AI experts want to get their tech to troops in the field - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

AI experts want to get their tech to troops in the field

Two Defense Department artificial-intelligence experts testified on Capitol Hill Dec.11, 2018, on DOD’s efforts to transform delivery of capabilities enabled by artificial intelligence to the nation’s warfighters.

Lisa Porter, deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, testified at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.


The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 directed the defense secretary to conduct a comprehensive national review of advances in AI relevant to the needs of the military services. Section 238 directed the secretary to craft a strategic plan to develop, mature, adopt and transition AI technologies into operational use.

“Today we are experiencing an explosion of interest in a subfield of AI called machine learning, where algorithms have become remarkably good at classification and prediction tasks when they can be trained on very large amounts of data,” Porter told the House panel. Today’s AI capabilities offer potential solutions to many defense-specific problems, such as object identification in drone video or satellite imagery and detection of cyber threats on networks, she said.

Deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering Lisa Porter.

However, she added, several issues must be addressed to effectively apply AI to national security mission problems.

“First, objective evaluation of performance requires the use of quantitative metrics that are relevant to the specific use case,” she said. “In other words, AI systems that have been optimized for commercial applications may not yield effective outcomes in military applications.”

Challenges, vulnerabilities

DOD is working to address such challenges and vulnerabilities in multiple ways, she said, most of which will leverage the complementary roles of the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the department’s research and engineering enterprise.

Second, Porter said, existing AI systems need enormous amounts of training data, and the preparation of that data in a format that the algorithms can use, in turn, requires a large amount of human labor.

“AI systems that have been trained on one type of data typically do not perform well on data that are different from the training data,” she noted.

The JAIC’s focus on scaling and integration will drive innovation in data curation techniques, while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will pursue algorithms that can be “robustly trained with much less data,” Porter said.

“The high-performance computing modernization program is designing new systems that will provide ample processing power for AI applications on the battlefield,” she added.

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.

Countering adversarial AI is one of the key focus areas of DARPA’s “AI Next” campaign, she emphasized. “Ultimately, as we look to the future, we anticipate a focus on developing AI systems that have the ability to reason as humans do, at least to some extent,” Porter said. “Such a capability would greatly amplify the utility of AI, enabling AI systems to become true partners with their human counterparts in problem solving. It is important that we continue to pursue cutting-edge research in AI, especially given the significant investments our adversaries are making.”

Three themes of JAIC effort

Deasy detailed the JAIC and highlighted three themes of its effort.

“The first is delivering AI-enabled capabilities at speed,” he said. “JAIC is collaborating now with teams across DOD to systematically identify, prioritize and select mission needs, and then rapidly execute a sequence across functional use cases that demonstrate value and spur momentum.”

The second theme is all about scale, he said.

“JAIC’s early projects serve a dual purpose: to deliver new capabilities to end users, as well as to incrementally develop the common foundation that is essential for scaling AI’s impact across DoD,” he explained. “This means [the use of] shared data, reusable tools, libraries, standards, and AI cloud and edge services that helped jumpstart new projects.”

The third theme is building the initial JAIC team.

“It’s all about talent,” he said. “And this will be representative across all the services and all components. Today, we have assembled a force of nearly 30 individuals. Going forward, it is essential that JAIC attract and cultivate a select group of mission-driven, world-class AI talent, including pulling these experts into service from industry.”

In November 2018, before more than 600 representatives of 380 companies, academic institutions and government organizations at DOD’s AI Industry Day, Deasy said, he announced that the department had achieved a significant milestone: “JAIC is now up and running and open for business.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 amazing military haka that will get your effing attention

During World War II, the infamous German General Erwin Rommel once said, “Give me the Maori Battalion and I will conquer the world.” Maoris were descended from Eastern Polynesians who canoed all the way from Polynesia to New Zealand in the 13th century. That’s a distance of at least 900 miles. They canoed 900 miles.

So if that’s not enough to give you an indication of how terribly awesome they are, there’s the haka:

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The haka is a foot-stomping, tongue lashing, rhythmic dance performed by warriors to intimidate their enemies and proclaim their strength before the gods. It has become more widely known around the world because New Zealand sports teams perform a haka before meeting their opposition on the field.

Modern militaries also perform the haka, and we’ve got some of the best right here, ranked by how intense they are:


Prince Harry performs haka during day with NZ military

www.youtube.com

3. Prince Harry pays tribute

The Duke of Sussex paid his respects to the people of New Zealand with a haka and you can just see the concentration on this face. I’m no mind-reader, but I have no doubt his inner monologue reads “don’t f*** up don’t f*** up don’t f*** up.”

