Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

All Coast Guard National Security Cutters should have ScanEagle drones aboard and available for launch to boost high seas surveillance and aid in drug interdictions and arrests, according to Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

Commanders who have used the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System, or UAS, have told him, ” ‘I don’t ever want to sail without ScanEagle again,’ ” Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018, at the National Press Club. “I’d like to see every national security cutter have one on the back.”


For the past 17 years, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center has experimented with various types of UAS, including a helicopter drone and MQ-1 Predator, for cutters but found them unsuited for the Coast Guard‘s dual mission of national security and law enforcement.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

A ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle from ScanEagle Guardian Eight Site sits ready for launch.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Kristine Volk, Resolute Support Public Affairs)

In 2017, the Coast Guard tested a ScanEagle aboard the cutter Stratton on a six-week deployment to the Eastern Pacific. By the end of the deployment, the drone had flown 39 sorties for a total of 279 hours and assisted the crew in seizing 1,676 kilograms of contraband, valued at million. It also aided in the arrests of 10 alleged drug traffickers, according to the service.

The ScanEagle, made by Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, was developed from a commercial version designed to collect weather data and scan the ocean for schools of fish. The Coast Guard version is about 8 feet long, with a wingspan of 16 feet. The drone is sent aloft by a pneumatic launcher and recovered using a hook and arresting wire.

In June 2018, Insitu announced the signing of a 7 million contract with the Coast Guard for the installation of ScanEagles aboard cutters. In a statement, Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense, said when ScanEagle initially deployed with the Stratton, “We recognized what an incredible opportunity we had to partner with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring dynamic improvements to mission effectiveness and change aviation history.”

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle conducts flight operation over the USNS Spearhead.

The contract was “an incredibly important first step in realizing the Coast Guard’s vision of fleet-wide UAS implementation,” said Cmdr. Daniel Broadhurst, who has served as unmanned aircraft systems division chief in the Coast Guard’s Office of Aviation Forces.

The fate of the UAS plan and other Coast Guard projects largely will depend on the outcome of the upcoming budget battles in the new Congress, Schultz said Dec. 7, 2018.

Currently, “we’re faced with more demands for Coast Guard services than fiscal resources,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A new German Army rifle is coming to the U.S. market

On September 14, 2020, the German Armed Forces selected the Haenel MK 556 to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 as its standard-issue rifle. Over 100,000 rifles will be delivered by 2026. The Haenel is the first service rifle used by the Bundeswehr to be produced by a company other than Heckler & Koch. It is a fully-automatic version of the civilian Haenel CR 223 rifle which has been in use with German law enforcement agencies since 2017. In January 2021, the Swiss firearm company B&T announced that it will import the CR 223 for sale in the United States as the B&T-15.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
The MK 556 follows the standard AR-15 architecture (Haenel)

Haenel is no stranger to the firearm industry. In fact, the company produced what is widely considered to be the first modern assault rifle, the StG 44. Also known as the MP 43 and MP 44, the late-WWII rifle featured the first widespread use of an intermediate cartridge. In January 2019, Haenel’s MK 556 was shortlisted alongside the H&K HK416 and HK433 as a candidate to replace the Bundeswehr’s G36 service rifle.

The G36 replaced the H&K G3 service rifle in 1997. Since then, it has also seen use with elite units like the German GSG9, the French GIGN, and the British SAS. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, the G36 uses a short-stroke piston gas system and has been adapted into both carbine and squad automatic weapon variants. While the MK 556 retains the short-stroke gas system of the G36, it is currently only offered in a standard rifle configuration.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
The MK 556 can also be equipped with a picatinny rail (Haenel)

With the AR-15 market expanding rapidly in the United States, B&T made the decision to import the Haenel CR 223 and market it to American shooters. The weapon’s high-precision German engineering and selection by the military make it a highly desirable product to the discerning customer. Named the B&T-15, it features a short barrel and will be imported and sold in the United States as a pistol. Customers will need to equip it with a pistol brace or file a Form 1 with the ATF and classify it as a short-barrelled rifle.

