I was lucky enough to fly a JET-O (Jet Orientation) flight as a cadet in a T-37, and while my pilot was generous enough to take me on some thrilling barrel rolls (I did *not* throw up, thank you very much), that sortie was nothing compared to this aerial demonstration.
Anyone with VR sets can take this video to awesome heights, but even without, it’s pretty breathtaking.
Blue Angels fly fighter aircraft that are maintained to near combat-ready status — except for the paint scheme and the removal of weapons. More specific modifications include the use of a specific smoke-oil for demonstrations and a more precise control stick.
“Precise” is the operative word here. Check out the video below to see for yourself — butt clenching begins around 2:10. You can drag your mouse or move your phone to look around.
Whether it’s salt tossed over the shoulder after the shaker is spilled or not walking under a ladder, most superstitions are pretty harmless. But sometimes superstitions cause Communist rebels to abandon their camp or a revered Navy admiral to refuse to sail.
Here are 6 stories of wartime decisions that hinged on superstition:
1. Rudolph Hess’s failed diplomatic mission to England happened after a series of dreams.
Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s favorite sycophant right up until he flew himself to Britain on May 10, 1941 to negotiate a peace as Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Historians argue back and forth about whether Hess did his mission under Hitler’s orders or on his own.
But two people were definitely consulted; an astrologer and a dreamer. The astrologer advised that May 10 was a good date to depart while a friend of Hess’s told Hess that he’d dreamed of Hess’s success on three different nights.
It turned out the dreams were wrong. The British captured Hess soon after he landed and kept him in prison for the rest of his life.
2. The feared Red Baron wouldn’t fly without his lucky scarf and jacket.
Just the appearance of the Red Baron, Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, could change the tide of an air battle.
Credited with 80 victories in the air, he was a formidable aviator who wouldn’t enter the fray if he couldn’t find his lucky scarf and jacket. In spite of this, both the jacket and scarf were shot through, and the Baron was wounded by a bullet to the skull while wearing them.
3. American PSYOPS officers created vampires to vanquish communist rebels.
Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale was a U.S. Army psychological operations officer sent to help the Philippine government defeat communist rebels. Lansdale capitalized on a history of superstitions in the Philippines, specifically one that centered around the “asuang,” a shapeshifting vampire.
Rebels soon fled the area and the government forces took it for themselves.
4. Grant’s superstitions led to victory.
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s success in the Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee led to the Siege of Petersburg from 1864 to 1865 and the Lee’s eventual surrender in Apr. 1865. Grant’s victory came despite the fact that he lost every battle in the campaign.
How? By refusing to retreat or withdraw, decisions that some have chalked up to Grant believing that a person shouldn’t retrace their own steps. Where previous forays into the area by other generals had ended with retreats, Grant was forced by his superstitions to lead his army any direction but back. This kept him and his men in the fight until they were finally able to outmaneuver Lee.
5. British magician Maskelyne may have created a massive scarecrow to scare Italian peasants.
The British magician Jasper Maskelyne offered his professional services to his nation when World War II broke out. As Maskelyne was known to exaggerate his actions in the war, tales surrounding him have to always be taken with a grain of salt.
But, his claims from the Allied invasion of Italy suggest that Maskelyne helped the Allies take over rural Italy by building a 12-foot tall scarecrow of fire and metal that convinced some superstitious Italians that the devil was fighting side-by-side with the British. The Italians locked themselves in their homes, leaving the British to continue north unmolested.
6. Adm. Halsey demanded his task force number and sailing date be changed because the number 13 is unlucky.
Adm. William Halsey Jr. was an ensign on the USS Missouri on April 13, 1904 when an accidental fire burned and suffocated 31 men to death. After that, he was very superstitious about the number 13.
So, when he was assigned commander of the new Task Force 13 that was set to sail on Friday, February 13, Halsey sent one of his officers to protest. The command relented and changed the task force designation to 16 while promising that an oiler would be late, delaying TF 16’s departure until Feb. 14.
Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.
It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.
That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
1. Nuclear weapon
A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.
Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)
During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.
A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.
Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.
Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.
Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.
Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.
For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.
All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.
5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233
Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.
U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.
U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.
Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).
6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240
Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.
Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.
Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.
Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.
7. Yellowcake uranium
Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.
The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.
The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.
The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.
Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.
9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.
HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).
10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)
Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).
It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)
A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.
The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.
A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984
11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.
Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.
12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)
Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).
These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.
13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)
CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.
Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.
Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.
Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.
In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:
“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”
Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Search and rescue teams found wreckage belonging to a Japanese Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared on April 9, 2019, over the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, a military spokesman said on April, 10, 2019.
