The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has said in her first interview with Western media that her infamous son was “brainwashed” into a life of extremism.
Alia Ghanem said in the interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Aug 3 that “the people at university changed him. He became a different man,” referring to the time when bin Laden was in his early 20s and an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
She appeared to blame Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member who became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser at the university.
Ghanem, speaking from the family home in Jeddah, said prior to that time, the future terror leader had been a shy and academically capable student.
“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” Ghanem said.
“You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause,” she said. “I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”
The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the Taliban-led government had protected Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The Taliban was driven from power, and bin Laden, hiding in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was killed in a U.S. raid in 2011.
The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.
It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.
But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”
Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:
Snipers know why there’s some truth there…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)
1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak
Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.
If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.
“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
2. It’s ironic
The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.
We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)
3. Marines have better insults for each other
The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.
The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?
Didn’t think so.
They’re laughing at you, not with you.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)
If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.
Soldiers can’t achieve peak performance when they’re chilled to the bone. So in winter weather, some soldiers may don up to seven layers of clothing. That much fabric can weigh them down. Later, soldiers might find themselves overdressed, now getting hot and sweaty. That sweat, in turn, can turn to ice if the weather is super cold. But it doesn’t have to. Researchers have just come up with a way to lighten a winter warrior’s load and fight the threat of frozen sweat.
They’ve designed a new high-performance fabric. It could become the basis of underwear for troops deployed in places blasted by Arctic cold. Scientists unveiled it here, last August, at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Paola D’Angelo is a bioengineer. She uses principles of biology to solve problems. Elizabeth Hirst is a chemist. Both work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts. Their team got the initial idea for this innovation from some earlier work by a group at Stanford University in California. Their new fabric improves on that earlier research. It also adds an important new twist.
Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D’Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers’ uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D’Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski)
Yi Cui and Po-Chun Hsu are materials scientists at Stanford University. Their team already had been using metal nanowires to create see-through electrical conductors. Such materials could be handy for things such as thinner smartphones, displays on car windshields and more. Teeny, tiny nanowires have diameters at the scale of billionths of a meter.
At Cui’s suggestion, the Stanford team set out to use conductive nanowires in a fabric. It would be “warm, lightweight and breathable,” explains Hsu. That way, it could help reduce the energy needed for indoor heating.
The team got itty bitty wires of silver to form a mesh across cotton fabric. The silvery metal can reflect body heat back to someone’s skin. The treated fabric also can carry an electrical current. So, batteries could deliver extra heat when needed.
Now the Army’s team has been tweaking that idea to work not just with cotton, but also with high-performance fabrics. Athletes, soldiers and others often turn to such fabrics when they’re doing things that call for lots of physical activity or that expose them to extreme conditions.
Examples of these special fabrics include polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics. Their fibers are engineered by people, instead of coming from natural materials, such as plant fibers or animal hair. The Army uses synthetic fabrics (or blends that include synthetics) for gloves, socks and a soldier’s base layer. That’s the “underwear” that sits closest to the skin. And it’s for that layer that this team has been building upon the Stanford group’s work.
Besides getting the concept to work with other fabrics, the Army researchers tested the ability of such fabrics to hold up through repeated washings. And their fabric indeed performed well.
In addition, the Army team packed more fibers onto each area of fabric than the Stanford team had. That denser wire mesh can carry more current and provide more warmth. Three volts of electricity is enough to warm a test swatch that’s 6.45 square centimeters (1-square-inch) in one minute by 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), D’Angelo reports. A typical watch battery is all that’s needed to provide those 3 volts.
Soldiers won’t want their underwear that hot. But the fabric could provide quick heat in a hurry. With the right controls, soldiers could even customize how warm their clothes get.
Super soakers for sweat
That material would still not be a perfect solution for working in cold weather, however. Even if it were used under with the Army’s current winter wear, soldiers can get sweaty as they hike, climb or carry out other tasks. That’s because the synthetic fabric of the base layer is not good at wicking away moisture, Hirst explains. Instead, sweat soaks into the fabric. As water in the sweat cools, it can ice up. That’s “obviously very uncomfortable,” she adds.
To deal with this, her team is working with hydrogel beads. A hydrogel is a type of “super soaker” material that can absorb a lot of water. In this case, the beads can sop up as much as 40 times their weight in water, Hirst says. The molecules of the beads are made from polymers. These are long chains of identical repeating units. A part of each unit in the hydrogel has a segment that attracts water.