Prince Harry served in the military for 10 years, including two combat deployments to Afghanistan. And that’s just one of the reasons why he’s respected as a bad ass veteran.

Deadliest Warriors In The World: Royal Tongan Marines Battle Cry – Sipi Tau (Kailao)

www.youtube.com

2. Royal Tongan Marines change of command

In this Transfer of Authority Ceremony, the Royal Tongan Marines perform the Sipi Tau/Kailao, a ceremonial war dance from the Kingdom of Tonga.

I wouldn’t have been nearly as bored during American military changes of command if we got to do this kind of stuff. We just marched in circles for hours and IT WAS THE WORST YOU KNOW IT WAS.

2nd 1st Farewell Their Fallen Comrades With A Huge Haka

www.youtube.com

1. 2/1 RNZIR Battalion bids farewell to fallen comrades

“This video shows the soldiers of 2/1 RNZIR Battalion performing their unit haka, powerfully acknowledging the lives and feats of their fallen comrades as they come onto the Unit’s parade ground. It is also an emotive farewell for they will leave via the waharoa (the carved entrance way) for the very last time,” wrote the NZ Defence Force.

This is a pretty powerful way to say goodbye.

Now just imagine if a whole battalion did that before a fight. It’d be unsettling at the very least. And it was. In the fall of 1942, the 28th Maori Battalion played a pivotal role in the Second Battle of El Alamein, which would mark the culmination of the North African Campaign. Rommel’s defeat forced him to withdraw to Tunisia, where the Germans would surrender the following spring. After encountering the Maori, Rommel had nothing but praise for the fierce warriors.

Related: Watch ‘Aquaman’ actor perform the haka with his kids

As an American, this ritual could seem….strange — but that’s kind of the point. The haka was meant to freak out the enemy. It challenged opponents and displayed a tribe’s pride, strength, and unity.

It is a full-body masterpiece of movement and shouts. The details are fascinating, including showing the whites of the eyes, sticking out the tongue, slapping thighs and stomping, and chanting — and as you can see, these guys take it very seriously.

Farewell Haka for Mr. John Adams

www.youtube.com

Honorable Mention:

The young men of Palmerston North Boys’ High School bid farewell to Mr. John Adams, the school Guidance Counsellor, upon his retirement.

Their intensity is completely incredible. Send military recruiters immediately.

Articles

Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.


For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.

But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.

Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.

In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.

It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.

The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.

“Reveille” lyrics

“Out on a hike all day, dear

Part of the army grind

Weary and long the way, dear

But really I don’t mind

I’m getting tired so I can sleep

I want to sleep so I can dream

I want to dream so I can be with you

I’ve got your picture by my bed

‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head

To keep me company the whole night through

For a little while, whatever befalls

I will see your smile till reveille calls

I hope you’re tired enough to sleep

And please sleep long enough to dream

And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”

Click play on the video below and try to sing along.

(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Afghan interpreter detained, threatened with deportation

A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.

Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.


RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.

He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.

Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.

“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”

The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.

Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.

Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.

The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.

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

Articles

This famous pilot flew 50 combat missions as a civilian

Charles Lindbergh, America’s most famous pilot at the time, went on a tour of Pacific aviation bases during World War II and secretly flew approximately 50 combat missions where he actively engaged Japanese planes and was almost shot down despite the fact that he was civilian with no active military affiliation.


Lindbergh had become a pilot in a roundabout way. He took flying lessons in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1922 but didn’t progress to solo flight. Instead, he joined a barnstorming show that summer and worked as an aerial daredevil, walking on plane wings and parachuting off.

Cadet Charles Lindbergh graduates from the Army Aviation Cadet Program.He later rose to the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The next April, he bought a surplus Curtiss JN-4 biplane still in the box, put it together, and tried to fly it. He nearly crashed it soon after takeoff and damaged the wing while landing a moment later. An experienced pilot saw his struggle and offered him a few quick lessons. That afternoon, Lindbergh made a safe solo flight.

He progressed quickly and became an Army Air Reserve pilot and a U.S. Mail Service pilot.

Then, in 1927, Lindbergh took the flight that made him famous. He took off from New York City in a specially modified monoplane and flew for 33.5 hours to Le Bourget Field near Paris in the first solo transatlantic flight.

Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first solo flight across the Atlantic. (Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)

From that day, Lindbergh was known as the “Lone Eagle.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor and the first Distinguished Flying Cross and went on a 48-state tour of America (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states).