Though it is marked 223, the rifle is chambered in 5.56mm and can accept both cartridges. It features a chromed bolt carrier group and ambidextrous controls like its European counterparts. The quick-detach handguard is M-LOK compatible rather than the KeyMod or picatinny configurations that are sold in Europe. This is likely due to the fact that M-LOK is regulated by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and is restricted for sale outside of the United States. Another European feature is that the rifle can be placed on safe even after the hammer has been dropped.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
(Haenel)

The B&T-15 is 100% German-made and is as close to the new German Army rifle as the American market will get. Coupled with the fact that it’s a European import, the B&T-15 will have an MSRP of $3,000. This is consistent with the prices of other German military-grade firearms like the H&K MR556, the civilian version of the HK416. B&T says the new weapon will be available in the United States by mid-2021.

Articles

How Marines used a 3D printer and a little ‘grunt ingenuity’ to make gadgets that help them in combat

Second Lt. Ben Lacount knows that it’s never a good thing to run out of rounds during a firefight. And it’s certainly not a good thing to be surprised that you have.


That’s why he invented the “Lacounter” with help from Navy engineers and a 3D printer that allowed him to cut prototyping time down to a fraction. The device allows shooters to see how many rounds they’ve expended while pulling the trigger so that they’re not in a bind when they do.

The Lacounter even works with belt fed weapons like the M249 and M2 .50cal.

Lacount’s prototype takes advantage of a process known as “additive manufacturing,” and it’s one that could change the face of military logistics forever.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. Ben Lacount presents his winning entry from the Marine Corps Innovation Challenge during a showcase at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, in West Bethesda, Md., Aug. 15, 2017. Lacount created an expended rounds counter for the M16 rifle in the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education Laboratory, Carderock™s additive manufacturing collaborative space. (U.S. Navy photo by Dustin Q. Diaz/Released)

“My goal for this project was to have a simple, lightweight, low-cost and no battery solution to this issue,” Lacount said, according to a Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock release.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

And Lacount’s not alone.

Captain Kyle McCarley helped come up with a new way to carry the “Bangalore torpedo,” an explosive device used to blow up obstacles like barbed wire. While they are very useful, they are bulky, and take up space. But McCarley used a 3D printer to make a quiver-like pack with elastic straps for the devices that can attack to a normal assault pack.

Then there was Staff Sgt. Daniel Diep, an artilleryman. After noticing that the cable for the Chief of Section Display got damaged from debris that got stuck in the cable – something that took a week and $3,000 to fix – he designed a 3D-printed cable head that cost $10 to make.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning

“The neat thing about this cable cap is the cable heads themselves can be additively manufactured, and Marines like myself can take all the old cables, cut them down, and we can put new heads on them after 3-D printing,” Diep said.

But the neatest trick of all is getting the 3D printers closer to the grunts. Captain Tony Molnar and Master Sgt. Gage Conduto have worked that out – not only by bringing the printers to units at FOBs, but also a processing center to recycle plastic, like water bottles often delivered to troops on deployment. This will be a huge boon for explosive ordnance techs like Conduto.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Spc. Ryan Rolf, a combat engineer from Fullerton, Nebraska, with the 402nd Engineer Company, places a field expedient bangalore packed with C-4 explosive in a barbed wire obstacle during an in-stride breach event at the 2014 Sapper Stakes competition at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 5. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

“I can’t walk down to the Marine Corps machinist with a stinger missile in my hand and say, ‘I need a set of tools made, can you get these back to me next week?'” he said.

But the tech could go even further, than just helping come up with new tools. In fact, it could be a huge game-changer for any forward-deployed unit.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
3D Printing in a laboratory setting. Now, imagine a field-deployable 3D printer set-up, along with something to harvest or recycle materials to use in the printer. (Photo by Jonathan Juursema.)

“This container will benefit the Marine expeditionary units and the Marine Corps and DOD because it can do two things: One, it enhances the expeditionary readiness of forward-deployed units by being able to print parts locally on site using recycled materials, and second, it helps those combat units forward by providing stuff that they can’t do, as well as printing stuff for the local populous during humanitarian disaster relief that we couldn’t normally do and that we’d have to pay someone to do,” Molnar told the Navy News Service.

Marine grunts getting inventive — that’s a very frightening thought … for America’s enemies.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In the IRR? The military may want you back if you served in one of these jobs

At least one of the military services says it’s looking for members of the Individual Ready Reserve to come back into the fold — and the call goes beyond just those who served in medical specialties.