Researchers could tweak the hydrogel to act differently at different temperatures, Hirst points out. As a soldier sweats, the fabric would warm. That warming could lead the hydrogel to soak up any sweat, moving moisture away from the skin. Later, when the soldier took off the underwear, it would cool down. Moisture in the hydrogel beads could then evaporate into the air. Now the fabric would be ready to wear again.
Don’t expect to see the new fabric on soldiers just yet. “We are in the basic research stages,” Hirst says. Among other things, her team will play with different ways to attach the hydrogel beads to the wired fabric. Her group also wants to work on a protective coating for the nanowires. That would help the silver resist tarnishing, which could reduce its reflectiveness.
“We look forward to seeing their cloth combining silver nanowire and hydrogel together,” says Hsu. In his view, it makes good sense to combine features that would provide both heating and cooling as needed. “In the future stages of this research,” he suspects, “there might be some trade-off between the total amount of heating and cooling that the cloth can provide versus its compactness and weight.”
In addition to developing better winter underwear, the Army team hopes the new fabric might lead to warmer gloves and socks. After lots and lots of field testing by soldiers, the fabric might find its way into civilian clothes, too. Then anyone could wear it for skiing, winter walks, snowboarding or other cold-weather fun.
The outdoor temperature topped 32º C (90º F) when the researchers unveiled their new fabric in Washington, D.C. Few folks at the meeting were ready for winter. Later, however, many might appreciate that some scientists and engineers had been thinking ahead.
Simply put, the 1529 Siege of Vienna did not go the way the Ottoman Empire hoped it would. Sultan Suleiman I, the Magnificent, was coming off a fresh string of victories in Europe and elsewhere when he decided that the road to an Ottoman Europe had to be paved through the legendary city of Vienna. He boasted that he would be having breakfast in Vienna’s cathedral within two weeks of the start of his siege.
When the day came and went, the Austrians sent the Sultan a letter, telling him his breakfast was getting cold.
When you drop sick taunts, you must then drop sick beats.
The Sultan had a reason to be cocky going into the Siege of Vienna. He had just brought down the Hungarians, the longtime first line of defense for European Christendom. Hungary lost its king and fell into a disastrous civil war which the Ottomans intervened in. The Habsburgs, who controlled half of Hungary and all of Austria at this time, weren’t having any of it and Hungary was split for a century after. For the time being, however, the Ottomans and their Hungarian allies were going head-to-head with Austrian Archduke Ferdinand I, pushing the Austrians all the way back to Vienna in less than a year.
But Europe’s Christian powers were not going to let Austria fall without a fight and so sent help to the besieged city. That help came in the form of German Landsknechts, Spanish Musketeers, and Italian Mercenaries. It was the furthest the Islamic armies had ever penetrated Europe’s heartland. But Suleiman would fail to take the city.
Look, if you want to have breakfast in church, most Christians will happily oblige you.
The torrential rains started almost immediately, meaning the Turkish armies had to abandon its powerful cannons, along with horses and camels who were unaccustomed to the amount of mud they had to trudge through. Even so, they still came with 300 cannons and outnumbered the defenders five-to-one. The allied troops inside the city held their own against the Turkish onslaught as the rain continued.
Sickness, rain, and wounds hounded the Ottoman armies until snowfall took the place of the rain. The Ottomans were forced to retreat, leaving 15,000 men killed in action behind.
The Sultan would never get his breakfast in the cathedral. No sultan would ever get breakfast in an Ottoman Vienna.
DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”
If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.
Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.
Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.
If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.
“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.
“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”
Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.
Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:
The South Korean military is reporting that North Korea launched several weapons into the sea, perhaps a sign that North Korea’s patience with Washington is growing thin.
North Korea launched a barrage of unidentified short-range projectiles early May 4, 2019, local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press release, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency. The weapons, which were initially identified as missiles, reportedly flew out to ranges of roughly 70 to 200 kilometers (43 to 124 miles).
At this time, it is unclear what North Korea has launched. The mysterious projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan.
North Korea’s last missile test was conducted in November 2017, when the country launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-15.
As an apparent good-faith gesture to facilitate bilateral dialogue, Pyongyang proposed a self-imposed long-range missile and nuclear testing moratorium while in talks with the US. Round after round of failed negotiations, which included two leadership summits attended by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, have left both sides feeling frustrated.
The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
In November 2018, after an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon,” apparently an artillery piece.
In April 2019, North Korea tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” reportedly components for a new anti-tank weapon.
A missile launch, while potentially intended to signal a desire for movement on bilateral issues, would not only undermine the president’s claims of progress with North Korea, but it would also risk bringing Pyongyang and Washington back to the exchanges of heated rhetoric and shows of force that had many wondering if nuclear war was just over the horizon in 2017.
