Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

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How Russia guaranteed a Union victory in the Civil War

It’s hard to determine which is more surprising: the British aching to send troops and materiel to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War or that the first “Special Relationship” was between the U.S. and Russia against the British. Both of these facts are true and for the latter negating the former, we can thank one Cassius Marcellus Clay.


Clay was more than just a namesake for the greatest boxer of all time. He was also a politician, representative, officer in the Mexican War and Civil War, abolitionist, and ambassador with a pedigree in badassery. This man once frightened an opponent so much that the man killed himself the night before they were supposed to duel, which is probably the only duel story to top Andrew Jackson’s.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
There was also a lot of screaming. Probably.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he tapped Clay to be his ambassador to the Imperial Russian Court in St. Petersburg. Since the Civil War broke out before Clay left for Russia in 1861 and there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay raised an Army of 300 volunteers to maintain an active defense of the capital until troops arrived.

The Kentucky politician started his life born to a family of planters (who fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812) and became one himself before his foray into politics. Despite being a wealthy planter from Kentucky, the Yale-educated Clay became a staunch Abolitionist, opposed to slavery in any form, which would eventually cost him his seat in the legislature.

He started an anti-slavery newspaper called True American which immediately earned him death threats. He was threatened so often and he was so steadfast in his beliefs, he had to seal himself and his press in his office in Lexington, defending the building with two four-pounder cannons.

While giving a speech promoting the abolition of slavery, he was attacked by six brothers for expressing these views. They beat him, stabbed him, and tried to shoot him, but Clay fought off all six with his Bowie knife, killing one of them in the process.

Clay was so infuriating to his pro-slavery opponents, they hired a political gun to assassinate him. The would-be assassin shot Clay in the chest, but the bullet didn’t kill him. Despite being restrained by the assassin’s friends, Clay drew his Bowie knife and cut off the man’s nose and left ear, then gouged out his eye before throwing him over a wall and into a nearby river.

The Russian-British rivalry raged during the American Civil War. British politicians openly advocated intervention in the war and even had a secret plan to burn Boston and New York in sneak attacks from Canada. E. D. Adams’ Great Britain and the American Civil War notes the U.S. considered Russia a “true friend” and was suspicious of British neutrality while Secretary of State William Seward actively advocated war with France.

While in St. Petersburg, Clay won the support of Russia for the Union cause and convinced Tsar Alexander II to threaten worldwide war with England and France to keep them from intervening on the side of the Confederacy, with whom they both sympathized. The Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York harbor in in September 1863 and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived in San Francisco that October. The Tsar ordered his Navy to be under Lincoln’s command if war broke out.

Clay was recalled by Lincoln in 1862 and commissioned a Major General in the Union Army. He refused to accept the commission unless Lincoln freed slaves under Confederate control. The President ordered him to Kentucky to assess the effect of Emancipation on the population there, as Kentucky was seen as a vital border state. When Clay returned, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He left for Russia again the next year and served there until 1869, where he helped secure the Purchase of Alaska, presumably because the Tsar was afraid of him.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

In his later years, Clay had so many enemies, he kept cannons to defend his home and office. His daughters became staunch Women’s Rights advocates.

Intel

‘Dr. Death’ discovered how to use blood from corpses in wounded troops

Best known as the doctor who pioneered doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill and elderly patients in the 1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s biggest breakthrough was engineering new sources of blood for transfusions to wounded troops in Vietnam.


The U.S. news media dubbed Kevorkian “Dr. Death” for his work in helping patients who wanted to end their suffering die with dignity — for it, he went to prison for eight years after being convicted of second-degree murder in 1999. This is where his notoriety began. Even though he paved the way for a later “right-to-die” legislation, helping create the right of voluntary euthanasia isn’t even his most astonishing accomplishment.

Kevorkian earned the “Dr. Death” moniker long before the media gave it to him.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
This is a face that says he’s very concerned about his nickname.

In his Biography.com story, Kevorkian is quoted as saying he found death very interesting extremely early in his medical career. More than that, he was fascinated because the subject of dying was so taboo. He went on to suggest that criminals on death row should give something back to society before being executed by being the subject of medical experiments. This fascination with terminal illness and death is where he earned the “Dr. Death” nickname — not from the media, but from his peers. This is why he was forced out of the University of Michigan Medical Center.