Lindbergh was, unsurprisingly, well-liked in the Army Reserve and promoted, reaching the rank of colonel by the 1930s. But he became friendly with the leaders of Nazi Germany, accepting a Service Cross of the German Eagle from Hermann Goering and championing an “America First” policy that would have seen the U.S. sign a neutrality pact with Adolph Hitler.

In the public fallout that followed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked Lindbergh in the press and Lindbergh resigned his commission in the Army Reserve in 1941. He came to regret the decision that December when he was barred from re-entering the service for World War II.

The Pearl Harbor attacks propelled America into World War II. Charles Lindbergh was not allowed to return to military service because of enduring questions about his loyalty to the U.S.  (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Unable to fly as a military pilot, Lindbergh got himself a job working for Chance Vought Aircraft, touring Pacific bases and suggesting ways that military pilots could get the most out of their machines, especially when it came to conserving fuel for long flights.

It was during this tour of the Pacific that Lindbergh began suggesting to the services that he be allowed to participate in combat.

The Marines took him up on the offer first and Lindbergh went on a combat patrol, escorting bombers to Rabaul, Papa New Guinea, in a Corsair fighter. Lindbergh did everything the Marine normally in his spot would have done, including strafing Japanese ground targets.

He flew another 13 missions with the Marines before heading to an Army air unit that flew P-38 Lightings.

The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The parent company of Chance Vought was looking to produce a twin-engined fighter and the P-38 was the premiere twin-engine of the day. Lindbergh pitched that flying with the squadron would allow him to suggest fuel-saving measures and he would be able to evaluate the P-38 design.

He joined the 475th Fighter Group on June 27 and flew five missions before the brass got wind of his presence.

Army Gen. George C. Kenney initially protested Lindbergh’s presence and was considering expelling him until Lindbergh suggested that he could get the P-38’s combat radius from 570 miles to approximately 700 miles while maintaining a 1-hour time on target.

Kenney relented with the stipulation that Lindbergh not fire his guns. Lindbergh promptly ignored the rule but did work on how to best milk every possible mile out of the P-38’s tank without risking the engine.

Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh with Maj. Thomas B. McGuire. (Photo: U.S. Air Force archives)

On July 28, 1944, Lindbergh scored his only aerial victory, downing a Japanese fighter in head-to-head flight during a bomber escort mission. The next week, Lindbergh found himself in the crosshairs as a Japanese Zero nearly shot him before one of the American aces in his group killed the Japanese plane with a machine gun burst.

Kenney heard of both Lindbergh’s kill and his near miss and ordered him grounded. Lindbergh left the 475th, but its pilots had already learned his lessons and were able to extend their combat radius to 700 miles, allowing them to protect more American bombers.

The Corsair was predominantly used as an aerial fighter in World War II and was armed with machine guns. But work by Charles Lindbergh and others allowed it to carry a wider array of munitions, including rockets and bombs, as the war continued. It would later see service in Korea. (Photo: U.S. Air and Space Museum.)

On his way home, Lindbergh detoured to visit Marine Corsair units and helped them devise the best way of carrying bombs on the Corsair. He began with a single 1,000-pound bomb but worked his way up to a 2,000-pounder under the fuselage and a 1,000-pound bomb under each wing.

On at least some of these trials, Lindbergh dropped the bombs on Japanese forces bypassed by the American island-hopping strategy. So Charles Lindbergh, a civilian, flew dozens of flights as a bomber, a fighter escort, and in a ground attack role in just a few months, April to September 1944.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy needs help fixing its $13 billion supercarriers

The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.

The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.

The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.


But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December 2018 that “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me.” He told reporters earlier this year that “we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but it has since been delayed to October 2019.

Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.

Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. “The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA,” a Navy official previously told Business Insider. “The elevators are the long pole in the tent,” he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni.

So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported July 1, 2019.

“We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. “We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators.”

The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will “recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class,” Guerts said.

While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.

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

Articles

Israel is buying copter drones bristling with machine guns

The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.


According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.

(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”

Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.

This has been done before. Last year, the Dallas Police Department used a modified bomb disposal robot to take out a mass shooter who had killed five police officers. The Marines have also begun to use robots to replace humans as “door kickers” in urban operations.

An armed tracked drone with 40mm grenade launchers and a machine gun. (Photo from Qinetiq)

The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.

But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.

The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.

The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.

You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.

Military Life

4 of the best things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

Twentynine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico are just a few of the Marine Corps bases that house those who’ve earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Although the various duty stations each offer their own benefits, none compare to the awesomeness that is Camp Pendleton.