The latest weapons launch comes on the heels of a meeting between Kim and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the specific details of which remain murky.
Trump was reportedly “fully briefed” on North Korea’s actions by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been decidedly pessimistic in his view of negotiations with Pyongyang. Bolton has, in the past, argued in favor of using military force.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:
Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.
2. Special operations
While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.
3. Explosive ordnance disposal
The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.
Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.
The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.
6. Combat Engineers
Combat engineers do dangerous construction work with the added hazard of combat operations going on all around them. When the infantry is bogged down in enemy obstacles, it’s highly-trained engineers known as Sappers who go forward and clear the way. The engineers also conduct a lot of the route clearance missions to find and destroy enemy IEDs and mines.
Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.
Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.
9. Vehicle transportation
Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.
11. Artillery observers
Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.
In the opening days of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, ships and aircraft from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, intercepted the Iraqi Navy as it tried to flee into Iran. The resulting battle in the waters between the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Bubiyan Island was one of the most lopsided naval engagements in history, and the Iraqi Navy essentially ceased to exist.
Desert Storm did not go well for Iraq.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off in earnest on Jan. 17, 1991 as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces refused to leave Kuwait, the neighbor it invaded just a few months earlier. When the deadline to leave passed, Coalition forces took action. One of those actions involved massive naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the face of this overwhelming opposition, Iraq’s Navy decided to follow the example of Iraq’s Air Force.
They would immediately gear up, head out, and attempt to escape to Iran and away from certain death. Unlike the Air Force, the Navy never quite made it.
Iraq’s Air Force: Property of Iran.
Allied naval forces were actually the first to respond to Iraqi aggression. A joint American-Kuwaiti task force captured Iraqi oil platforms, took prisoners on outlying Iraqi islands, and intercepted an Iraqi attempt to reinforce its amphibious invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji – those reinforcements never arrived. Instead, the ships they were on were annihilated by Coalition ships.
Any remaining Iraqi Navy ships tried to escape to Iranian territorial waters in a mad dash to not die a fiery, terrible death. They were counting on the idea that small, fast, and highly maneuverable missile craft could make littoral waters too dangerous for heavy oceangoing ships.
Back when Battleships weren’t museums.
In the end, upwards of 140 Iraqi ships were either destroyed by Coalition forces or fled into the hands of the Iranian Navy. American and British ships, British Lynx helicopters, and Canadian CF-18 Hornets made short work of the aging flotilla, in what became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”
The only shot Iraq’s navy was able to fire in return was a Silkworm missile battery, from a land-based launcher, at the American battleship USS Missouri. The missile was destroyed by a Sea Dart missile from the UK’s HMS Gloucester, rendering it as effective as the rest of Iraq’s Navy.
One soldier is proving childhood dreams can come true as she prepares to launch into space for her first time.
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain, and her crewmates, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, are scheduled to launch Dec. 20, 2018, aboard the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month rotation on the International Space Station.
“When you look over the history of human space flight during the past 50 years, it is a relatively short time,” McClain said. “Every vehicle that has been built and every flight that has been taken is an accomplishment in and of itself. We have been flying to the space station for about 18 years and the thing we are always doing at all of our agencies is [asking], ‘What’s next? What is the next step we can take where mankind has never been before?’ For us, that is deep space.
“At the crew level we are fortunate,” she continued. “We have been training together more than a year for this flight. It is actually very easy to forget we are from three different countries and three different places because we are doing the same things together every day. We have the same concerns and the same issues in dealing with our families and we just connect as human beings.”
‘We are all in it together’
“At the end of the day, the Earth is a small place and we are all in it together, McClain said. “The decisions we make affect one another. From our perspectives, rather than taking politics and letting them inform our friendships, we actually take our friendships and let them inform our view of how politics should be and how our world could be.
“The peaceful exploration of space is absolutely a unifying aspect,” she added. “Working with this crew is an incredible opportunity, but it is also an example of what humans can do when we put aside our differences and really focus on what motivates us.”
Army Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne C. McClain.
McClain is a native of Spokane, Washington, and earned her undergraduate degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Additionally, she earned two master’s degrees while studying in England. She was a member of the USA Rugby Women’s National Team and said her experiences have played an integral role in helping her work with the international members of her NASA team.
“We are not just going to the International Space Station to visit, we are going there to live. It will be our home, and we are going to adapt to it,” McClain said. “When I go to Russia, it is absolutely a second home for me right now. I always tell people it is amazing the perspective you get when you get out of your comfort zone long enough to make it your comfort zone.
