‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the vet who needs his stocking stuffed:
~ .50 cal bottle openers to start the round (and the reminiscing) off right ~
Sometimes getting things rolling is the easy part. Like many entrepreneurs with a good idea, former SEAL Eli Crane found out that success, especially when it comes in a rush, can be a much more difficult hurdle to clear.
In Nov. 2014, Crane, along with his wife and co-founder, Jen, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch for investment in their boot-strapped company, Bottle Breacher. They went into it boasting a homemade (but sturdy) garage manufacturing set-up and $500k in sales of their flagship product, a bottle opener fashioned from recycled, authentic decommissioned .50 caliber bullet shells.
Impressed by their story (and all a’flutter with the patriotic warm’n’fuzzies), Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary went halvsies on a $150k capital investment for 10% equity each. The Cranes had aced the most public version of an entrepreneurial rite of passage. Happy days all the way to the bank, right?
Well, yeah, but also some rough weeks ahead as the instant publicity they received from their appearance flooded their fulfillment queue with some 20,000 orders, drastically overmatching their output capacity. Bottle Breacher was in for a brutal bout of growing pains.
Happily, the same grit that got Crane through BUD/S on his second try – along with the smarts that led him to switch to business after 5 overseas deployments – came together in a massive Bottle Breacher systems overhaul. In just over a month, the Cranes identified and busted through their production bottleneck (yeah, sorry) and caught up on all their outstanding orders.
And that was good news because Crane is a genius at product iteration and the production backlog had also made it impossible for him to release a bunch of his newest designs. These days, Bottle Breacher sells Freedom Frags, Breacher BBQ Tools, Wine Bottle Breachers, Whiskey Bullets and much, much more in their quest to be the #1 supplier of patriotic party ammunition to a grateful and thirsty nation.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Earlier this year, both the Air Force and Navy were forced to ground planes due to pilots reporting hypoxia-like symptoms. Among the planes that have had pilots experience hypoxia include the F-35 this past June and the T-45 in April.
It goes without saying that hypoxia is a big deal for pilots. To put it simply, hypoxia is a fancy term for someone is not getting enough oxygen. This tends to happen at high altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner. Not getting enough oxygen leads to unconsciousness, brain damage, and if you’re really unlucky, death.
However, Cobham Mission Systems has been working to address the hypoxia epidemic, through the development of new breathing sensors. These sensors can be incorporated into the life-support systems of any tactical jet.
According to a handout obtained from Cobham’s booth at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland, the new sensors are battery-powered and can collect data for up to 10 hours for analysis after the flight, or they can display the data in real time. These sensors are intended to be used as part of a new life-support system that will prevent hypoxia.
The first sensor, the Inhalation Breathing Sensor, monitors oxygen pressure, the gas flow, the temperature of the gas, the pressure in the hose, the humidity of the gas, the pressure in the cockpit, the cabin temperature, and three-axis acceleration.
The other sensor, the Exhalation Breathing sensor, also monitors oxygen pressure and three-axis acceleration. However, it also notes the pressure, temperature, and humidity of the exhaled gas. It also measures the carbon dioxide and the pressure inside the mask.
Cobham is working to mate these sensors with a warning system to alert the pilot and allow him to take measures to correct the situation. The data gathered will also be used to determine the root cause of why a pilot suffers hypoxia.
A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft joined the search Thursday over the Mediterranean for EgyptAir Flight 804 which went missing on a Paris to Cairo flight, the Pentagon said.
The P-3, flying out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, was the only U.S. military asset involved in the search thus far, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The U.S. did not have any ships in the area and there were no immediate plans to send any, Cook said.
“At this point, it’s just the aircraft that’s involved,” he said at a Pentagon briefing.
The four-engine turboprop planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. have been maritime surveillance and submarine hunting workhorses for the Navy for decades. The aircraft features a distinctive tail antenna, or “MAD Boom,” for the underwater magnetic detection of submarines and other objects below the surface.
EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN that what was believed to be the plane’s wreckage had been found in the Mediterranean about 160 miles north of the Egyptian coast. He said the search and rescue operation was on the verge of “turning into a “search and recovery” mission.
