China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.
According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.
One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”
Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.
The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.
China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.
The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.
The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.
“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”
Days after President Vladimir Putin threatened the US, a Russian state TV channel pinpointed places in the US that Russia would target in a nuclear war with its new Zircon missile, said to travel at up to nine times the speed of sound, according to Reuters.
The targets listed in Russia-1’s broadcast on Feb. 24, 2019, were the Pentagon, Camp David, Jim Creek Naval Radio Station in Washington, Fort Ritchie in Maryland, and McClellan Air Force Base in California, according to Reuters and the Russian media outlet Sputnik. The latter two have been closed for about two decades, making them odd choices, Sputnik said.
Russia-1 claimed that the Zircon missile Russia is developing could strike critical US targets less than five minutes after launch, Reuters reported. Fired from a submarine, a hypersonic weapon can cover great distance very quickly; however, Russia’s claims concerning its new weapon are impossible to verify.
Tensions have been flaring between the US and Russia since the two countries in early 2019 walked away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement that NATO and the US have accused Russia of violating. Observers have said the collapse of this bilateral pact risks escalating an arms race between the two nuclear powers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.
Russia is particularly concerned about the possibility that the US will position new missiles in Europe. Washington has said it has no plans to do so, but its backing out of the treaty frees it to develop and eventually deploy these weapons to Europe if it deems such actions necessary.
Putin had claimed Russia would respond to any US move to deploy missiles closer to Europe by sending its missiles closer to the US, a threat that the US State Department dismissed as propaganda.
In his state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 20, 2019, Putin threatened to target countries housing the missiles and US decision-making centers with new weapons if the US were to take that step.
It was during that speech that the president unveiled the Zircon missile, a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound and strike targets 620 miles away.
Putin also said Russia was ready for a “Cuban missile-style crisis” if the US wants one, adding that Russia could arm its submarines with hypersonic weapons and let them lurk off the US’s coast, Reuters reported.
It’s hard to let go. If you’re a sports fan, then you’ve probably watched your favorite players age well past their primes. They cling to their identities as athletes, as competitors, and they refuse to hang up their titles even as the competition gets younger, faster, and stronger around them. Well, this same thing can happen to planes, too.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was a technological breakthrough when it first flew in 1932. But, when combat came in 1941, it was hit by a double whammy of being obsolete and badly outnumbered — and the loss rate was abysmal.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane fighter to see service in the United States. It officially entered service in 1934 and remained the fastest fighter in the skies until 1938.
The P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane to enter American service, but within a decade of its first flight, it was greatly outclassed.
Not only that, this plane was also the first to introduce flaps to U.S. aviation — a piece of technology used to make landings easier and safer. The plane needed flaps because it had a then-blistering landing speed of just under 83 miles per hour.
In the skies, it reached a top speed of 227 miles per hour and had a range of 360 miles. The plane’s initial armament included two .30-caliber machine guns — one of which was later upgraded to .50-caliber. Either two 100-pound bombs or five 31-pound bombs could be carried for ground-support missions.
P-26 Peashooters on the flight line at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
The last P-26s to serve defended the Panama Canal until 1942, when they were exported to Guatemala. There, they hung on until 1957, four years after the Korean War saw jets fighting for control of the air.
Watch a classic video of these legendary planes in service below!
Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.
Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.
Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.
The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.
Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.
“The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.
But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.
Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.
Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
Few weapons ever wielded by the U.S. Military are more beloved than the M1911. The weapon was designed by a competitive pistol shooter and equipped with the stopping power necessary to take down a berserk Moro rebel fighter. There’s a reason it was in the American arsenal for more than a century.
These days, the legendary .45 pistol isn’t used as much around the military, but it remains a collector’s item for veterans and aficionados alike. It retains its title of the greatest issued sidearm of all time – and now you can get one that came from interstellar space.
The Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from a 4-billion-year-old meteorite from Namibia.
