Drones will soon decide who to kill - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones will soon decide who to kill

The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.


Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.

Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states: “I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”

Drones will soon decide who to kill

An MQ-9 Reaper Pilot.

(US Air Force photo)

Even with these drone killings, human emotions, judgements and ethics have always remained at the centre of war. The existence of mental trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among drone operators shows the psychological impact of remote killing.

And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided. The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes. Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

An MQ-9 Reaper.

(US Air Force photo)

When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.

Grave consequences

The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.

The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities — those which develop products for both civilian and military application — can be attacked in the right circumstances. For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.

With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

Google’s New York headquarters.

(Scott Roy Atwood, CC BY-SA)

Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms — programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect — that the technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given. If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development — how much it still has to learn — at which it can be deployed. In militarised machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.

Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber and Tesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.

If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination. Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.

This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secret phone calls reveal new evidence in crash that killed 298 people

Investigators probing the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 say they have recorded phone calls connecting pro-Russian rebels implicated in the missile strike and a senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The international Joint Investigation Team, based in the Netherlands, on Nov. 14, 2019, released the calls involving members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the armed Russian separatist group that has fought against the Ukrainian government for independence in eastern Ukraine.

“Well, your plans are far-reaching. Mine are not,” Alexander Borodai, the former self-proclaimed prime minister of the DPR, said in one call. “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”


Members of the DPR have been found responsible for the downing of MH17. All 298 people on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. In June, four people were charged with murder.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

(Photo by Alan Wilson)

“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the BUK TELAR, which brought down flight MH17,” the investigators said, adding that the missile system that downed the aircraft originated from “a unit of the Russian armed forces from Kursk in the Russian Federation.”

The investigators said the phone calls indicated that senior members of the DPR “maintained contact with Russian government officials” — including the senior aide, Vladislav Surkov — “about Russian military support.”

According to the call logs published by the investigators, in a conversation six days before the missile strike, Borodai told Surkov he urgently needed military support from Russia, and Surkov replied that Russian “combat-ready” reinforcements would be arriving.

Other intercepted phone calls also implicate the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the FSB, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the investigators said.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s a week we’ve directly … [inaudible] to Moscow and we get the orders,” one rebel said during a call in July 2014.

“We get the orders from Moscow as well. It’s the same with us,” another person replied.

“But it’s FSB in your case? Right,” the first rebel asked.

“Yes,” the second person said.

“And it’s GRU in our case. That’s the only difference,” the first rebel said.

“I know about it perfectly well,” the second person replied.

Though former DPR rebels testified in the investigation that they received military help from Russia, both the rebel group and Russia have denied any involvement in the missile strike. A Kremlin spokesman said the call logs should be scrutinized, adding that they came amid a trove of “fake news” about the incident, according to Reuters.

The investigators said the FSB provided telephones that could not be wiretapped.

“How are you about those special communication telephones, you know, that we have? Those that go through the internet, do you know? Secure,” Sergey Dubinsky, a former GRU officer and a member of the DPR, said on a call on July 3, 2014.

He added: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s nukes are absolutely tiny compared to Russia’s

Here in the United States, we tend to think of nuclear weapons in much the same way we think of the space race and the Cold War: like a relic of a bygone era in which America emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that era isn’t quite as bygone as it seems: space defense is once again a topic of serious concern, America is once more at the precipice of an international arms race, and both China and Russia have unveiled massive new nuclear weapons in recent years.


America does still boast the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet, lagging just behind Russia who, like the Soviet Union, has always invested heavily in deterrence through guaranteeing Armageddon. The problem is, America has largely chosen to rest on its nuclear laurels since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a significant difference between the nuclear tech in Uncle Sam’s arsenals and that of America’s most powerful competitors.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

Russian Topol-M nuclear ICBM preparing for the annual Victory Day Parade.

(Vitaly V. Kuzmin via WikiMedia Commons)

The Air Force is currently on the hunt for the company that will build America’s next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but until that contract has been completed, the U.S. will continue to rely on silo-launched Minuteman IIIs and submarine-launched Trident missiles, with yields of 475 and 100 kilotons respectively. These weapons are quite powerful, with the weaker trident producing an explosive yield more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Minuteman III clocking in at nearly five times more powerful than even that.

