Footage recently emerged from a prime-time segment on Chinese state-run television showing Chinese special forces practicing a raid that bears an eerie resemblance to the US Navy SEALs’ 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The segment, first noticed by the New York Times, takes place in Xinjiang, a province in Western China home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority often at odds with China’s state-endorsed atheism and their dominant ethnicity, the Hans.
In the slides below, see details from the Chinese reenactment of the Bin Laden raid.
Here’s the compound US Navy SEALs found Osama Bin Laden in.
Here’s China’s reproduction.
Here we see the Chinese special forces taking doors and clearing rooms.
Now, inexplicably, they’re crawling under flaming ropes.
Putting on a bit of a show here.
Finally we see helicopters descend on another, similar compound.
While the delivery may be a bit garbled, it’s clear that China sought to imitate the world’s finest in its version of the successful SEAL Team 6 raid. Whether the special forces units will participate in raids against Al-Qaeda-linked targets abroad or simply continue to hit the Uighur minority, they’ve broadcasted loud and clear that they’re proud and ready.
A court order just halted the Trump administration’s plans to revert the Department of Defense personnel policy on transgender troops implemented by President Barack Obama. The ruling has the effect of keeping the order in place while the case is argued.
According to a report by the Washington Times, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by President Bill Clinton in 1997, wrote a 76-page ruling issuing the injunction. The ruling nullified President Trump’s memo from Aug. 25. The memo followed up on a tweet by the President from July.
“The Court finds that a number of factors—including the sheer breadth of the exclusion ordered by the directives, the unusual circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement of them, the fact that the reasons given for them do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those reasons by the military itself — strongly suggest that Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment claim is meritorious,” Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the opinion striking down the ban on future accessions and retention of transgender troops.
The ruling drew fire from Elaine Donnelly, the president of the Center for Military Readiness. Donnelly said that the judge in the case was acting as “supreme judicial commander of the military.” She argues that the issue of whether transgender individuals can serve in the military was not about civil rights, but was “a national security issue.”
“The United States Supreme Court has on numerous occasions upheld or issued decisions based on deference to the Congress of the United States, which has the power to make policy, and the Executive Branch which implements policy,” she explained.
I recently read an article that posed an interesting question: Does the Army need airborne? The short answer is no. The long answer is we need the capability; there is a small fraction of operations where an airborne assault might be the only way to go, but we don’t need as much “airborne” as we currently have.
Bear with me. I know there are some seriously butt hurt people right now reading this. The tactic has value — limited, but still some.
The unit as an organized structure that practices the airborne tactic has no value — zero, nada, and zilch. The reason is simply the risk; a new person jumping one time is just as much at risk as a veteran jump master on his 1,000th jump.
The singular benefit of airborne operations is to get troops on the battlefield when there are no other means available and when those same troops might secure the means themselves.
WWII was a perfect example. The night of June 5, 1944, airborne operations began to place large numbers of troops behind German lines to tie up reinforcements trying to reach the Atlantic Wall fortifications and prevent the beach invasion.
It was known and accepted that those airborne troops were effectively lost and might never be recovered as a unit. We routinely accept injury in airborne operations that would be unacceptable in other training, all for a tactic that has limited utility.
Had the beach landings failed, the airborne teams would have been cut off and without support. At best they could have surrendered; at worst, they would be dead. This was not an assumption. This was a specific and recognized outcome of the invasion.
For all the vaunted legend of the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne, the fact is that the units had little cohesion, fought mostly in small numbers, and took several days to re-form into fighting units. Unity of command was not lost; it was impossible to obtain from the beginning.
I am not denigrating the men of the 82nd and the 101st. I am saying any unit could have accomplished the same tasks without any special training involving parachute operations. The difficulties would have been the same.
Soldiers were intermingled between companies, battalions, brigades, and divisions as the confusion of the battlefield worked its magic. Fortunately Americans took advantage of the confusion and managed to win the day.