As the country faces a potentially monthslong emergency over the novel coronavirus crisis, the military services could turn to a pool of veterans who thought their days in uniform were behind them.


President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month giving the Pentagon the authority to recall some members of the IRR to active duty — a move that likely sent many veterans rushing to check their discharge papers. Veterans can typically be recalled to active duty for eight years after the start of their service contracts, even once they’re out of uniform.

Most of the services say they’re still assessing their needs in the wake of Trump’s new order. But Lt. Col. Mary Ricks, a spokeswoman for Army Human Resources Command, said they’re seeking volunteers who served in at least four fields outside medical jobs.

“The Army is also looking for soldiers who served in the areas of logistics, aviation, as drill sergeants or recruiters,” Ricks said. “Protecting our citizens from coronavirus is a whole-of-nation call, and we need the help of our Individual Ready Reserve and our Retired Soldiers to maximize this critical effort.”

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, she added, is an “extraordinary challenge [that] requires equally extraordinary solutions.”

The Navy and Marine Corps are still reviewing whether there’s a need to recall members of the IRR, spokesmen for those services said.

The Air Force expects to target medical personnel for mobilization first, but it could expand to other specialties. That includes command-and-control elements and logistics personnel, said Sean Houlihan, an Air Force Reserve Command spokesman.

While there’s not an immediate plan to tap former airmen who served in those fields, Houlihan said the Air Force has the authority to do so.

“[Air Reserve Component] members must be prepared for mobilization at any time,” he said.

This wouldn’t be the first time the military has turned to voluntary or involuntary recall to carry out a critical mission. The Army notified around 21,000 members of the IRR they were needed during Desert Storm, Ricks said. About 18,000 of them reported for duty.

The Marine Corps got the authority in 2006 to recall up to 2,000 members of the IRR for a one-year period, said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a Marine Corps Forces Reserve spokesman. That was in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., when combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq ramped up.

The military services have activated at least a portion of the Reserves to carry out missions tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The Army Reserve has several sustainment, logistics and civil-authority units providing services in Utah, as well as New Orleans and other U.S. cities.

The Navy has nearly 200 reservists serving on hospital ships in New York and California, said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Tisdale, a Navy Reserve Force spokesman. Dozens more Navy reservists are serving on COVID-19 response missions across the joint force, he added.

If the pandemic requires a large-scale military response, officials say there are a host of benefits to being able to tap into the IRR to recall service members.

“It is a pre-trained pool of manpower that is available for recall on short notice to fulfill service requirements,” Hollenbeck said. “This means that most IRR Marines will require only minimal screening and training in order to return to active duty.”

Ricks said former soldiers and retirees possess the skills, training and education to augment the Army’s COVID-19 responses.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

That could prove invaluable, she added, “to ultimately win this fight.”

The likelihood of involuntary recalls being used will probably depend on how many veterans who recently left the service volunteer to fill in-demand requirements.

The Army over the last several weeks has seen an influx of volunteers after asking medical professionals in eight specialties to return to service to backfill hospitals after troops were called on to fill emergency field facilities in areas hard hit by coronavirus outbreaks. More than 25,000 retired and former soldiers have offered to return to their former uniformed roles.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

Two government agencies have teamed up to provide teachers with a unique education in the wake of increased school shootings.


The United States Army and Homeland Security Department are in the midst of creating a virtual reality experience they hope will help train educators on how to react in the event of a school shooting, according to Gizmodo.

Users can take on three roles in the virtual reality experience: teacher, shooter, and officer.

Teachers in the simulation must gather nervous pupils and find shelter. Those playing as the shooter are able to navigate the virtual school and kill at random. Officers in the virtual reality simulation must aim to find and kill the shooter.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Someone dazzled by VR goggles. (Photo from Flickr user Maurizio Pesce)

The simulation is being developed as part of the $5.6 million Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) initiative, which is an “online training environment for first responders.”

In 2016, the Army and HSD released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train first responders to handle hostile situations.

They’ve created simulations for both fire and police departments regarding school shooting response.

Related: New virtual reality lets operators simulate jumps into combat

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE, told Gizmodo.

“So, this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. This allowed them to incorporate the most gruesome realities into the simulation.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil after the Virginia Tech massacre (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It also helped them zero in on specific survival tactics and best practices for such scenarios, including locking doors, avoiding windows, ordering students to line up against walls, and finding items to use as barricades.