The pilot of the aircraft is still missing, said the Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) spokesman.
“We recovered the wreckage and determined it was from the F-35,” the spokesman told Reuters.
The F-35 was less than a year old and was delivered to the ASDF in May 2018, he added.
Japan’s first squadron of F-35s has just become operational at the Misawa air base and the government plans to buy 87 of the stealth fighters to modernize its air defenses as China’s military power grows.
The advanced single-seat jet was flying about 135 km (84 miles) east of the air base in Aomori Prefecture at about 7.27 p.m. (1027 GMT) on April 9, 2019, when it disappeared from radar, the Air Self Defense Force said.
The aircraft was flying for roughly 28 minutes when it lost contact with Japanese forces, an official reportedly added.
Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defense Force as needed.
The Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
The crash was only the second time an F-35 has gone down since the plane began flying almost two decades ago. It was also the first crash of an A version of the fifth-generation fighter designed to penetrate enemy defenses by evading radar detection.
A U.S. military short take off and landing (STOVL) F-35B crashed near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina in September 2018 prompting a temporary grounding of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin also makes a C version of the fighter designed to operate off carriers.
Japan’s new F-35s will include 18 short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) B variants that planners want to deploy on its islands along the edge of the East China Sea.
The F-35s are shipped to Japan by Lockheed Martin and assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd at a plant near Nagoya in central Japan. Each costs around 0 million, slightly more than the cost of buying a fully assembled plane.
Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, and Idrees Ali and Chris Sanders in Washington; Editing by Michael Perry
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.
The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.
Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.
“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”
Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.
“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.
If Britain chooses to acknowledge the attack as having been carried out by Russia on its own soil, it can invoke Article 5 within NATO and trigger a response, possibly war, from the 29-member alliance.
But Russia stands accused of killing 15 former spies on UK soil, and experts tell Business Insider it’s unlikely the UK will go to war over the nerve agent attack.
Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.
A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.
On Feb. 14, 2019, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.
“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Feb. 27, 2019’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.
For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.
Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”
“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”
But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.
“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”
Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.
The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.
The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.
Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.
How firestorms would wreck the climate
Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.
“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider. “So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”
The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.
This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.
But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.
Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.
The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.
In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.
“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”
The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.
Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.
Pakistani Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.
The effects might be much worse than previously thought
“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.
Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.
“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.
Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.
“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.
“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”
Kevin Loria and Alex Lockie contributed to this article.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.
In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.
The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.
“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.
“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.
Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.
Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.
“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a welcomed appearance at the 1st Marine Raider Battalion Ball and delivered a sobering speech that took many US Marines by surprise Nov. 3.
The 1st Marine Raider Battalion out of Camp Pendleton, California, is comprised of elite Marines under the command of Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), the Marine Corps’ expeditionary force that typically operates in austere conditions.
Musk was invited to the event as a guest of honor because the Raiders wanted an “equally innovative” keynote speaker to honor the battalion on its birthday, a former Marine Raider commander who asked not to be named, told Business Insider. Around 400 people attended, including World War II veterans and Gold Star family members, the Marine Raider said.
Much like the secrecy of the Marine Raiders’ operations, Musk’s appearance at the event was closed to the press and kept low-key in order to “avoid a media frenzy,” the Marine Raider said.
Like other branches of the military, formal military events are steeped in deep tradition. The Marine Corps, however, pride themselves in being a distinct group from the other branches, and their customs were reportedly noticed by Musk.
“You can tell he was a little nervous,” said Joe Musselman, the CEO of The Honor Foundation. “He was walking alongside the commanding officer of the 1st Raider Marine Battalion. You have this polished officer who’s walking in step to very traditional music.”
Musselman was invited to the event as the CEO of an organization that supports veterans.
As the Marine Raiders brought out a celebratory cake, the commanding officer of the battalion reportedly drew a sword.
“Elon kind of stepped back like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on. Why did you draw your sword at me,'” Musselman said.
The officer proceeded to serve Musk with the first piece of cake, using his sword to set it onto Musk’s plate.
“That’s intimidating for any person,” Musselman said. “A Marine Raider just served [Musk] a piece of cake off his sword. I don’t know if that was necessary in the scripts or the notes for Elon to review beforehand.”
‘The whole room, you could’ve heard a pin drop.’
As the guest of honor, Musk reportedly delivered the opening statement that appeared to make an impact to the group of elite Marines.
“I will never forget it; it set the tone for his entire talk,” Musselman said. “He said, ‘I wanted to come and speak to this group,’ and I get the chills even saying it, ‘Because whenever there’s danger in the world, you all are the first to go and die.”