In 1942, the government purchased land in Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service, thus creating Camp Pendleton. Some might tell you there are downsides to be stationed there, but, in general, it’s considered the best. Here’s why.


The Marine Corps Exchange located on the main side of the base. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s not Marine Corps-quality.

It has everything you need

Shopping, recreation centers, and schools are just a few amenities that make the historic property a full-scale, working city. The Camp has been designed and developed to fulfill the every need of those stationed within the gates.

There’re so many activities

The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Universal Studios are just a few of the places you can take your family to visit on a sunny afternoon. The drives will take you typically take around an hour or so, depending on traffic, but since you live so close, you don’t have to spend money on a hotel room — which makes sh*t cheaper.

Visit Camp Pendleton today and notice there’s not a cloud in f*cking skies!

(Photo by Marine Sgt. April L. Price)

That SoCal weather

Do you like doing PT in the pouring rain? Well, if you do, Camp Pendleton isn’t the place for you. According to U.S. Climate data, Camp Pendleton receives an average of 13.3 inches of rain per year. Compare that to the national average of 32.25 inches.

Camp Pendleton is starting to sound pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist 2013

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)

It has its own beach

The beach in Del Mar has places where you can camp or rent small cottages for a few days. These private areas can get you close to the ocean enough to hear waves crash onto the shoreline while keeping you near enough to the base to hear the Marines call out their famous and well-rehearsed cadences as they run by.

It’s a perfect location.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Green Beret was the inspiration for Col. Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’

The Army’s Special Forces command came down to one man during the Vietnam War. His job performance earned him the nod from screenwriter John Milius, who turned retired Army Colonel Robert Rheault’s legacy into something more enduring than he ever imagined. He was immortalized forever by actor Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

Unlike Col. Kurtz, however, there was nothing insane or dark about Col. Rheault.


Rheault shortly after the end of the “Green Beret Case.”

Robert Rheault grew up in a privileged New England family, went to West Point and later studied in Paris, at the Sorbonne. The young Army officer picked up a Silver Star for service in Korea, but it was his time in Vietnam that would change his career forever, devastating the man who only ever wanted the Army life.

In Vietnam, Col. Rheault commanded all of the United States Special Forces. Taking command of the 5th Special Forces Group in July, 1969, it was only three weeks before the darkest incident of his career would put him in the middle of one of the war’s most controversial events – the “Green Beret Case.”

Rheault was an accomplished soldier, a paratrooper, Silver Star Recipient and Korean War veteran by the time he arrived in Vietnam.

The United States had been in Vietnam in force since 1965. By 1969, there were more than a half million U.S. troops in theater. Special Forces A-Teams were operating in 80 or more isolated areas throughout Vietnam. Given their mission and skills sets, the intelligence gathered by Special Forces soldiers was the most solid in the entire war, and the U.S. military estimated that SF components were able to identify, track, and eliminate entire Viet Cong units in their area of responsibility.

At the time, Special Forces operators were in the middle of a project called GAMMA, a similar intelligence-gathering operation targeting the North Vietnamese in Cambodia – and the project was the biggest secret of the war until that point. After SF troops identified NVA or VC units in “neutral” Cambodia, B-52 bombers would illegally hit those Communist targets in defiance of UN conventions.

Rheault commanded a force of Green Berets and South Vietnamese commandos who would lead raids into the neighboring countries to gather intelligence and take out key Communist infiltration, transportation, or storage sites – whatever would cause the most harm to the enemy. Sites they couldn’t take care of themselves were left to the CIA and the U.S. Air Force. The Colonel oversaw five of these “collection teams” and its 98 codenamed agents. It was the most successful intelligence net of the war.

But something kept happening to the Special Forces’ most valuable intelligence assets. They kept ending up dead or disappearing entirely. They began to suspect a double agent in their midst. That’s when a Special Forces team raided a Communist camp in Cambodia. Among the intel they picked up was a roll of film that included a photo of a South Vietnamese GAMMA agent, Thai Khac Chuyen.

He was not long for this world.

After ten days of interrogations and lie detector tests, Chuyen was found to have lied about compromising the GAMMA program. To make matters worse, the double agent might also have been working for the South Vietnamese government. This meant that if the triple agent was released to them, he could possibly walk free, a prospect unacceptable to the Americans. After conferring with the CIA, they decided to handle Chuyen in the way that most double- or triple-agents meet their end. He disappeared.