In that one demonstration on the field of battle, they proved that Airborne was not “all the way” and that the technique of vertical envelopment of the battlefield has a limited utility best used sparingly and only if you are ready to lose those involved.
Which is why for the next sixty years the activities in wartime were expressly limited. In part, we had other means, but ultimately it became clear that this is a tactic that only serves its use in specific operations or as an act of desperation.
The operational characteristics, fully published in FM3-99 Airborne and Air Assault Operations, show the limitations clearly. Even during peacetime, the physical threat to personnel from the jump alone is high.
In fact, regardless of the number of jumps a person has, the risk to life and limb is the same each time they jump. The experience they receive does not affect the process once they exit the aircraft. The senior commanders are just as exposed to risk as the privates.
They are at the mercy of the weather. And that alone can render an entire operation a failure.
With the risk being the same for a jump master with 1000 jumps or the cherry on his first jump, we can say, from a risk management standpoint, we don’t need Army Airborne.
We can still, when the need arises, utilize airborne operations. All risk being equal, there is no difference to the mission to drop an entire unit using a small cadre of experienced personnel while the rest of the personnel just straps on the parachute and falls.
I know it works. This was also proven in WWII by the same units. Many of those men had no training in parachute operations. They were taught to put it on and they got in the plane and jumped into combat.
We don’t need units like the 82nd or battalions like the 1/501st. We need each unit to have a small cadre of jump masters and if the military decides to utilize personnel on an airborne operation, the cadre will ensure everyone is suited up and rigged, and then push them out the door.
There is no reason to have a specialized unit with nifty hats just to practice a tactic that is not really necessary. All they do is fall. They don’t have to open the parachute because the static line does that. While the appropriate parachute landing fall (PLF) might be worthwhile to prevent injury, it is not really worth the effort of a 3 week school just to teach that.
Airborne school teaches the PLF and weeds out those too scared to jump. Other than that, it does not teach you anything particular.
Putting on the parachute does not require training beforehand — the jump master is responsible for making sure you put in on right anyway. Rigging your equipment is not an experience-based skill. Just wrap it up using a pictogram and you are done.
We don’t need specialized airborne units. Airborne, as practiced by the 82nd AA, was obsolete at the end of WWII.
The Army just doesn’t want to admit that because it looks good. But none of them want to admit that the casualties, from the jump and from war, would make any airborne operation a risky adventure.
They know it; they just don’t want to talk about it.
In combat, a unit that sustains 15% casualties is still combat capable but only marginally. What gain do we have from a military unit that could receive those losses from entering combat before they face the enemy?
The jump alone could cause that damage, and this does not include the fact that it could be the senior command leadership, key weapons vital to the mission, or any number of critical items lost on the drop.
Those are the risks not once, but every time a jump occurs. It is not cost effective to maintain a unit that faces those risks every time just for practice. It would be better to only pull out this operation when necessary.
If we are going to accept the potential risk, it is not any more dangerous to accept a leg unit that did an airborne operation as a onetime act of desperation.
Airborne pride is an expensive attitude for a military tactic of desperation. It is time to close the books on that chapter.
We can still use the tactic — but we don’t need to enshrine the idea behind it.
In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.
When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.
When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.
The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.
All of them were uncertain what would come next.
Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:
“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”
The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”
Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.
Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.
“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:
“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”
The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.
Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.
Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.
Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.
The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.
The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.
Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.
Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”
To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.
Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.
The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.
Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.
The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.
The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.
By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.
“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.
“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”
The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.
Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.
What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)
To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.
The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.
Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.
Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.
Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.
Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?
If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.
So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.
(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)
Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.
The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.
Sam Houston is more than just the namesake for the fourth-largest city in America — the man is literally called the “George Washington of Texas.” And in the Lone Star State, that’s as close to God as one can get.
Here are a few reasons why the Texas hero Sam Houston owns the title “Governor of Governors.”
1. He was actually governor of two states.
Houston was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. He resigned as governor in 1829, a result of alcoholism and depression from his failed marriage. Thirty years later, he became the 7th governor of Texas.