The signal from the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew was lost at about 2:30 a.m. early Thursday local time as it began its approach to Cairo. None of the passengers were listed on terror watch lists and three security officials were on board the aircraft, according to CNN.
Cook declined to speculate on whether terrorism may have been involved but said U.S. law enforcement agencies were in contact with the Egyptians.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations for the disappearance of the aircraft.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.
Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”
Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.
The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.
Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”
More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.
But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.
More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.
Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.
It’s not widely known that Marine Corps Raiders trained operatives for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. The forerunner to the CIA, the OSS would conduct clandestine resistance, sabotage, and intelligence-gathering operations all over the world. One of those operatives was a member of UDT-10, an underwater demolition team, who would play a critical role in the recapture of the Philippines during the war, then help create the foundation of maritime special operations forces for the U.S. military and the intelligence community.
That operative was a sailor named Hank Weldon and he died on Oct. 5, 2018 in his San Marcos, Calif. home. He was 95 years old.
“My point of view of the war is a little different than a lot of people,” he told the Valley Road Runner in 2013. “I let them [U.S. Marines] in and left. I didn’t see a lot of action on the ground. I went in and cleared the areas for the ships,” says Weldon. “Opened the lanes for them. Took care of mines. Or eliminated markers that the Japanese were using as markers for their artillery.”
(Valley Road Runner)
That was just the beginning of a storied career in service to his country.
Born in 1923 and graduating from high school in 1942, Hank Weldon came of age at the outbreak of World War II. He played football at Villanova for two semester before joining a Navy commissioning program. It was while training for that program that General “Wild Bill” Donovan came looking to recruit strong swimmers for the OSS.
His swimming test involved pulling a manhole cover from the bottom of a pool and putting it in an empty canoe without tipping it. He passed. That’s when he was ordered to Camp Pendleton – but he had no idea what branch of the service he was actually in. The truth was, they were from all branches.
Weldon and his full UDT crew on California’s Catalina Island during their training exercises.
The OSS recruited men from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, and Marines to come train with a Marine Raider battalion. When their training was complete, the unit was split up. Some were deployed to hit the beaches at Normandy, while Weldon and others prepared to hit the beaches of the occupied Philippine Islands.
Their trial by fire came when they were sent on the first underwater recon mission of World War II, gathering intelligence on the island of Yap. From there, they saw action at Palau and in five missions in the Philippines – but they didn’t lose a single man there. He even saw General MacArthur as he returned to the island nation, as promised.
When the war ended, so did Hank Weldon’s time in the military.
But his career in service didn’t stop. He spent 26 years as a beat cop on the Los Angeles Police Department and served during some of the most dangerous times in the force’s history. He served during the 1965 Watts Riots, a six-day civil disturbance that damaged million worth of property and was the most destructive urban uprising of the entire Civil Rights Era. It took a 45-mile exclusion zone enforced by 13,000 California National Guardsmen to quell the violence – with Hank Weldon riding and holding shotgun through it all.
Some 50 years after leaving the military and the OSS Maritime unit, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Special Forces – with good reason. He helped inaugurate the use of fins in maritime clandestine operations and pioneered tactical technology, including the first rebreathers. The tactics, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat techniques he and other OSS operative learned from the Marine Raiders were passed on to other operatives throughout the war and then handed down to new special operations units thereafter.
Members of the OSS were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on March 21, 2018, and Hank Weldon was the surviving member of his OSS team, UDT-10. Weldon’s family turned down an invitation for Hank to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead, he will receive a military burial ceremony at home, in the Valley Center Cemetery in California.
Police in Tehran have fired tear-gas at a crowd of protesters who marched to the Iranian parliament on June 25, 2018, after swarming the city’s historic Grand Bazaar in anger over the country’s troubled economy.
The spontaneous protest erupted at the Grand Bazaar on the morning of June 25, 2018, after the black-market exchange rate for Iran’s rial currency fell by more than 10 percent in a single day despite moves by the government support it.
Video footage of the unfolding demonstration obtained by RFE/RL showed hundreds of angry demonstrators marching in and around the Grand Bazaar, forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls.