It may sound like the first in (probably) a long line of Space Force weapons programs from a less-than-honest defense contractor, but it’s actually just a nifty idea from American firearms manufacturer Cabot Guns. Their weapons are like the concept cars of firearms, with pistols that feature mammoth ivory grips (yes, Wooly Mammoth ivory) harvested from Alaska, a pistol crafted from a 50-layer block of Damascus steel, and a Donald Trump-level .45 with a gold finish, engraved with “Trump 45” along the barrel.
Gimmicky, maybe, but all are truly so well-crafted, they earned the right to be called “elite.” The biggest standout among the manufacturer’s arsenal has to be the Big Bang Pistol Set, crafted from the Gibeon Meteorite that fell in prehistoric Namibia.
The meteorite, believed to be at least four billion years old, is comprised of iron, nickel, cobalt, and phosphorous, along with numerous other rare minerals. The object fell from the sky and broke up in the days before history was recorded, dropping interstellar rocks in a meteor field some 70 miles wide. Prehistoric tribesmen would make tools and weapons of the hard material from the sky.
The Widmanstätten pattern formed by the alloy makes it a particularly interesting design for use in jewelry and other specialty items… like firearms.
A slice of Gibeon Meteorite, featuring the Widmanstätten pattern.
For just ,500,000, you can own a piece of geological history with the power to end someone else’s history. Crafted from a 77-pound piece of the extraterrestrial rock, from the barrel to its smaller moving parts, the set contains two of the one-of-a-kind firearms. They are both fully functional pieces, made completely from the meteorite and feature the space rock’s natural pattern on the finish.
Firearms fan or not, the pistols are a pure work of art, along with all the other weapons the specialty manufacturer has to offer.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.
For decades, the U.S. military and its private-sector partners have been working toward a technology straight out of science fiction: robotic suits.
And it’s no surprise. Exoskeletons could add to soldiers’ natural strength, letting troops lift seemingly impossible loads and dart across the battlefield at incredible speed.
Currently, the military is exploring creating an Iron Man-like specialized suit through the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) program. The suit would provide soldiers with enhanced mobility and protection, and it would most likely run on top of an exoskeleton base.
Today’s exoskeletons vary in utility, but they can allow soldiers to carry 17 times more weight than normal and march with significantly less strain on the body. With an XOS 2 suit, for example, a solider can carry 400 pounds but feel the weight of only 23.5.
Although robotic exoskeleton suits have been in development for over 50 years, things really started picking up speed in the 1990s, leading to more and more interest from the U.S military. Now, it’s a clear priority.
As former Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper said: “We must give the individual soldier the same capabilities of stealth and standoff that fighter planes have. We must look at the soldier as the system.”
Early 1960s: The Man Amplifier
Throughout the early 1960s, Neil Mizen developed the early stages of the Man Amplifier at Cornell University’s Aeronautical Lab. The suit was intended to have powered gears at the joints to provide additional support and strength.
Although it was hoped that the Amplifier would have military and scientific uses, Mizen could not master the system’s powered gear system, and the suit was never completed. Even so, his research went on to inspire future exoskeleton projects.
1965: The Hardiman Suit
One of the first powered iterations of exoskeletons was General Electric’s 1965 Hardiman Suit, which was co-developed with the U.S. military. The suit built upon the research done for the Man Amplifier.
The Hardiman was intended to lift 1,500 pounds; however, the suit never managed to act as a fully unified machine, and controlling it proved impossible.
Instead, research was focused on one arm of the suit. The arm managed to lift 750 pounds, but it weighed three quarters of a ton alone. The suit was deemed impractical, and the project was eventually abandoned.
1997: The Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL)
In 1997, the Japanese research firm Cyberdyne started the earliest prototype of the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). The South Korean and U.S. militaries offered to fund the program, but the company wanted to avoid military applications for its technology.
The first prototypes of HAL were created at Tsukuba University with the aim of assisting the disabled and elderly with their daily tasks. The original HAL systems were attached to computers, and the batteries alone weighed 49 pounds.
