MIGHTY TRENDING

The differences between America’s top special operators

The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.

Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.

They’re also very secretive.

As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.

So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.

Check them out below.


The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.

(US Army photo)

1. Army Rangers.

The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.

Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”

They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.

The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.

The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.

(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)

Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.

After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.

The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.

2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.

Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.

Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.

MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.

Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.

You can read more about the emblem here.

A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.

(US Air Force photo)

3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).

PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.

Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”

And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.

The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.

(US Air Force photo)

(US Air Force photo)

The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.

(US Army photo)

To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.

The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.

Green Berets, which work in 12-man teams, can perform a variety of missions, including unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, foreign internal defense, and more.

Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.

One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.

(US Army photo)

The two patches below are the other ways to distinguish them.

The patch that reads “Special Forces,” known as the “Long Tab,” is given to operators after finishing the 61-week long Special Forces Qualification Course.

Green Berets also wear patches of a dagger going through lightning bolts, but the colors vary depending on the unit.

Read more about Army Special Forces here.

The SEAL trident is an indicator of Navy SEALs.

(US Navy photo)

5. Navy SEALs.

The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.

SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.

And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.

The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

(US Navy photo)

The other is their uniforms.

Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.

A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.

Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.

(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)

6. Delta Force.

The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.

A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”

Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.

In general, Delta and SEAL Team 6 operators are the most highly trained operators in the US military.

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA research shows “remarkable improvements” for spinal cord injury veterans

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a debilitating medical condition. It limits the function of movement and control in the body. As a result, having an SCI can lead to reduced aerobic fitness, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This is due to autonomic dysfunction, muscle wasting, increased regional and total body fat mass, and relative inactivity.

The Central Virginia VA Health Care System has unique expertise treating Veterans with these injuries.


The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs has awarded a grant for .7 million to the Central Virginia VA Health Care System and Virginia Commonwealth University. In turn, these researchers will study spinal epidural stimulation in people with spinal cord injuries. The grant is the first of its kind at a VA medical center.

VA research teams will collaborate on using spinal epidural stimulation treatment with a robotic suit. Hopefully, the result will be an improved quality of life for those suffering with spinal cord injuries. Researchers currently use VA’s robotic exoskeleton suits to improve SCI patients’ mobility and outlook for their prognosis.

New breakthrough can help people stand, step and walk

“A new, scientific breakthrough can help people stand, step and even walk again,” said Dr. Ashraf Gorgey. Gorgey is director of research for the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders unit and principal investigator for this clinical trial. “It’s called lumbosacral epidural stimulation, or ES. Our research team has used the ‘ES Robot Suit’ for three months in one person with tetraplegia. The patient showed remarkable improvements in motor control. We aim to implant 20 Veterans who have a spinal cord injury with electrodes in their spine.”

Gorgey says they aim to enhance muscle volitional control. Dr. Robert Trainer supports the program by implanting the device. Muscle volitional control includes the ability to perform sit-to-stand activity, overground stepping and limit secondary complications in persons. This may include other benefits similar to improvement in the cardiovascular system and bladder functions. These are common side effects for SCI patients.

www.blogs.va.gov

The study will measure the effectiveness of resistance training for Veterans using exoskeletal-assisted walking and ES. It will look for improvements in motor recovery, cardio-metabolic health and bladder control.

“The clinical trial will be conducted and completed entirely at CVHCS in Richmond,” Gorgey said.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the plan to take over ISIS’ final stronghold in Iraq

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said they welcome the commencement today of the Iraqi forces’ offensive to liberate Qaim district from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


Qaim is ISIS’ final stronghold in Iraq and approximately 1,500 ISIS fighters are estimated to remain in the immediate vicinity.

Iraqi forces are battle-hardened after their victories in Mosul, Tal Afar and Hawijah, and are a determined, professional force dedicated to ridding Iraq of ISIS, task force officials said.

Also read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

The coalition provides Iraqi forces with training, equipment, advice, assistance, intelligence and precise air support. The coalition will continue to support Iraq’s government “as we recognize together the importance of a unified Iraq to the long-term security and prosperity of the Iraqi people,” officials said.

Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

Rigorous coalition standards and extraordinary measures in the targeting process seek to protect noncombatants in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict and the principles of military necessity, humanity, proportionality and distinction, task force officials said.