2. He’s an American combat veteran.
Of course he is. When the War of 1812 rolled around, he fought so well, Gen. Andrew Jackson took notice. Houston became a Jackson protégé and Jacksonian Democrat in his political years.
3. Sam Houston was adopted by the Cherokee Nation.
He spent much of his youth among Indians in Tennessee. Although he would come to have close ties with President Jackson, they probably differed on the treatment of the Cherokee. Houston took a Cherokee wife and was an honorary member of the tribe. His adopted name was “Black Raven.”
We can take a pretty good guess on how Jackson felt about the Cherokee.
After Houston rigged the appointment of Nashville Postmaster away from John P. Erwin at Jackson’s request, Erwin challenged Houston to a duel. Houston refused, but when Gen. William White — veteran of the Battle of New Orleans — challenged him instead, the gunfight was on.
He practiced shooting at Jackson’s home. Old Hickory advised him to bite a bullet during the duel saying “It will make you aim better.”
Houston won the duel, shooting White in the groin.
5. He clubbed a congressman for accusing him of fraud.
Sam Houston, while a Congressman from Tennessee, felt slandered in a speech on the House floor. William Stanbery of Ohio, an anti-Jacksonian, accused Houston of fraud. Later that day, Houston saw Stanbery walking down the street and delivered a fierce beating. Stanbery even pulled a pistol on Houston, but it misfired.
6. His defense attorney was Francis Scott Key.
When Congress got wind of the epic beat-down Houston put on Stanberry, they charged him with assault and put him on trial. The eloquent Key argued the case with the Supreme Court acting as judges (no pressure) but still lost. Houston was fined $500 and left Washington in disgust, heading back home to Texas.
7. He beat the “Napoleon of the West” in eighteen minutes.
He didn’t fall into the trap of going in headfirst against Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s army after the fall of the Alamo. Instead, Houston led a very George Washington-esque series of strategic retreats, giving his army time to regroup and congeal as a unit – and for more Texians to join his army. By the time he surprised Santa Anna on the banks of the San Jacinto, Houston was no longer outnumbered.
It took 18 minutes for the Mexican Army to break and flee. But the Texians killed them for hours. Houston’s official report, numbered 630 Mexicans killed, 208 wounded, and 730 taken prisoner – including Santa Anna. The Texians lost just 11 men, with 30 (including Houston) wounded.
8. He was the first (and only) foreign head of state to be a U.S. governor.
His win at San Jacinto won Texas its independence as a republic. With Houston promptly elected as the first President of Texas with 80 percent of the vote. Once the Republic became a U.S. state, he would become one of its senators.
9. He refused to declare allegiance to the Confederacy.
Houston opposed secession and traveled around Texas explaining why. He did not think it was good for Texas economically, militarily, or ethically. He didn’t think the rebels would win. Despite his opposition, a state convention met and voted to secede by a whopping 160 votes. Houston would not swear allegiance to the Confederate States and was ousted as governor of Texas.
The Union offered him a command, but he turned it down.
The U.S. and Turkey, both NATO countries and allies for decades, began fighting a proxy war in Syria over the weekend of Jan. 19.
Turkish jets pummeled U.S.-backed forces in Syria’s north — all while Turkey holds one of the U.S.’s most important bases and dozens of U.S. nukes.
Turkey targeted the YPG, a Kurdish element of the Syrian Democratic Forces, one of the largest and most effective fighting forces that the U.S. trained, equipped, and supported with air strikes during the successful three-year campaign to degrade and destroy ISIS’ caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey’s motivation to destroy the Kurdish fighters comes from their alleged connection to the PKK, a Kurdish group responsible for terror attacks in Turkey that both Washington and Ankara consider a terror group.
After the U.S. announced, and then walked back, plans to create a 30,000 strong border policing force comprised of the Kurdish and other fighters, Turkey quickly said it would fight against the Kurds.