The HAL 5
In 2013, the fifth-generation HAL prototype, HAL 5, received a global safety certificate for worldwide medical use. It was the first powered exoskeleton to receive this certification.
The HAL 5 is a full-body exoskeleton that weighs a total of 22 pounds. The system functions by sensing bio-signals on the surface of the skin, causing the exoskeleton to mirror the user’s movement. The suit can function for about an hour and a half on a full charge. The suit was used by relief workers during efforts to clean up the partial meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, because the suit could allow workers to wear more protective gear and work longer shifts without tiring as quickly.
The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)
The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) entered development in 2000 with a $50 million grant from DARPA. The prototype allowed wearers to carry upward of 200 pounds while feeling no additional weight. The exoskeleton was even capable of traversing rough terrain for extended periods of time.
The BLEEX has been designed so that the legs can be easily removed from the back if the device loses power — thus transforming it back into a standard backpack.
Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle
In 2001, Trek Aerospace ran its first test of the now-defunct Springtail Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle. The Springtail was considered for military development and even allowed for vertical flight. But ultimately, the project was deemed impractical and never took off.
The Springtail was unique in that it would allow soldiers to fly and hover, effectively taking the role of a personal vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle. The Springtail had a maximum speed of 113 miles per hour and could fly for 184 miles and carry a payload of 358 pounds.
Also in 2001, U.S. Army Rangers veteran Monty K. Reed set up North Seattle Robotics Group. The group opened the They Shall Walk non-profit, dedicated to developing LIFESUIT exoskeletons for the disabled.
Reed had a parachute accident while in the military in 1986 that left him with permanent back injuries. During his recovery, Reed became fascinated with the exoskeletons in Robert Heinlein’s novel “Starship Troopers.” The LIFESUIT is in a late stage of development, and it has entered widespread medical trials.
In 2000, Sarcos, an engineering and robotics firm in Utah, began designing the XOS Exoskeleton after receiving a grant from DARPA. DARPA accepted Sarcos’ exoskeleton design in 2006, and production of prototypes began that year.
The XOS had to stay connected to a power source to maintain movement. But the suit performed remarkably within this limitation: The XOS allowed users to lift significantly more weight than they could previously. Its actual-to-perceived-weight ratio was 6:1, meaning that a 180-pound load would feel like only 30 pounds.
A lighter, more efficient XOS
In 2007, the defense giant Raytheon purchased Sarcos. In 2010, Raytheon-Sarcos released the XOS 2. The XOS 2 featured a host of improvements over the XOS.
The XOS 2 suit allows users to lift heavy objects at an actual-to-perceived-weight ratio of 17:1. The suit also required 50% less energy than the XOS, while also weighing 10% less than its predecessor.
The XOS 2 is also touted as being more precise, faster, and more portable than the XOS. The military is considering using the XOS 2 in its TALOS project.
The Human Universal Load Carrier
The Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) began development in 2000 with Berkeley Bionics, which later changed its name to Ekso Bionics. The HULC was a third-generation exoskeleton system, and it incorporated features from two previous Ekso Bionics prototypes.
The HULC was proved to augment the strength of its wearers, allowing them to lift 200 pounds without impediment. The HULC also lowered the wearer’s metabolic cost, meaning soldiers could march with a load while having a decreased oxygen consumption and heart rate.
The HULC’s Military Applications
In 2009, Ekso Bionics licensed the HULC to Lockheed Martin for research into possible military applications. Lockheed continued its development of the HULC along the same lines as Ekso Bionics, but it increased the functionality of the suit to match the military’s needs.
HULC is multi-terrain operational, supports front and back payloads, and has enough power to last for an eight-hour march before having to be recharged. HULC allows a user to perform deep squats or crawl while wearing it, and it supports upper-body lifting as well. HULC is one of the exoskeletons currently being examined by the military for possible use in its TALOS Iron Man suit.
The X1 Mina — NASA’s Exoskeleton
NASA announced that it was creating an exoskeleton as part of a partnership with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. The X1 Mina Exoskeleton will have dual functionality. In space and low-gravity environments, the joints of the suit will be stiffer, providing the astronauts with exercise to combat muscle atrophy.