Qaim sits in the Middle Euphrates River Valley on the Syrian border where it connects with the Syrian town of Abu Kamal. Prior to ISIS’ control of the city, Qaim district’s population was around 150,000. “We anticipate a significant return of residents to the district upon Iraq’s liberation of [Qaim],” officials said.

Iraq’s government and the Iraqi forces, with the support of the global coalition, have liberated more than 4.4 million Iraqis and reclaimed over 47,769 square kilometers, approximately 95 percent of land once held by ISIS. Much work remains to consolidate gains as operations continue to destroy ISIS’ remaining capabilities, task force officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Commander sentenced to 18 months for ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal

A U.S. Navy commander was sentenced Dec. 1 to 18 months in prison for his role in a fraud and bribery scheme that cost the government about $35 million.


Cmdr. Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Va., was the latest person to be sentenced in connection with a decade-long scam linked to a Singapore defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” Francis.

Francis bribed Navy officials to help him over-bill the Navy for fuel, food, and other services his company provided to ships docked in Asian ports, according to prosecutors. The bribes allegedly ranged from cash and prostitutes to Cuban cigars and Spanish suckling pigs.

Pitts pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges that alleged he tried to obstruct a federal investigation while in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore.

In handing down the sentence against Pitts, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino told him that he had “betrayed the Navy and betrayed the country,” prosecutors said in a news release.

Also Read: This is why the ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal is a very serious problem

“Pitts deliberately and methodically undermined government operations and in doing so, diverted his allegiance from his country and colleagues to a foreign defense contractor, and for that, he is paying a high price,” said Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego.

In addition to his prison sentence, Pitts was also ordered to pay $22,500 in fines and restitution.

Articles

These are the weapons France and the US have sent to ground troops fighting ISIS

French-made anti-tank weapons supplied to the Kurds and U.S. versions given to the Iraqi Security Forces have been blunting a main method of attack by the Islamic State, according to Kurdish and U.S. Central Command officials.


Kurdish Peshmerga forces used the MILAN (Missile d’Infanterie Leger Antichar, or light infantry anti-tank missile) to stop ISIS counter-attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the successful push to take the northwestern Iraqi town of Sinjar last week, according to the Kurdish Security Council and Western reporters traveling with the Kurds.

Photo: Wikipedia/LFK GmbH

The MILANs were used to defend against at least 16 vehicle-borne IED suicide attacks by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the initial stages of Operation Free Sinjar, according to Kurdish commanders cited by Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency.

The U.S. has also been supplying hundreds of AT-4s — a shoulder-fired, Swedish-made recoilless weapon — to the ISF. The AT-4s have been appearing on Iraqi Security Forces frontlines in the long-stalled effort to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.

In addition, Syrian fighters backed by the U.S. have been using U.S. BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically- tracked, Wire-guided, or TOW, anti-armor missiles supplied by the CIA against the armored columns of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian activist groups.

Photo: Youtube

The MILANs, portable medium-range, anti-tank weapons manufactured by Euromissile in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, have become standard weapons for NATO allies and other countries. The system was initially developed for the French and German armies.

Germany began supplying the MILANs and other weapons directly to the Kurds last year to avoid the chokepoint that can develop by shipping arms through Baghdad. The Germans have also taken Kurdish officers back to Germany for training in the use of the MILANS.

Rudaw quoted Gen. Araz Abdulkadir, commander of the Kurdish 9th Brigade, as saying, “The MILANs are very important” in offensives in stopping ISIS suicide attacks with vehicle-borne IEDs. “They greatly improve the morale of the Peshmerga. The troops know it is a very clever weapon, which can stop any car bomb.”

ISIS used the weapons to devastating effect in shattering Iraqi defenses in taking Ramadi last May in a major setback for the campaign to degrade and defeat the terrorist group. Iraqi forces fled the city, leaving behind much of their equipment.

Following the fall of Ramadi, a senior State department official, speaking on background, said that ISIS used a coordinated series of at least 30 suicide car and truck bombs to take out “entire city blocks” as the ISF fell back.

Since the capture of Ramadi, the U.S. has launched airstrikes specifically targeting sites where ISIS was believed to be manufacturing vehicle-borne IEDs.

