North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

If Kim Jong Un wanted to keep F-35s from being able to roam around his country with absolute freedom, he should have been investing in radar technology or fifth-generation fighters instead of nuclear weapons. Now, his erstwhile enemy to the South is getting some of the latest and greatest tech outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


“We, on our part, have no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea, ” said KCNA, North Korea’s state media outlet.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

KCNA says a lot of things, though. Very enthusiastically.

South Korea received its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in March 2019 and will have another 38 delivered by 2021. North Korea’s air force consists of very old Soviet-built MiGs and is largely unchanged from the air force his grandfather used. It’s so bad even the North Koreans acknowledge their fleet leaves something to be desired. Now, with South Korea’s acquisition of the world’s most advanced fighter, the North may actually have to make some much-needed upgrades.

“There is no room for doubt that the delivery of ‘F-35A’, which is also called an ‘invisible lethal weapon’, is aimed at securing military supremacy over the neighboring countries in the region and especially opening a ‘gate’ to invading the North in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula,” North Korea said in a statement via KCNA.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom.

While Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are having a very public bromance, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is largely left out of the media spotlight. When Trump arrived to meet with Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Moon was on the sidelines while Trump went for a walk in North Korea.

Rapprochement with the United States doesn’t extend to the South in every instance, however. The delivery of the vaunted F-35 prompted the North to issue these stunning rebukes of South Korean defense policy, calling the South “impudent and pitiful.”

“The South Korean authorities had better come to their senses before it is too late, shattering the preposterous illusions that an opportunity would come for improved inter-Korean relations if they follow in the footsteps of the United States,” said North Korea in an official statement.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the US’s new battle-proven Iron Dome destroys rockets

The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.

Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.

It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.

Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.


  • The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
  • Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

A rocket is launched from the Iron Dome.

(Israel Defense Forces)

Sources: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Raytheon

  • Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
  • The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.

Source: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

  • Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.

Source: Raytheon

  • Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
  • The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.

Source: Defense News

  • The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)

Source: Raytheon

  • The Iron Dome is used in conjunction with David’s Sling, which provides medium-range air defense and is produced by Rafael and Raytheon.

Source: Raytheon

  • Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
  • While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.

Source: Defense News

  • The Tamir missiles, which Iron Dome uses in its launchers, are mostly manufactured from parts made in the US and can attack targets anywhere from 4 to 70 km away.

Source: Raytheon

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

Articles

This is what makes SWCC crews so lethal

Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.


Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 conduct live-fire immediate action drills at the riverine training range at Ft. Knox. (Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull infalatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)

But SWCCs don’t just drop off and pick up SEALs. They also conduct their own missions.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Combatant-craft crews can be sent against enemy shipping and other water traffic to shut down commerce or supply operations.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCC crews keep an eye out for enemy movements or other activity in their domain. If they identify a threat, they can prosecute it themselves or report it up to the deepwater guys for help.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The SWCCs do all of this from some of the world’s most advanced and dangerous small crafts.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Daniels)

Their boats are typically well-armed, and SWCCs train extensively on small craft tactics and strategies.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(GIF: YouTube/America’s Navy)

The Navy prefers to deploy SWCC craft in groups so boats can provide fire support to one another.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

But even a single boat brings a lot of firepower.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black)

Navy SWCCs can launch and recover their vehicles in the well decks of larger ships.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

And some of the boats can even be airdropped into the water for operations. All SWCC operators are static-line parachute qualified so they can jump with their boats.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Of course, jumping after a boat means the operators will land in the water. So they conduct open water swims, sometimes into near-freezing water, to prepare.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Special Warfare Combatant-craft crewmen finish an open ocean swim, with water and air temperatures hovering below 40 degrees. (Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Tim Miller)

The Navy gets sailors ready for this grueling job by demanding constant and rigorous physical training.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
A Crewman Qualification Training candidate puts on his flippers before swimming in Coronado Bay during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Navy SWCC and SEAL candidates awaiting training are assigned to the Fleet Transition Program to ensure they remain physically capable of becoming elite maritime warriors.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt)

The SWCC training pipeline consists four phases, the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, Naval Special Warfare Orientation, Basic Crewman Training, and Crewman Qualification Training.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Crewman Qualification Training (CQT) candidates hustle to shore during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Scorza).