NASA also envisions that the X1 can be used by paraplegics and others with disabilities to provide support while walking. In this case, the X1’s joints can be loosened, providing support to the wearer without being physically taxing.
The Warrior Web Program — DARPA’s Exoskeleton Of The Future
DARPA began its Warrior Web program, aimed at creating a soft and lightweight under-suit that protects wearers’ joints and helps increase the amount of weight a soldier can easily carry while using less than 100 watts of power. One of the most promising designs has come from the firm Boston Dynamics.
The Warrior Web program has produced small exoskeleton-like clothing designs that are meant to be worn under normal uniforms. The overall goal of the program is to increase the endurance of soldiers by lessening the strain on their muscles.
Over the past 50 years, exoskeletons have gone from an unproven and even slightly fanciful technology to systems with medical and aerospace applications. They are becoming lighter, more energy-efficient, and more flexible — meaning that it is probably just a matter of time before the U.S. develops a practical military version.
Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force continued to build a strong relationship with British Army Reserve soldiers with 5th Military Intelligence (5MI) Battalion, during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey from Sept. 11-19, 2019.
The purpose behind the exercise originated in 2014 to improve interoperability by increasing cohesion between British and US military units so they are better prepared to work alongside one another. This year, the training was hosted on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The weeklong training placed the two units inside the Infantry Immersion Trainer (IIT) on MCB Camp Lejeune.
Inside the IIT, the military members conducted detaining operations, handling prisoners of war and finding improvised explosive devices.
US Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Fiorucci, ground sensor operator, assigned to 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, reviews notes during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 10, 2019
(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Austin Livingston)
US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and a British soldier with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, clear a room at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)
A US Marine with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, provide security at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)
US Marines assigned with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, plan their next training operation at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)
US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, and British soldiers with the UK’s 5 Military Intelligence Battalion, are debriefed at the Infantry Immersion Trainer during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)
US Marines with 2nd Intelligence Battalion and British soldiers with 5 Military Intelligence Battalion conduct room-clearing operations while participating in a live-action simulation during Exercise Phoenix Odyssey on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Livingston)
“We train together to learn how to work with one another in the intelligence operations center so that in the event we have to deploy, it’s important we understand how to do the same processes,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tevis Lang, a master analyst with 2nd Intelligence Battalion. “If we understand each other, we can work together anywhere.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Department of Defense announced today the selection of Kelly McKeague to be the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. McKeague was sworn in this morning during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
McKeague, who retired from the US Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.
“I know the importance of the agency’s mission and I look forward to working with DPAA’s team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.
Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.
“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of US personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”
McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.
“I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency’s solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor.”
A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters US Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer.
His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.
The Dec. 13 crash of a MV-22B Osprey off the coast of Okinawa is the eighth involving this plane – and the fourth since the plane was introduced into service in 2007. Over its lengthy RD process and its operational career, 39 people have been killed in accidents involving the V-22 Osprey.
Sounds bad, right?
Well, the Osprey is not the first revolutionary aircraft to have high-profile crashes. The top American ace of World War II, Richard Bong, was killed while carrying out a test flight of a Lockheed YP-80, America’s first operational jet fighter.
The top American ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, died when the F-86H he was flying crashed.
That said, the V-22 came close to cancellation numerous times during the 1990s, and killing it was a priority of then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. He failed, and the United States got a game-changing aircraft.
It should be noted that most of the 39 fatalities happened during the RD phase of the Osprey program.
The July 2000 crash was the worst, with 19 Marines killed when the V-22 they were on crashed during a simulated night assault mission. According to an article in the September 2004 issue of Proceedings, the Osprey involved crashed due to a phenomenon known as “vortex ring state.”
The December 2000 Osprey crash that killed all four on board had a more mundane cause. The plane suffered a failure in its hydraulic system, causing the tiltrotor to start an uncontrolled descent.