In an August briefing to the Pentagon, Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea said that airstrikes had destroyed a facility near the north-central Iraqi town of Makhmur where ISIS was making vehicle-borne IEDs.

“These strikes, conducted in coordination with the government of Iraq, will help reduce the ability of Daesh to utilize their weapon of choice – VBIEDs,” Killea said, using an Arabic term for ISIS.

In several briefings to the Pentagon from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Centcom’s Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, has described the supply of AT-4s to the ISF and the training by U.S. troops of the Iraqi Security Forces in their use.

Warren said ISIS uses the vehicle-borne IEDs “almost like a guided missile” in the offense to break Iraqi Security Forces lines and allow advances.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

MIGHTY GAMING

Why we’re hyped about the upcoming ‘Fallout 76’

Last week, Bethesda Softworks dropped the announcement trailer for the newest installment in the exceedingly popular Fallout series, Fallout 76. Immediately, gamers across the internet set out to decipher every little bit of information they could about what’s in store. Recently, at Bethesda’s E3 Showcase in Los Angeles, we got a glimpse of what’s to come and we’re more excited now than ever for the game’s release on November 14th, 2018.

Previous installments in the Fallout series have been set roughly two hundred years after the nuclear apocalypse in various American landscapes. This time around, players will take the reins just 25 years after the bombs destroyed pretty much everything. Much to the delight of John Denver, the game will be set in West Virginia.

Before Bethesda’s recent showcase, there was much speculation about the title’s gameplay, but now we’ve got a lot more detail. It’s shaping up to be that same RPG experience you love, but now, Fallout is going online.


If you decide to get in on the multiplayer fun, that means that every human character you meet on your post-apocalyptic jaunt will potentially be another player. Befriend them, build a new civilization together, betray them and take all their stuff, raid other player’s villages, or hijack a nuclear warhead and destroy something someone spent hours making because you’ve stopped pretending you’re anything but an as*hole — the sky’s the limit!

Even the tiny details in the game are going to be amazing. The map of the game is said to be four times bigger than Fallout 4‘s 111km² map, making it the sixth largest world in gaming.

The superfans out there likely won’t settle for the regular edition of the game, especially when the $200 collector’s edition, called the “Power Armor Edition,” comes with an iconic, functioning power armor helmet. This is perfect if you were one of the lucky bastards few to get the Fallout 4 Pip-boy.

Plenty more details will be announced before the game is release in November, and we’re eager to feast on them.

To watch the official trailer, check out the video below!

Articles

Why tech execs want to ban robot weapons

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.


Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

 

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”

The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”

Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”

USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.

Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”

But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.

“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”

USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”

Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”

Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”

He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”

USAF photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”

There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”

One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”

On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch civilians mangle the official title of the Afghanistan War

We sent our “Vet On The Street,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, CA. to find out if people could name the official title of the Afghanistan War. Check out the result here:


NOW: We asked civilians to name the highest medal awarded for bravery. Here’s what they said.

OR: 27 photos of America’s biggest celebrities when they were in the military

MIGHTY TRENDING

US to build previously-banned cruise missiles

The Pentagon reportedly plans to restart the manufacturing process for once-banned ground-launched cruise missiles as a Cold War-era arms agreement with Russia crumbles, Aviation Week reported.

The Trump administration announced US withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in early February 2019, citing Russian violations of the bilateral arms control agreement. The pact is expected to expire in August 2019.

President Donald Trump stated in February 2019 that the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged Russian treaty violations. Russia has said it will do the same, although there is evidence it had already done so.


In the late 1970s, the Soviets deployed the RSD-10 Pioneer intermediate-range ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, and the US responded by deploying mid-range Pershing II missiles and intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe.

Intermediate-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead RSD-10 Pioneer.

(Photo by George Chernilevsky)

The deployment of the BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), a variation of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile, helped bring the Soviets to the negotiating table, Breaking Defense reported October 2018, noting that reviving this system would be relatively easy.

The INF Treaty helped defuse tensions by prohibiting both sides from developing and fielding these types of weapons, but with the treaty on its deathbed, the Department of Defense has decided to begin fabricating components for GLCM systems, Pentagon officials told Aviation Week.

The Pentagon confirmed the plan to Reuters as well.

In late 2017, research and development began on non-nuclear GLCM concepts, but it never moved beyond that, as any additional steps would have been “inconsistent” with the requirements of the INF Treaty.