According to Gizmodo, administrators in the simulations can enable different tools, including an intercom system and automated locks.

Griffith told the publication she’s hopeful that using the simulation in varying roles within the school will allow educators to stay calm should such a real-life situation arise.

“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” she said.

“And so we want to give them the chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russian-backed separatists shoot down OSCE drone

Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) monitoring mission, demanding that those responsible “be held accountable.”

In a joint statement on Nov. 1, 2018, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on “multiple occasions” and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.


Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.

Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2018.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones

OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.

The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.

It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.

The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The mission said in March 2018 it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

Featured image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

More riots break out as Iran’s struggles continue

Demonstrators protesting over water scarcity in southwestern Iran have clashed with police for a second night, local media report.

The state-run IRNA news agency said the protesters threw projectiles at police and set trash cans and a car on fire in a protest that began late on July 1, 2018, in the city of Abadan, some 660 kilometers from Tehran.

It did not say how many people were involved in the protest, but said the situation was now “under control.”


Reports and video posted on social media indicated rallies elsewhere in Khuzestan Province, including in the provincial capital, Ahvaz.

In Mahshahr, local media reported that demonstrators took to the streets to express support for the residents of nearby Khorramshahr who have been protesting shortages of drinking water over the past days.

Late on June 30, 2018, clashes broke out between police and the protesters in the port city.

Shots could be heard on phone videos circulated on social media from the protests.

RFE/RL could not verify the authenticity of the videos.

Eleven people were injured in the violence and a number of demonstrators were arrested, officials said.

BBC Persian quoted activists as saying “dozens” were detained.

State television showed banks with broken windows, and reported in the afternoon of July 1, 2018, that “peace had returned” to the city.

“Our effort is to bring these protests to an end as soon as possible with restraint from police and the cooperation of authorities, but if the opposite happens, the judiciary and law enforcement forces will carry out their duties,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said.

Rahmani Fazli and other officials have denied reports of deaths in the protests.

“Nobody has died during the unrest in the city of Khorramshahr,’ IRNA quoted him as telling journalists on July 1, 2018.

A number of protests have broken out since the beginning of the year over the lack of drinkable water in Khuzestan Province, which borders Iraq and is home to a large ethnic Arab community that has complained of discrimination.

Critics say mismanagement by the authorities, combined with years of drought, has led to a drop in rivers’ water levels and the groundwater levels in the oil-rich province.

Javad Kazem Nasab, a lawmaker from Khuzestan, suggested that local residents were not benefiting from the province’s resources.

“In Khuzestan we have oil, water, petrochemical [industry], steel, ports, agriculture, date palms, and a common border with Iraq, but people do not benefit from these blessings and all they get is pollution and rivers that have dried,” Kazem Nasab told the semiofficial news agency ISNA on July 2, 2018.

Nasab warned that water scarcity, unemployment, and failure to rebuild the cities that were damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War could create “security” problems.

The latest protests in southwestern Iran came after three days of demonstrations in Tehran starting from June 24, 2018, over the country’s troubled economy.

The rallies included protesters confronting police outside parliament and officers firing tear gas at the demonstrators. https://www.rferl.org/a/protests-in-tehran-after-c…

They also led to the temporary closure of the city’s Grand Bazaar, where shopkeepers denounced a sharp fall in the value of the national currency, the rial.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

It was a cool California November afternoon in 1947 when the HK-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, finally flew. It was supposed to be a simple taxi test, nothing more than motoring through the water of Long Beach Harbor to show off its speed and test out the plane in open water. But having endured years of people mocking the project and himself for trying to build a plane so massive it had no hope of flying, Howard Hughes decided to take the opportunity to extend his middle finger at them all in the most poignant way he could.

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye as the Hercules cruised through the water, Hughes turned to the 30 year old hydraulic engineer, David Grant, who he had chosen as his co-pilot that day despite him not actually being a pilot, and unexpectedly told him to “lower the flaps to 15 degrees” — the take off position.


Not long after, the massive, few hundred thousand pound (250K lb / 113K kg empty, 400K lb / 181K kg gross), 218 ft (67 m) long aircraft with a still record holding wingspan of just shy of 321 feet (98 m) was out of the water. It was airborne for under a minute, went less than a mile, and only about 70 feet in the air, but it had done the impossible — the Spruce Goose flew.