Wired.com reported in 2005 that a software glitch caused the plane to reset on each of the eight occasions that the crew tried to reset the Primary Flight Control System. The Osprey’s 1,600-foot fall ended in a forest.
Since entering service in July 2007, the Osprey’s track record has been much stronger.
Counting the most recent crash, there have been four Osprey accidents in the nine years and four months the V-22 has been operational. Two of those crashes, one in April 2010 that involved a special operations CV-22 in Afghanistan and an MV-22 in Morocco that crashed in April 2012, killed six personnel.
The crashes in December 2012 and the one earlier this week, resulted in no fatalities.
Three other personnel died in accidents: A Marine died in October 2014 when a life preserver failed, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In May 2015, a fire after an Osprey “went down” killed two Marines per an Associated Press report.
Despite the recent incidents, the V-22 has been remarkably safe, particularly in combat.
None have been lost to enemy fire, a distinction that many helicopters cannot boast. The CH-53 series of helicopters, saw over 200 personnel killed in crashes by the time of a 1990 Los Angeles Times report, which came 15 years before a January 2005 crash that killed 31 personnel.
The BBC reported at the time that the helicopter was on a mission near Rutbah, Iraq.
The Air Force has begun experimenting and conceptual planning for a 6th generation fighter aircraft to emerge in coming years as a technological step beyond the F-35, service leaders said.
“We have started experimentation, developmental planning and technology investment,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition.
The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint StrikeFighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft. The Air Force characterizes the effort in terms of a future capability called Next-Gen Air Dominance.
While Bunch did not elaborate on the specifics of ongoing early efforts, he did make reference to the Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan which delineates some key elements of the service’s strategy for a future platform.
Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.
Some of these characteristics may have been on display more than a year ago when Northrop Grumman’s Super Bowl ad revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet.
Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right. While there are not many details available on this work, it is safe to assume Northrop is advancing concepts, technology and early design work toward this end. Boeing is also in the early phases of development of a 6th-gen design, according to a report in Defense News.
The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.
The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.
Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.
Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, artificial intelligence, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.
Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well. For instance, Northrop’s historic X-47B demonstrator aircraft was the first unmanned system to successfully launch and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”
Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained. As a result, super cruise brings a substantial tactical advantage because it allows for high-speed maneuvering without needing afterburner, therefore enable much longer on-location mission time. Such a scenario provides a time advantage as the aircraft would likely outlast a rival aircraft likely to run out of fuel earlier. The Air Force F-22 has a version of super-cruise technology.
Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefield information.The new aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.
The Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Geoffrey Zacharias, has told Scout Warrior that the US anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic drones by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic drone aircraft by the 2040s. There is little doubt that hypersonic technology, whether it be weaponry or propulsion, or both, will figure prominently into future aircraft designs.
Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot. We see some of this already in the F-35; the aircraft sensor fusion uses advanced computer technology to collect, organize and display combat relevant information from a variety of otherwise disparate sensors onto a single screen for pilots. In addition, Northrop’s Distributed Aperture System is engineered to provide F-35 pilots with a 360-degree view of the battlespace. Cameras on the DAS are engineered into parts of the F-35 fuselage itself to reduce drag and lower the aircraft’s radar signature.
Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.
This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.
It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.
The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.
“It was like a smear,” he said. “It was like a smear on a microscope slide, and eventually occupied a fourth of my field of vision. After fifteen minutes, it went away.”
Stewart had had another episode of temporary blindness just ten days earlier. He went into a Gulf War Illness chat group, looking for someone who might have experienced the same thing before, worried he might be facing a stroke.
The VA medical center did blood tests and an FMRI, all of which came back inconclusive.
“The doctor told me there was no such thing as Gulf War Illness,” Glenn said. He instead offered Glenn a psychological evaluation.
“Making a statement like that is ignorance,” Glenn said. “There is a lot of research and lots of studies done on it.
“I wanted to slap him.”
