Articles

Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.


Heyyyyy Valkyrie…
(Thor: Ragnarok by Marvel Studios)

The reasons why are threefold:

www.youtube.com

1. This movie is for *me*

I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.

So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.

Full Metal Obsession.

(Warner Bros.)

2. I know the military world

I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.

Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=916&h=1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1&size=980x&c=1121216279 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F13KRZLObX9B1tK.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D916%26h%3D1db67260745ab301eec2b03450ecbef21ad9b78f3782b9426a093d35437277e1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1121216279%22%7D” expand=1]

Yeah, she played Envy. Amazing, right?

3. I know the casting world

I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.

I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.

Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.

Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

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She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.

Also, she’s just cool.

In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”

Obviously, the filmmakers are keeping pretty tight-lipped about the upcoming 2019 film, but Larson has been sharing little peeks at her training along the way, including work with the actual U.S. Air Force.

www.instagram.com

This is a good sign — whenever there is a military film, my first question is who are the service members involved? (FWIW: I always prefer for the answer to be veterans who have transitioned out of the military and into professional careers in the entertainment industry)

Larson has also shared a glimpse at her physical training for the role.

Pull-ups take me back to jump school. Good times….

I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.

Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.

But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.

I’m also going to lose my mind if we catch a glimpse of her in Avengers: Infinity War.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pocket-sized drones could be a game changer on the battlefield

US soldiers have started receiving pocket-sized drones that could be a game changer for troops on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the 3 rd Brigade Combat Team, 82 ndAirborne Division recently got their hands on FLIR Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones, a part of the Army’s Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program.

These drones, which are small enough to be carried on a soldier’s person, allow troops to see the field of battle more clearly without putting themselves in harms way.


A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division trains with a personal drone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

(US Army photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The personal reconnaissance system includes two drones, one for day and one for night, as well as a base station, which connects to a handheld controller and a display.

These drones are small — only about 6 inches in length — and extremely lightweight, making it possible for soldiers to carry these tiny unmanned aerial vehicles on a utility belt.

Able to fly out to roughly one and a half miles, these little drones allow soldiers to assess the situation beyond them without abandoning their cover.

This technology, according to the Army’s PEO Soldier, “mitigates future losses of life and injuries by having a drone complete dangerous work that combat soldiers would usually perform on their own,” such as sending out a fire team to gather intel and conduct field reconnaissance.

One of the engineers involved in the project likened the new drones to flying binoculars that allow soldiers to see their surroundings like never before.

A personal reconnaissance drone flies in the sky at Ft. Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division will take these drones with them on their upcoming deployment, which will be the first time these UAVs will be deployed at the squad level.

Soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg in North Carolina with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This system is something new that not a lot of Soldiers have touched or even seen before, so it’s cool to test it out and push it to its limits before we take it with us on our deployment,” Army Sgt. Dalton Kruse, one of the operators, said in a statement.

He further commented that most of the operators who were trained on this new system had never flown a drone before, but they were able to adapt to the technology quickly.

“It was easy to pick up and fly, very user-friendly, and I can already tell that this system will benefit my unit downrange,” Kruse explained.

A soldier with the 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division gets his turn during the recent fielding at Fort Bragg.

(US Army Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

This is life-saving technology that helps reduce the risk soldiers face on the battlefield.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, another operator, said in a statement.

The Army plans to eventually equip every squad with its own personal reconnaissance drone.

“It is the start of an era where every squad will have vision beyond their line of sight,” Nathan Heslink, the Assistant Program Manager for SBS with PEO Soldier, explained. “This allows soldiers to detect threats earlier than ever, meaning it is more likely Soldiers won’t be harmed during their missions.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump reportedly considering Vietnam War hero for SecDef

President Donald Trump is considering picking Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia who was secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, for defense secretary, several sources told The New York Times.

Officials speaking anonymously to the Times said that representatives for Vice President Mike Pence and acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had contacted Webb and that his name had been circulating in the White House.


The news comes just days after Patrick Shanahan took over acting defense secretary in the wake of Jim Mattis’ resignation. Picking Webb would forgo a number of hawkish Republican officials who have been floated as potential replacements for Mattis, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham.

Patrick Shanahan

Webb, 72, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968. He served in Vietnam in a Marine rifle platoon and as a company commander.

He was wounded twice and received the Navy Cross, which ranks just below the Medal of Honor, for a 1969 engagement in which he sustained wounds while shielding a fellow Marine from a grenade during an assault on enemy bunkers.

Webb appeared to reference that engagement during a 2015 presidential debate, when he and other candidates were asked to name the enemy they were proudest to have made. “I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw their grenade that wounded me,” Webb replied. “But he’s not around right now to talk to.”