Shopkeepers who refused to do so were mocked by the crowd with the chant, “Cowards! Cowards!”
The protest came a day after demonstrators forced two major mobile phone and electronics shopping centers in the Iranian capital to close.
It was not immediately clear who led the protests. The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that traders gathered at the Grand Bazaar to protest “against recession,” exchange-rate fluctuations, declining demand from Iranian consumers, and rising prices.
But in videos obtained by RFE/RL, the crowd at the bazaar can be heard in Persian chanting “Leave Syria, think about us,” while some demonstrators shouted “Our enemy is here, not in the U.S.”
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported that the protest at the bazaar began in a clothing market and soon spread to other markets — including a relatively more modern area where home appliances are sold.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank Governor Valliollah Seyf on June 25, 2018, responded to the rapidly falling value of the rial by announcing plans to launch “a second foreign exchange market” next week to battle black-market currency traders.
Speaking after a meeting between President Hassan Rohani and officials from the Economy Ministry, Seyf said the parallel market would operate based on different exchange rates for the U.S. dollar.
He was quoted by Iranian media as saying a rate of 42,000 rials per dollar would be set for “importing essential commodities including medicine,” and that importers and exporters would “have to agree on the rate for importing non-essential goods.”
The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which is close to Rohani’s administration, reported on June 25, 2018, that a third exchange rate between 60,000 and 65,000 rials per dollar will be announced soon.
ISNA and the Mehr news agency also said that the state of confusion and ambiguity in the markets was reinforced by other officials who have spoken about plans for other foreign exchange rates.
The Tasnim news agency quoted the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, as saying that the situation at the bazaar had calmed and that protesters’ demands were being “delivered through the chamber to the government.”
He made those remarks after the demonstrators — chanting “Don’t fear, don’t fear, we are all together” — marched to the Iranian parliament building.
As the crowd filed through the streets of the capital calling on others to join them, the size of the demonstration swelled into the thousands.
Similar economic demonstrations broke out across Iran at the end of 2017 and quickly spread to some 75 cities and towns — growing into Iran’s largest protests since unrest over the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Violence at those demonstrations, which continued into early January 2018, left 25 dead and nearly 5,000 people detained by authorities.
US subs remain far better than their Chinese counterparts, but in a conflict, numbers, and geography may help China mitigate some of the US and its partners’ advantages.
Naval modernization is part of Beijing’s “growing emphasis on the maritime domain,” the US Defense Department said in its annual report on Chinese military power.
As operational demands on China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy have increased, subs have become a high priority — and one that could counter the US Navy’s mastery of the sea.
The force currently numbers 56 subs — four nuclear-powered missile subs, five nuclear-powered attack subs, and 47 diesel-powered attack subs — and is likely grow to between 69 and 78 subs by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
China has built 10 nuclear-powered subs over the past 15 years. Its four operational Jin-class missile boats “represent China’s first credible, seabased nuclear deterrent,” the Pentagon report said.
In most likely conflict scenarios, however, those nuclear-powered subs would have limited utility, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Budgetary and Strategic Assessments.
“They’re relatively loud, pretty easy to track, and don’t really have significant capability other than they can launch land-attack cruise missiles, and they don’t have very many of those,” Clark said. “They’re more of a kind of threat the Chinese might use to maybe do an attack on a … more distant target like Guam or Hawaii.”
The locations and composition of major Chinese naval units, according to the Pentagon.
(US Defense Department)
Conventionally powered subs are the “more important part of their submarine force,” Clark said, particularly ones that can launch anti-ship missiles and those that use air-independent propulsion, or AIP, which allows nonnuclear subs to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.
Since the mid-1990s, China has built 13 Song-class diesel-electric attack subs and bought 12 Russian-made Kilo-class subs — eight of which can fire anti-ship cruise missiles.
Kilos are conventional diesel subs, which means they need to surface periodically.
“Even with that, they’re a good, sturdy, reliable submarine that carries long-range anti-ship missiles,” Clark said. On a shorter operation where a Kilo-class sub “can avoid snorkeling, it could … sneak up on you with a long-range attack, so that’s a concern for the US.”