And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Chief Petty Officer Joseph Schmidt, assigned to the Navy SEAL and SWCC Scout Team, speaks to San Diego Junior Lifeguard members before a physical training evolution. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Pyoung K. Yi)

The Navy has over 700 sailors trained and assigned as SWCCs at a time. This tiny force conducts dangerous and essential missions all over the world.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
(Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Richard Miller)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the new B-21 bomber can beat Russian air defenses

The Air Force is preparing for a substantial technical “critical design review” of its next-generation B-21 Raider bomber, an aircraft said by developers to mark a new “generation” in stealth technology able to elude the most advanced air defenses in the world.

The review, described by Air Force officials as a key step prior to formal construction of the aircraft, will assess design specs, technology plans, computing power, and weapons integration for the new bomber – a platform which service developers say will advance stealth technology itself to new, unprecedented dimensions of technological sophistication.


“The B-21 program has completed preliminary design review. The next step is critical design review. The Air Force remains confident in the B-21’s progress and in delivering this new capability as planned in the mid-2020s,” senior Air Force public affairs director Anne Stefanek, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.

Critical reviews of the emerging B-21 design are essential to engineering a platform able to accommodate the most advanced current and anticipated future stealth properties — which include stealth coating and configuration, radar cross section reduction, and heat signature suppression technologies, among other things.

A new generation of stealth technology is being pursued with a sense of urgency, in light of rapid global modernization of new Russian and Chinese-built air defense technologies; advances in computer processing, digital networking technology and targeting systems now enable air defenses to detect even stealth aircraft with much greater effectiveness.

Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defense weapons, believed by many to be among the best in the world, are able to use digital technology to network “nodes” to one another to pass tracking and targeting data across wide swaths of terrain. New air defenses also use advanced command and control technology to detect aircraft across a much wider spectrum of frequencies than previous systems could.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.

This technical trend has ignited global debates about whether stealth technology itself could become obsolete. “Not so fast,” says a recent Mitchell Institute essay – “The Imperative for Stealth,” which makes a lengthy case for a continued need for advanced stealth platforms.

The essay’s principle claim, fortified by lengthy analysis, offers a window of substantial detail into comments from Air Force senior leaders that the B-21 will advance stealth technology such that it will be able to hold “any target at risk, anywhere in the world, anytime.”

“The US is now developing its fourth generation of stealth aircraft. The computational capabilities that were available to design the F-117 and B-2 are dwarfed by the power now available to design teams,” writes the Mitchell Institute essay, by Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett, USAF (Ret.) and Col. Mace Carpenter, USAF (Ret.)

Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems. The absence of defined edges, noticeable heat emissions, weapons hanging on pylons or other easily detectable aircraft features, means that radar “pings” can have trouble receiving a return electromagnetic signal allowing them to identify an approaching bomber. Since the speed of light (electricity) is known, and the time of travel of electromagnetic signals can be determined as well, computer algorithms are then able to determine the precise distance of an enemy object.

However, when it comes to stealth aircraft, the return signal may be either non-existant or of an entirely different character than that of an actual aircraft. A stealth aircraft will, for instance, appear in the shape of a bird or insect to enemy radar.Given the increased threat envelope created by cutting edge air defenses, and the acknowledgement that stealth aircraft are indeed much more vulnerable than when they first emerged, Air Force developers are increasingly viewing stealth capacity as something which includes a variety of key parameters.

This includes not only stealth configuration, IR suppression and radar-evading materials but also other important elements such as electronic warfare “jamming” defenses, operating during adverse weather conditions to lower the acoustic signature, and conducting attacks in tandem with other less-stealthy aircraft likely to command attention from enemy air defense systems.

Given these factors, Air Force developers often refer to stealth configuration itself as merely one “arrow” in the quiver of approaches needed to defeat modern air defenses.

“Mixing stealthy aircraft with conventional aircraft, deception, air defense suppression, and electronic jamming will complicate an enemy’s defensive problem set by an order of magnitude,” the paper writes.

The authors of the paper explain that newer stealth technology able to outmatch advanced multi-frequency air defenses must utilize a characteristic known as “broadband stealth.”