But he stayed in Michigan and went to Pontiac General Hospital in suburban Detroit. It was there that he heard of Russian teams who pioneered the transfusion of blood from corpses into live subjects, especially during World War II. So, he reproduced those experiments, publishing a paper on the subject in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology in 1961, thinking the technology could be used on the battlefields when no other source of blood was available.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
Like this, except one of those people would be dead.

The Soviets, Kevorkian claimed, had been doing postmortem blood transfusions since the 1930s.

“The idea has an ostensible undercurrent of repugnance which makes it difficult to view objectively; but it also has obvious advantages,” he wrote.

Kevorkian’s method was to remove the blood from the corpse via the neck within six hours of death, a death that would have to be sudden and unexpected — such as one from combat — to avoid postmortem clotting. The dead would be held at a 30-degree angle, drawing the blood through standard equipment. The blood in Kevorkian’s experiments was thoroughly tested to be of a matching type, free of diseases, and clean for transfusion.

The only hitch was the owner had just died — a pretty big hitch. He conducted four experiments on infirm patients who were already looking pretty bad

His first transfusion donor was a 51-year-old male who died suddenly while mowing his lawn. The recipient was an 82-year-old woman who received three pints of donor blood over three days, dying after the third day.

The second donor died in a car accident, a 44-year-old white male. The recipient was a 78-year-old white male with heart disease, intestinal cancer, and congestive heart failure. He received two pints of donor blood but died nine days after being admitted.

Kevorkian’s third corpse donor was a 46-year-old white male who was dead on arrival at the hospital. The recipient was a 56-year-old female intestinal cancer patient with severe anemia. She was discharged from the hospital three days after receiving a pint of corpse blood.

His fourth donor was a 12-year-old boy who drowned suddenly. Two pints of his blood were given to a 41-year-old woman who left the hospital “alert, cheerful, comfortable.”

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
Except for that weird urge to dance to pop music atu00a0midnight…

Kevorkian noted that the presence of increased sugar, potassium, and non-protein nitrogen in cadaver blood is less than optimal in — but not a major roadblock to — transfusions. He also noted that corpse blood is usually “washed down the drain” anyway and no toxins were present in the blood. He wrote:

“Most of these objections are more imaginary than real — a sort of emotional reaction to a new and slightly distasteful idea… Our 8 pints (on a short-term basis) and over 27,000 transfusions in Russia bear this out. Not a single hint of a reaction or other ill effect was observed by us personally on very close clinical observation, despite the fact that 2 of the patients were already moribund and very toxic and none of the 4 had any anti-allergic therapy.

His research and experiments found cadaver blood perfectly suitable for donation to living patients, so long as it was drawn less than six hours after death and used within 21 days. It is perfect for people with severe anemia or those requiring massive, continuous blood transfusions.

The Pentagon declined to fund his research grant.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of US Army tankers have been playing tank warfare video games online to train for combat during the pandemic, the Army said this week.

Tankers with D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division are using the online game “War Thunder” to train, according to an Army news story first reported on by Task & Purpose.


Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.

The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.

3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.

Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.

Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.

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An online video game that 1st Cavalry Division soldiers are using to help maintain readiness while protecting the force from the coronavirus.

US Army/Capt. Scott Kuhn

“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.

“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.

One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.

While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.

“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.

“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.

“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.

The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.

Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.

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

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This Marine veteran is a rising star in the outlaw country scene

It’s important for veterans to follow their dreams after they leave the service. Uncle Sam instilled in us veterans the drive we need to stand on top in this dog-eat-dog world, and it’d be a damned shame to skip out on putting that drive to work. After all, we weren’t told to knock politely on opportunity’s door — we were taught to breach it.

If you want a prime example of what hard work, talent, and dedication gets you, look no further than Gethen Jenkins, a Marine Corps veteran and one of the best damn musicians to break into the outlaw country music scene.