China has also built 17 Yuan-class diesel-electric, air-independent-powered attack subs over the past two decades, a total expected to rise to 20 by 2020, according to the Pentagon.
Then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus leaves the Chinese Yuan-class submarine Hai Jun Chang in Ningbo, November 29, 2012.
(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Sam Shavers)
“The Yuan AIP submarine is very good,” said Clark, a former US Navy submarine officer and strategist.
“For the duration of a deployment that it might normally take, which is two or three weeks, where it can stay on its AIP plant and never have to come up and snorkel, they’re very good,” Clark added. “That’s a big concern, I think, for US and Japanese policymakers.”
Yuan-class boats can threaten surface forces with both torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.
For US anti-submarine-warfare practitioners in the western Pacific, Clark said, “it’s the Yuan they generally point to as being their target of concern, because it does offer this ability to attack US ships and [is] hard to track and there may be few opportunities to engage it.”
Despite concerns China’s current diesel-electric subs inspire, they have liabilities.
A Chinese Yuan-class attack submarine.
(Congressional Research Service)
As quiet as they are, they are still not as quiet as a US nuclear-powered submarine operating in its quietest mode. They don’t have the same endurance as US subs and need to surface periodically. China’s sub crews also lack the depth of experience of their American counterparts.
“Chinese submarines are not … as good as the US submarines, by far,” Clark said.
China’s subs have made excursions into the Indian Ocean and done anti-piracy operations in waters off East Africa, but they mostly operate around the first island chain, which refers to major islands west of the East Asian mainland and encompasses the East and South China Seas.
Chinese subs also venture into the Philippine Sea, where they could strike at US ships, Clark said.
Much of the first island chain is within range of Chinese land-based planes and missiles, which are linchpins in Beijing’s anti-access/area denial strategy. It’s in that area where the US and its partners could see their advantages thwarted.
The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.
(US Defense Department)
“Now the Chinese have the advantage of numbers, because they have a large number of submarines that can operate, and they’ve only got a small area in which they need to conduct operations,” Clark said.
China could “flood the zone” with subs good enough to “maybe overwhelm US and Japanese [anti-submarine warfare] capabilities.”
The anti-submarine-warfare capabilities of the US and its partners may also be constrained.
US subs would likely be tasked with a range of missions, like land attacks or surveillance, rather than focusing on attacking Chinese subs, leaving much of the submarine-hunting to surface and air forces — exposing them to Chinese planes and missiles.
“The stuff we use for ASW is the stuff that’s most vulnerable to the Chinese anti-access approach, and you’re doing it close proximity to China, so you could get stuck and not be able to engage their submarines before they get out,” Clark said.
Crew members demonstrate a P-8A Poseidon for Malaysian defense forces chief Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, April 21, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)
Numbers and location also give China a potential edge in a “gray-zone” conflict, or a confrontation that stops short of open combat, for which US Navy leadership has said the service needs to prepare.
China’s subs present “a challenge [US officials] see as, ‘What if we get into one of these gray-zone confrontations with China, and China decides to start sortieing their submarines through the first island chain and get them out to open ocean a little bit so they’re harder to contain,'” Clark said.
“If we’re in a gray-zone situation, we can’t just shoot them, and we don’t necessarily have the capacity to track all of them, so now you’ve got these unlocated Yuans roaming around the Philippine Sea, then you may end up with a situation where if you decide to try to escalate, you’ve got worry about these Yuans and their ability to launch cruise missiles at your ships,” Clark added.
“As the home team, essentially, China’s got the ability to control the tempo and the intensity,” he said.
The US and its partners have already encountered such tactics.
Beijing often deploys its coast guard to enforce its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea (which an international court has rejected) and has built artificial islands containing military outposts to bolster its position.
When those coast guard ships encounter US Navy ships, China points to the US as the aggressor.
In the waters off the Chinese coast and around those man-made islands, “they do a lot of that because they’re on their home turf and protected by their land-based missiles and sensors,” Clark said. “Because of that, they can sort of ramp [the intensity] up and ramp it down … as they desire.”