Stewart is right; there is a lot of research supporting the existence of what he and many other Gulf war vets experience on a daily basis, 25 years after their war ended. They suffer without any acknowledgement from the government agency meant to take care of them.
The illness is described as a multi-symptom, chronic condition experienced by 250,000 of the 700,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They experience symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to various cancers. Fibromyalgia and bowel disorders are two big indicators of the disorder. Stewart suffers from both, but the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t recognize the illness by that name.
The VA calls their condition “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illness.” According to the VA’s Public Health page, the VA prefers “not to use the term ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ when referring to medically unexplained symptoms reported by Gulf War veterans because symptoms vary widely.”
The VA presumes that specific disabilities diagnosed in certain veterans were caused by their military service. If a veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, the VA is forced assume the condition service-connected, then veteran is then entitled to medical or disability benefits associated with that diagnosis. Because the VA doesn’t use an umbrella term for Gulf War Illness, many veterans find themselves without compensation or connection for related illnesses that don’t have presumptive status.
Former VA epidemiologist Steven Coughlin resigned from the VA in 2012, citing serious ethical issues around the dissemination of false information about veteran health and withholding research about the link between nerve gas and Gulf War Illness.
“There is no consistent evidence of a higher overall incidence of cancer in veterans who were deployed to the Gulf War than in non-deployed veterans,” Robert Jesse, then the VA’s acting undersecretary for health, wrote in a letter Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who requested information on adding the increased incidence of brain cancer, lung cancer, and migraines in Gulf War veterans to the VA’s list of presumptive conditions.
“What they’ve done is used the overall population of deployed veterans during Desert Storm,” he said. “If you use the whole population, it does not show an increase of cancers, but if you look at Khamisiyah, there are significant increases of cancers.”
Khamisiyah is the site of a munitions industrial center in Iraq, where demolition of conventional and chemical munitions just after the end of the 1991 Gulf War exposed as many as 100,000 service members to Sarin nerve gas. For those near Khamisiyah, the rate of brain cancer was was more than twice as high as unexposed veterans.
Burning oil wells are believed to be the cause of increased lung cancer deaths, a rate 15% higher than those who did not serve in the 1991 Gulf War, is considered by the VA to be “inconclusive” because the VA did not know how many of the those afflicted were smokers.
The VA’s research not only contradicts the Institute of Medicine’s findings, it contradicts the VA’s own research on brain cancer. That study was backed by a similar one in the American Journal of Public Health. Furthermore, migraines and chronic fatigue were found in Gulf War veterans in a National Institute of Health study just one year before the 2014 ruling.
That same year, Georgetown University found the first physical traces of Gulf War Illness, evidence showing atrophy in the brainstem, which regulates heart rate. Another group showed atrophy in cortical regions adjacent to pain perception. This shows Gulf War veterans’ have abnormalities in the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the brain areas involved in the processing and perception of pain and fatigue.
“Our findings help explain and validate what these veterans have long said about their illness,” Rakib Rayhan, a Georgetown University researcher, said. The study’ lead researcher, Dr. James Baraniuk, added “Now investigators can move from subjective criteria to objective MRI and other criteria for diagnosis and to understand the brain pathology.”
While Georgetown’s findings are the latest evidence, studies as far back as 2003 found Khamisiyah veterans are at increased risk for hospitalization from circulatory diseases, specifically cardiac dysrhythmias.
In the face of what should be considered overwhelming evidence from multiple, separate studies and institutions, the VA still doesn’t recognize Gulf War Illness, so veterans with symptoms that don’t fall in the presumptive category are still denied treatment and compensation for their issues. That includes Glenn Stewart, who says his illness “robbed him of his life.” Stewart now runs a YouTube channel about his struggles with his condition and his fighting with the VA.
“You got a a whole bunch of veterans sick, in pain, and dying due to Gulf War Illness,” he said. “They feel that no one is going to help them and are losing hope. Some of these people will take their own lives. It is not that I will commit suicide or want to die, but I look forward to dying because it will end my daily pain and torture.”