Given the rather innovative use of a hydraulic system, landing was a bit abnormal for planes of the age in that the plane had to be landed under power, as Grant would instruct Hughes to “fly it into the water.”

When it finally settled back down in the water, Grant stated, “It was ecstasy all the way. It was like walking on air. It wasn’t underpowered at all, and it performed exactly like it was designed to.”

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Internal view of the Hughes H-4 Hercules fuselage.

As to why Hughes didn’t fly it further, besides elements of the aircraft still needing tweaked and the potential danger of taking media aboard a test flight in which even the pilot wasn’t quite sure how the plane would handle, they’d been taxiing around for some time at this point and the plane hadn’t been fueled much to begin with. As such, Hughes didn’t want to risk running out of fuel in open ocean before he’d have a chance to circle back around and land.

Now, the original plan for this aircraft was a lot more grandiose than a brief publicity flight. In 1942, the United States — along with much of the rest of the world — was in the midst of WWII. Being across an ocean from where the fighting was taking place was a problem when transporting supplies, weapons, and soldiers en masse.

At the time, efforts on this front weren’t going well. German U-boats were patrolling Atlantic waters and torpedoing anything that was perceived to be helping the Allied war effort. According to one estimate, between January 1942 and August 1942 alone, German U-boats had sunk 233 ships and killed more than 5,000 Americans. It was clear that a better way was needed for transporting things safely across the Big Blue.

It was Henry J. Kaiser who first proposed an idea of an airboat. Running one of the most important construction companies in modern American history, Kaiser was responsible for building quite a lot of the infrastructure of the American west at the time (including the Hoover Dam). He also created a system for fast, high-quality shipbuilding during World War II that became world renownd.

Coast Guard wants cutters to get these high-tech drones
Henry J. Kaiser

Kaiser thought that a massive airboat packed to the gills with supplies and troops that could fly over German U-boats was the answer to the problem. However, he was a shipbuilder and not an expert on airplanes… But he knew someone who was.

By 1942, Hughes was already a famed figure in America. Exceedingly wealthy, he first gained widespread fame as a Hollywood producer who was most prominently known for producing and directing Hell’s Angels, a World War I epic about aerial combat that was (at the time) the most expensive movie ever made.

In 1934, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company. A year later, he helped design and build the H-1, or as he liked to call it, the “Racer.” In September 1935, he broke the world land speed record in it with an average of 352.322 mph. In sort of a precursor of the future, during the flight the plane ran out of gas — something Hughes didn’t anticipate — forcing him to crash in a beet field, narrowly avoiding serious injury.

He broke another land speed record when he flew to New York from Los Angeles in a mere 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (averaging 332 mph). In 1938, he shattered the world record for quickest time flying around the globe, needing just 3 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, almost 4 days quicker than the previous world record set in 1933 by Wiley Post.

His prowess as an aviation engineer and pilot quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative aviators in the world- someone that Kaiser thought would help the Allies win the war.

Together, Kaiser and Hughes convinced the War Production Board to finance the construction of 500 flying boats, a project that was deemed in the press as the “most ambitious flying aviation program in the history of the world.”

For months, the old-school industrialist and the new-age aviator worked together to put together plans that would wow.

In late August, they submitted to the government blueprints for a seaplane with eight engines, a wingspan longer than a football field, and a hull taller than a five-story building.

Beyond being the largest plane ever built by far at the time, it would be able to transport 750 troops or two M2 Sherman tanks. It had a gross weight of about two hundred tons, which was nearly three times heavier than any other airplane ever built. And, due to wartime metal restrictions, it was to be built nearly entirely of wood. Hughes and Kaiser called it the HK-1, naturally named after themselves.

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While hesitant at first, the federal government gave the pair $18 million (about $250 million today) to develop and build a prototype.

It didn’t go well from the very beginning. The Hughes Aircraft Company was not a big company in 1942 and struggled with staffing, expenses, and deadlines. Hughes himself was unfocused, taking on too many projects while underestimating how much attention was needed to build a plane that would eclipse anything anyone had ever attempted to make fly. Four months in and the best thing that could be said was that they built a 750-foot long hanger, also made out of wood.