The circumstances of a potential conflict may give Chinese subs an edge, but it won’t change their technical capability, the shortcomings of which may be revealed in a protracted fight.
“Can the Chinese submarines — like the Yuans that have limited time on their AIP plants — can they do something before they start to run out of propellant, oxygen, and start having to snorkel?” Clark said.
“So there’s a little bit of a time dimension to it,” he added. “If the US and Japan can wait out the Chinese, then their Yuans have to start snorkeling or pulling into port … that might make them more vulnerable.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.
Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.
Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.
Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.
“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”
A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.
Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.
“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.
When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.
But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.
How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?
B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.
This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.
One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.
NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.
Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.
Some warships bring the hurt to the enemy and look good while doing it. Take Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, for example: They pack a huge punch inside a powerful, refined exterior. Or look to the Iowa-class battleship, whose long career and heavy firepower speaks for itself — but it also looks majestic.
Other ships, however, look as though they fell off the ugly tree and hit every damn branch on the way down. They might be powerful, they might have outstanding combat records, but their designers certainly aren’t winning any any plaudits for their aesthetic choices.
Not only were the Ekaterina II-class battleships ugly, but this one, the Chesma, was so overweight that its armor was submerged.
Russia’s Ekaterina II-class battleships
Russia built four of these vessels in the 1880s. Two served as guard ships in World War I. Not only were they eyesores, but they were also poorly designed. One of the vessels, the Chesma, was so overweight that her armor belt listed underwater, making it practically useless in a fight. The last of these ships survived until 1930, when it was scrapped by the French.
The Gangut-class ships were both ugly and impractical — not a winning combo.
(Illustration from Brassey’s Naval Annual 1912)
Russia’s Gangut-class battleships
This ship was also intimately familiar with the ugly stick. It also wasn’t the most graceful vessel to take the sea. The turrets were split evenly across the ship, meaning half of its firepower was rendered completely useless when the ship was turned broadside to the enemy. They saw action in World War I and World War II, but were quickly scrapped thereafter
Since she packs 14 12-inch guns, it’s probably not a good idea to call the HMS Agincourt ugly to her face.
The Brazilians responsible for this ship’s designed sold her, incomplete, to the Ottoman Turks. Then, when World War I started, the British took it over. She didn’t look graceful, but she did pack 14 12-inch guns. She saw action at Jutland, but after World War I, she was scrapped under the terms laid out by the Washington Naval Treaty.
Which is uglier, the Fuso-class battleship or its combat record?
(Kure Maritime Museum collection)
Japan’s Fuso-class battleships
This ship’s superstructure is essentially a small skyscraper on top of an armored hull. The ship did pack a dozen 14-inch guns, but it was slow, capping off at a top speed of 23 knots. An upgrade in the 1930s made it a little faster, but the Fuso-class ships were still ugly.
Their only notable combat experience was in the Surigao Strait – where both went down against American battleships, some of which had been at Pearl Harbor.
The Nelson-class battleships look like tanker hulls strapped with lots of guns.
(Imperial War Museum)
Britain’s Nelson-class battleships
These two ships were designed with the entire main battery forward of the superstructure, creating a look that’s closer to a supertanker with big guns than a battleship. It also means it’s completely safe to talk about these ships behind their back — they’ve no guns at the rear. HMS Nelson saw action in the Mediterranean theater, Operation Overlord, and in the Pacific, while HMS Rodney is known for being the only battleship to torpedo another. Both went to the scrapyard by 1950.
Let’s face it, while these ships found varying levels of success in combat, none would’ve won any beauty pageants.
“Everything north of the Strait of Hormuz is under our control,” said Ali Fadavi, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. If that’s true it would mean the Islamic Republic controls the flow of one-fifth of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran also says it controls the American Navy.
Let’s see how that works out for Iran.
“American battleships in the region are under the complete control of Iran’s army and the Revolutionary Guards,” Fadavi told Fars News Service, without providing any further details. While Iran isn’t going anywhere near the recent rocket attack that struck the Green Zone just a few days before the IRGC Navy commander made the statement, the provocations against American forces in the region appear to continue.