After his military service, Webb attended Georgetown Law School, graduating in 1975, and from 1977 to 1981 was a House Committee on Veterans Affairs staff member.

He was widely criticized for a 1979 article titled “Women Can’t Fight,” in which he said recent gains in sexual equality had been “good,” but “no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat.”

Webb later changed his views on subject and apologized for the article but has faced backlash for it.

He was appointed assistant secretary of defense by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and in 1987 was made secretary of the Navy. In that position he emphasized fleet modernization and pushed to open more jobs in the service to women. He resigned in 1988.

Webb later switched parties, and in 2006 he won a Senate seat as a Democrat from Virginia.

Webb expressed skepticism about US military campaigns abroad, including a 1990 opinion piece in which he criticized the US military build up in Saudi Arabia ahead of the first Gulf War.

In a 2004 opinion article, Webb analyzed the candidacies of John Kerry and George W. Bush, criticizing both — Kerry for his Vietnam War protests and Bush for committing “arguably … the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory” with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Former Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.

(Webb2016.com / screengrab)

Fifteen years later, Webb had a testy exchange with the younger Bush at a reception for freshmen members of Congress. Webb declined to have a picture taken with Bush, who later approached Webb and asked about the latter’s son, who was a Marine serving in Iraq at the time. Webb reportedly said he was tempted to “slug” the president.

Webb was mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate alongside Barack Obama in 2008, but he said “under no circumstances” would he take the job.

Webb did join the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination for president, but he ended his candidacy in October 2015. A few months later, Webb said he would not vote for 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and added that he had not ruled out voting for Trump.

“This is nothing personal about Hillary Clinton, but the reason I think Donald Trump is getting so much support right now is not because of the racist, you know, et cetera, et cetera, it’s because people are seeing him,” Webb said at the time. “A certain group of people are seeing him as the only one who has the courage to step forward and say we’ve got to clean out the stables of the American governmental system right now.”

Other positions Webb has taken may burnish his appeal to Trump. In summer 2015, he said he was “skeptical” of the Iran nuclear deal signed by President Barack Obama, from which Trump has withdrawn.

During his presidential run, a staff member also said Webb was “his own national security adviser” — which may resonate with Trump, who has touted himself as more knowledgeable than his advisers.

On Dec. 31, 2018, days before The Times reported Webb was under consideration, a number of outlets suggested him to replace Mattis, including the Washington Examiner, a conservative-leaning news outlet, which published an opinion article titled “Trump’s base would love to have Jim Webb as defense secretary.”

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

Articles

Two Hellfire missiles found on a passenger flight

Serbian officials got a surprise last Saturday when a bomb sniffer dog found two Hellfire missiles on a passenger flight that had arrived from Lebanon.


US Navy sailors load an AGM-114N Hellfire missile into its case onboard the USS Jason Dunham. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deven B. King

Some reports have stated that the missiles were live, but Serbian officials investigating the incident told Reuters that the Hellfire missiles may have been training rounds.

The weapons arrived on an Air Serbia flight and were scheduled to fly on another plane from Belgrade to Portland, Oregon. The Lebanese military said in a statement that they were sending the missiles to Portland so that they could be turned in as part of a deal with the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Air Serbia operated the aircraft where the missiles were found and has assisted in the investigation.

AGM-114 Hellfire missiles can be launched from aircraft, boats, and land vehicles and is primarily designed to defeat enemy armor. It carries either an 18 or 20-pound warhead and can travel up to five miles at 995 mph to destroy a target.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 7

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Michael Christiansen, a 100th Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, draws back a bow and arrow March 28, 2017, at RAF Mildenhall, England. Christiansen was selected to represent U.S. Air Forces in Europe at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago where he will compete in the rifle, pistol, recurve archery and sitting volleyball events.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, April 2, 2017, at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Army:

A U.S. soldier surveys a training ground near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 14, 2017. The Soldier was part of a security detachment supporting Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators and advisers with Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air. As part of Resolute Support Mission, TAAC-Air works in tandem with Afghan counterparts to foster working relationships and fortify confidence in the mission.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – U.S. Army Soldiers and European military candidates observe the chemical decontamination portion of the U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge evaluation in Grafenwoehr, Germany on March 20, 2017. Approximately 215 military members from the U.S. Army and eleven European partner nations attended this biannual evaluation in hopes of achieving the coveted U.S. Army EFMB.

