The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?

Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.

“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.


Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.

Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.

The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Staff Sgt. Christian King-Lincoln tries on a headset that is providing neurostimulation from a wireless transmitter behind him. The stimulation is not going through his ear pads, but instead through an array of small flexible inducers along the adjustable headband.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)


Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:

— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.

— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.

— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.

— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.

“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.

“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”

Creating high performers

Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.

The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.

“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.

Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.

The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Dr. Aaron Gardony, cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, points out the type of headset that is normally used for neurostimulation research.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)

Innovative partnership

The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.

The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.

The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.

About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.

The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.

The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.

Special ops interest

The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.

Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.

In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.

Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Larry Nassar’s veteran judge

Veterans are a very outspoken group. When there is an injustice in the world, it’s beautiful to see a veteran take the reins to mend the situation. That is exactly what happened when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina presided over the sentencing of a man who officials have called, “the most prolific child molester in history.”


Aquilina served twenty years in the Michigan Army National Guard, eventually retiring at the rank of Major. She became the first female officer in the state’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) and earned the nickname, “Barracuda Aquilina.” Her hardcore reputation persisted after she put away her combat boots for the last time and has served her well throughout her legal career. She said in a 2014 Legal News article,

I don’t take no for an answer. I don’t let anyone create a mold for me. I’m going to make my own mold. I stand up for people and say, ‘we’re going to do what’s right.’

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Very much the veteran mentality after leaving the service. (Image via Lansing State Journal)

She is no stranger to high-profile or controversial cases. In 2006, she presided over the case of Ricky Holland, which involved the murder of a 7-year old child with a hammer. In 2013, she ruled that the Detroit bankruptcy violated the Michigan Constitution and state law, and sent an advisory memorandum to President Obama. She made national headlines recently because of her “Barracuda” attitude while presiding over the Larry Nassar case.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Judge Aquilina’s face speaks for all of us when he tried to get out of hearing victim testimony. (Screengrab via YouTube)

During the case, she allowed every single one of the over 150 young women and girls to address the court and Nassar. He wrote a six-page letter to the judge stating that it was hard for him to listen to his accusers in court. Judge Aquilina simply shook her head and said, “you may find it harsh that you are here listening, but nothing is as harsh as what your victims endured for thousands of hours at your hands.” He defended his behavior and claimed he was manipulated into a guilty plea in November.

For much of the sentencing, she remained calm and collective, listening intently to each and every accuser that stepped forward. After much back and forth between her and Nassar, with Judge Aquilina’s wit being much sharper, she sentenced him to 175 years in prison that will follow his 60 years for pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

After announcing the prison terms, she famously said,

I just signed your death warrant. As much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.
MIGHTY CULTURE

These vets hunt down paranormal forces on Army posts

Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.

Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.

These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.


The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.

But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,

“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)

One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.

On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.

While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.

Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.

The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this rarely seen footage of the assault on Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill, also known as Hill 937, was a 10-day battle that was considered one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam war. The battle resulting in over 400 U.S. casualties and sparked controversy back home.


Dubbed Operation Apache Snow, the mission was to disrupt the North Vietnamese from penetrating Laos and cutting them off from access to the key cities of Da Nang and Hue.

General Melvin Zais, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, ordered allied forces to commence an assault on a well-fortified North Vietnamese 29th Regiment on May 10, 1969.

The hill was considered by many not to have any real significant military value.

Related: Rarely seen footage from the Battle of the Bulge

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
Soldiers from 101st Airborne carry a litter to retrieve one of the wounded brothers.

Both sides took heavy casualties during the fighting in the Ap Bia mountains, which includes heavy airstrikes, massive waves of artillery bombardments, and nearly of a dozen ground assaults. Most of the battle took place during the Vietnamese monsoons.

At one point, reports indicated a friendly-fire incident involving U.S. troops and the gunships that were meant to provide air support.

Also Read: Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

The battle that took place at Hill 937 was referred by reporters covering the story as “Hamburger Hill.” After the 10 brutal days of fighting, allied forces successfully secured the hill.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
U.S. troops positioned on the top of Hill 937.

Unfortunately, just five days after the U.S. claimed victory on the hill, troops abandoned the remote location, forcing many to wonder why so many died to take a hill that was abandoned shortly after victory.

The bloody attack was recreated and brought to the big screen in 1987’s “Hamburger Hill” directed by John Irvin.

Check out Caesar Built A Bridge Once’s video to see this intense Vietnam war combat footage for yourself.

CaesarBuiltABridgeOnce, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy takes out a drone in new weapons test

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.

The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.

A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.


The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.

Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.

That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.

The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.

The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.