Born to a military family in West Virginia and raised in a rural Indian village in Alaska, Jenkins enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served honorably for eight years, including a 2003 deployment to Iraq. When he finally left the service, he stayed around Twentynine Palms, California, and began pursuing his dream of playing country music.

Jenkins grew up around country. Ever since he was a kid, he’s been playing the guitar and writing his own music. So, becoming a professional musician was the natural next step for him. And so, he set to be like the great outlaw country stars of the past.

He met the guys that would later join in him becoming The Freightshakers at a bar in Long Beach. As coincidence would have it, they were looking for a singer to complete their outfit. Jenkins got the gig the very next day. Where the Honkytonk Belongs, a song from the album of the same name, was their first hit.

Take a listen.

His style is a unique blend of his inspirations, from bluegrass to honkytonk to outlaw. Since their formation, Jenkins and the Freightshakers have played over 1,000 gigs and have earned a number of accolades, including the 2015 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Outlaw Group, the 2017 California Country Awards for Best Male Vocalist and Best Album, and LA Weekly even named Jenkins “2018’s Best Outlaw Country Artist.”

And they’re just getting started. Their next album, produced by the legendary Vance Powell, will be called Western Gold. Jenkins wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. It is set to drop sometime next year.

The song, Bottle In My Hand, was released last summer and is the first single off the upcoming album.

And, while we’re at it, go ahead and listen to this cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man because it’s just too good not to.

The cover works so well because it’s a natural fit. Longtime drummer and songwriter for Skynyrd, Artimus Pyle, also served in the Marines in the late 60s before entering the world of professional musicianship.

That same foundation is what’s going to propels Jenkins’ career, we’re sure of it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran’s Korean-inspired hot sauce will blow your mind

Gochujang is going to be the runaway flavor of 2018, mark my words. For those of you who spent some time in South Korea, you might be familiar with the sweet, spicy Korean pepper sauce. If you haven’t tasted it yet, be prepared to completely forget about Srira… sri… whatever it’s called. And, of course, a Ranger-owned business is leading the way.


If you’re interested in trying it out, you need to get KPOP sauce.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
From KPOP’s Kickstarter page.

KPOP was founded by Mike Kim and Theo Lee. Kim was an Army Ranger and infantry platoon officer who served with distinction in Afghanistan. He and Lee co-founded KPOP Foods and developed the sweet and spicy sauce from Lee’s grandmother’s original recipe.

The two began a Kickstarter project to raise the capital needed to get their business off the ground.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor
Kim and Lee (photo by the Daily Bruin)

We field-tested the sauce at the WATM offices and, after going through five bottles in a week, we decided that we’d follow the Ranger officer to any culinary place he wanted to take us. You can check out the KPOP Foods site for some epic recipes, but we decided to create one of our own.

August Dannehl, WATM’s resident Navy veteran, chef, and host of KCET’s new show Meals Ready to Eat, created a special recipe using the KPOP sauce — one that he says blends the flavors of the NC forests with the fields of South Korea.

This is a crowd pleaser, so bring a couple of friends.

Camp Lejeune NC BBQ Sandwich w/ KPOP and Kimchi Slaw

Ingredients

Pulled Pork

1 (8lb) pork shoulder roast

1 qt apple cider

2 tbsp kosher salt

2 tbsp paprika

2 tbsp onion powder

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 lg onion chopped

BBQ Sauce

2 cups KPOP

5 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp onion powder

1/2 tbsp mustard powder

Kimchi Slaw

2 cup Kimchi(hot)

5 cup Napa Cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1 cup Japanese mayo

Salt and pepper to taste

Also need

Soft rolls w/ sesame seeds

3 cups hickory chips, water-soaked

Prepare

• Prepare the pork by rubbing 1/2 of all of the dry ingredients on the pork and then place the shoulder in a large pot. Pour the apple cider into the pot until it covers the pork. Place the pot in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.

• To prepare the slaw, add all of the shredded vegetables to a bowl. Chop the Kimchi and add to the bowl with the vinegar and mayo. Mix liberally and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.

• To prepare the sauce, add all of the ingredients into a small sauce pot and simmer at very low heat for 45 mins. Add water if reduction becomes to thick. Keep warm for service.