U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Navy:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 4, 2017) Sailors clean and maintain an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its carrier strike group are underway conducting a sustainment exercise in support of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

Marine Corps:

CAMP BEUHRING, Kuwait – Lance Cpl. Alexander Seick, a communications specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), closes the feed tray of an M240B medium machine gun after conducting a functions check during a sustainment training exercise near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5. Marines can use the M240B’s high rate of fire to provide suppressive fires, subduing enemy threats while moving toward an objective. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Xzavior T. McNeal

YUMA, Arizona – U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, take cover from shrapnel behind a blast blanket while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino Martinez

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Seattle and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles conduct night time hoisting training on April 4, 2016. Crews conduct weekly training to remain proficient at hoisting, even in adverse weather conditions.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Logan Kellogg

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Warner, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Kodiak, performs an ice rescue during training at Upper 6 Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 17, 2016. During the training, members from Air Station Kodiak, Sector Anchorage and the National Ice Rescue School in Essexville, Mich., worked together to perform ice rescues from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Meredith Manning

Articles

These rare colorized photos show World War I like never before

At the time, World War I was the largest conflict ever fought by mankind. Over 8 million troops and nearly as many civilians died during the conflict. Because photography was in its infancy during the war, most of the images from that time are grainy black and white pictures.


To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, Open University created an album last year of colorized World War I archival photos with the help of In the Company of Huskies. Check out a few of them here:

1. Troops tend a mobile pigeon loft used to send messages to the headquarters. According to BBC reports, 100,000 carrier pigeons served in World War I with a 95 percent success rate.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright London Transport Museum.

2. Soldiers with the 1st Australian Imperial Force pose in their camp in Australia.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

3. Indian infantrymen hold their trenches in 1915 while under threat of a gas attack.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

4. German field artillerymen pose with their 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 field gun in 1914.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo: flickr/drakegoodman.

5. A group of soldiers go “over the top” during an advance.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

6. An Albanian soldier gets a haircut from an Alpine barber on the front lines in 1918.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

7. A young girl and boy ride in a decorated toy car during a fundraising event in Adelaide, Australia.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

8. A soldier and his horse wear their gas masks at the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps Headquarters.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright Library and Archives Canada.

9. Canadian infantrymen stand with the mascot of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion in August 1916.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright Library and Archives Canada.

10. Cleveland Frank Snoswell returns home from the war to Australia.

Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

NOW: Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. could send more advanced weapons to Ukraine

The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.

In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”


Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.

In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”

Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.

“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.

Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.

Sea Defense

In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.

“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.

International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.

That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.

In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.

Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.

Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.

Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”

“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.

He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.

Changing U.S. Policy?

Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.

However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.

More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.

“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.

“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.

“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.

In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”

Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”

“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.

“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.

Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.

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

Articles

How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Two Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters headlined China’s Airshow China in Zhuhai on Tuesday, flying for just a few minutes, Reuters reports.


But Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, said the display left many questions unanswered.

Also read: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

On paper, the J-20 represents a “big leap forward in terms of the capabilities of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have on scene,” Bronk said.

Compared with the US’s fifth-generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35, the J-20 has “longer range, more internal fuel capacity, and larger internal weapons capability,” Bronk said.

A rendering of the Chengdu J-20. | Screenshot via hindu judaic/YouTube

This combination of factors presents a real risk to US forces in the Pacific. Long-range, capable strike fighters like the J-20 put the US AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, as well as “refueling tankers, and forward bases at risk much more than current types if flying in relatively large numbers” should any kind of kinetic conflict flare up in the Pacific, Bronk said.

David Goldfein, the chief of staff for the US Air Force, told Breaking Defense he was not overly troubled by the new Chinese jet.

“When I hear about F-35 versus J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant comparison,” Goldfein said in August.

Indeed, nothing indicates that the Chinese have built in the type of hyper connectivity and sensor fusions that make the US’s fifth-generation fighters so groundbreaking. Of the F-35 in particular, Bronk said: “Pilots are not spending a huge amount of time managing inputs — the machine does it for him. It produces one unified picture, which he can then interrogate as required.”

F-35 pilots have unprecedented 360-degree visibility, can even see through the airframe with cameras, and can fire missiles at targets they aren’t even facing. | Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

This gives F-35 pilots a situational awareness the Chinese most likely leverage in combat.

But what exactly goes on under the hood of the J-20 remains a mystery. What is known is that the Chinese have managed to steal a considerable amount of info from US defense aviation projects.

“We don’t know how much F-35 technology the Chinese have managed to steal,” Bronk said, adding that while it was “impossible to say for sure” what the J-20 is capable of, common sense dictates that the “the sensor fusion and network integration is significantly behind what the US has managed with the F-35 and F-22.

“This is purely based on the fact that sensor fusion has taken the most effort, time, and money,” he continued.