The problems have even left some members of Congress reluctant to bless future multi-carrier purchases, a process that some say saves the service billions.

Navy and Raytheon officials are planning to conduct more live-fire events this year as they continue putting the Ford’s integrated combat system to the test.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

You can win a 2019 Tesla courtesy of Rob Riggle & friends

Big Slick is giving away a Tesla in support of Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

If you haven’t heard of Big Slick, it’s a fundraiser designed to raise support for the cancer center at Children’s Mercy, one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. In 2010, U.S. Marine Rob Riggle teamed up with Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis to host a poker tournament, raising over $120,000 in their first event.

Since then, they’ve recruited more help and raised over $8 million through sponsorships, a live auction, and online fundraising campaigns like this one, hosted by Prizeo.

Here’s how to win:


Win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 plus “Junk in the Trunk”

www.youtube.com

Win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 plus “Junk in the Trunk”

For only a donation in support of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, you can win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 with celebrity “junk in the trunk” (surprise goods from David Koechner, Eric Stonestreet, Rudd, Sudeikis, and Riggle himself).

The more money you donate, the more entries you get in the raffle.

And this isn’t one of those things where you have to pay taxes on your new amazing car — it’ll be delivered to your (CONUS) door with all sales tax and delivery fees covered.

Children’s Mercy is a not-for-profit hospital that provides care for children from birth through the age of 21, giving comprehensive care to nearly 2,000 children each year with childhood cancers, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, and other blood disorders.

Did you expect anything less from Rob Riggle?

Also read: Rob Riggle to host ‘InVETational’ golf tourney to benefit Semper Fi Fund

Rob Riggle Is Golfing For Veterans

www.youtube.com

Rob Riggle Is Golfing For Veterans

Let’s not forget that the man also hosts an annual InVETational Golf Classic to raise thousands of dollars for critically wounded veterans and their families.

And this is in between shooting films like 12 Strong and hosting television shows like Holey Moley. The man knows how to work. I mean, he literally cleared 9/11 rubble by hand.

As reported in our conversation with Riggle, “for a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.”

So it’s no surprise that in addition to working on his professional career as an entertainer, Riggle devotes his time to helping others.

Join in on the fight and donate to Children’s Mercy. Who knows? You might just win an incredible new car!

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to counter a punch like a Marine

While the Marine Corps has developed a well-earned reputation as a fierce opponent on the battlefield, that reputation wasn’t cultivated by only recruiting tenacious warfighters. Like every branch, the Marine Corps’s new recruits represent a cross-section of the American people, with men and women of varying ages and widely diverse backgrounds funneled into a training process that can be so grueling and difficult, some have referred to it as a “meat grinder.” For the rest of us, this training process is called the “accession pipeline,” – where kids from the block enter, and occupationally proficient professional warfighters emerge.

All Marines earn a tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program before completing recruit training, and while that’s akin to earning a white belt in most martial arts disciplines, the Marine Corps is one place where your ability to actually use your martial arts training in a fight is considered the priority.


The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

This isn’t really how most self-defense classes at the mall tend to play out.

(USMC Photo by LCpl Ismael Ortega)

Martial arts in the Marine Corps is not a means to develop one’s self-esteem, a fun way to get active, or even about learning self-defense in bar fights. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is, in many ways, an abbreviated introduction to the most brutal parts of warfare: where death is the most likely outcome, and the struggle is merely to decide which of you it comes for. While the techniques taught in the earliest belts (tan and grey) may seem simplistic, the intent is to provide all Marines with the basic building blocks required to bring others to a violent end, and of course, to try to prevent others from doing the same to you.

And if you want to win a fight, one of the first things you need to learn how to do is stop your opponent from force feeding you his fists. Hands have a nasty habit of moving faster than heads, so the boxing method of bobbing and weaving away from incoming strikes isn’t a feasible introduction to defense. Instead, the Marine Corps leans on the same approach to a rear hand strike as it would an ambush: once you see it coming, you attack into it.

The rear hand punch tends to be the most devastating of upper body strikes, and it can manifest in a number of ways. The same fundamental mechanics of using your legs and torso to swing your rear fist like a hammer at your opponent can make a right cross powerful enough to send you reeling, or give a hook the weight it needs to break a jaw. So when you see it coming, the appropriate response is to step into it at a 45-degree angle, closing the distance between your opponent and yourself, muting some of its delivery and re-orienting the point of impact on both your body and the arm of your opponent.

EXECUTE A COUNTER TO A ROUND PUNCH

youtu.be

As you step into your opponent’s extending arm, your hands should already be raised to protect yourself. Make contact with the inside of your opponent’s swinging arm with the meaty portion of your left forearm while keeping your right hand up to protect your head. Once your left arm has made contact with your opponent’s right, his punch has been defused, but worse for him, his rear hand is now extended out to your side, leaving his head and torso open and undefended on that side.