“It is amazing to see how people on the other side of the world approach the exact same problems yet come up with different solutions,” she added. “Getting comfortable in another culture really helps you understand perspectives and that we are not that different from one another.”
As a soldier, McClain earned her wings as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout/attack helicopter pilot. She has more than 2,000 flight hours and served at every level of Army aviation units at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, and at Fort Rucker, Alabama; as well as in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The Army has given me everything I have as an adult,” she said. “It gave me my undergraduate college education and two master’s degrees. It gave me flight school and test pilot school. But I think, most importantly, the Army gave me really humbling, selfless leadership experience.”
“I went into the Army probably a little overconfident in some of my abilities, and I came out very humbled and very in awe of the people I serve with and with a recognition that I could never accomplish remotely what others can when given the right tools,” McClain said. “My biggest role as a leader or as a member of the team is to enable other people around me to perform at their optimal best.”
Expedition 58 crew members Anne McClain of NASA (left), Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (center) and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (right) pose for pictures following their final Soyuz spacecraft qualification exams at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
(NASA photo by Elizabeth Weissinger)
“I try to be the leader who synergizes the team and tries to recognize barriers to the team around me and knock those barriers down,” she continued. “Our soldiers in our military are some of the most innovative, smart, dedicated, selfless people who I have ever worked with in my life. I am humbled every day just to be in their ranks. I learned from them to trust the people around me.
“Here at NASA our lives depend on each other every day,” McClain added. “I was in a vacuum chamber last week that can be a real threat to your body. These guys put on my gloves and pants while doing a leak check to make sure everything was good. My life was in their hands last week and it will be again in the future. I learned to have that trust in the Army.”
In 2013, McClain attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where she was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. Her astronaut candidate training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training and water and wilderness survival training. She completed astronaut training in 2015.
“If you do the thing everybody else does, you are going to get what everybody else does,” McClain said. “If you want to do something amazing and something great, you need to start being different today and stay dedicated to that. There is nothing you are doing that is not important so you must excel in everything you do.”
During the upcoming mission, McClain and her team will facilitate about 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations. She explained that science experiments conducted in space yield benefits and technology advancements for all humanity and looks forward to achieving more scientific progress.
“The benefit of science experiments in micro-gravity and low-earth orbit are too numerous to just leave and move onto the next thing,” McClain said. “I am overwhelmed at the quantity of tasks we have, in a good way. One of the really neat things about going to the space station for six months is that we don’t specialize.”
“One of the things I really like is getting into academic areas I had no experience with before,” she continued. “I am an aerospace engineer by training and I was a test pilot in the Army. One of my favorite things now is biology and learning about the human body. To me this is really fascinating, and I could have had a totally different career and loved it also.
“What I am most excited about is space walks. We have some ‘penciled in’ for our mission,” McClain added. “It is what I dreamed of when I was a little 5-year-old girl and it is pretty neat to think that maybe in the next six months it could be happening.”
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Thanks to new legislation signed into law Saturday, anyone distressed with thoughts of suicide will be able by next fall to dial 988 to reach a national crisis line similar to 911 for mental health emergencies.
President Donald Trump on Saturday signed two bills into law to help prevent veterans suicide — the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act and the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.
The latter establishes a new Department of Veterans Affairs grant program to promote collaboration with outside entities and enhance suicide prevention services for veterans and their families. It establishes new data requirements to better track potential causes of suicide and new hiring rules to bolster the VA’s mental health workforce.
The VA estimates that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and of those 20, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA, according to a statement by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Moran and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the Improvement Act, which they say will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six major ways:
Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one suicide prevention coordinator in every VA hospital.
Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy, and post-traumatic growth.
Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.
Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.
Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the department manages its suicide prevention resources.
Introduction ceremony for the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Photo from US Sen. Jon Tester’s official website.
“People in distress and in need of timely care should face the fewest obstacles possible to get help,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said after the bill was signed. “The bill President Trump signed today will soon make it easier for those at risk to be quickly connected to a trained responder and will help save lives.”
The legislation is named for Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who retired to Montana after 23 years of service and worked to help veterans find their own paths to recovery before he died by suicide Feb. 25, 2018.
“This is a very proud moment for my brother and our entire family,” said Kim Parrott, Hannon’s sister, on behalf of the Hannon family. “This law will provide veterans greater and earlier access to the mental health care they need by requiring the DOD and VA to work together to bridge the transition between military service and civilian life and conduct research in evidence-based treatments.”