In the span of a few days, Turkish jets and tanks poured over Syria’s border and dropped bombs as artillery pieces shelled the Afrin, where the YPG intended to set up its border force. A spokesman for the SDF said on January 22 that the strikes had killed 18 and wounded 23, according to Reuters.
In response, a rocketed fired from Afrin hit a Turkish camp where the Free Syrian Army, backed by Ankara, sustained 12 losses, the Dogan news agency reported.
Now it looks like the U.S. could up fighting a proxy war against Turkey, a NATO ally that holds dozens of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.
U.S. nukes at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey
If the U.S. decided to provide air cover for its allies in Afrin, it would likely launch those planes from Incirlik Air Base, which is inside Turkey. Incirlik is a central hub for U.S. air power in the region and the resting place of a few dozen B-61 nuclear gravity bombs with adjustable yields.
Though the bombs are securely confined to the U.S.-controlled side of the base, regularly maintained and looked after, and at little risk of falling into enemy hands, experts have long questioned the wisdom of holding U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey.
Turkey’s drift from democratic, Western-leaning principals into what looks more and more like a religious autocracy has been well documented over the years. Also starting in 2016, Turkey began its drift from NATO and towards Russia.
Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?
Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.
Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.
Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.
The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:
— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.
— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.
— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.
— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.
“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.
“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”
Creating high performers
Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.
The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.
“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.
Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.
The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.
The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.
About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.
The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.
The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.
Special ops interest
The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.
Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.
In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.
Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.
Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are more effective than conventionally-powered carriers for two basic reasons.
One, nuclear power provides more energy for catapults and sensors than fossil fuel; and two, the lack of fossil fuels onboard also frees up a lot of space for more missiles and bombs.
But there are only two countries in the world with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers: the United States and France.
France has one nuclear-powered carrier, the Charles de Gaulle. The US has a fleet of 11 nuclear-powered carriers, including two different classes, the Nimitz and Gerald R. Ford classes.
But the Ford-class only has one commissioned carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and it has yet to see combat, while the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975, and has seen plenty.
The Charles de Gaulle, which was commissioned in 2001, has also seen combat for over a decade.
So we’ve compared the tried-and-trusted Nimitz and Charles de Gaulle classes to see how they stack up.
And there’s a clear winner — take a look.
The USS Eisenhower (left) transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle (right) in 2016.
(US Navy photo)
The first big difference between the CDG and Nimitz-class carriers are the nuclear reactors.
Nimitz-class carriers have two A4W nuclear reactors, each of which provide 550 Megawatts of energy, whereas the CDG has two K15 reactors, each providing only 150 Megawatts.
Not only are Nimitz-class carriers faster than the CDG (about 34-plus mph versus about 31 mph), but they also need to be refueled about once every 50 years, whereas the CDG needs to be refueled every seven years.
The USS Eisenhower (top) transits the Mediterranean Sea with the Charles de Gaulle (bottom) while conducting operations in support of US national security interests in Europe.
(US Navy photo)
Another big difference is size.
Nimitz-class carriers are about 1,092 feet long, while the CDG is about 858 feet long, which gives the Nimitz more room to stage and load airplanes for missions. Nimitz-class carriers also have about a 97,000 ton displacement, while the CDG has a 42,000 ton displacement.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
(US Navy photo)
Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
(US Navy photo)
Whereas the CDG can carry a maximum of 40 aircraft, such as Dassault Rafales, Dauphins, and more.
However, both the CDG and Nimitz-class carries use Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery launch systems, which means the jets are catapulted forward during takeoff and recovered by snagging a wire with the tailhooks mounted under their planes when landing. CATOBAR launch systems are the most advanced in the world.
RIM-7P NATO Sea Sparrow Missile launches from Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during an exercise.
(US Navy photo)
As for defensive weapons, Nimitz-class carriers generally carry about three eight-cell NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile launchers. They also carry Rolling Airframe Missiles and about three or four Phalanx close-in weapons systems. These weapons are used to intercept incoming missiles or airplanes.