Meanwhile, the United States is increasing its presence in the Gulf region, sending bomber aircraft along with three more ships to bolster its forces. The Pentagon is also weighing a plan to deploy five to ten thousand more troops to the region.
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group entered the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in 2016
Iran has approximately 20,000 men from the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in and around the Persian Gulf, manning missile boats, torpedo boats, and even speedboats. Of most concern to the ships of the U.S. navy and its allies, however, is the number of coastal and aircraft-fired anti-ship missiles in the region. On top of the IRGC’s naval assets are the approximately 15,000 men and Marines aboard the the dozens of more traditional ships – frigates, destroyers, corvettes – in the Gulf.
As for the buildup of American troops in the Gulf, Iran recently said the power posed by the force have turned from threats to targets.
The Pentagon’s science and technology research arm is launching a vigorous push into a new level of advanced artificial intelligence, intended to integrate advanced levels of “machine learning,” introduce more “adaptive reasoning” and even help computers determine more subjective phenomena.
It is called the “AI-Next” effort, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to leverage rapid advances in AI to help train data to make computer analysis more reliable for human operators, agency Director Steven Walker recently told a small group of reporters.
DARPA scientists explain the fast-evolving AI-Next effort as improving the ability of AI-oriented technology to provide much more sophisticated “contextual explanatory models.”
While humans will still be needed in many instances, the 3rd Wave can be described as introducing a new ability to not only provide answers and interpretations, but also use “machine learning to reason in context and explain results,” DARPA Deputy Director Peter Highnam said.
In short, the AI-Next initiative, intended to evolve into a 3rd Wave, can explain the reason “why” it reached the conclusion it reached, something which offers a breakthrough level of computer-human interface, he added.
“When we talk about the 3rd wave, we are focused on contextual reasoning and adaptation. It requires less data training,” Highnam said.
This not only makes determinations more reliable but massively increases an ability to make more subjective interpretations by understanding how different words or data sets relate to one another.
A computer can only draw from information it has been fed or given, by and large. While it can add seemingly limitless amounts of data almost instantaneously, AI-driven analysis can face challenges if elements of the underlying stored data change for some reason. It is precisely this predicament which the 3rd Wave is intended to address.
“If the underlying data changes then your system was not trained against that,” Highnam explained.
For instance, 3rd wave adaptive reasoning will enable computer algorithms to discern the difference between the use of “principal” and “principle” based on an ability to analyze surrounding words and determine context.
This level of analysis naturally creates much higher levels of reliability and nuance as it can empower humans with a much deeper grasp of the detailed information they might seek.
“That is the future — building enough AI into the machines that they can actually communicate, share data and network at machine speed in real time,” Walker said.
Yet another example of emerging advanced levels of AI would be an ability to organize hours of drone collected video very quickly – and determine moments of relevance for human decision makers. This exponentially increases the speed of human decision making, a factor which could easily determine life or death in combat.
“In a warfighting scenario, humans have to trust it when the computer gives them an answer…through contextual reasoning,” Highnam said.
Given these emerging 3rd Wave advances, making more subjective decisions will increasingly be a realistic element of AI’s functional purview. For this reason and others, DARPA is working closely with the private sector to fortify collaboration with silicon valley and defense industry partners as a way to identify and apply the latest innovations.
DARPA’s 1st, 2nd & 3rd wave of AI
The third wave, described in DARPA materials as bringing “contextual explanatory models” and a much higher level of machine learning, is intended to build upon the 1st and 2nd Waves of DARPA’s previous AI progress.
The 1st Wave, according to available DARPA information, “enables reasoning over narrowly defined problems.” While it does bring certain elements of learning capability, it is described as having a “poor level of certainty.”
This points to the principle challenge of AI, namely fostering an ability to generate “trust” or reliability that the process through which it discovers new patterns, finds answers, and compares new data against volumes of historical data is accurate. Given this challenge, certain existing models of AI integration might have trouble adjusting to changing data or determining sufficient context.
The 2nd Wave enables “creating statistical models and training them on big data,” but has minimal reasoning, DARPA materials explain. This means algorithms are able to recognize new information and often place it in a broader context in relation to an existing database.