Musk continued to say he had a great amount of respect for their service to the country, according to Musselman.
“And the whole room, you could’ve heard a pin drop,” Musselman said. “When he said that, the way he said it, it wasn’t prepared, there was no script. He was genuinely looking up in the air to find the words to say ‘Thank you for doing this for our country.'”
Following the speech, Musk offered some lessons he’s learned throughout his career in the Silicon Valley. One particular lesson he reportedly said was to always question authority — a trait that could be seen as counterintuitive to the military’s doctrine of strict obedience.
One Marine was said to have made light of the discrepancy, shouting, “You’re in the wrong room for that, sir,” and drew a few laughs.
Musk went on to discuss his companies’ involvement in the veteran community and emphasized Silicon Valley’s need for leadership and talent from veterans.
“It was quite a treat for us to have Mr. Musk,” the former Marine Raider commander said, “He [recognized] Marines and sailors would be one of the first ones in harms way.”
MARSOC, a relatively new command compared to other special operations groups, was founded in 2006 to integrate Marines into the special operations community. Although media coverage of the special operations forces have largely centered on Navy SEALS and Green Berets, MARSOC Raiders have proven itself as a capable special operations force and screens its applicants as rigorously as other branches — with around 120 applicants graduating from its individual training course each year.
As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.
The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.
“We are coming together to tell each other what we’ve done over the last year,” said Dr. Stuart Young, a division chief in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Adelphi, Maryland, and the RCTA’s collaborative alliance manager.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The group formed in 2009 to bring together government, industrial and academic institutions to address research and development required to enable the deployment of future military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.
• General Dynamics Land Systems – Robotics • Carnegie Mellon University – The Robotics Institute • Massachusetts Institute of Technology • Florida State University • University of Central Florida • University of Pennsylvania • QinetiQ North America • Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Lab
Young said the laboratory is focused on transitioning new capabilities to industry partners so they can continue to mature them.
“Since this is a basic and applied research program, we’ll transition it to them so they can get it into an experimental prototype in development,” he said. “Certainly the problem that we are working on is very hard. It is difficult to operate robots in the wild, anywhere in the world, but that’s the kind of problem the Army has to solve.”
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The Army’s vision is to make unmanned systems an integral part of small unit teams.
“We’re trying to go from tools to teammates so you can work side-by-side with them,” Young said, continuing with, “In order for robots to be teammates, they must operate in unstructured, complex environments.
“And then in order for the robots to be a useful teammate, they have to communicate naturally like a human does,” Young said. “We’re doing a lot of work in human-robot relationships, understanding concepts in the same way that humans do, trying to get the robots to understand those concepts in the same way so that the teaming can occur more naturally.”
Over the eight years of the alliance, researchers have achieved many milestones in the robotics field.
“New methods for robots to autonomously interact with and perceive the outside world have been developed to improve reasoning, situational awareness, trust and mobility in challenging battlefield environments,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “In the past eight years, researchers have teamed with academia and industry supported by the Robotics CTA to establish robotics technology critical to next generation Army objectives for multi-domain operation.”
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The alliance conducts research in four technical domains:
Perception: Perceive and understand dynamic and unknown environments, including creation of a comprehensive model of the surrounding world
Intelligence: Autonomously plan and execute military missions; readily adapt to changing environments and scenarios; learn from prior experience; share common understanding with team members
Human-Robot Interaction: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
Dexterous Manipulation and Unique Mobility: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
“We’ve certainly come a long way, and yes, we have a long way to go,” Young said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and developing new theory and techniques for communicating between the robots and the humans. We must generate more novel techniques to be able to address those types of problems.”
Researchers said the meetings in Philadelphia were a valuable experience as they continue to plan for a capstone event at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2019, where they will demonstrate the culmination of their research achievements to Army leaders.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.
“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.
The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.
“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”
The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.
“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.
“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.
The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.
The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.
In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.
The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.
“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”
As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.
In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.
In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”
In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.
Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Spring 2019, Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, plans to brief the Army’s senior leadership for a decision on whether to move forward on a new version of the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, that features a more streamlined design.
“We are looking at a plate with the design that we refer to as a shooter’s cut,” he told reporters recently. “We believe that an increase in mobility provides survivability just as much as coverage of the plate or what the plate will stop itself.”
Potts said the new design offers slightly less coverage in the upper chest closest to the shoulder pocket.