Two Sylver long-range missile launchers on the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
The CDG, on the other hand, has four eight-cell Sylver launchers that fire Aster 15 surface-to-air-missiles, two six-cell Sadral short-range missile launchers that fire Mistral anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles. It also has eight Giat 20F2 20 mm cannons.
The USS Eisenhower transits the Mediterranean Sea alongside the Charles de Gaulle in 2016.
(US Navy photo)
Both Nimitz-class carriers and the CDG have seen their fair share of combat, especially the former.
The Nimitz-class has served in every US war since Vietnam, with its planes launching missions in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The USS Nimitz, the lead ship in the class, first saw action during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.
The CDG was deployed to the Indian Ocean during Operation Enduring Freedom and the initial liberation of Afghanistan. It also took part in the United Nations’ no-fly zone over Libya in 2011, flying 1,350 sorties during that war.
More recently, de Gaulle was involved in France’s contribution to the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, codenamed Opération Chammal in France.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Exhaustion is the great equalizer. There comes a point for everyone when your body demands sleep, and if you aren’t willing to give it what it wants, things start to get rough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier on post in a combat zone or a new mom trying to make it through the day after a sleepless night of diaper changes and bottle-boiling, the sandman comes for us all.
If you’re desperate for sleep, the best thing you can do is rack out and get some. If that’s not an option, however, here are some of the ways service members stay alert long after exhaustion has set in. They’re not always the healthiest options, but hey, if we were that worried about our health, we’d be getting some rest.
Instant coffee works best when you can chew it.
Ah, caffeine–the old standby. Whenever anyone’s tired, the first thing they think to do is pour themselves a nice hot cup of joe. Of course, in the field, that’s not always an option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix. Aside from the service-member favorite energy drinks, the most common field-sources of caffeine come in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some even now come with sticks of caffeinated gum.
If you’ve got the time and the hot water, the small packets of instant coffee that come in MREs can make for a passable cup, but plenty of guys simply pour the pouches into their lips like a pinch of chewing tobacco. Might not be delicious, but it’ll help keep you up. Of course, too much caffeine poses a number of problems, including dehydration and nausea, so there are limits to what a lipper of coffee can do for you.
Not just for smoke breaks, nicotine can also go far in helping to keep you conscious and alert during long nights on post or in the campus library. A lot of service members pick up cigarette or chewing tobacco habits during their time in uniform, in part because it offers something to do during long stretches of downtime, and in part because of the kick of energy you can get from a properly timed smoke break.
Of course, nicotine comes with a whole host of negative side effects, so choose your weapons wisely when waging war against your own exhaustion.
Many service members stumble across this tactic on post: you and another person are stuck in one place for a while with nothing to do but look at the horizon, so you spark up a bit of conversation. Before you know it, you’re arguing about whether or not Darkwing Duck was a better show than Duck Tales and you’ve both managed to kill two hours of your shift… so powerful is the magic of useless debate.
It’s important not to let friendly debate boil over into a full-fledged fight, however, which can be a real challenge sometimes when you’re operating on little sleep.
Long after caffeine has failed you and nicotine is just giving you the shakes, there’s one more thing you can do to help you overcome the heaviest of eyelids: get up and get moving. Something as simple as hopping off your chair for a set of push-ups can get your blood pumping again. Go for a walk around the office or your house, karate chop some old boards in your garage, or haze yourself with a few sets of burpees.
And as an added bonus, you can meet the criteria for “getting physical” by getting into a fist fight with your buddy once your Ducktales debate gets out of hand.
When your friends are counting on you, you do what you’ve got to do.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)
Just ride it out
Eventually, if you ride out your exhaustion well into the next day, some of the worse symptoms will begin to subside. You’ll feel strange, hazy, and detached… but conscious nonetheless. The human body is capable of playing dirty to get you to do the things you need to do (like sleep), but it’s also good at letting you stay in the fight when it becomes clear the things you need to do aren’t in the cards.