However, despite all the carnage one could deliver with 475 kilotons of nuclear fury, America’s mighty Minuteman III missiles are not only far behind Russian and Chinese competitors in terms of technology and the ability to counter missile defense systems, they are woefully underpowered.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

These mushroom clouds represent the yields of each nuclear weapon.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

China’s newest ICBM, the DF-31, for instance, boasts a massive 1 megaton yield, or 1,000 kilotons. That means China’s new 42-foot nuclear missile has more than twice the destructive power of America’s workhorse ICBMs. Powerful as the DF-31 may be, if you’re impressed by that, you haven’t looked in Russia’s inventory lately.

Russia’s massively powerful RS-28 Sarmat, or simply, the Satan II, carries a whopping 50 megaton nuclear warhead. For those who aren’t fond of arithmetic, that’s the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons and is so powerful that America’s Minuteman III missiles barely even register by comparison.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

America’s ICBM’s would barely be visible compared to the RS-28 Sarmat’s yield.

(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)

Like China’s DF-31, the RS-28 Sarmat could forgo the single large warhead for a group of smaller ones, but the reduction in yield would likely be offset by the distribution of the weapon’s payload: in short, multiple warheads can destroy a larger swath of territory than a single large warhead tends to.

Of course, with Russian officials claiming their doomsday-weapon nuclear torpedo carries a positively gigantic 100-megaton warhead, even the Satan II isn’t the biggest kid on the nuclear block.

Of course, the sheer destructive yield isn’t the only measure of a nation’s nuclear capabilities, but it does pay to maintain a healthy frame of reference when it comes to ways the world could end. After all, when it would take more than 105 American ICBMs to match the destructive power of just one Russian nuke… we should all be a little concerned.
MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 is getting an awesome avionics upgrade

The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.


The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.

Drones will soon decide who to kill
F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase)

The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.

“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.

Also read: F-22s will soon deploy anywhere in the world with 24 hours notice

​In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.

Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”

Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.

Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.

Drones will soon decide who to kill
An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.

Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.

Related: Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.

​This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.

This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.

Drones will soon decide who to kill
F-22 Raptors parked at Rickenbacker ANGB in Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.

“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.

Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.

“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.

A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.

“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.

Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.

Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.

Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.

More: This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.

Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.

Drones will soon decide who to kill
An F-35C Lightning II on USS George Washington during F-35C Development Test III. (Lockheed Martin)

Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.

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

For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US extends its Pacific Command to include India

On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.

“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.

“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.

The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.


Drones will soon decide who to kill
The area of responsibility for US Pacific Command, now known as US Indo-Pacific Command.
(U.S. Defense Department)

The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.


Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”

The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.

“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.

Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)

Drones will soon decide who to kill
President Donald Trump

The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.

“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

A drone-killing, directed energy weapon prototype is now in the hands of Marines. The Compact Laser Weapons System — or CLaWS — is the first ground-based laser approved by the Department of Defense for use by warfighters on the ground.

“This was all in response to a need for counter unmanned aerial systems to take down drones,” said Don Kelley, program manager for Ground Based Air Defense at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We developed a CLaWS prototype for Marines to use and evaluate.”

In recent years, the Defense department has assessed directed energy weapons — more commonly known as “lasers” — as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.


CLaWS is not intended to be a standalone system for Marines to use to counter enemy drones. Rather, if the prototype continues to do well in the current research and development phase, it will serve as a component to an overall system used to counter drones.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

“We’re providing CLaWS to Marines as a rapid prototype for evaluation,” Kelley said. “Depending on the results, CLaWS could become part of a larger capability set.”

Rapid prototyping, rapid delivery

The GBAD program, managed within the portfolio of PEO Land Systems procured the CLaWS prototype through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium — or DOTC — which was commissioned by the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to foster collaboration between government, industry and academia regarding ordnance technology development and prototyping.

“The typical acquisition timeline can be lengthy,” said Lt. Col. Ho Lee, product manager for GBAD Future Weapons Systems at PEO Land Systems. “But this project, from start to finish — from when we awarded the DOTC contract, to getting all the integration complete, all the testing complete, getting the Marines trained, and getting the systems ready to deploy — took about one year.”