Even as the Department of Defense steps up RD activities since the suspension of the treaty, it remains open to canceling the programs and returning to negotiations with Russia.

“This research and development is designed to be reversible, should Russia return to full and verifiable compliance before we withdraw from the Treaty in August 2019,” a Pentagon spokesperson explained to Aviation Week, adding that “because the United States has scrupulously complied with its obligations with the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages.”

The suspension of the INF Treaty has stoked fears about an escalated arms race between the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened the US should Washington opt to place missiles in Europe, something it presently has no intention of doing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If Washington takes that step, Moscow “will be forced, and I want to underline this, forced to take both reciprocal and asymmetrical measures,” Putin said. “We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”

The suspension of the INF Treaty has stoked fears about an escalated arms race between the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened the US should Washington opt to place missiles in Europe, something it presently has no intention of doing.

If Washington takes that step, Moscow “will be forced, and I want to underline this, forced to take both reciprocal and asymmetrical measures,” Putin said. “We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”

As for the revival of the GLCM program, the US reportedly has a number of different options.

It could, according to experts, convert existing air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, like the Raytheon AGM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, Raytheon AGM-109 Tomahawk and Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface-Standoff Missile, to a GLCM role while adapting existing rocket artillery launchers for this purpose.

Or, it could build something completely new.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ava DuVernay sent her dress to a Marine wife for the Ball

When Ciara Hester, wife of a U.S. Marine, tweeted to Ava DuVernay (Salem, When They See Us), she had no idea the powerhouse director would respond — let alone send a gift.

Hester complimented DuVernay’s red carpet look and said she wanted one like it for the Marine Corps Ball. To her surprise, DuVernay replied asking for her mailing address so she could ship the gown right over.


OMG @ava I need this dress for the Marine Corp Ball. #SheWoreItBest #ShowStopper #TuesdayThoughtspic.twitter.com/sqcIRukFiG

twitter.com

The gown, in a perfect shade of Marine Corps red, arrived in time for the Marine Corps Ball, an exclusive event steeped in tradition and pride. It’s probably one of the biggest events in the military. I literally don’t even know if the other branches, including the branch I served in, care about their balls birthdays?

Like a real life fairy God mother. Thank you @ava for your thoughtfulness and kindness. I had an amazing night and I felt amazing. #honor #marinecorpsbirthday #USMC #Marinespic.twitter.com/FjZWXTAE2Q

twitter.com

The Wilmington, North Carolina, couple were all smiles at the event, with Ciara beaming in a dress that not only fit her perfectly but had pockets (which, we should all know by now, is a very big deal).

I had no clue it had pockets till it arrived. Certainly loved it even more. (Couldn’t have thought that was possible either )

twitter.com

This isn’t the first time celebrities have shown their support for the Marine Corps Ball — many have been known to accept — or request — invitations to attend the ball, including Ronda Rousey and Linda Hamilton. Elon Musk was invited to speak at one, where he was visibly touched by the heroism and sacrifices of the service members in the room.

You wore it well, @CiCihstr! Hope you had a night as lovely as you. xo!https://twitter.com/annaphillipstv/status/1198055140651130880 …

twitter.com

It just goes to show how a small gesture can have such a big impact. This kind of generosity is a reminder of how lucky we as a military community are to have the support of our country.

Shout out — and gratitude — to Ava DuVernay to supporting one of our own.

Articles

THAAD now in place to take out North Korean missiles if required

via Lockheed Martin


The most advanced missile system on the planet can hunt and blast incoming missiles right out of the sky with a 100% success rate — and it appears to be headed to North Korea’s backyard.

On the heels of last month’s purported hydrogen-bomb test and a long-range rocket launch on Saturday, the US has apparently agreed to equip South Korea with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, according to CNN.

With its unmatched precision, Lockheed Martin’s THAAD can equalize tensions around the world with its mobility and strategic battery-unit placement.

In order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region, the Pentagon deployed a THAAD battery toGuam in April 2013.

However, after the rogue regime’s most recent launch, the US has reportedly agreed to deploy the THAAD to South Korea — which would counter almost all incoming missiles from the North.

Heritage.org

The pressure to deploy THAAD is rapidly mounting, as US defense officials have cited North Korean missile developments.