By mid-1943, construction had begun on the plane itself, but it was incredibly slow-moving. Working with wood proved to be an enormous issue, presenting a variety of challenges that had to be overcome to make a reliable sea-plane. Beyond the aforementioned then innovative hydraulic system for manipulating the control surfaces, each piece of wood (which was mostly birch, not spruce, owing to birch being quite resistant to dry rot) had to be weighed and analyzed for quality assurance before being used.

In addition, each sheet had to be laminated with a waterproof glue in order to prevent it from being damaged by water, heat, and fungus. Along the way, besides needing to purchase the rights to the Duramold laminating process, which in a nutshell involved stacking shapable ultra-thin strips of wood and applying a glue, Hughes and his teem also had to develop a variation of the process for their particular application.

As late 1943 approached, the first prototype was due to the government but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. What’s more, they had spent nearly half of the budget on “engineering re-tooling” and rumors were swirling that the first plane wasn’t going to be done until 1945. It turned out to be much worse than that.

At this point, Kaiser had had enough and bailed out of the project. Several times, the feds threatened to shut the whole thing down, willing to cut their losses. The contract that had originally been given to Hughes and Kaiser went from 500 planes to 3 planes to, finally, just one for the original $18 million.

By 1944, $13 million of that money was spent and, yet, the plane was less than half done. Then the war ended and any hope that the now-called H-4 Hercules (renamed after Kaiser left the project) was ever going to help the war effort was gone.

The contract with the federal government was swiftly canceled, but Hughes was determined to finish the plane. As he stated before the Senate War Investigating Committee in 1947 during an inquiry on whether he’d mismanaged tax payer dollars during the project,

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

And so it was that he paid for the project’s completion himself. The H-4 Hercules was finally finished in June of 1946 with $22 million of the government’s money and, while figures vary from otherwise reputable sources, according to Boeing, $18 million of Hughes own personal wealth chipped in, for a grand total of $40 million (about $450 million today). It should also be noted here that, subtracting initial research and development costs, had they decided to build a second plane, it probably would have only cost about $2.5 million (about $28 million today).

It took a little over a year more for Hughes to it fly. At this point given the massive scale of the plane, the incredible weight, the fact that it was made of wood, and the perpetual delays, the media had taken to mocking the plane, calling it the Spruce Goose — a nickname that Hughes and his team hated owing to it demeaning what was otherwise a marvel of engineering.

But on that fateful November day, the Hercules finally did what it was intended, proving many a critic wrong.

In the aftermath, there was some wrangling over who actually owned the plane given how much money Hughes himself had sunk into the project. But the U.S. government eventually gave up its rights to it in exchange for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum getting the Hughes’ H-1 Racer plane and a portion of the Spruce Goose’s wing, as well as in exchange for a relatively small payment of $700,000 (about $3 million today).

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Howard Hughes

For years afterward, Hughes, now moving on to other projects, kept the plane in the hanger he built specifically for it, seemingly originally with the intent of eventually flying it again. In fact, he kept a full-time crew of, at its peak, hundreds of people on hand to make sure the plane was ready to fly at any given moment, costing him millions of dollars over the years to do that.

Howard Hughes died in 1976 and the Spruce Goose immediately was under threat of being dismantled owing to the cost of maintaining it in its massive hanger. But the Aero Club of Southern California acquired the legendary plane in 1980 and put it in their own hanger next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, right near where the plane did its maiden and final voyage.

The Walt Disney Company bought the property in 1988 and, after a few tense years, given Disney wanted the plane gone, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon won the right to acquire the Spruce Goose.

For the last 26 years, that’s where it has remained, meticulously maintained. In fact, it’s generally thought that the maintenance over the years has been so good that, with some upgrades, particularly to the wiring and electronic components as well as going through the engines, it could possibly fly just fine today. Of course, because of its historical significance, nobody has seriously suggested anyone make those upgrades and try.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell 360 Invictus and Sikorsky Raider X selected for the next phase of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program

The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.


BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc

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As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.

“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Bell 360 Invictus – Penetrate Defensive Positions

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The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.

One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:

Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.

Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.

The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.

Meet Sikorsky RAIDER X™.