From a production standpoint, Lee said that the program office and its partners integrated various commercial items to create CLaWS.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“We’ve been doing rapid prototyping, rapid delivery,” said Lee. “With this and a lot of the other efforts we are doing, we are using items currently available and integrating them to meet a capability. Little development, if any, went into this.”

Leveraging expertise for increased lethality

Obtaining the green-light to deliver and deploy CLaWS requires a bit more finesse, which is why PM GBAD leveraged DoD interagency partnerships to fulfill the need.

The operational use of new laser weapons, such as CLaWS, requires approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as it involves various factors such as legal reviews, concepts of employment, rules of engagement, tactics, potential collateral damage and human effects, proposed public affairs guidance and other relevant information.

“This program lives and dies with the leveraging of expertise and resources with others,” said Kelley. “It’s about getting these capabilities quickly into the hands of Marines and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Move fast and laser things

As Marines evaluate the CLaWS systems over the next few months, the GBAD program office already has their next target in mind: upgrading it.

Depending on the results, the program office says it could incorporate the CLaWS into other fixed-site and mobile C-UAS defeat capabilities.

“What’s interesting about CLaWS for the Marine Corps is, usually for things like this, we’re on the back end,” said Lee. “With this one, we’re actually in front. Everybody is watching closely to see what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Humor

These are the 43 best COVID-19 memes for the week of March 27

We published our favorite 63 COVID-19 memes not too long ago and the response was overwhelming. Turns out during these serious, scary and uncertain times, one thing is for sure: We could all use a good laugh. And one more thing that’s for sure: the memes just keep on coming. We bring you this week’s best COVID-19 sayings and memes.


Drones will soon decide who to kill

1. This is why we can’t have nice things

It’s bad enough we cancelled March Madness. Can ya’ll just please follow the directions so we can have some summer?

Drones will soon decide who to kill

2. And you thought finding love in the time of cholera was bad

At least it’s not you, it’s COVID-19.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

3. 6 feet, damn it!

I always thought Pooh was the selfish one, breaking into everyone’s houses and stealing all the honey. Maybe it’s clingy Piglet.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

4. That homeschool life tho

If you can teach fractions pouring wine, you can teach gym with chores.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

5. I volunteer as tribute

You know you’re going to get voluntold anyway.

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6. Spoiler alert: nowhere

I got so excited when I saw Absolutely.

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7. Wasn’t me

It’s always the wife.

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8. Dad joke

Oh, so punny. Sorry, not sorry.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

9. The truth hurts

If only hoarding had an immunity boost with it.

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10. I’d like to pass over 2020

Seems logical.

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11. Puerto Backyard-O

Just be careful of the DUI checkpoint in the hall.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

12. So full of hope

So full of $hit. 1

Drones will soon decide who to kill

13. This little piggy

That’s the one who stayed home, Karen.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

14. You put the lotion on the skin

But honestly, isn’t there a tinnyyyyy part of you that thinks it would be so nice to be touched by another human again?

Drones will soon decide who to kill

15. The quarantine cut 

This cut will help you social distance like never before!

Drones will soon decide who to kill

16. It ends with credits

After Tiger King, is there really anything left to watch?

Drones will soon decide who to kill

17. Poetry in action 

We might need this on a t-shirt.

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18. Allergies be like 

No, but seriously. You know you can’t sneeze without everyone panicking.

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19. Blend and repeat

We call this breakfast.

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20. No pants either way

Just don’t confuse the two.

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21. Life lessons

Here Timmy, blow your nose. And breathe in.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

22. Bad Boy vs. Death Row

These are important life lessons.

Drones will soon decide who to kill

23. Stay-at-home order 

Except for everyone in the military.

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24. Quarantine body

We might need to issue a lockdown on our snack cabinet…

Drones will soon decide who to kill

25. Nobody wants bed bugs

Lice, too.

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26. Show me the money!

Plumbing is an essential service. Hoarding is not.

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27. Is today the day? 