But one-on-one combat scenarios or feature-for-feature comparisons don’t capture the real threat of the J-20.

Long-range stealth fighters, if fielded in large numbers along with older Chinese aircraft, surface-to-air missile batteries, radar outposts, missiles, and electronic-warfare units, present another wrinkle in an already complicated and fraught operating envelope for US and allied forces in the Pacific.

But is it real?

Not really a J-20, but a rendering of it. | Alexandr Chechin photo via Wiki Commons

Whether the Chinese will actually be able to field this plane by 2018, as Beijing has projected, remains the real question.

Bronk pointed out that it took a decade between US developers building a flying model of the F-22 and getting real, capable F-22s in the air. Even if the Chinese have accelerated the process through espionage, Bronk says, “We know how much money and time it takes to make a lethal and effective fighter like the F-22,” and it’s “very unlikely that China is that far along.”

Additionally, the J-20s in Zhuhai flew for only about one minute. They didn’t do low passes. They didn’t open up the weapons bay. They didn’t do much except fly around a single time.

F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We learned very little,” Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of FlightGlobal, told Reuters. “We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility.”

Bronk speculates that the models on display at Airshow China were not much more than showpieces: “It’s possible that the aircraft that were shown are still instrumented production aircraft,” or planes with “loads of sensors to monitor performance” instead of in a combat-ready formation.

Bronk points out that the aircraft most likely flew with underpowered engines and not the engines that would fly on the final version. “Engine performance is a key function of any aircraft,” he said, adding, “China and Russia continue to lag behind because of the really top-end manufacturing processes you need” to create and tune high-quality aircraft engines.

So while China’s new “impressive low-observable heavy strike” fighters could change the balance of power in the Pacific, whether they can field the planes in significantly large numbers at any time in the near future remains an open question.

Watch footage of the J-20’s flight below:

Articles

This harrowing World War II SERE story is coming to the big screen

The harrowing tale of how a U.S. Army Air Force B-24 top turret gunner evaded Nazis for six months after his plane was shot down in 1943 is now heading to the silver screen.


According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s production company Nine Stories has acquired the rights to make a film adaptation of “The Lost Airman,” a book about the odyssey that Staff Sgt. Arthur Meyerowitz faced in evading Nazis after the B-24 he was in was shot down.

The film is being produced for Amazon Studios.

Turret assembly of B-24D Liberator bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a March 2016 review of the book, Meyerowitz suffered a serious back injury when he bailed out from the Liberator, which kept him from getting across the Pyrenees Mountains right away. This meant that Meyerowitz was in serious trouble — not only was he an Allied airman, he was also Jewish.

So, the French Resistance hid Meyerowitz in plain sight as an Algerian named Georges Lambert, a deaf-mute who had been injured in an accident who had been hired to work in a store in the city of Toulouse. Meyerowitz was joined by a Royal Air Force pilot named Richard Cleaver.

Captain Jack Ilfrey, an ace who ended the war with eight victories, twice escaped capture during WWII. Like Meyerowitz, he posed as a deaf-mute to successfully evade capture by the Nazis. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

At great cost, the French Resistance eventually got Meyerowitz over the Pyrenees, but even then, there was still risk from Spanish officials who were perfectly willing to return “escaped criminals” to the Nazis (usually after the payment of a bribe).

Thus, the two pilots were not truly safe until they arrived in Gibraltar via a fishing boat.

Meyerowitz would receive the Purple Heart for the injury he suffered while escaping from the stricken B-24. He also would spend over a year in hospitals recovering from the untreated injury.

French Resistance fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gyllenhaal is best known for starring in the movies “Nightcrawler,” ‘The Day After Tomorrow,” and “Jarhead.” The film is being produced by Academy Award-winning producer John Lesher, best known for “Birdman.” No release date has been set.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An army vet perfectly explains the difference between a specialist and a corporal

Two ranks occupy the same pay grade in the U.S. Army, the specialist and the corporal. The difference between the two isn’t always as clear to other members of the military from other branches.

In short, the difference between the two E-4 grades is that one is considered a non-commissioned officer while the other is not. The corporal will go to the NCO training school while the specialist might not. In practice, the corporal outranks a specialist and will be treated as an NCO by the soldiers below him or her. The specialist is still an E-4 level expert at his or her MOS.

That’s why a specialist is also known as a “sham shield” — all the responsibility of a private grade with all the pay of a corporal. Now that you know the gist of the difference, you’ll see why this Quora response is the best response ever — and why only a veteran of the U.S. Army could have written it.