• After the pork has brined in the apple cider for at least 12 hours, remove cider brine and reserve. Prepare your smoker to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, pour in reserved brine, and place onion into water pan of the smoker. Spread remaining rub over shoulder and add to the center of the smoker.

• Smoke pork until fork tender; about 8-10 hours. Baste the shoulder with KPOP BBQ sauce about every 20mins to build a crust. Once falling apart, remove to a large receptacle and let sit for 15-20mins. Once juices have redistributed, pull pork apart using two forks and add more KPOP sauce. Place in warm oven or back in smoker to keep warm.

• To serve, remove slaw and allow to warm to room temp; about 15 minutes. To assemble sandwich, place pulled pork on bun, top with more KPOP BBQ sauce and Kimchi Slaw.

Enjoy!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Finland accuses Russia of scrambling GPS during war games

Finland’s prime minister said on Nov. 11, 2018, that GPS signals in the country were intentionally disrupted during NATO military exercises in the region over the past few weeks and the culprit could have been Russia.

Finnish air-navigation services issued a warning for air traffic on Nov. 6, 2018, due to a large-scale GPS interruption in the north of the country. Norway posted a similar warning about loss of GPS signals for pilots in its own airspace at the end of the October 2018.

The NATO exercise, called Trident Juncture, ran from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.


“It is technically reasonably easy to interfere with the radio signal in the open space,” Prime Minister Juha Sipila told public broadcaster Yle. “It is possible that Russia has been the disrupting party in this. Russia is known to possess such capabilities.”

Sipila, who is a pilot, said the goal of such interference would be to demonstrate the culprit’s ability to do so and that the incident would be treated as a breach of Finland’s airspace.

“We will investigate, and then we will respond,” he said. “This is not a joke. It threatened the air security of ordinary people.”

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Finnish military personnel in formation at the Älvdalen training grounds in Sweden, Oct. 27, 2018.

(Finnish Defence Force photo by VIlle Multanen)

Finland is not a NATO member, but it took part in Trident Juncture, which NATO officials said was the alliance’s largest exercise in decades. Forces from 31 countries — all 29 NATO members, Finland, and Sweden — participated in the exercise, which took place close to Russian borders in an area stretching from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

The exercise involved some 50,000 troops, tens of thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft. While much of the activity was based in central and southern Norway, fighter jets and other military aircraft used airports in northern Norway and Finland.

Russia dismissed Finland’s suggestion that it intentionally interfered with GPS signals. “We are not aware that there could be something to do with GPS harassment in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Nov. 12, 2018.

Finland shares an 830-mile border and a fraught history with Russia. In recent years, Helsinki has moved closer to NATO but stopped short of joining the alliance, in keeping with its history of avoiding confrontation with its larger eastern neighbor.

Russia has warned Finland and Sweden, which is also a close NATO partner but not an alliance member, against joining the defense bloc.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Air Force keeps its biggest planes in the air

In a team, there’s a leader, a lancer, the smart guy and the lovable big guy.

In the Air Force, it’s the fighter jets, the stealth bombers, the drones and the cargo planes … except they aren’t as beloved as the big guy.

Often overshadowed by their more aggressive, quicker and sleeker cousins, the fighter jets, the heavy aircraft are the airframes that carry the US Air Force and sister-service components, and it is about time they get the love they deserve.


Some people tend to think the Air Force is all about the pilots that bring the fight to the enemy and protect America’s freedoms from the sky with sleek, supersonic fighter jets. They’re not wrong, to a point. Fighter pilots in the Air Force do exactly that.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base, in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

But just as an army marches on its stomach, an air force’s mobility depends on the fleet of aircraft and maintainers to handle the logistics of troop and material movement. That is where the heavies and their crew come in.

Aircraft from the modern C-17 Globemaster III and the KC-46 Pegasus — the new kid on the block — to the venerable C-130 Hercules, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker and others play a massive role in the service’s global operations, all with different purposes. Although one commonality they have is this — all of their crew chiefs start their careers with training at Sheppard AFB.