Chuyen’s American handler, Sgt. Alvin Smith, was not a member of Special Forces, but rather an Army intelligence specialist assigned to the project. It turns out that Smith did not follow protocol when onboarding Chuyen. Smith failed to administer a polygraph test that might have revealed why Chuyen spoke such fluent English, that the agent was from North Vietnam and had family there, and had worked for many other U.S. outfits and left them all in incredible turmoil.

Col. Rheault returns to the U.S. with his wife in 1969.

Smith began to fear for his own safety, having failed the Special Forces and compromising one of the best intelligence networks of the entire war. So he fled, taking refuge with the CIA office in the area and spilling the beans about what really happened to the triple-agent Chuyen. Rheault and seven other officers were arrested for premeditated murder and jailed at Long Binh.

Rheault actually knew about it and lied about the cover story (that Chuyen was sent on a mission and disappeared) to protect the men who served under him. But Rheault took no part in the planning or execution of Chuyen’s murder. Still, he lied to Gen. Creighton Abrams who already had a distaste for the Special Forces. So, when the officers’ courts-martial began, the Army was looking to throw the book at all of them.

Abrams was well-known for hating paratroopers and Special Forces.

The event made national news and soldiers under Rheault’s command were flabbergasted. The colonel had done nothing wrong, and they knew it. Moreover, there was no one more qualified for his position in the entire country, as he was one of very few officers qualified to wear the coveted green beret. But the CIA wouldn’t testify against the soldiers, and by September, 1969, it wouldn’t matter. The Secretary of the Army, Stanley Resor, dropped the charges against the men after succumbing to pressure from President Nixon and American public opinion.

By then, the damage was done. All eight of the officers’ careers were ruined, and Rheault accepted an early retirement. The fallout didn’t stop there. The publicity associated with what became known as the “Green Beret Case” prompted RAND Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg to leak the “Pentagon Papers” to the American Press.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than three million calls

Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has been an invaluable resource for Veterans nationwide — answering more than 3 million calls and initiating the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 78,000 times.


Veterans Crisis Line responders have also engaged in nearly 363,000 chats through the anonymous online chat service added in 2009, and we’ve answered more than 81,000 texts since our text messaging service began in November 2011.

I say all of this to show that from the start, the Veterans Crisis Line staff has consistently looked for more opportunities to better serve Veterans, and that desire to expand our services hasn’t slowed down.

Related: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act took effect in 2016, and we’ve responded with steps designed to provide the best support possible. From employing staggered shift scheduling for better coverage during periods of high call volume to formalizing our intensive training program and incorporating the latest evidence-based practices, we are always working to enhance our ability to serve Veterans.

New call center in Kansas

Most recently, we implemented an automatic transfer system: With the push of a button, a local VA Medical Center can directly connect a Veteran to the Veterans Crisis Line. Soon, we will greatly expand call capacity with the opening of a third call center in Topeka, Kan.

(Photo courtesy of VA)

The results of these efforts have already begun to show, as virtually every call we receive is answered by a Veterans Crisis Line responder with specific training to provide support to Veterans and Service members. In 2017, just 0.3 percent of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line were rolled over to non-VA crisis line operators, and that percentage fell to 0.07 in December.

We’re committed to providing the support that our Veterans have earned. If you’re experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of harming yourself, the Veterans Crisis Line can help. More than 500 responders are ready to answer your call, because they believe no Veteran should be without support in a time of need. You served your country, and we’re here to serve you.

If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to get immediate help.

For more information about the Veterans Crisis Line, visit www.VeteransCrisisLine.net. For more information about VA’s mental health resources, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

The US shuts down Syrian army claims

The U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria has rejected a claim by the Syrian army that a coalition air strike hit poison gas supplies and killed hundreds of people.


A Syrian army statement shown on Syrian state TV on April 13 said that a strike late on April 12 in the eastern Deir al- Zor Province hit supplies belonging to IS, releasing a toxic substance that killed “hundreds including many civilians.”

“The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. He said the coalition had carried out no air strikes in that area at that time.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 13 that it had no information on fatalities in a coalition air strike in Deir al-Zor and was sending drones to the area to monitor the situation.

The claim comes after more than 80 people were killed in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province on April 4 in what the United States and other governments say was a poison gas attack carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The United States responded on April 7 by firing dozens of missiles at the air base where it says the attack originated.

The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have said they believe the gas was released when Syrian government air strikes hit a rebel chemical weapons facility.

Russia says and its ally Russia deny Damascus carried out any such chemical attack. Moscow has said the poison gas in that incident last week in Idlib Province belonged to rebels.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa