The Army National Guard is using new Hollywood special effects to transform Humvees into T-72 tanks and other Russian combat vehicles to amp up the realism in training exercises.
In 2018, the National Guard Bureau hired WestEfx Military Services in Sun Valley, California, to help improve its Exportable Combat Training Capability program and its 21-day exercises designed to ensure units are ready for mobilization, according to an Army news release.
WestEfx has provided special effects for big-screen movies such as “Taken” and “Men in Black II,” it added.
The firm’s special VisMod kits convert M1097 Humvees into realistic mock-ups of Russian T-72 main battle tanks and BTR-90 personnel carriers.
Military engineers and mechanics have helped WestEfx install 12 kits onto Humvees at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, according to the release. The Guard and WestEfx plan to continue production of 48 more kits over the next three years, it adds.
The upgraded T-72A which appeared in 1979.
“We will be able to train against a realistic enemy,” Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Doramus, Idaho Army National Guard VisMod fleet manager, said in the release. “These kits aren’t going to look and act like a Humvee. They are going to look and act like T-72s and BTR-90s.”
The kits weigh about 1,700 pounds and fit over a Humvee’s chassis to resemble the size and silhouette of the tank or personnel carrier, but use an inflatable canvas-like frame.
Its gas-operated weapon systems simulate the firing of .50-caliber and 125 mm main guns that can be configured to multiple integrated laser engagement systems (MILES) for added realism, according to the release.
“No enhanced battlefield training simulators can compare with the functionality, realism, durability and cost-effectiveness of this new VisMod vehicle,” WestEfx owner and lead designer Erick Brennan said in the release. “They are pretty amazing, and we are really proud of them.”
Army brigade combat teams have used similar technology over the years to replicate enemy vehicles, but these new kits are the “first of their kind,” Maj. Aaron Ammerman, XCTC program manager for the Guard Bureau, said in the release.
“Taking a look at how VisMods are done across the Army, I think these are the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They will provide an exponentially more realistic threat signature for troops to train against as they do force-on-force exercises.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Check out these five stories that you might have missed this week:
5. A U.S. drone takes out a group of al-Shabab fighters 40-miles southwest of Somalia’s capital
U.S. Africa Command reported that a drone strike took out a vehicle carrying explosives posing an “imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” The extremist group al-Shabab has been linked to bombings in Mogadishu that have killed over 500 people.
The U.S. has reportedly carried out over 30 airstrikes against the extremist group. The Trump administration approved expanding military operations in Africa.
4. China continues to install high-frequency radar on their man-made islands — and the U.S. doesn’t like it one bit.
Reportedly, the U.S. and allies are highly opposed to China building on the artificial islands, which cover nearly 72 acres of the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Although the construction is entirely legal, many officials believe they may have ulterior motives.
3. China threatens to invade Taiwan once a Navy ship reaches its port.
A senior diplomat from China threatened to invade the self-ruled island should any U.S. warship visit. Li Kexin, another Chinese diplomat, had told U.S. officials that China would initiate its Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes the use of force on Taiwan to prohibit the island from seceding, only if the U.S. docks their ships.
2. Pyongyang said it’s a ‘big step’ toward nuclear war if the U.S. blocks North Korean ships
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested that all nations put a clamp on North Korea and reassert the “right to interdict maritime traffic.” North Korean officials found the remark offensive, causing the rogue nation to threaten war if their ships are blocked.
This issue surfaced after North Korea’s latest missile test raised global concern.
1. Russia wants to supply arms to the Central African Republic if UN Security Council approves
The request raised concerns from France, who has already questioned Russia’s reasoning for the sale. Russia is seeking an exemption to the arms embargo set on the Central African Republic in 2013. The UN Security Council has until next week to consider the request.
UN Security Council during a session. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.
The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.
Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.
Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.
But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”
The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”
“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.
Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”
If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The invisible scars of combat can make reintegration to civilian life a challenging transition for some combat Veterans, especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For South Florida Veterans, a new technology combined with traditional treatments may hold the secret for a successful post-military life.
Mental health providers at the Miami VA Healthcare System are now offering a virtual reality (VR) treatment option for Veterans with PTSD. Combining VR with traditional treatments, such as prolonged exposure therapy, providers can help Veterans change how they perceive and respond to the symptoms of PTSD, which typically cause depression, isolation and anxiety.
“Avoidance, hyper vigilance and re-experiencing are symptoms of PTSD that result from memories of trauma,” said Dr. Pamela Slone-Fama, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. “By using a recovery model approach, prolonged exposure therapy and virtual reality, most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories. Prolonged exposure therapy is what makes this approach to PTSD recovery so effective.”
In conventional prolonged exposure therapy, patients are gradually exposed to events they avoid because of trauma, and providers directly control the stimuli – which can be adjusted based on patients’ responses and individual needs. One of the benefits of using VR in PTSD treatment is providers can control the virtual combat landscapes, sounds and even smells.
What happens during PTSD VR sessions?
Before the first VR session, providers talk with their patients about the benefits of using exposure therapy and VR to treat PTSD. If patients choose to participate, VR sessions begin during the third visit. Before beginning the session, patients are connected to the VR machine – which consists of a headset with video goggles, plastic M-4 rifle, remote to control a virtual humvee and a chair.
“Patients begin the session by recounting their traumatic memories in the present tense, while we document responses, anxiety levels and memories,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “As patients are recounting, we can see what they are seeing on our screens and try to simulate the landscapes, sounds and smells they are describing.”
While repeatedly recounting their memories, patients also describe how they are feeling. Depending on how far along a patient is in his/her treatment, sessions can run anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Even though the VR session is an important piece of the therapy, the post session also has an important role in the recovery process.
“After VR sessions, we work with the patient on processing what just happened,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “This part of the therapy helps patients understand the events that happened to them and allows them to process the entire memory. VR sessions can be intense, so before wrapping up we always make sure the patients are ok to leave. Safety is always important.”
Common Misconceptions about PTSD
While PTSD can be a serious condition, its symptoms are what cause Veterans to develop low self-esteem and unhealthy, unrealistic beliefs about themselves, according to Dr. Camille Gonzalez, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. She said Veterans living with PTSD frequently blame themselves for the trauma and feel hopeless.
“It’s common for Veterans with PTSD to feel as though they are permanently damaged,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We try to help Veterans understand it’s not their fault they experienced these events. Once they realize PTSD is a result of something that happened to them, the recovery process can begin. Even though Veterans will always remember what happened to them, therapy can help them decrease the negative impacts of those memories.”
U.S. Army units have reported about 3,000 M4 carbines have failed a safety inspection because of a potential glitch in the selector switch that could lead to unintended discharges, Military.com has learned.
The Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch was stuck in-between the semi and auto detents. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.
As of June 1, 2018, TACOM has received reports on about 50,000 weapons put through the updated functions check. Of that number, “about six percent,” or 3,000 weapons, failed, R. Slade Walters, a spokesman for TACOM, told Military.com.
The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.
The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.
In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.
The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.
Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.
Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.
“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.
Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.
These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”
The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.
“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.
Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.
Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many otheranalysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.
While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.
The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.
The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.
Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.
On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.
Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.
This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:
One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.
Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.
“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”
He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”
After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.
“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”
Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.
“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”
If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:
Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.
The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.
The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.
In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”
Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”
Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”
On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”
“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.
On the front lines of the unrest in Hong Kong are the Raptors, an elite subdivision of the Hong Kong Police Force. Their official name is the Special Tactical Squad, but that moniker doesn’t really cover everything the Raptors do, from crowd control and riot control to clearing roadblocks and infiltrating disruptive groups. The STS was created in the midst of chaos and will be there whenever Hong Kong descends back into it.
The Special Tactical Squad was formed in 2014 in the middle of the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, a civil unrest that was a response to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ efforts to undermine the democratic system in Hong Kong. The police response to the 100,000 protestors that flooded the city’s streets was underwhelming. They had no apparatus in place to handle such protests. The Raptors were created to contain the widespread protests and were deployed in 2016 during the “Fishball Revolution” and are again deployed on the streets.
Every time the Chinese government tries to impose its will on the city of Hong Kong, its people crowd the streets in massive protests, and the Raptors are called in. The latest protests see upwards of a million people protesting in the streets in 2019.
Around the Police Tactical Unit, which the Special Tactical Squad is a part of, they’re called the “Removal Team,” as they’re usually tasked with removing debris and clearing roadblocks, as well as removing unruly protesters. For the last, the local media call them “The Professional Removal Team.” When the Hong Kong police are overwhelmed, the Raptors special training and gear are able to work over crowds in sizes that regular police forces just couldn’t manage. Now they’re doing much more than responding to civil unrest – they’re actively preventing it.
People close to the organized protests say Raptors officers went undercover in protest groups to undermine the most radical protesters. On Aug. 12, Raptors arrested 15 organizers in a carefully coordinated decoy operation to remove the most violent of rioters. The Raptors are now being comprised of counterterrorism officers, which probably explains the shift in tactics on the ground. Protestors with a violent past can now be arrested in secret.
The Raptors would usually have just done battle with those protesters. Times sure have changed.
China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.
China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.
The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.
In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.
China is building impressive and inexpensive drones
The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.
The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.
The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.
The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.
The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.
The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.
The US has restrictive regulations and policies
Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.
A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.
In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.
Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.
The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.
In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.
China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.
Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.
In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.
By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.
In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.
China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.
China’s future drone projects are even more impressive
Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.
There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.
Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.
China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.
Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.
In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.
In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.
This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.
Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.
“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”
For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.
However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.
Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.
Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.
Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.
“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”
But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.
“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”
The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.
“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”
During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.
Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models
Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.
“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.
On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.
Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.
The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.
The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)
Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.
As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.
“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.
The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.
It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.
In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.
The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.
The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.
The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.
Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.
The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.
The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.
The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.
There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.