“For their first 23 days of training, its fundamentals,” said Master Sgt. Jason Ricke, section chief for 362nd Training Squadron’s Heavies Flight. “Fundamentals have a large focus. They learn a lot about fighters, heavies, some of the UAVs, bombers cargo, but if they’re going to 135s, the 52, or 130s, they’ll learn the specifics here [in the 362nd Training Squadron.]”

Ricke said students, whether coming in with some experience in mechanics or can’t tell the difference between a wrench and a hammer, will learn the heavy maintainer lifestyle and comradery in the crew chief apprentice course.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

C-130 crew chief apprentice students open the cargo door of a C-130 Hercules at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 20, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

“A lot of people don’t know what goes into being a crew chief specifically. It’s a lot of hours and hard work,” Tech. Sgt. Dennis Neville, 362nd Training Squadron Instructor Supervisor for the C-130 course, said. “We get students with a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Some of them who are excited to be here, some who don’t know what they will be doing yet. That’s something they’ll pick up and go with once they get out on that flight line and once they see their aircraft fly for the first time.”

Neville said there is no better feeling as a crew chief than seeing your aircraft leave with a pallet of supplies or a pallet of patients or even filled to the brim with bullets and bombs and watch it come back with nothing. Knowing that it completed its mission, but not without the help of the crew chiefs.

“Without the maintainers, and not just crew chiefs but maintainers in general, these aircraft don’t fly or at least they aren’t going to fly like they’re supposed to,” Neville said. “[The pilot] will have no guidance systems, no electrical systems, you definitely can’t fly without your engines, you gotta have fuels as well, different shops maintain those systems without them, that aircraft would just sit there and people will just admire it from the ground and it’ll never get to do its mission.”

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

US Air Force crew chief trainees change a tire on a KC-10 Extender at Travis Air Force Base, California, Feb. 7, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

This mission to get these aircraft in the air is exemplified in the crew chiefs that must undergo months of training learning more than three volumes of information. Information pertaining to engine pylons, navigator positions, booms, loadmaster tasks and refueling missions, the crew chief will learn all these tasks, depending on their assigned airframe.

Crew chiefs are part of the maintenance force that ensure aircraft are airworthy and mission-ready so pilots can complete their various variety of missions.

Examples of the wide range of missions for the C-130, one of USAF’s oldest and most reliable assets, can range from humanitarian missions, military supply runs to allies all over the world, transporting hardware like tanks for the Army, to being outfitted into a AC-130 “Spooky” gunship and going to battle with an array of weaponry to wreak havoc on the enemy.

The KC-135’s mission is a bit more streamlined as it is about 300 gas stations with wings. Its mission is to refuel other aircraft during flight so they can continue their mission without landing.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

B-52 crew chief apprentice course students install a drag chute onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

The B-52 is the oldest bomber in the Air Force inventory, having first begun flying in the 1950s. The fortress in the sky is able to fly long distances and carry around 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.

All these flying giants are sustained by crew chiefs that have trained at Sheppard. Ricke said the crew chief job, while daunting at times, because of the age of some aircraft in the fleet, is also rewarding because he works on aircraft and builds camaraderie with fellow maintainers. It’s why he continues to put on the uniform.

“What our instructors instill the most within the students is the brotherhood and sisterhood between all maintainers,” he said.

Ricke said everyone who joined the Air Force, right next to their personal reason, was a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, a desire to be part of a team or a second family. He said being an Air Force maintainer is something a student, whether or not they specifically wanted the maintainer job, will learn to and hopefully become excited about being part of this important team of unsung heroes.

“That’s probably the main things that really kept me around,” he said. “You’ll never make better friends than the ones you make in the military service. When it’s easy and nice anyone can do the job, but when it gets tough and dirty that’s when the best people show up and that’s when best friends make it fun.”

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

From left, Airman Greg Hogle, Airman 1st Class Daniel Miranda, Airman George Michael Singer III, and Airman Brycen Brooks, all B-52 crew chief apprentice course students, in a B-52 Stratofortress at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, July 2, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Ricke said he tries to instill these values into the students who come through that while doing their job, know there’s people who are there that can help pick up the slack as being a maintainer is a hard job. He and Neville also encourage students to try to become flying crew chiefs, a position that makes all the hardships seem worth it.