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Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Gettysburg death toll was so high that bodies were still being found in 1996

By the time the guns fell silent of the fields of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, more than 40,000 men lay dead, dying or wounded.

A turning point of the civil war, the battle was also among the conflict’s bloodiest.

Of the 94,000 Union troops who fought in the three day conflict, 23,000 became casualties, with 3,100 killed.

The Confederates were outnumbered — with 71,000 fighting in the battle, and a greater proportion wounded and killed.

28,000 Southerners were casualties in the battle — 39% of its total fighting force that day— with of them 3,900 killed.


Here’s a description of the horrific scene that greeted the parties sent out to bury the dead at nightfall, by a New Jersey soldier.


“Some with faces bloated and blackened beyond recognition, lay with glassy eyes staring up at the blazing summer sun; others, with faces downward and clenched hands filled with grass or earth, which told of the agony of the last moments.
“Here a headless trunk, there a severed limb; in all the grotesque positions that unbearable pain and intense suffering contorts the human form, they lay.”
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The burial parties put the bodies in shallow graves or trenches near where they fell — sometimes Union and Confederate soldiers together. Others, found by their comrades, were given proper burials in marked graves.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin visited the battlefield soon after, and was appalled by the devastation and the stench of death.

“Heavy rains had washed away the earth from many of the shallow graves. Grotesquely blackened hands, arms and legs protruded from the earth like “the devil’s own planting… a harvest of death” while the stench of death hung heavy in the air,” writes John Heiser of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Curtin went on to fund the creation of a special cemetery for the civil war dead, and also to recover and rebury the remains on the battlefield.

This grisly job was entrusted to a series of teams, led by local merchant Samuel Weaver.

He described how poles with hooks were used to search the clothing on exhumed corpses for identification — how the color and fabric of uniforms was used to distinguish Confederate from Unionist corpse.

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1st Massachusetts Monument.

Initially, Confederate bodies were left were they lay in the ad-hoc graves, and only Union soldier exhumed to be reburied in the new National Military Park Cemetery, then called the Soldiers National Cemetery.

It was at the consecration of the cemetery on November 19 that President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address, where he praised the sacrifice of the soldiers.

He called on Americans to pledge “that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

About a decade later, Weaver’s son helped Confederate families exhume the remains of the 3,000 Confederate dead, who were reburied in Richmond, Raleigh, Savannah and Charleston.

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Gettysburg National Military Park.

So many bodies were buried in the fields of Gettysburg that not all were found, and remains were still being discovered almost a century and a half later.

In 1996, a tourist found human remains in territory called Railroad Cut, about a mile outside town. It was the first time more or less complete human remains had been found on the battlefield since 1939, reported the Baltimore Sun at the time.

The remains were examined by the Smithsonian, and found to belong to a man about 5 foot 8 or 9 tall, in his early 20s, who had been shot in the back of the head.

In 1997 the remains were given a military burial in Gettysburg National Military Park Cemetery alongside partial remains of other other soldiers found over the years.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s longing for former Soviet Union hits 14-year high

More Russians regret the breakup of the Soviet Union than at any other time since 2004, an opinion poll shows.

In a survey whose results were published on Dec. 19, 2018, two-thirds — or 66 percent — of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether they regret the 1991 Soviet collapse.

That is up from 58 percent a year earlier and is the highest proportion since 2004, the last year of President Vladimir Putin’s first term, Levada said.


One-quarter of respondents said they do not regret the Soviet breakup, the lowest proportion since 2005, and 9 percent said they could not answer.

Putin, president from 2000-08 and 2012 to the present, has often played up the achievements of the Soviet Union while playing down some of its darkest chapters.

In 2005, Putin called the Soviet breakup the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, citing the large numbers of Russians it left outside Russia.

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In March 2018, when asked what event in the country’s history he would like to have been able to change, he named the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Levada said that Russians’ concerns about their economic security today were among the main reasons for the increase in the number voicing regret.

A highly unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by five years has stoked antigovernment sentiment and pushed Putin’s own approval ratings down in 2018.

The peak of regret over the Soviet collapse came in 2000, when 75 percent of Russian polled by Levada answered “yes” to the same question.

In 2018, Levada surveyed 1,600 people nationwide in the Nov. 22-28, 2018 poll.

The pollster said that 52 percent of respondents named the collapse of the Soviet Union’s “single economic system” as the main thing they regretted.