At that point you can quickly wrap your left arm around your opponent’s extended arm at the elbow joint, creating a standing armbar you can use for leverage to deliver hammer strikes to your opponent’s face and head. You can also transition toward further joint manipulations, or you may maintain control of the arm and sweep your right heel as you drive your opponent to the ground, landing him face down while you maintain an armbar or basic wrist lock. For any but the most motivated of opponents, just about each of these results could feasibly be the end of the fight.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Maintain positive control of your opponent’s wrist as you follow him to the ground to ensure he can’t scramble away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)

The important elements of this technique to master are simple, but fast moving. Look for your opponent to telegraph a rear hand or round punch with their dominant hand. As they begin to throw it, step forward and into that punch, meeting your opponent’s arm with your own (if they throw a punch on your left, your left arm makes contact, on the right, your right arm does). The force of that impact alone should be enough to knock them a bit off balance, and all there is left to do is follow up with at least three techniques meant to harm or subdue the attacker.

And of course, if you’re in a multiple opponent situation, it’s imperative that you maintain situational awareness and create separation from your attacker as quickly as possible to prepare for the next attack. But if it’s just you and him… feel free to wrench on that arm a bit as you wait for law enforcement to arrive–ya know, just to make sure it doesn’t do him any good in lock up.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Could Russia invade Eastern Europe and win?

The folks over at The Infographics Show have asked a question that’s come up repeatedly over the last few years: If NATO and Russia actually get into a full-on war, could Russia successfully invade Eastern Europe and hold it for its own use or use it as a bargaining chip for greater power at the peace table?


Can Russia Invade Europe?

www.youtube.com

(Jump to 6:30 in the video to skip the intro and political discussions and go straight to the potential military campaigns.)

For countries that were part of the U.S.S.R., this can be a true, existential threat. Ukraine used the be the heart of Russia’s shipbuilding industry, but most of the country doesn’t want to return to Russian rule. And Estonia first earned its independence in 1918, but then spent decades under Nazi and Soviet rule during and after World War II. It’s not exactly nostalgic for that period.

And with Russia becoming even more aggressive than it was in the already-tense last few years, countries both inside and outside of NATO are looking westward for strength and comfort.

So, if Russia goes from seizing Ukrainian ships on the Sea of Azov to seizing cities in Lithuania and Latvia, what happens next?

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, while practicing austere landings and take offs during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

In their video above, The Infographics Show postulates that Russia will attempt to seize Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia before invading Finland, Sweden, and Norway. NATO has openly practiced for just this scenario, but Russia would enjoy large advantages in the early days of such a conflict.

While the U.S. military is much larger and more technologically capable than Russia’s, it would take weeks or months to build sufficient strength in Europe for NATO to seize back the territory if Russia was successful in its early drives. In the meantime, Russia would build up its defenses in seized territory, just like it did when it grabbed Crimea from Ukraine.

The real question at this point becomes one of political will and nuclear brinkmanship. Crimea is part of Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, so fighting a resurgent Russia for it would’ve required a lot of political will from nations that weren’t obligated to protect it.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

American and European tanks wait for their turn to compete in Operation Iron Tomahawk, a shoot-off between tank crews in Latvia.

(U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Haynes)

Fighting for Estonia, on the other hand, is a requirement for NATO, but it still takes a lot of political will to send American tankers to Europe. And Russia may seek the peace table right as NATO builds sufficient combat power, offering to give back territory in some countries if it can keep what it’s already gained.

See the video above to see how one situation, an invasion of Eastern Europe and the Baltics, in which Russia seeks to gain some territory and then end the fighting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Yes, you can aim at enemy troops with the .50-cal.

It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).


The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)

But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?

That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.

And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)

Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…

…Except, hear that? That’s the sound of no CID agents coming to arrest these overly bold war criminals. Probably because shooting an enemy combatant with a .50-cal. is not, at all, illegal.

The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.

If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers

Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.

(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)

Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.

Germany never lodged a formal case against the shotgun, but there are a number of weapons that are, officially, illegal under rules against unnecessary suffering. Weapons that use plastic fragments or pellets to wound and kill the enemy, many types of landmines, some types of torpedoes, etc., have all either been banned or partially banned. But there’s no real case against the .50-cal.

So, how did this misinformation campaign get started? It’s not completely clear, but there is a rumor it began in Vietnam.

American logistics at the time were limited, especially for troops deep in the jungle. As the story goes, troops far forward were using their .50-cal. rounds to shoot at any and everything in the jungle that sounded threatening. Commanders prevented ammo shortages by ordering their men to use the .50-cal. ammo only to engage light vehicles.