The Modular Scalable Vest being demonstrated at Fort Carson.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)
“Our soldiers absolutely love it, and the risk to going to a higher level of injury is .004 meters squared. I mean, it is minuscule, yet it takes almost a full pound off of the armor,” he said.
Potts said he plans to brief Army Vice Chief of Staff James C. McConville in the next couple of months on the new plate design, which also features a different formula limiting back-face deformation — or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.
“Obviously, when a lethal mechanism strikes a plate, the plate gives a little bit, and we want it to give a little bit — it’s by design — to dissipate energy,” Potts said. “The question is, how much can it give before it can potentially harm the soldier?”
The Army has tested changing the allowance for back-face deformation to a 58mm standard instead of the 44mm standard it has used for years.
“We have found what we believe is the right number. We are going to be briefing the vice chief of staff of the Army, and he will make the ultimate decision on this,” Potts said.
“But right now, with the work that we have done, we think we can achieve, at a minimum, a 20 percent weight reduction. … We have been working with vendors to prove out already that we know we can do this,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Apparently, December 13 was National Day of the Horse, thanks to the 108th Congress, so we want to take a second to talk about one of the military’s most heroic horses: Marine Corps Korean War hero, Sgt. Reckless.
Reckless began life as Ah Chim Hai, a racehorse owned by a Korean man, but the man sold the horse in order to buy a prosthetic for his sister who had lost a leg to a landmine. The Marines who bought Reckless initially treated her a little like a pet, giving her portions of their food and bringing her into the barracks when she was cold.
But she was destined for service and began running ammunition into combat and wounded Marines out.
And this is where Private Reckless distinguished herself. Most horses are skittish, and it takes a resilient horse to operate under fire in any circumstances, but Reckless could ferry rounds into combat and wounded Marines out.
Then-Pvt. Reckless operating under fire in Korea.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
And she could do it unsupervised.
Once she knew where the supply post was and where her Marines were fighting, she could make trips back and forth quickly, efficiently, and without further guidance. Ask any gunnery sergeant in the Corps, and we guarantee they’ve had at least one Marine that couldn’t be trusted like that.
Marines pose with a statue of Staff Sgt. Reckless during an October 2016 ceremony where the statue was unveiled.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Overbay)
Despite the enemy fire and potential distractions, Reckless carried 386 rounds of ammunition to the front in a single day. The rounds weighed 24 pounds each, enough to exhaust even a horse.
For her heroics, Reckless was promoted to sergeant, awarded two Purple Hearts, and sent to America a short time later. She went on to give birth to four children and enjoy retirement as a Marine Corps celebrity and staff sergeant.
Early on in your military career, you learn that the equipment you’re issued is very cheaply made. The Kevlar helmets everyone gets are no exception. This invariably leads troops toward the same, common question: “Can this thing really stop a bullet?”
Dr. Matt Carriker, a veterinarian and YouTuber, had the same thought, and he decided to put the helmets to the test. Of course, the helmets our troops wear are thoroughly tested before being issued, but we have to wonder where they drew the line between cost efficiency and bulletproofing.
Now, we’ve all heard of cases where these helmets have saved lives of our troops in-country, so it’s safe to say that the protective gear can stop 7.62x39mm bullets, but what about other rounds? That’s exactly what Dr. Carriker decided to test.
Demolition Ranch is a YouTube channel that is, if nothing else, known for putting our favorite firearms through insane tests to see how they perform. He’s even done a reliability test for a Hi-Point Model JCP. Now, if you know anything about firearms, then you know Hi-Point is notorious for their cheaply made firearms.
But he also does bulletproof tests to see how just about anything, including Legos, airplane windows, and even a solid bar of silver, stand up against firearms. In this test, he decided to examine how effective our standard issue helmets are at stopping rounds from lever-action rifles.
For the sake of thoroughness, Dr. Carriker uses an arsenal that spans of the gamut of calibers. His collection includes a .22 LR, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .30-30 Winchester, and, finally, a .45-70 Xtreme Penetrator. He starts small and steps up to see exactly what deals some damage.
Of course, because this is Demolition Ranch we’re talking about, he eventually moves on to test his AK-47 and Barrett M107A1 .50 BMG against these helmets. Why? Because, America and science!
Now, just to be clear, we know these helmets aren’t designed to stop bullets entirely — they’re mostly designed to protect your brain from shrapnel and keep your skull from smacking against hard surfaces. Even if they’re not meant to bring bullet to a dead stop, wearing one is better than nothing, so be sure to put yours on and keep your watermelon intact!
Check out the video below to see helmets get put to the ultimate test!