And to think you might not even know for 5-14 days…

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28. Another COVID-cut

You can always just shave it off…

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29. Prince Charmin

The year of the hunter.

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30. Hashtag no filter

No truer words were ever spoken.

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31. Speaking of Matthew McConaughey…

At least he got thinner?

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32. Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat

We know we’re mixing Disney movies, but that bidet is a whole new world.

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33. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma

We know Carol Beskin is the real cause behind coronavirus.

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34. United as one

That’s how the heartland does. ‘Merica.

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35. April Fool’s 

Although, this might be footage of Florida over the weekend… #STAYHOME

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36. Muscle atrophy

Too many leg days?

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37. How we all feel 

Don’t forget to change out of your daytime pajamas into your nighttime pajamas.

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38. Oh Kermieeee

Is Quarantini a breakfast beverage?

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39. Pants are always optional 

Video chats should come with a 15 minute courtesy.

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40. The difference a year makes

Just a healthy change in perspective.

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41. Men are from Mars…

He probably does want to talk about it.

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42. Two thumbs up 

“No, really, we don’t mind.”

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43. We’ll never forget

The Purell. The panic. The year the world stopped.

Keep your sense of humor, wash your hands, stay home and stop the spread. And more than anything, we hope you and your family stay well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 veterans that can really hook you up in your civilian life

It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.

The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.


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Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.

College classmates

Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.

In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.

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Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.

(Bath Township Police Department)

Police officers

There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.

Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.

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Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.

Security guards or bouncers

Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.

If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.

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…or so I’ve been told.

Personal fitness trainers

Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.

Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.

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Retail workers

Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.

Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.

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Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.

Bar-goers

Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.

Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.

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Potential bosses

If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.

The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines don’t want new tech to weigh grunts down

Keep it small, keep it simple, make it work. It’s what Marine Corps leaders want industry leaders and research and development agencies to keep in mind when making the latest and greatest tech for grunts on the battlefield, a top general said March 6, 2018.


Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said the service was interested in high-end electronics and robotics, but said he didn’t want to increase the load of ground combat Marines by adding on advanced gear.

“Technology is great, until you have to carry it, and you have to carry the power that drives it,” said Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

Also read: Now you can help develop drones and apps for the Marine Corps

Walters said members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the service’s experimental infantry battalion, has been the first to test and field small tech and weapons. The service is interested in the new technology, but continues to keep the size and weight of new systems in mind, he said.

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The Marine Corps Program Executive Officer Land Systems delivered 144 Utility Task Vehicles to the regiment-level starting in February 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private 1st Class Rhita Daniel)

“Reorganizing for the future is what’s happening right now and robotics is clearly someplace where we’re investing,” Walter told audiences during the annual “Defense Programs” conference hosted by defense consulting firm McAleese Associates.

In a few months, 3/5 will debut its latest report on findings and lessons learned from using the newer tech, such as handheld drones and quadcopters, he said.

“But we’re not waiting,” Walters said at the event in Washington, D.C.

New, powerful equipment needs to be leveraged even more so than it is now, Walters said, adding, “they need to be more consumable.”

Related: Marines will get a head-to-toe overhaul of all their guns and gear

“We have 69 3D printers out and about throughout a mix of battalions,” Walters said. This added gear, he said, has made Marines more agile when they need to replace a broken part or create an entirely new solution for an old design.

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3D Printing. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jonathan Juursema)

“We have to have the speed of trust in our young people to seize and hold the technological high ground,” Walters said.

Amid the push for new tech, officials have been working to lessen the load for Marines who have been inundated with more equipment in recent years even as the service grows more advanced with streamlined resources.

More: Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

For example, program managers have said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the Corps’ iconic ammunition can.

Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders in 2016 that the rectangular can may be due for an upgrade.

Rideout, at the time, made the case during the Equipping the Infantry Challenge at Quantico that emerging technologies — such as the logistics drones that Walters mentioned March 6, 2018 — may also put limits on how much a future delivery of ammunition can weigh.

The calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Prince Charles got all his medals without fighting in a war

When decked out in his full royal regalia, the Prince of Wales looks much like what you think a 69-year-old aristocrat might — much like what you think a stereotypical soon-to-be king might. His military uniform is emblazoned with medals, ropes, pins, patches, and other decorations worthy of someone who may soon occupy the biggest seat in the entire United Kingdom.