Just like hunger pains will subside after a time, so too will the horrible weight of exhaustion… at least, for a few hours. Once that second wind subsides, you’ll be hurting worse than ever. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to rack out by then.
US Air Force General John E. Hyten, the Commander of US Strategic Command, made a worrying admission on March 20, 2018, about the state of US defenses against hypersonic weapons: They don’t really exist.
While hypersonic weapons are still largely in either the conceptual or testing phase, Russia and China have been making headway on their respective programs.
China tested a functional hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) in November 2017, and Russia tested a hypersonic weapon only a few weeks after President Vladimir Putin boasted that he has an “invincible” hypersonic missile in early March 2018.
When asked by Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, the committee chairman, what kind of defenses the US had against such weapons, the general responded, “our defense is our deterrent capability.”
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Hyten said.
The general said that the only “defense” the US had was the threat of nuclear retaliation, adding, “our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the Triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.”
More specifically, Hyten said that low-yield submarine-based nuclear weapons were the primary defense.
Hyten added later in the hearing, responding to a question from Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, that the US needed to “pursue improved sensor capabilities” in order to “track, characterize, and attribute the threats wherever they come from.” Detection of ICBMs is mostly done through satellites orbiting the earth.
The General acknowledged that there are still issues, primarily due to lack of resources and aging equipment. “Right now we have a challenge with that, with our current on-orbit space architecture and our limited number of radars that we have around the world,” Hyten said.
Hypersonic weapons can be destabilizing. HGVs and hypersonic cruise missiles can travel Mach 5 and above (340 miles every 6 minutes), can maneuver to avoid ICBM defenses, and can impact a target just minutes after being detected.
The RAND Corporation published a report that predicts that hypersonic weapons will be deployed to the battlefield in the next 10 years. At that point, the primary defense against ICBMs and nuclear missiles could no longer be kinetic or proximity interception of the missiles themselves, but the Cod War-era concept of mutually assured destruction.
NATO defense ministers agreed to continue projecting stability beyond its borders and will continue to build capabilities within the alliance, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Brussels Feb. 15, 2018.
“In a world awash in change, NATO stands firm as an island of stability in a turbulent sea,” Mattis said during a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting.
Projecting stability requires the alliance’s political stance to be backed by military forces that are fit to fight, the secretary said. This will reduce the chance of miscalculation by any adversary.
During the ministerial, the defense leaders discussed the recently published U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Mattis said that many allies had been consulted on the study.
“The review was very well received across the alliance.” the secretary said. “The U.S. approach to nuclear deterrence embraces two co-equal principles: First, ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, and second, working wherever possible for nuclear non-proliferation and arms control.”
Mattis was pleased on discussions about burden-sharing in the alliance. He noted that alliance nations have increased defense spending and are working on improving “the culture of readiness.” This will provide ready forces that will be responsive to NATO’s political direction.
The alliance must make political decisions faster, adapt the command structure, and accelerate military mobility in conjunction with the European Union, the secretary said.
NATO spending increases
A total of eight NATO nations will meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 15 nations will hit that mark by 2024. Mattis noted that France is forecasting hitting that level in 2025.
“Year-on-year across the alliance, 2017 saw the largest growth … as a percentage of GDP, and the largest real growth in a quarter century,” he said. This has added $46 billion to defense across the alliance.
NATO is a member of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and defense ministers agreed to remain committed to the immediate and longer-term missions in Iraq.
“NATO will sustain its investment in Iraq to project stability into the geopolitical heart of the Middle East,” Mattis said. “America supports NATO’s initiative for a NATO training mission in Iraq.”
NATO is also a stalwart part of the mission to Afghanistan and the ministers committed to filling critical shortfalls in the staffs.
“It is the collective dedication of the 29 nations, and working together creates the collective strength as we fight the threats from the east and the south to defend our values,” he said. “There is much that needs to be done, but NATO is on the right trajectory.”