Multi-band or “broadband” stealth, which is designed to elude both lower frequency area “surveillance” radar as well as high-frequency “engagement radar,” puts an emphasis upon radar cross section-reducing tailless designs such as that now being envisioned for the B-21.

“The B-21 image released by the USAF depicts a design that does not use vertical flight control surfaces like tails. Without vertical surfaces to reflect radar from side aspects, the new bomber will have an RCS (Radar Cross Section) that reduces returns not only from the front and rear but also from the sides, making detection from any angle a challenge,” the Mitchell Institute writes.

Stealth fighter jets, such as the F-22 and F-35, have an entirely different configuration and rely upon some vertical flight control surfaces such as tails and wings. Being more vulnerable to lower frequency surveillance radars due to having a fighter jet configuration, an F-35 or F-22 would depend upon its speed, maneuverability and air-to-air attack systems to fully defend against enemies. Given that fighter jets require tails, wings and other structures necessary to performance, they are naturally inherently less stealthy than a high-altitude bomber.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Two F-22s during flight testing.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Newer methods of IR or thermal signature reduction are connected to engine and exhaust placement. Internally configured engines, coupled with exhaust pipes on the top of an aircraft can massively lower the heat emissions from an aircraft, such as the structure of the current B-2 – the authors of the essay say.

“Hot gases from the engine can be further cooled using mixing techniques in the exhaust system,” the paper writes.

Technical progress in the area of advanced computer simulations are providing developers with an unprecedented advantage in designing the new bomber as well.

“Simulations of interactions between designs and various threat radars are now far more accurate and realistic, allowing additional refinement of stealth design solutions before any hardware is actually built or tested,” the essay writes.

The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The B-21 is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.

If its arsenal is anything like the B-2, it will likely have an ability to drop a range of nuclear weapons, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and possibly even the new Air Force nuclear-armed cruise missile now in development called the LRSO — Long Range Stand Off weapon. It is also conceivable, according to Air Force developers, that the new bomber will one day be armed with yet-to-be seen weapons technology.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Littoral Combat Ships might be the Navy’s new frigates

The littoral combat ship was intended to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. However, despite a promising 2010 deployment in the Southern Command area of operations by USS Freedom (LCS 1), the littoral combat ship (LCS) has struggled, mostly due to breakdowns.


That said, one major problem with the littoral combat ship was the fact that it is arguably underarmed. Both the Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ships have an armament suite that consists of a 57mm gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and a pair of MH-60 helicopters. While both ships have test-fired Harpoon and NSM anti-ship missiles, they haven’t been equipped with them.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

USS Coronado (LCS 4) fires a RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile in the Philippine Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples)

The result is that the Navy has truncated the LCS program in favor of a new guided-missile frigate program known as FFG(X). Lockheed is offering a version of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship for the program, and Huntington Ingalls pitched a modified National Security Cutter. The Spanish Alvaro de Bazan-class guided missile frigate and the Franco-Italian FREMM are also trying to win the FFG(X) competition.

Among the systems added to the guided-missile frigate version of the Independence-class would be a Mk41 vertical-launch system that would allow it to fire a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-66 Standard SM-2, the BGM-109 Tomahawk, the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon and NSM could also be installed on the new frigate, along with anti-submarine torpedoes.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

The littoral combat ship PCU Omaha (LCS 12) in the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel has a light armament suite more suited for a Coast Guard cutter.

(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Austal USA)

The Navy is planning to select one of the five designs as the basis for a 20-ship class in 2020. The ships will have the responsibility of escorting convoys and carrying out a host of other missions that the littoral combat ships lack the firepower to handle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrifying video shows air force pilots flying through haze of smoke

Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.

Australia is currently battling its worst bushfire season in history, and over the last few months bushfires have razed over 6.3 million hectares (15.5 million acres) of land nationally as of Saturday. At least 24 people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been destroyed, and nearly 500 million animals are estimated to have been killed in the flames.


And while bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.

As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.

“This video shows how heavy smoke from bushfires has prevented some C27J C130J flights from reaching #Mallacoota #Merimbula,” Iervasi wrote, referring to the coastal holiday towns of Mallacoota in Victoria and Merimbula in New South Wales, which have been completed ravaged by the fires.

Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.

But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.

“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.

On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.

“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.

Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.

Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.

Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.

Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.

“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Also read:

Articles

This museum sub may find new life as artificial reef

A submarine that just missed serving in World War II may soon find itself making one last dive off the coast of Florida.


North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
USS Clamagore as a GUPPY II. She was later converted into a GUPPY III, and is the last surviving vessel of that type. (US Navy photo)

According to WPTV.com, the Balao-class submarine USS Clamagore (SS 343) could be towed to a point off Palm Beach County and sunk as an artificial reef. The vessel is currently at the Patriot’s Point Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, along with the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV 10) and the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724).

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the Clamagore is the only surviving GUPPY III-class submarine in the world. Nine GUPPY III-class submarines were built. According to a web page serving as a tribute to these diesel-electric submarines, most of the vessels modified under the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program were scrapped, sunk as targets, or sold to foreign countries.

The reason she is going to wind up becoming a reef? The report from WPTV states it is about money.

“The museum up in Charleston is losing money and they would really like to unload this as quickly as possible,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told the TV station. The alternative to turning the 2,480-ton submarine into an artificial reef is to scrap her.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
USS Clamagore SS-343 at Charleston, South Carolina November 24, 2003. This is the only surviving GUPPY III diesel-electric submarine in the world. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“We wanted to honor the people that served on it, we wanted to honor the submarine service in general,” Valeche said.

Several organizations are trying to save the Clagamore for continued service as a museum. A 2012 FoxNews.com report indicated that at least $3 million was needed to repair the vessel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why getting the Antarctica Service Medal is so difficult

Easily one of the rarest medals a troop can earn is the Antarctica Service Medal. Spend a single day in Antarctica, south of 60 degrees latitude in the Southern hemisphere, and you’ve forever got bragging rights.


North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Do it in the wintertime and you’ve earned a distinctive “Wintered Over” clasp you can hold over everyone else. But being authorized to get down there is the hardest part.

Since its discovery in 1820, numerous nations who’ve landed in Antarctica have stuck their flags in the ground and claimed it as their own. Because the continent has essentially no readily available resources, is extremely remote, and was nearly impossible to settle on long-term, the flags (and their claims) were fairly weak.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
So you can kind of get an understanding why there’s nothing in Antarctica. (Photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

But that didn’t stop many nations from trying to hold a claim. The United Kingdom (and, by extension, Australia and New Zealand), France, Norway, Argentina, Chile, and Nazi Germany all claimed portions of the continent. The United States and the USSR also held the right to make a claim but never did.

To ease tensions between all parties in 1959, the Antarctica Treaty was established which laid the ground rules for the continent. It was agreed that Antarctica is the “common heritage of mankind” and could not belong to an entity, territorial claim or not.

This was established to increase scientific understanding of the region and allow scientists the ability to freely communicate. Another article of the treaty bans military personnel and nuclear weapons testing from the continent.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Which is kind of remarkable if you consider it was brokered during the height of the Cold War. (Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

The only exception to this policy is that troops are allowed entry into Antarctica as long as it’s done for scientific research and other peaceful purposes — this is the exact mission of every troop who travels south of the 60-degree line.

Airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen will routinely travel to scientific research facilities to give aid, transportation, or supplies. However, finding the justification to send soldiers or Marines is more limited.

These troops can be found at McMurdo Station, one of the largest coastal facilities on the continent, and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is a scientific research facility located at the geographic south pole.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
Just let that sink in a bit. Coasties can get that cooler medal far easier than a grunt. Stings doesn’t it? (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kurdish forces strike a deal with Syrian army

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria announced on Oct. 13, 2019, that it had struck a deal with the Syrian army in order to combat an intensifying attack by Turkish forces in the region.

Turkey has embarked on major air and land offensives against The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control a sizeable area of land in Syria’s northeast which runs along the Turkish border. The move comes just days after Trump announced that he would soon be pulling out US troops still stationed in the region.

On Oct. 13, 2019, the Kurdish-led administration announced that it had reached a deal with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and that Syrian government troops would be deployed in the north in order to fend off the Turkish incursion.