The 2nd Wave, therefore, can often determine meaning of previously unrecognized words and information by examining context and performing certain levels of interpretation. AI-enabled computer algorithms, during this phase, are able to accurately analyze words and information by placing them in context with surrounding data and concepts.
With this 2nd wave, however, DARPA scientist explain that there can be limitations regarding the reliability of interpretation and an ability to respond to new information in some instances; this can make its determinations less reliable. Highnam explained this as having less of an ability to train existing data when or if new information changes it. Therefore, this Wave is described by DARPA information as having “minimal reasoning.”
Can AI make subjective determinations?
Raytheon, for example, is currently exploring a collaborative research deal with the Navy to explore prognostics, conditioned-based maintenance and training algorithms to perform real-time analytics on otherwise complex problems. It is a 6-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore extensive new AI applications, company developers said.
Raytheon developers were naturally hesitant to specify any particular problems or platforms they are working on with the Navy, but did say they were looking at improved AI to further enable large warfigthing systems, weapons, and networks.
Todd Probert, Raytheon’s Vice President of Mission Support and Modernization, told Warrior Maven in an interview what their effort is working on initiatives which compliment DoD’s current AI push.
“Part of deploying AI is about gaining the confidence to trust the AI if operations change and then break it down even further,” Probert said. “We are training algorithms to do the work of humans.”
Interestingly, the kinds of advances enabled by a 3rd Wave bring the prospect of engineering AI-driven algorithms to interpret subjective nuances. For instance, things like certain philosophical concepts, emotions and psychological nuances influenced by past experience might seem to be the kind of thing computers would not be able to interpret.
While this is of course still true in many ways, as even the most advanced algorithms do not yet parallel human cognition, or emotion, in some respects, AI is increasingly able to make more subjective determinations, Probert said.
Probert explained that advanced AI is able to process certain kinds of intent, emotions, and biases through an ability to gather and organize information related to word selection, voice recognition, patterns of expression, and intonations as a way to discern more subjective phenomena.
Also, if a system has a large enough database, perhaps including prior expressions, writing or information related to new information — it can place new words, expressions and incoming data within a broader, more subjective context, Probert explained.
AI & counterterrorism – Torres AES
Other industry partners are using new levels of AI to fortify counterterrorism investigations and cyber forensics. For example, a US-based global security firm supporting DoD, the US State Dept. and friendly foreign governments, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, employs advanced levels of AI to uncover otherwise obscured or hidden communications among terrorist groups, transnational criminals or other US adversaries.
While much of the details of this kind of AI application, company developers say, are naturally not available for security reasons, Torres cyber forensics experts did say advanced algorithms can find associations and “digital footprints” associated with bad actors or enemy activity using newer methods of AI.
As part of its cyber forensics training of US and US-allied counterterrorism forces, Torres prepares cyber warriors and investigators to leverage AI. Torres conducts cyber forensics training of US-allied Argentinian and Paraguayan counterrorism officials who, for instance, often look to crack down on terrorist financial activity in the more loosely-governed “tri-border” area connecting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
“The system that we train builds in AI, yet does not eliminate the human being. AI-enabled algorithms can identify direct and indirect digital relationships among bad actors,” said Jerry Torres, Torres AES CEO.
For instance, AI can use adaptive reasoning to discern relationships between locations, names, email addresses, or bank accounts used by bad actors.
To illustrate some of the effective uses of AI for these kinds of efforts, Torres pointed to a proprietary software called Maltego — used for open-source intelligence analysis and forensics.
“AI can be a great asset in which our defensive cyber systems learn about the attackers by increasing the knowledge base from each attack, and launching intelligent counter attacks to neutralize the attackers, or feign a counter attack to get the attacker to expose itself. AI is critical to countering attackers,” Torres added.
The software uses AI to find relationships across a variety of online entities to include social media, domains, groups, networks, and other areas of investigative relevance.
The growing impact of AI
AI has advanced quickly to unprecedented levels of autonomy and machine learning wherein algorithms are instantly able to assimilate and analyze new patterns and information, provide context, and compare it against vast volumes of data. Many now follow the seemingly countless applications of this throughout military networks, data systems, weapons, and large platforms.