“The first time they get to do their first TDY when becoming a flying crew chief, that’s really when it gets brought home and you get to see your part of this mission,” Neville said. “The biggest thing is that drive and force, needs to remember, those pilots can’t fly those without us and who doesn’t want to fly over the world as a part of your job. There’s great food all over the world.”

Ricke said the same thing about flying crew chiefs being one of the more rewarding parts of the hard crew chief life and said whether the mission is a four to five day trip just dropping supplies or working on an military training exercise with the Army for two weeks, becoming a flying crew chief is a goal any new crew chief should strive for.

Many of the aircraft in the Air Force’s heavies fleet will be on display at the SAFB Air Show this Oct. 26-27, showing off the often underappreciated heavy aircraft that are the base of our Air Force.

“For all our cargo aircraft, they will be opened up so people can walk through it, go in the flight deck, they can experience it all,” Ricke said. “That’s the thing for us, showing them one aspect of how this little thing makes all this move around, it’s all just a piece of the puzzle and to show them that we don’t just have fighters or bombers, they can learn about the cargo mission, the training mission.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Generals visit Arctic to prepare for future climate battles

A contingent of senior Air Force leaders and other high-ranking officials are visiting multiple locations across the Arctic April 27-May 3, 2019, in an attempt to better understand operational challenges and refine approaches for meeting the changing security dynamics in the region.

“The Arctic has always been a vital, indispensable part of any strategy to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States, our allies and our partners,” said Maj. Gen. Brian S. Robinson.

“While that has not changed, there are new activities and concerns in the Arctic, and our allies and partners are on the front lines of those changes. This trip provides important, firsthand insight on how our partners are preparing for a shifting landscape and how we can best adapt our policies, activities, and partnerships to successfully meet the emerging challenges in the region,” Robinson said.

The group includes Robinson along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski as well as senior Air Force officials Kenneth E. Bray and John M. Trumpfheller. All of them are touring facilities in Norway, Finland, and Sweden to see how Arctic allies and partners of the U.S. view security and operate in the region’s harsh conditions. The trip also offers opportunities for representatives of the countries to discuss joint operations and other activities that contribute to the shared interests and priorities of each country.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Paul McKenna, the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visit units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019. The Arctic is strategic terrain in the defense of our northern approaches and is critical to our national security.

(Photo by Preston Schlachter)

The visit is especially important given changes in the Arctic’s climate and environment, which have increased activity in the area from nations and commercial interests. Also notable is its timing, since the Department of Defense is required to deliver to Congress a detailed strategy for the region by June 1, 2019.

The visit is just the latest effort on the part of the Air Force to develop an Arctic strategy nested within DoD objectives. In broad terms, the DoD’s objectives are to prevent and deter conflict in the Arctic and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies, with the ultimate goal of a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded and nations work together to address challenges.

As an Arctic nation, the U.S. has long been active in the region. Key allies and partners in the Arctic include: Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, all NATO allies and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partners, Sweden and Finland. These nations work together in numerous fora to address shared regional concerns (e.g., fisheries management, shipping safety, scientific research).

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants a more American paint job for Air Force One

Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.

The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.

The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.

Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.

The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.

Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Donald Trump’s personal plane.

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”

President Kennedy and renowned French industrial designer Raymond Loewy sat on the floor of the Oval Office in 1962 with colored paper and crayons to sketch out that paint scheme, according to a book about the history of the jet, titled “Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

In an unprecedented year, the Army continues to help its own

Later this month, our nation will mark a full calendar year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of our fellow citizens and people around the world. The U.S. Armed Forces, being a cross-section of America, have not been spared from the effects of the coronavirus. Across the military, COVID-19 has left a deep mark: PCS moves were delayed, school and childcare has been disrupted, promotion ceremonies and weddings have been put off – and, tragically, many lives have been lost.