In October, Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, assessed that North Korean has “the capability to reach the [US] homeland with a nuclear weapon from a rocket,” The Guardian reported.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the United States Forces Korea, a sub-unified command of the US Pacific Command, told a forum in 2014 that placing THAAD in the country is a “US initiative.”

Discussions to equip South Korea with THAAD were held during South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s visit to the White House last October.

THAAD’s ‘hit to kill’ lethal effects

AiirSource Military | YouTube

The THAAD missile does not carry a warhead. Instead, the interceptor missile uses pure kinetic energy to deliver “hit to kill” strikes to incoming ballistic threats inside or outside the atmosphere.

Each launcher carries up to eight missiles and can send multiple kill vehicles at once, depending on the severity of the threat.

Lockheed’s missile launcher is just one element of the antimissile system.

The graphic below, from Raytheon, shows the rest of the equipment needed for each enemy-target interception.

via Raytheon

How THAAD works

Five minutes after an enemy missile takes off, a truck-mounted THAAD interceptor missile launches in pursuit of its target.

This is a close shot of what the THAAD missile looks like when launched:

Lockheed Martin | YouTube

And here’s what the launch looks like from far away:

Lockheed Martin | YouTube

THAAD’s missile hunts for its target, then obliterates it in the sky.

The following infrared imagery shows THAAD demolishing the target:

Lockheed Martin | YouTube

By the end of 2016, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is scheduled to deliver an additional 48 THAAD interceptors to the US military, bringing the total up to 155, according to a statement from MDA director Vice Admiral J.D. Syring before the House Armed Service Committee.

According to the US Missile Defense Agency, there are more than 6,300 ballistic missiles outside of US, NATO, Russian, and Chinese control.

Other US partners around the globe are interested in purchasing THAAD.

The United Arab Emirates has become the first foreign buyer after signing a deal with the Department of Defense for $3.4 billion. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have “expressed interest,” according to Richard McDaniel, vice president of Patriot Advanced Capability programs at Lockheed Martin. “We expect deals,” he added.

The UAE seems like a particularly appropriate buyer: In September, 45 of its troops deployed near Yemen were killed when an enemy missile struck an arms depot, a reminder of the strategic challenge of ballistic missiles falling into the wrong hands.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 6

That day when you’re trying to shake off the Cinco de Mayo hangover while preparing for the weekend parties. Good luck.


In the meantime, check out these 13 funny military memes:

1. Our condolences to anyone who rooms with that guy/gal this morning:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Maybe just spray them with Febreeze whenever they do this.

2. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with their legs, it’ll probably be fine.

SEE ALSO: The Corps had to force this 52-year-old Marine off Guadalcanal

3. Back in the day, you could send a text message for the low cost of 10 breadcrumbs (via Military Memes).

The original Blue Force Tracker was just watching the sky to see which directions the pigeons flew in from.

4. To all the weapons stuck in arms rooms instead of on patrol, we’re sorry and we miss you (via Pop Smoke).

We’ll be together again soon.

5. Come on, sergeant. We’ve heard this story before (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting).

We’ve learned to read the regs, contracts, and guidance from higher before signing.

6. It’s like the classic video game but with even more cussing (via Afghanistan Combat Footage – Funker 530).

Packing lists filled with unnecessary gear wouldn’t be so frustrating if the d-mn gear would fit in the f-cking ruck.

7. Are you ready to Cross into the Blue?

This is the creepiest airman I have ever seen.

8. Even the smoke pit has bought into tobacco cessation (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Looks like dip and Rip-Its are all you have left.

9. You know who the real MVP is?

(via Military Memes)

Jerry. Because instead of covering his buddy, he took a photo of the guy taking a photo of the guy working.

10. Gunny Hartman is the senior NCO we still all look up to (via Pop Smoke).

We can’t legally follow 90 percent of his example anymore, but we still look up to him.

11. Oooooh, that’s what the PT belt is for, so your T-Rex can always find you (via Air Force Nation).

Also, this is the first ad that makes me want to join the Air Force. I don’t care that it’s fake.

12. Shaving with a sink and water is a crutch (via Sh-t my LPO says).

If you can’t get inspection-ready in a parking lot while hungover, you don’t deserve to wear those cammies.

13. How you find out the pre-workout powder may have been crystal meth:

(via Military Memes)