Computer autonomy currently performs procedural functions, organizes information, and brings incredible processing speed designed to enable much faster decision-making and problems solving by humans performing command and control. While AI can proving seemingly infinite amounts of great relevance in short order — or almost instantaneously — human cognition is still required in many instances to integrate less “tangible” variables, solve dynamic problems or make more subjective determinations.
When it comes to current and emerging platforms, there is already much progress in the area of AI; the F-35s “sensor fusion” relies upon early iterations of AI, Navy Ford-Class carriers use greater levels of automation to perform on-board functions and Virginia-Class Block III attack submarines draw upon touch screen fly-by-wire technology to bring more autonomy to undersea navigation.
Other instances include the Army’s current experimentation with IBM’s AI-enabled Watson computer which, among other things, can be used to wirelessly perform real-time analytics on combat relevant maintenance details on Stryker vehicles. In a manner somewhat analogous to this, a firm called C3IOT uses AI-empowered real-time analytics to perform conditioned-based maintenance on Air Force F-16s.
“Despite higher levels of autonomy, in the end a human will make the decision, using computers as partners. We see the future as much less having machines do everything but rather humans and machines working together to fight the next battle,” Highnam explained.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The bodies of two old helicopters sit uncovered on Bob Fritzler’s property. They tower over him as he walks by them on his way to his large garage.
He had to use a giant trailer to haul them out to his farm with his truck. He imagined it felt a lot like driving a semi. He doesn’t worry much about what the weather might do to the old birds outside. He’s just using them for parts.
Fritzler’s real treasure sits in that large garage on his land near Keenesburg. He’s working to restore a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34 helicopter, which was flown during Operation SHUFLY, a Marine helicopter operation that primarily ferried troops in Vietnam between 1962 and 1965. Fritzler said it was one of the first helicopters built to drop off troops in combat.
Back then, Fritzler said, helicopters were a huge game changer for Marines. Pilots could drop soldiers off anywhere. Before, they relied on ships, which required a coast.
Fritzler, now 82, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He flew the helicopter when he was a pilot. Several other squadrons flew it, too. He hopes to fix it up and eventually put it into the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fritzler went to a Marine reunion a couple years ago. There, he met Gerald Hail from Oklahoma who restored old planes back to flyable conditions. Hail invited him out to fly and Fritzler accepted. While out there, Fritzler noticed the H-34.
“I saw bullet hole patches,” Fritzler said. “I knew I could count over 100 bullet holes.”
The bird had aged, with much of the Marine Green paint had worn down to the aluminum. Fritzler’s old squadron number had been painted over with a different squadron’s number, but he still recognized the helicopter as the one he flew.
“I had a real love affair with it,” Fritzler said.
He asked Hail if he could buy it from him so he could restore it. Hail said he’d think about it. About a month later, Hail called Fritzler and told him he’d donate the helicopter if Fritzler would fix it up.
Fritzler’s been working on the restoration project here and there for a couple years. He has experience fixing up machines. He grew up on a farm in Windsor and spent much of his life making farm equipment run again. He thinks that made him fairly handy.
But it’s a lengthy process. It takes time to track down parts that are no longer in production. He bought an old blue and white Marine helicopter for the parts. The previous owner had it certified for commercial use and used it to lift large air conditioning units. Fritzler bought an old Army helicopter, too.
“Both of these (helicopters) are pretty complete,” Fritzler said. Now he just has to figure out which parts the H-34 needs and which ones to take from the others.
He’s not a teenager anymore, either, Fritzler said, so his energy has a limit.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I bit off more than I could chew,” Fritzler said. “I’ve had some help from other guys.”
He works on it for a couple hours a day, sometimes more. He’s mostly working on deconstructing old pieces and finding the new ones to replace them.
Sometimes when Fritzler looks back on his life as a pilot, he wonders if he really did all the things he remembers. It was a long time ago. He did two tours in Vietnam and did some airline flying, too. But his last flight in the cockpit was more than 20 years ago.
“I still love to fly,” he said.
He might not be able to pilot planes anymore, but this may be the next best thing.