In addition to the impact of the pandemic, the U.S. has also dealt with domestic unrest, social change, economic struggles not seen in generations, and the start of a new administration. To say that the last 52 weeks have been challenging and historic would be an understatement. However, March 2021 also marks another milestone, and a fresh opportunity to showcase the best of the ideals of selfless service and teamwork that is the foundation of America’s military: the launch of the Army’s Annual Campaign on behalf of Army Emergency Relief (AER).

AER 79th annual campaign

Most soldiers and their families are familiar with AER, the Army’s own financial assistance organization. Since 1942, AER has been 100% focused on helping soldiers and their families when they face financial challenges. Each year, we support over 40,000 Soldiers with nearly $70 million in grants, zero-interest loans, and educational grants for Army spouses and children. All told, that comes to more than $2 billion in support since our founding, with more than $1 billion of that since 9/11. Chances are, whether you are a single soldier or part of an Army family, you’ve either contacted AER for help yourself or personally know someone that has.

How can AER help? In 2019, we provided $9 million to more than 5,000 soldiers who were impacted by hurricanes, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation hard, we established new relief programs to help Soldiers and their loved ones navigate childcare, remote education, PCS moves, and other critical financial needs caused by the pandemic, including expanded eligibility for U.S. Army Reserve & National Guard Soldiers. Overall, we have more than 30 categories of assistance; whether it’s personal vehicle repair, emergency travel, damage to your house from natural disasters, or funeral expenses caused by the loss of a loved one, we help soldiers deal with life’s unexpected costs. What’s more, all of our financial assistance is provided either as a grant or a zero-interest loan – unlike the payday lenders near Army installations that prey on soldiers, charging up to 36% interest (and sometimes higher) on short-term loans.

Even though our mission supports the global Army team, AER receives no funding from taxpayer dollars. Every dollar we provide to those in need is from donations by soldiers (active duty and retired), the American public, and industry partners. That’s where the Annual Campaign comes in— the main goal of the campaign is to raise awareness across the Army Team of AER’s benefits, while offering soldiers the opportunity to support their fellow brothers and sisters in arms by making a donation.

The many difficulties we’ve faced as a nation over the past year has re-emphasized the importance of supporting those who practice selfless sacrifice on behalf of others. That’s why the theme of this year’s Annual Campaign is “A Hand-Up for Soldiers”. Details on the campaign, which kicked off March 1 and runs through May 15, can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign. Donations can be made online, through an installation’s AER Officer, or your Unit Campaign Representative.

AER isn’t a giveaway program; it’s a hand-up for soldiers and Army families experiencing temporary financial need. We help soldiers get back on their feet and back in the fight; as the Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville says, “People First – Winning Matters”.  Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength! Let’s work together these next two months and make the 2021 Annual Campaign a success.


Retired Lt. Gen Raymond V. Mason is the Director of Army Emergency Relief. The Army’s Annual Campaign runs from March 1st through May 15th across all installations.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Get ready to see some familiar GOT faces in ‘Lord of the Rings’ series

Amazon has announced the cast details for its upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series, which includes two “Game of Thrones” alumni.

Robert Aramayo joins the cast in the role previously vacated by “Midsommar” actor Will Poulter, who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. This is said to be the protagonist role.


In HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Aramayo played a young Ned Stark, which offers up another “Lord of the Rings” connection as Sean Bean played the older Ned in “Game of Thrones” and Boromir in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Sean Bean played Ned Stark and Boromir.

(HBO/Warner Bros./New Line Cinema)

Joseph Mawle is the other “Game of Thrones” actor who will now feature in Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series, although it is unknown what role Mawle will have in the show.

Mawle played Benjen Stark in “Thrones,” brother of Ned — so it seems the Starks are heading to Middle Earth.

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Joseph Mawle played Benjen Stark in “Thrones.”

(HBO)

The series will be set during the 3,441-year period, known as the Age of Númenor, or the Second Age.

The cast also includes Tom Budge, Markella Kavenagh, Sophia Nomvete, and Nazanin Boniadi, who stars in ‘Bombshell’ this year. As reported by Variety, the only cast member with a named character attached to them at this time is Morfydd Clark, who will be playing a young Galadriel.

Filming for the series is set to take place this year ahead of a 2021 release.

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

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