This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.

But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Navy freaked out when it got rid of bell-bottom pants

Some uniform changes are welcome in the U.S. military (goodbye, ABUs!) and some are very much not. There are uniform features troops love because it actually makes their jobs easier. There are fabrics that are easier to wear, and there are styles that just became iconic over time. For instance, imagine if the Marine Corps suddenly changed their dress blues to an all-white uniform to match the Navy whites – there would be rioting from Lejeune to Pendleton.


That’s almost what happened when the Navy ditched the bell-bottoms on its dungarees.

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That just does not look like a good work uniform.

The U.S. Navy had been sporting the flared cuffs on its work uniforms since 1817. The idea was that sailors who would be working on the topmost decks, who were presumably swabbing it or whatever sailors did up there back then, would want to roll their pants up to keep them from getting wet or dirty. Sailors were also able to get out of their uniforms faster in the event that they had to abandon ship for some reason.

When in the water, then-woolen pants even doubled as a life preserver. Now, that’s a utility uniform. In 1901, the fabric of the uniform was changed to denim, and the Navy’s dungarees were born. They still sported bell-bottom pants.

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The Navy will still find ways to look absurd to the other branches, don’t you worry.

Bell-bottoms even appeared on the sailors’ dress uniform as far back as the early 19th century. The Navy got rid of the bell-bottom on its dungarees at the turn of the 21st Century, some 180 years later. In 1999, the Navy phased out the pants with flared 12-inch bottoms for a utility uniform that features straight-legged dark blue trousers. Sailors were not thrilled.

“They are trying too hard to make us look like the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Petty Officer Chad Heskett, a hospital corpsman on the frigate USS Crommelin. “It’s taking too much away from tradition. It will cost the Navy more to buy these new uniforms.”

By 2001, the bell-bottoms were gone.

Heskett wasn’t alone in his disdain for the new uniforms. The loss of “tradition” was echoed throughout the Navy, as is often the case with new uniforms. The Navy was adamant about the change, however, and the new utility uniforms were phased in on schedule. It turned out to be a good decision.

For tradition, the Navy will always have its crackerjacks.

Articles

The Marines are testing this machine gun-wielding death robot

The Marine Corps is actively testing a robotic system outfitted with sensors and cameras that can be armed with an M240 machine gun.


It’s called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, and it looks crazy.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

Just last week, infantry Marines from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were taking the robot out on training patrols at Camp Pendleton. Later this month, they’ll head to the Marines’ desert training site at 29 Palms, California to fire off plenty of live rounds.

If it were actually fielded, MAARS would complement the 13-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering up a tracked vehicle that can zone in on targets with a mounted M240B machine gun firing 7.62mm NATO rounds.

It can carry about 400 rounds, or it can be reconfigured to tote a 40mm grenade launcher instead. The Qinetiq-built robot only hits 7 mph for a top speed (which is fast enough for troops who are walking alongside it) and can run for 8 to 12 hours.

Of course, it does have some limitations. It’s not totally hands-free, since operators need to hand reload it, and it could be stopped by rougher terrain. But MAARS is just one of many technologies the Corps is testing for its Warfighting Laboratory in an effort to field the “Marine Corps of 2025.”

Among other technologies that the Corps is considering are a fully-autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack.

The MAARS also has a big brother nearly five times its weight that can be outfitted with an M134 minigun.

This is the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, or MAARS for short. It’s an unmanned ground vehicle that can be outfitted with a medium machine gun or a grenade launcher.

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Qinetiq

Infantry Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines were testing it out last week to see how it would mesh within their unit and work alongside them.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Frank Cordoba

They control it with the Tactical Robotic Controller, which lets them see what it sees, and target the bad guys. The TRC can also control a bunch of other gadgets, such as drones and ground sensors.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps

Besides being an awesome death-dealing robot, it can also drag wounded Marines off the battlefield if they are injured.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps

It also has a much bigger brother: The Robotic Vehicle Modular/Combat Area Robotic Targeting (RVM/CART). Besides its size, it can pack a lot more firepower with an M134 Minigun.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps

With an insanely high rate of fire of 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute, that makes it the grunt’s best friend. Marines can also mount a laser on top to target enemies for precision airstrikes.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps

Here’s everything it can do right now.

The Army looks at neurostimulation to enhance its soldiers
US Marine Corps

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52H is finally getting new radar-system upgrades

Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.

The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.


Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.

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A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.

Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.

The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.

Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.

The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”

Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.

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A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.

The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.

With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.

China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.

For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.

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

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