Tester said the new law “combines the best ideas from veterans, veterans service organizations, the VA, and mental health care advocates to deliver innovative solutions that’ll help heal invisible wounds of war through increased access to care, alternate therapies and local treatment options.”
Senators also agreed to try and fast-track a package of nine House bills also related to veterans suicide. That package — dubbed the COMPACT Act — features a measure by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., to make VA mental health care services available to all veterans, regardless of their discharge status, according to Military Times. It also seeks to bolster support networks for at-risk veterans and requires VA officials to reach out to veterans every few years to ensure they are aware of benefits and health care options.
“It’s been a remarkable journey to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing the critical efforts laid out in this legislation to help our nation’s heroes get the right care at the right time for their mental health conditions,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana, in a statement.
The ‘caliph’ of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently lost his son in combat in Syria — but no one really cares about that. The Syrians and Russians were probably hoping to ice his reclusive father, who is probably the world’s most wanted man at the moment.
Unfortunately, the only problem is that the world has “killed” that guy before — several times over. Baghdadi has survived more unbelievable attacks than anyone in any Fast and Furious movie ever.
The reward for killing or capturing Baghdadi currently sits at a cool $25 million, but even offering that kind of reward hasn’t led to conclusive intelligence on where and when to hit the reclusive leader.
Baghdadi gets lucky once more.
March 18, 2015
Baghdadi was struck by coalition aircraft while straddling the border between Iraq and Syria. This led to ISIS’ need to have a serious talk about who replaces Baghdadi if he dies. His physics teacher stood in as caliph of ISIS while he recovered from his “serious wounds.”
In real life, the coalition confirmed the strike happened but had zero reason to believe Baghdadi was hit. Later, ISIS leaks news of a spinal injury on the caliph that left him paralyzed. While the extent of his injuries weren’t really known (like… is he actually paralyzed? And why would ISIS tell anyone?), militants vowed revenge for the attempt on his life.
And he really wasn’t even in the convoy.
October 11, 2015
The Iraqi Air Force claims they hit a convoy carrying Baghdadi in Anbar Province on its way to an ISIS meeting, which was also bombed. After the IAF declared his death, rumors that Baghdadi wasn’t even in the convoy began to swirl.
Someone in ISIS probably died in that airstrike, it just wasn’t him.
June 9, 2016
Iraqi television declared that Baghdadi was wounded by U.S. aircraft in Northern Iraq. No one confirmed this, which, if you think about it, could just happen every day. He’s survived before only to be bombed and then “bombed” again later — just like he did this time around.
Maybe it was a slow news day for Iraqi TV.
Another miraculous escape from U.S. aircraft.
June 14, 2016
Islamic news agencies reported the leader’s death at the hands of coalition aircraft, but the United States asserts it cannot support that claim (but it would welcome such news). The strike supposedly hit the leader’s hideout in Raqqa in an attempt to decapitate the Islamic State.
Tackling the ISIS problem head on.
October 3, 2016
The ISIS caliph was supposedly poisoned by a “mystery assassin” in Iraq and the terrorist group immediately began a purge of his inner circle, looking for the mysterious poisoner. Baghdadi and three others are said to have suffered from the poisoning, but little is known about the aftermath.
Literally never happened.
May 28, 2017
This time, Russia gets credit for icing the caliph. The Russian Defense Ministry investigated if Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft near Raqqa actually managed to kill Baghdadi. The mission of the sorties was to behead the terror group by taking out a number of important leaders, including Baghdadi if possible. The Syrian Observatory for human rights, however, reported that no such airstrike even happened that day.
June 10, 2017
Just four days after allied forces begin an assault on Raqqa, Syrian state television says Baghdadi was killed by a massive U.S. artillery barrage aimed at the ISIS capital while visiting ISIS headquarters in the Syrian city.
He survived so many airstrikes I’m running out of Fast and Furious references.
July 11, 2017
Chinese state newspaper Xinhua reported that ISIS confirmed the death of Baghdadi in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and that a new caliph would be announced soon. This announcement came in the days following the recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces. Kurdish leaders disagree with the assessment.
The manhunt is on.
As 2018 came around, coalition spies were able to track the elusive leader to specific places on three separate occasions. Each time, he was able to slip away. His current status, whether he’s still in hiding or even alive at all, is unknown by most.
While this figure could easily be true, it’s difficult to verify, given Russia’s continual game of misinformation. It’s also unclear if that figure included Russian mercenaries who operate in the country, namely to guard oil fields.