Worries about their current economic situation and prospects were a major factor for many of those respondents, Levada said.

At the same time, 36 percent said they miss the “feeling of belonging to a great power,” and 31 percent lamented mistrust and cruelty in society.

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

MIGHTY FIT

Meditation is like ‘Bicep Curls’ for your Brain

Your mind is a muscle. Your patience is a muscle. Your creativity is a muscle. Your muscles are muscles. Just like muscles all these other skills and organs can be trained to become better at what they do. Let’s have a look at exactly how this works for your brain and how you can train it with meditation to become more resilient, just like your biceps get from all those curls you finish every workout with.


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Trying to get enlightened real fast!

(Photo by Sgt. Elizabeth White)

This is how your brain works

When you are born, your brain is like the untainted wilderness. As you grow and learn things paths are developed in your brain to those facts and actions just like footpaths are in the woods. Over time those paths become entrenched so that they are unconscious.

When was the last time you gave your full attention to tying your shoes? It’s probably been a long time, that’s because simple actions like lacing up your boots get moved into your unconscious memory. You don’t need to think about doing it. This is a way that our brains work to save space and processing power.

This is great for things like getting dressed or signing your signature, but it becomes a problem when your habits are less desirable, like smoking or not thinking before you speak when your OIC is around.

US Army Veteran, Sean Villa, on Transcendental Meditation

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Being able to break these bad habits and actively control what we remember is one of the benefits of meditation known as neuroplasticity.

That phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” comes from old people being stuck in their ways, refusing to change, obviously. That’s the opposite of neuroplasticity. Meditation teaches your brain to stay young and flexible.

Literally, the same thing that happens to your body when you train happens to your brain when you meditate. It makes you more resilient to change and adversity. Whether that adversity is an alligator that needs a beat down- physical training #happygilmore, or a newly updated browser that makes it impossible to figure out how to delete your less than desirable search history #firstworldproblems- meditation.

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Don’t forget the gym just because you are training your brain like these guys.

(Photo by Iván Tejero on Unsplash)

What meditation can do in the most extreme cases

Of the pilot studies on military members with PTSD, they all have been able to show significant results from meditation. In one study over 83% of the participants had a positive effect after just one month, some of which were even able to get off the medication they were taking to help manage their symptoms.

The practices these groups were doing did more than just manage symptoms. It allowed the service members to come to terms with what they experienced. This takes neuroplasticity to the next level.

Meditation Improves Performance at Military University

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What happens many times in those with PTSD is that their mind gets stuck on loop reliving a terrible or gruesome experience. The brain digs a path so deep that it’s like you’re stuck in the Grand Canyon of your mind with no climbing tools to get up the wall and out of that undesirable place.

The meditation practices in these studies gave the participants the tools they needed to start climbing up and making their way out to forge a new less traumatic path.

Again, this is exactly the same as if you were actually stuck at the bottom of The Grand Canyon. You need the physical strength to start making your way up, if you’ve never done a pull-up that climb is going to be impossible. You need to train and acquire the physical tools to accomplish such a feat.

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You don’t need to be sitting crossed legged to be doing it “right”.

(Photo by Amy Velazquez on Unsplash)

How you can implement a practice

Just like in the gym you can’t expect to reap the benefits of meditation after a 10-minute session. How long did it take you to finally bench 225? How are those abs coming?

Shit takes time.

You need to start somewhere though. Here are two methods to go from zero to hero on the brain training front.

Mindfulness Meditation in Military

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Learn to be in silence: Most of us are constantly surrounded by ear clutter. And even when we finally get a chance for some silence, like in the shower, we decide to crank the Spotify Throwback Workout playlist. Many people can’t even fall asleep without some noise in the background. Start slow on your path to meditation by just picking some dedicated time where you will intentionally listen to nothing and no one. Put some earplugs in if you’re in the barracks and just learn to embrace the silence.

Use an app: What happens when you go to the gym completely unprepared with no idea what to do? Chances are you end up doing a few sets of biceps curls and waste 30 minutes on a treadmill. The equivalent can happen when meditating. Start slowly with an app like headspace or Sam Harris’ new app Waking Up. They will take you through a beginners course on meditating and help you start building that neuroplasticity toolbox.

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