritize, and a talent for strategic planning — thinking 10 moves ahead of your adversary.”

To maintain this pressure, players complete multiple 5- to 10-minute missions in an hour. Each scenario changes, with different weather, terrain, number of friendlies and hostiles, and potential communication breakdowns.

After finishing the game portion, participants answer questions focusing on personality and biographical history. Mangos’ team then crunches this data with game-performance metrics to create a comprehensive operator evaluation.

In 2017, over 400 civilian and military volunteers participated as StealthAdapt research subjects at various Navy and Air Force training centers. Mangos and his research team currently are reviewing the results and designing an updated system for validation by prospective Navy and Air Force unmanned operators. It will be ready for fleet implementation in 2018

Mangos envisions StealthAdapt serving as a stand-alone testing and recruitment tool, or as part of a larger screening process such as the Selection for UAS Personnel, also known as SUPer. SUPer is an ONR-sponsored series of specialized tests that assesses cognitive abilities and personality traits of aspiring UxV operators.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Former Army Ranger and West Point grad Matthew ‘Griff’ Griffin isn’t your average vet entrepreneur. He came up with the notion of building something of value when he was serving in Afghanistan during the early phases of the war, way before there was much of a logistics footprint in place. He saw that the Afghan people were in need of more than protection from the Taliban. They needed basic goods and services.


“I saw Afghanistan as a place to leverage the power of small business owners making a difference,” Griff said.  “The region could benefit from more micro loans and fewer armored vehicles.”

When Griff left active duty he returned to Kabul doing some clinic work, but beyond that he wanted to find a way to assist with the country’s stability by creating a manufacturing base, starting with a single factory he stumbled across on the east side of the capital. The factory had the infrastructure; it was just a matter of what to manufacture.

As he was leaving the factory he found a flip flop on the floor — it was unique and a little funky, the kind of design Griff thought might resonate with fashion-minded millennials. He held it up and asked the factory manager if he could make them, and the Afghan local said sure. Combat Flip Flops was born.

Griff and his brother procured the materials from a far eastern supplier and got everything set up, but they’d no sooner returned to the U.S. than they were informed that the factory was shutting down — a casualty of the volatile socio-economic climate of Afghanistan. But the brothers were undeterred, plus they had a lot of money wrapped up in the materials sitting in the factory in Kabul.

Without any U.S. military assistance — the most effective way to operate, according to Griff — they went back in on a private spec ops mission of sorts, one designed to salvage what they could from their investment and work that had been accomplished already.

“We rented a ‘Bongo’ truck and packed the inventory of flip flops into bags designed to hold opium,” Griff said. “We were riding around the streets of Kabul trying to look inconspicuous, two white guys sitting on a pile of opium bags.”

They stored the 2,000-some pairs of flip flops in a warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul, and as they did a closer inspection of their wares they realized that the quality was such that they couldn’t be sold. They wound up giving all of them away to needy Afghans, which was better than nothing but not up to the standards of Griff’s vision.

They found another factory, and once again secured a supplier (and paid for it using Griff’s credit card), and this time failure came even faster and the factory closed down before any materials for the order of 4,000 pairs had been shipped. It was time for a more dramatic pivot in the business plan.

“We wound up taking the guerrilla manufacturing route and assembling the sandals in my garage in Washington state,” Griff said.

The company’s potential big break came in the form of a phone call from one of the producers at ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show. Griff and a couple of his co-workers will appear on the episode scheduled to air on February 5. (Check your local listings.)

“We’re stoked to bring the Combat Flip Flops mission to the tank,” Griff’ said. “Every Shark has the ability to expand the mission, inspire new recruits to join the Unarmed Forces, and manufacture peace through trade. Over the past few years, we’ve survived deadly encounters to create an opportunity like this. Attack Dogs. Raging Bulls. If we need to jump in the water with Sharks, then it’s time to grab the mask and fins.”

“We’ve all seen and heard Shark Tank success stories,” Donald Lee, Combat Flip Flops’ CMO and co-founder, added. “We set our minds to getting on the show and in true Ranger fashion, we accomplished the objective. We hope this is the catalyst our company needs to provide large scale, peaceful, sustainable change in areas of conflict.”

In 2015, Combat Flip Flops’ sales increased 150 percent over the previous year. In keeping with Griff’s original corporate vision, the company donated funds for schools to educate Afghan girls and cleared 1,533 square meters of land mines in Laos, which keeps the local population — especially children — safer.

Griff has leveraged his service academy pedigree and military experience in incredibly productive ways. His entrepreneurial sense and — even more importantly — his worldview defies most veteran stereotypes and associated bogus narratives. His outlook and drive are distinctly that of the Post 9-11 warfighter — “the next greatest generation.”

Combat Flip Flop’s mission statement captures it:

To create peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict. Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, “Business, Not Bullets”– flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect, and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade.