When someone on Quora asked about the difference between these two ranks that share a pay grade, one user, Christopher Aeneadas, gave the most hilarious response I’ve ever seen. He served in the Army from 1999-2003 in signals intelligence. Having once been both a specialist and a corporal, he had firsthand knowledge of the difference, which he describes in detail:

A Full Bird Private has reached the full maturity of a Junior Enlisted Soldier. That magnificent specimen is the envy of superiors and subordinates alike.

The Sham Shield is the mark of the one who has taken the first steps toward enlightenment.

The Specialist knows all and does nothing.

The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism are:

The First Noble Truth – Unsatisfactoriness and suffering exist and are universally experienced.

The Second Noble TruthDesire and attachment are the causes of unsatisfactoriness and suffering.

The Full Bird Private understands that to cease suffering, one must give up the desire to attend the Basic Leader Course (BLC).

A soldier can live for many years in harmony with his squad and his command if he simply forgets his attachment to promotion. There is wisdom in this.

In the distant past, there were even greater enlighted souls. Specialist ranks only whispered of today: Spec-5s and Spec-6s. Some even reached the apotheosis of Specialist E-7!

Mourn with me that their quiet, dignified path is lost to soldiers today.

The Corporal is a soldier of ambition.

They have accepted pain without pay.

They have taken duty without distinction.

Whether they are to be pitied or admired is an open question. I take it on a case-by-case basis.

They hung those damned chevrons on me unofficially for a time. I guess they caught on that I liked my Specialist rank a bit much.

Articles

Hurricane Matthew unearths Civil War-era cannonballs

Cannonballs from the Civil War unearthed on a South Carolina beach by the storm surge of Hurricane Matthew. (Photo: ABC News)


Hurricane Matthew, in addition to all the damage caused by high winds and flooding, also unearthed a number of old cannon rounds from the Civil War.

Civil War-era rounds have been discovered across the country, including a few in Washington state in 2015. Also that year, tourists at the Manassas Battlefield Park brought a shell that they had found to the visitor’s center. That prompted an evacuation until the round was confirmed to be inert. In 2013, a Confederate soldier’s souvenir from the Second Battle of Manassas caused kerfluffle near Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Unexploded ordnance is one of the realities from after any major war. In fact, one shouldn’t be surprised. In World War II, Allied bombers dropped over 1.4 million tons of bombs – the equivalent of 5.6 million Mk 82 500-pounders.

With those sort of numbers, it is easy to imagine that some of the bombs didn’t explode when they hit. And the Allies weren’t the only ones who dropped bombs in that war. As a result, random discoveries of unexploded ordnance (abbreviated in military circles as “UXO”) have been common in Europe. In fact, the ordnance has been traced to other wars as well. In France, farmers have come across World War I ordnance while plowing their fields, including some that contained poison gas.

In the case of South Carolina, these cannonballs were detonated in place by EOD after the tide receded. Nobody got hurt, and there was no damage. Residents in the area only heard the controlled detonation. The first cannonballs of the Civil War were fired in nearby Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

ABC News reports that Hurricane Matthew brought a nearly 6-foot storm surge and torrential rain that totaled 14 inches in spots of South Carolina, and is being blamed for two deaths there and at least 21 across four southeastern states.

When it comes to UXO, the best advice is not to touch it. Get a safe distance away, then call 911. Playing around with UXO, no matter how “safe” it might appear to be, is a good way to get a Darwin Award.

MIGHTY TRENDING

House bill earmarks $1M to rename Army bases honoring Confederate leaders

Lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee recently released a draft of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill that would set aside $1 million for the Army to fund the renaming of major installations named after Confederate leaders.

Calls for renaming Army posts such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Benning, Georgia, have gained momentum after a surge of protests against racism broke out across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being taken into custody by Minneapolis police in late May.


Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in early June that he was open to consider renaming these installations but backed off the effort days later when President Donald Trump said his administration would not consider such a move.

McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon in late June that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has directed the services to look at Confederate symbols and other challenging issues involving race and “have deliberate conversations so we can make the best recommendations possible.”

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate, however, have taken steps to support removing symbols of systematic racism on military bases.

The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill would provide id=”listicle-2646370462″ million to the Army for the “renaming of installations, facilities, roads and streets that bear the name of Confederate leaders and officers since the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.”

The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 includes a provision that would require the secretary of defense to “establish a commission relating to assigning, modifying, or removing of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia to assets of the Department of Defense that commemorate the Confederate States of America.”

The eight-member commission would include service members, as well as members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

The provision authorizes million to be appropriated for the effort. If approved, the committee would have until October 2022 to brief Congress on a plan to include “collecting and incorporating local sensitivities associated with naming or renaming of assets of the Department of Defense,” according to the language.

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