“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the statement said, according to Al Jazeera.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Syrian President Bashar al Assad

The statement added that the Syrian deployment would also help “liberate” areas held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups like Afrin, a city which was occupied as a result of the Turkish military operation in 2018.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported that Syria’s army had begun moving north “to confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory.” The agency also condemned Turkish “massacres” against locals in the north.

The move represents a shift in alliance for the Kurds after US ‘stab in the back’

The surprise move represents a major shift in alliance for Kurdish forces, who were once the United States’ main allies in the region and had been fending off Islamic State militants alongside US troops for years.

The SDF has called Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw troops a “stab in the back” and has vowed to “defend our land at all costs.”

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

U.S. and Turkish military forces in northeast Syria.

(Photo by Spc. Alec Dionne)

Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-held areas stems from the group’s ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as the PKK, which has long fought an armed conflict for Kurdish independence against Turkey. Turkey and other allies have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization, and Turkey has expressed concern that Kurdish forces along its southern border could pose a security threat in the future.

Videos have surfaced online which appear to show Turkish-backed rebel groups slaughtering Kurdish fighters. The US State Department also confirmed on Sunday that Havrin Khalaf, the civilian secretary-general of the Kurdish movement called the Future Syria Party, was captured and killed by Turkish forces.

On Oct. 13, 2019, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US was officially preparing to withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops. The hasty pullout has reportedly left dozens of “high value” ISIS prisoners behind in the area gripped by chaos.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 tactical upgrades to spend your tax refund on

Taxes, the season you love to hate depending on how you filed. But if you’re getting a refund this year, it’s time you think tactical and upgrade your gear.


With so many options to choose from, what is necessary and what is arguably a waste of money? What is tactical versus ‘tacticool?’ Military service is the one job where relying on equipment or gear can be the difference between pain or performing above pace. Knowing the difference is what we are here for.

Here are seven tactical upgrades to spend your refund on:

Metal frame rucksacks

The butt buffer before slamming into the earth like a meteor while executing a textbook parachute landing fall absorbs a fair amount of energy, taking a bit of a beating. Loading under fire into vehicles or unloading out of helicopters into the landing zone requires gear you can count on. Standard issue rucksacks come with plastic frames and underwhelming comfort, support, and space. Upgrading to a metal frame with ample padding and pocket space is the best money you’ll spend to ensure your gear holds up in any scenario.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Commercial made boots

Whether you are a door-kicking infantryman or supply, all soldiers spend an enormous amount of time each day on their feet. Standard issue footwear leaves much to be desired in terms of comfort and quality. Investing in the commercial counterparts might just save you from the bad back and bum knees every salty Staff Sergeant you know complains of.

Smart watches

If for no other reason, someone needs to help the Lieutenant find his way. Jokes aside, upgrading to a multipurpose, high-quality watch improves your overall performance as a soldier. Keep an accurate pace in your running group, self-pace during the PT test or maneuver your platoon with accuracy. Knowing exactly where you are is a part of the job.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

Polymer magazines

Standard issue magazines are made of thin metal and temperamental inner springs. Two or twenty minutes into a firefight and the last thing you want to worry about is your magazine malfunctioning. Polymer magazines offer more durability when slamming your body or weapon unexpectedly down on the ground for cover. The peer through window option is a nice touch, giving the shooter a quick round count.

Multi-function headsets

If you plan on hearing anything when you’re eighty or have ever tried communicating with standard-issue earplugs in, you’ll know why this made the list. Optional noise cancellation with radio capability means you won’t hear the bullets but will hear relayed commands. The alternative would mean switching between earplugs and radio handsets, tying up focus and lessening your reactiveness.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

www.army.mil

Quality running shoes

It’s not technically tactical, but considering your body is your paycheck in the military, taking care of your feet is critical. Running is a stressful activity for any body in general when practiced daily for years on end, it takes a toll. Generally speaking, shoe price is directly related to the quality and lifespan of a sneaker. Understanding the width and arch of your feet and seeking the correct support will provide the longevity your paychecks depend on.