Which is amazing, considering he hasn’t seen combat once in his life.


Britain itself has not been devoid of conflict, even within Charles’ relatively short lifetime. He was born three years after the end of the Second World War, but broke royal tradition by going straight to university instead of joining the military after his secondary education. When he did join the armed forces in the 1970s, he did stints in both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Even though he was late to the game, there was still plenty of action to see.

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Armed British soldiers in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

During Charles’ service window, the UK saw a number of shooting conflicts, most notably the Falklands War with Argentina and The Troubles, a military occupation of Northern Ireland. He saw action in neither conflict.

While the Prince of Wales didn’t see combat duty, he still trained vigorously with the members of units to which he was attached. He has trained in undersea warfare and commanded a Royal Navy Destroyer and has learned to fly helicopters and twin-engine jet fighters with the RAF. Charles also successfully completed the parachute regiment’s jump training at an age much older than the average recruit.

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Charles, tasked to lead the parachute regiment in 1978, decided he would be unfit to lead them without undergoing the training himself. He was 30 years old.

(Clarence House)

Charles also commands the Welsh Guards, leading the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards Parade, marking Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday.

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The Prince wears the ceremonial uniform of Colonel of the Welsh Guards during the Trooping the Colour Ceremony.

(Clarence House)

So, this isn’t to say Charles’ medals are somehow unearned. He wears no medals for valor in combat. Instead, he wears the appropriate regalia, given his service, ranks in the Navy and Air Force, and appropriate titles. He wears the Order of Merit, the Order of the Bath, and the Queen’s Service Order, all for service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Other decorations of note include medals related to the Queen herself, including the Queen’s Coronation medal, Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, all awarded for a celebration of his mother ascending to the throne and her continued reign as Queen. He also wears awards from Canada and New Zealand, and wears the Order of the Garter, chosen and awarded by the Queen herself.

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The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry presented Operational Medals to the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

(Buckingham Palace)

It’s a tradition for men in the Royal family to serve in the military. Charles’ father, Prince Philip, served in World War II and his sons, William and Harry, both served. Harry famously deployed to combat duties in Afghanistan in recent years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Future Army artillery so strong it needs better muzzle brakes

The U.S. Army is asking defense firms to develop prototypes for a new, lightweight artillery muzzle brake that’s designed to work with the service’s future extended-range cannons.

The Army has made long-range precision fires its top modernization priority under a bold plan to field new, more capable weapons systems by 2028.

In the short term, Army artillery experts are working to develop a 155 mm cannon capable of striking targets to 70 kilometers, a range that doubles the effectiveness of current 155s.


As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

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The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.

“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.

Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.

Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.

The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.

Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.

The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.

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The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.

Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.

Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.

The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl goes to court for a final pre-trial hearing

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was due in court Sept. 27 for his final pre-trial hearing before he faces court-martial on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.


A military judge at Fort Bragg in North Carolina will hear arguments on several motions including a defense effort to get more information about discussions between a prosecutor and the Trump administration.

Lawyers are also expected to give the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, updates on preparations for the Oct. 23 trial. Several previous trial dates were delayed by the exchange of classified evidence.

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A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson.

The pretrial hearing, which could extend into Sept. 28, is the last one scheduled before the trial.

Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the latter of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Bergdahl has chosen trial by a judge alone, rather than a military jury.

In late August, the defense filed several motions including arguments that charges against Bergdahl are unfairly duplicative and that his enlistment was improperly extended by more than a decade so he could be prosecuted. The motions seek to dismiss some or all charges, but legal scholars have said defense attorneys face an uphill battle with them.

The defense is also seeking more information about a meeting between one of the prosecutors and the Trump administration. They asked the court for unredacted copies of emails related to the meeting as well as the ability to interview the prosecutor about it.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Defense lawyers previously argued that Bergdahl couldn’t get a fair trial because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. But Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.

The government has acknowledged that a prosecutor had discussions with a lawyer for the National Security Council about the defense efforts to derail the case over Trump’s comments. But they said the White House has given no instructions to prosecutors about how to conduct the case.