Watch Griff’s presentation at TED Talks Tacoma:

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA hiring housekeeping staff: immediate need to fill positions nationwide

VA is seeking housekeeping staff to fill numerous, immediate openings at health care facilities in Boston and across the country. Boston alone has 57 available housekeeping positions. Temporary, permanent, part-time and full-time positions are available.

During a time of high unemployment, we offer job security, a regular paycheck, excellent benefits and an awesome mission: giving back to our nation’s Veterans.

Our housekeeping staff support our mission to help Veterans get better fast by keeping facilities clean and safe for patients, staff and visitors. And Veterans who become housekeeping aides will work alongside fellow Veterans, who make up 85% of VA’s custodial staff.


With new openings posted daily, be sure to visit the VA Careers website often for the most up-to-date postings across the United States and its territories. You also can apply specifically for positions in Boston. Transferring between locations is easy and you’ll take all of your benefits with you, including accumulated paid time off.

“VA depends on our housekeeping staff to keep our medical centers and outpatient clinics clean and safe for those providing and receiving care,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of VA recruitment marketing. “Now more than ever, we are grateful to those who show up every day to perform the vital tasks without which our facilities could not operate.”

Enjoy excellent benefits

As a VA housekeeping aide, you’ll receive:

  • Paid vacation time that starts building right away, paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Comprehensive health insurance, including dental and vision care, which may become effective on the first full pay period after you start your job.
  • Generous retirement benefits through the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, or FERS, a three-tier retirement plan that includes a 401(k)-type savings plan with an up to 5% employer match, Social Security and pension.

Child care and transportation assistance programs may also be available. VA employees who have previously served in the military or another federal government role continue to accumulate retirement benefits.

Work at VA today

If you’re looking for a satisfying career working with other Veterans for Veterans, explore our openings for housekeeping aides at vacareers.va.gov.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 things Coasties want you to know about the Coast Guard

Every day, I am so thankful to live this Coast Guard life and to interact with our incredible members and families. I’m fortunate to know the unique and valuable service that the Coast Guard provides to our country — and, I hope that after reading this, you will too!


The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Coast Guard is simultaneously and at all times a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security, and stewardship missions.

www.youtube.com

The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government, and until the Navy Department was established in 1798, we served as the nation’s only armed force afloat.

The origins of the Coast Guard date back 1790 – this August 4th marked the Coast Guard’s 228th birthday. From our earliest days as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service — to today, as the Coast Guard, our service has always been Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to serve our Nation.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

USCGC Northland in Greenland, 1944.

(US Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard has served in every war and major conflict since our founding.

The Coast Guard has a long and distinguished history of service. During the Quasi-War with France, the first “war” fought by the United States, revenue cutters first upheld the new nation’s dignity on the high seas. On April 12th, 1861, the Revenue Cutter Service cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shot of the Civil War. During World War II, the Coast Guard made the first capture of enemy forces by any U.S. service when the cutter Northland seized the Norwegian vessel Buskoe off the coast of Greenland. During Operation Desert Storm, a USCG tactical port security boat was the first boat to enter the newly reopened harbor in Kuwait City, Kuwait. And, just recently, the CGC Nathan Bruckenthal was commissioned in honor of fallen Coast Guard hero, Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal.

The Coast Guard deploys.

As you read this, Coast Guard service members are “standing the watch” — often far from home. Depending on the assignment, members may be gone for several months to a year or more. Many of our members will depart on patrols multiple times per year.

​The Coast Guard serves all over the world.

The Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones — the largest EEZ in the world. The Coast Guard has personnel assigned to eight DoD Combatant Commands and often has presence on all seven continents and the world’s oceans.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Glenn Miller, foreground, displays a forward weapons posture during a tactical weapons handling exercise with the visit, board, search and seizure team aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81).

The Coast Guard is a unique, multi-mission, maritime military force.

The Coast Guard manages six major operational mission programs: Maritime Law Enforcement, Maritime Response, Maritime Prevention, Marine Transportation System Management, Maritime Security Operations, and Defense Operations. And these six mission programs oversee 11 Missions codified in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

The Coast Guard does a lot in one day.

On an average day, the Coast Guard: conducts 45 search and rescue cases; saves 10 lives; saves over id=”listicle-2593975624″.2 million in property; seizes 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana; conducts 57 waterborne patrols of critical maritime infrastructure; interdicts 17 illegal migrants; escorts 5 high-capacity passenger vessels; conducts 24 security boardings in and around U.S. ports; screens 360 merchant vessels for potential security threats prior to arrival in U.S. ports; conducts 14 fisheries conservation boardings; services 82 buoys and fixed aids to navigation; investigates 35 pollution incidents; completes 26 safety examinations on foreign vessels; conducts 105 marine inspections; investigates 14 marine casualties involving commercial vessels; facilitates movement of .7 billion worth of goods and commodities through the Nation’s Maritime Transportation System.

The Coast Guard is small, but mighty!