Headlamps

If you’re wondering why your grandpa was issued the same style flashlight as you just received from basic, it’s because they haven’t changed. During night missions, rucks, or walking in general, having two hands instead of one is obviously beneficial. The range of headlamps outshines that of standard-issue flashlights, are lighter weight and have multiple one-touch color options. Your next land navigation score will thank you.

Before blowing your taxes on activities frowned upon by command, try investing in gear that will give back to you instead. Look the part with gear that makes the cut.

Articles

Navy to fire 150Kw ship laser weapon from destroyers, carriers

The U.S. Navy is moving at warp speed to develop lasers with more lethality, precision and power sources as a way to destroy attacking missiles, drones aircraft and other threats.


“We’re doing a lot more with lasers,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director, Surface Warfare Division, said earlier this month at the annual Surface Naval Association national symposium.

The Navy plans to fire a 150-kw weapon off a test ship within a year, he said. “Then a year later, we’ll have that on a carrier or a destroyer or both.”

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.

“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”

That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.

The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.

Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.

DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard USS Ponce. | US Navy photo

The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.

The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.

An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.

The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.

He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”

Long-Term Effort

The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.

A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
A rendering of the weapon system in action. | Boeing

LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.

The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.

While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.

Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. | U.S. Navy

Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.

“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,”  Beutner added.

In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can sommeliers actually tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?

Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?

To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.


As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.

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(Photo by Zachariah Hagy)

That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”

This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.

On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.

As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.

This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.

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Giphy

The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.

Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.

Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.

Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.

So what’s going on here?

There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.

As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”

Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.

As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.

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(Photo by Caroline Attwood)

Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.

That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:

[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.

Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”

Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”

It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.

You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.

So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.

On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.

So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.

On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”

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(Photo by brandy turner)

As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:

We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.

Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.

After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.

In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.

As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”

In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.

In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.

Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.

That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.

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Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.

Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.

However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.

As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.

And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.

In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.

As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”

Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.

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

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Intel

Why military dolphins are more hardcore than you’d think

Troops have long used animals in warfare. Horses to carry them into battle, pigeons to send messages, and dogs to do all sorts of things a good boy does. The Animal Kingdom’s second smartest species is no exception when it comes to fighting in our wars.


The military dolphin program began in 1960 when the U.S. Navy was looking for an easier method of detecting underwater mines. Their solution was to use the animals that play around the mines without problem: the bottlenose dolphin and the California sea lion.

Dolphins are naturally very brilliant animals with an advanced memory and strong deductive reasoning skills. Their ability to understand that performing certain tasks meant getting fishy treats allowed the U.S. Navy to make excellent use of their biosonar. Every mine they locate, they get a treat. Sea lions are just easy to train and have good underwater vision. According to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, there are roughly 75 dolphins and 50 sea lions in the Navy Marine Mammal Program.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
The dolphins get much more love because, well, they’re more useful to the Navy.
(Photo by Alan Antczak)

Military dolphins have many unique abilities to offer the Navy if trained properly. Outside of mine detection, they make excellent underwater guards. Dolphins can be trained to distinguish friendly ships from foes and, when a threat is detected, will press an alert button on allied posts.

With further training, dolphins can actually place mines on the bottom of ships or physically attack enemy divers.

Since the program began, dolphins have been used in every conflict alongside the Navy. In Vietnam, they were used to guard an ammunition pier. In the Tanker War, the US protected Kuwaiti oil exports by deploying dolphins to guard Third Fleet ships.

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s
It’s like being at SeaWorld. But instead of jumping through hoops, the dolphins will beat the hell out of you or attach a bomb to your boat.
(U.S. Navy Photo)

Unfortunately, this hasn’t come without harm to our porpoise partners. They’re naturally playful animals and changing a normally cheerful animal into a beast of war, even if just for training, ruins the dolphin’s chance at a normal life. They aren’t meant for domestication and the added stress greatly reduces their life expectancy.

The U.S. Navy isn’t the only nation to use military dolphins. Russia, Ukraine, and possibly Iran do as well and, sadly, their marine mammals aren’t treated anywhere near as well. A scathing statement from Kiev about the Ukrainian dolphins that were taken by Russia after the annexation of Crimea supposedly applauded the deaths of the starved dolphins. To them, the dolphins were “so patriotic” that they would sooner die than follow Russian commands.

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