Prosecutors also argued that further information about the conversations is irrelevant to the case, especially since the judge has already rejected Trump-related arguments by the defense.

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USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.

Bergdahl, who is from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his legal case.

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The 10 most dangerous military jobs

“No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer who led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, in Iraq during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, says that war is the ultimate human test. “When people from both sides of a conflict are trying to kill each other, it’s life or death.” Not every station of military service bears that intensity, but some do. There are jobs in which the choices you make spell out the difference between going home safely or never going home at all. These ten jobs are some of the highest-risk jobs in the U.S. military.

  1. Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Immortalized in pop culture with The Hurt Locker and broadening awareness of the conditions on the ground in Iraq, these military bomb squad techs clear mines and inspect malfunctioning munitions. The proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in our current conflicts make the career conditions of these warriors extremely precarious. 

  1. Pararescue

An elite ambulatory care team in the USAF that not only operates in war zones, but in severe conditions due to weather and natural disasters, and even as support for NASA missions. Called PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), they’re tasked with flying, climbing, and marching into high-risk areas to save those isolated or wounded by war or disaster.

dangerous military jobs
Pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and SERE specialists from the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan performed jump training Dec. 1, 2018.
  1. Special Operations

Encompassing a broad range of units including Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Green Berets, Marine Raiders, Special Ops soldiers are culled through rigorous training and selection processes. Working in all terrains, they are often equipped with better gear and additional training than their counterparts in the regular infantry, but they’re also put in much more challenging situations that can amount to greater casualties.

dangerous military jobs
BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson, the deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force
  1. Motor Transportation

The rise in the usage of IEDs during our “forever wars” in the Middle East expose truck drivers and other vehicle transport to intense risk. Though there is a greater supply of up-armored vehicles for the units in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq than there was fifteen years ago, there’s no avoiding the exposure to bombings that many of these drivers face.

  1. Aviation

Due to the tremendous support aircraft provides to the battlefield, their pilots and crews are valuable targets to the enemy in battle. Helicopter crews in particular often have to move in and out of hostile territories while under fire to transport people and ordnance.

  1. Combat Medics (Corpsman)

The job of a medic is to move alongside friendly forces to aid the wounded and dying while under fire. Though medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, they are still susceptible to mortars, artillery, and air strikes just as their infantry support is. 

dangerous military jobs
Sgt. Kirsten Wroblewski along with Spc. Riley Martinez both medics with the 313th Medical Company Ground Ambulance unit based in Lincoln, Nebraska, perform first-aid on a patient during a mass casualty exercise at Northern Strike 19. 
  1. JTAC

JTAC, or joint terminal attack controllers, are in charge of directing offensive air operations. Basically, they’re responsible for controlling the chaos of battle in the air. They’re responsible for directing attacks, and it’s a complicated and dangerous job. While joint terminal attack controllers are usually observing and directing the action rather than acting it out themselves, they’re still in close proximity to gunfire, bomb detonations and a number of other life-threatening hazards.

  1. Artillery

These troops are subject to a lot of attention from the enemy because of their vital task of launching heavy rounds beyond the range of typical infantry. Not only are they called upon to breach fortifications and larger targets, but enemy formations as well. They are also sometimes called upon to move to infantry or cavalry positions, where they’ve received less training and can by more susceptible to danger.

  1. Aircraft carrier ground crew

You don’t have to be in a combat role to be in harm’s way. Aircraft carriers are inherently dangerous. Planes land on them while they’re in motion; it’s comparable to landing a plane on top of a skyscraper during an earthquake. Aircraft carrier ground crew members are subject to multiple hazards. Combine thousands of gallons of fuel, jet engines and intentional crash landings, and you have a pretty risky job– even if no bullets or bombs are involved.

  1. Infantry

As the primary force deployed in conflicts to take and hold enemy territory, it should come as no surprise that an infantry man or woman, now as always, is a high-risk profession. They perform all of the most common battle operations, and are host to the greatest number of casualties.


The price paid by many of our military service members is the steepest there is, and we should all strive to treat them with grace and respect. For further information on finding support after the death of a loved one, www.militaryonesource.mil is just one of the many resources available. 

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