With approximately 40,992 active duty members and 7,000 reserve members, the Coast Guard is the smallest branch of the armed forces, but everyday I am in awe of the incredible things that our members accomplish. I couldn’t be more proud.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Smilax render honors during the Queen of the Fleet ceremony.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelly)

The oldest cutter in active service, Coast Guard Cutter Smilax, was commissioned on November 1, 1944.

As the oldest commissioned cutter, Smilax proudly carries the title the “Queen of the Fleet” and a gold hull number. What an amazing testament to the talented individuals who maintain our assets!

America’s Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.

Learn more about our Commandant’s Guiding Principles here.

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

​BONUS: The Coast Guard has a Disney connection.

Walt Disney drew the logo for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II (featuring Donald Duck). Walt Disney also created a special design for the Coast Guard Cutter 83359.

Articles

Iran’s home-grown surface-to-air missile shows new military aspirations

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)


The Islamic Republic of Iran officially unveiled the Bavar 373 system earlier this month. The system is supposedly a domestic long-range surface-to-air missile intended to provide area defense against aircraft and missiles.

According to a report by the Times of Israel, images released by Iranian state news agencies showed Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and minister of defense, Hossein Dehghan in front of the system, which bears a strong superficial resemblance to the Soviet-era SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300).

The SA-10 was the Soviet Union’s main area-defense surface to air missile since it was entered service in 1978, and has continued in Russian service since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Depending on the version, it has a maximum range of up to 121 miles. The system has been constantly upgraded, and more modern versions, like the SA-20 and SA-21 are entering service with Russia.

“We did not intend to make an Iranian version of the S-300 — we wanted to build an Iranian system, and we built it,” Minister of Defense Dehghan said. The Iranians had been trying to address delays in the acquisition of SA-10s from Russia, which only reauthorized delivery in 2015 after the Obama Administration made a highly controversial deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran claimed back in May to have operable SA-10 systems.

Iran has been developing some weapon systems on their own. Most notable in this regard are the Jamaran-class frigates. These ships, based on the 1970s vintage Sa’am-class frigates, are armed with a 76mm gun, four C-802 anti-ship missiles, and SM-1 surface-to-air missiles. While nowhere near a Burke-class destroyer in terms of capability (or even the Al-Riyadh and Al- Madinah classes in Saudi service), the vessels are with sanctions lifted, the Iranians could acquire other weapon systems for future vessels.

Iran has also built two fighters, the Azarakhsh and the Saeqeh. The first is a reverse-engineered version of the Northrop F-5E Tiger, a late 1960s day fighter. The second is an advanced version of the first plane and bears a slight resemblance to the F/A-18 Hornet, albeit it is much less capable, with only half the bombload of the Hornet and lacking a multi-mission radar like the APG-65. Iran has also copied the C-802 anti-ship missile and the SM-1, made improved variants of the MIM-23 HAWK, and even reverse-engineered the AIM-54 Phoenix used on the F-14 Tomcat. Perhaps most impressive is Iran’s ability to design not just upgrades to the M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks, but also develop its own main battle tank, the Zulfiqar.

In short, the Bavar 373 is just the latest in Iranian weapons innovation. Last month, high-ranking officials of that regime threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. The development of the Bavar 373 means those threats may not be idle.

Articles

10 Sailors missing after USS John S. McCain collides in South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — UPDATE POSTED AUG. 20, 9:42 P.M. (EDT)


The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

There are currently 10 Sailors missing and five injured.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, Republic of Singapore Navy Fearless-class patrol ships RSS Gallant (97), RSS Resilience (82), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Alnic MC is a 600-foot oil and chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 30,000.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

UPDATED AT AUG. 20, 8:42 P.M. (EDT)

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

A family assistance center has been established. Families can call 011-81-46-816-1728 (international) or 243-1728 (DSN on base).

The ship is currently sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities. In addition to tug boats out of Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Navy ship RSS Gallant (97), RSN helicopters and Police Coast Guard vessel Basking Shark (55) are currently in the area to render assistance.

MV-22s and SH-60s from USS America are also responding.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft. The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined. The incident will be investigated.

More information to follow.

——————-

POSTED AUG. 20, 7:38 P.M. (EDT)

SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was involved in a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, Aug. 21.

The collision was reported at 6:24 a.m. Japan Standard Time, while the ship was transiting to a routine port visit in Singapore.

Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft.

Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities.

More information to follow.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This insane video of a C-130 flying just above a soldier’s head

A YouTube video emerged on May 18, 2018, showing a Saudi C-130H flying very low over a soldier’s head in Yemen, The War Zone first reported.

The video appears to show the soldier trying to slap the underside of the C-130H with an article of clothing, but it’s unclear where exactly in Yemen it was shot, and how much of it was planned, The War Zone reported.


C-130s are large transport aircraft, which are vital to Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen, The War Zone reported. Part of a $110 arms deal, the US sold Riyadh 20 C-130Js and three KC-130 refuelers in 2017 for $5.8 billion.

Watch the video below: