While North Korea is in the headlines over Kim Jong Un’s push for intercontinental ballistic missiles, India has quietly carried out its own arms race and is building a very solid nuclear triad for strategic deterrence.
According to a report from Bloomberg News, India’s efforts are bearing fruit — a marked contrast to those of the North Koreans, which apparently drove Kim Jong Un to get blackout drunk and demand apologies from his generals.
The missile India tested was the Agni V, which GlobalSecurity.org notes has a range of about 2,700 nautical miles. This would allow the missile to hit most of the People’s Republic of China.
India made news earlier this year when it commissioned the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant. This submarine, capable of carrying four K-4 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, puts India into the “boomer club” with the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia.
Bloomberg News reported that the Agni V missile was launched from a Road Mobile Launcher. The Federation of American Scientists notes that the Soviet Union’s SS-25 Sickle (later taken over by the Russian Federation) was also designed as a road-mobile system.
According to Designation-Systems.net, the United States planned to use the MGM-134 Midgetman as a road-mobile system, but it was cancelled at the end of the Cold War.
The Indian Air Force has a number of aircraft that could carry nuclear weapons, including the MiG-27, the Jaguar, and GlobalSecurity.org reports that Indian Tu-142 “Bear F” anti-submarine escorts have been wired to accept air-launched cruise missiles.
Whisper is a mobile app which allows its users to post anonymous messages (called “Whispers”) out into the ether and receive replies from other users who might be interested in what they have to say. The messages are text superimposed over a (presumably) related photo to illustrate the point.
A recent update allowed Whispers to be categorized into a few firm subcategories: Confessions, LGBTQ, NSFW, QA, Faith and Military. Military members and those with an interest in the military can “anonymously” (quotes because the app still tracks users with their phone’s GPS) post their thoughts, feelings, and interactions with military members. For better or for worse, we compiled some of the more colorful Whispers.
Early on in 2019, two plaintiffs representing the National Coalition for Men sued the U.S. Government in Texas on the grounds that registering only males for the draft was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in their favor, saying the males-only Selective Service rules should now extend to American women within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The Trump Administration just filed an appeal to defend the all-male draft rules.
Trump’s Justice Department called ordering women to register for Selective Service “particularly problematic,” saying it would force women to register for the draft through a judicial ruling before Congress could actually address the issue. The DoJ is essentially saying the court is legislating instead of the Congress.
The Justice Department said it’s not for a court to decide what change in policy should be adopted without any involvement by the political branches and the military.
“If the Court’s declaratory judgment is upheld, it should be left to Congress, in consultation with the Executive Branch and military officials, to determine how to revise the registration system in response,” writes Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi.
President Trump’s Selective Service Card.
The two men who filed the initial lawsuit argued that their chances of being sent to war were higher because women were exempt from the draft. The judge’s ruling means that women will either sign on for the draft or Congress may have to get rid of the draft altogether, something the Trump Administration says is not an option as it would compromise the country’s readiness and ability to respond to a military crisis.
When Selective Service was instituted in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter wanted females to register, but Congress did not include mandatory registration for women. In the past, courts have upheld the all-male draft, arguing that since men were the only ones who were able to fill combat roles, then the draft was acceptably all-male. Since President Obama allowed women to serve in those roles, the door for changing Selective Service registration opened once more.
In June 2020, the Army selected the GM submission for the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. The $214 million contract calls for 649 to be delivered to the Army over a five-year period. Based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, the ISV is designed to provide rapid and organic transportation to light infantry units. Naturally, the best unit to test the ISV is America’s Airborne.
The 82nd Airborne Division is tasked with being the nation’s Immediate Response Force. Along with an airlift from the Air Force, the IRF is designed around rapidly deploying a Brigade Combat Team anywhere around the world within 18 hours of notification. The lightweight ISV is ideally suited for this role. In order to test this capability, the 82nd had to drop it from a plane.
2-325 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team worked with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate to conduct the ISV’s airdrop certification. The ISV was delivered by standard low-velocity from a C-130 and C-17 as well as by a standard dual-row airdrop system from a C-17. Upon landing, paratroopers de-rigged the ISV, loaded their rucks on its roof, and drove it over smooth and rough terrain. “Operational testing is an opportunity for test units to train hard while having the opportunity to offer their feedback to improve Army equipment,” Maj. Cam Jordan, executive officer at ABNSOTD, said. Testing was conducted on the Holland and Sicily Drop Zones at Fort Bragg from March through June 2021.
The ISV will enhance the mobility and lethality of the light infantry. “The ISV will be a game changer for a rifle squad,” Jordan said. “The ability to drop this in with the soldiers will give them much greater reach and endurance to complete their mission.” The Colorado-based vehicle can carry all nine soldiers in a squad and their individual combat loads.
Moreover, the ISV utilizes 70% off-the-shelf components from its commercial variant. This makes it easier for an infantry squad to operate and maintain.
“This vehicle will work well as a means of rapid insertions for an Infantry squad into all types of terrain, including urban environment,” Spc. Brice T. Dunahue, after testing the ISV, said. “The similarities to civilian vehicles will ensure training is fluid and in emergency situations can be operated by any solider.”
The 5,000-pound ISV is also designed to be sling loaded under a UH-60 Blackhawk or flown inside a CH-47 Chinook. As testing continues and the Army takes delivery of more vehicles, the ISV will roll its way into the motor pools of infantry units across the force.
Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?
Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!
NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.
Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.
“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”
The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.
The odds are against you right?
Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.
If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.
People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.
It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.
As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.
If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?
Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:
Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.
Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.
Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.
Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:
International Space Station systems training
Extravehicular Activity skills training
Robotics skills training
Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
The number of countries with military drones has skyrocketed over the past decade, a new report revealed, showing that nearly 100 countries have this kind of technology incorporated into their armed forces.
In 2010, only about 60 countries had military drones, but that number has since jumped to 95, a new report from Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone revealed.
Dan Gettinger, the report’s author, identified 171 different types of unmanned aerial vehicles in active inventories. Around the world, there are at least 21,000 drones in service, but the number may actually be significantly higher.
“The one thing that is clear is drone proliferation is accelerating,” Michael Horowitz, a Center for New American Security (CNAS) adjunct senior fellow for technology and national security, told Insider, adding that it is particularly noteworthy that among the countries that have access to military drone technology, around 20 have armed drones, higher-end systems that are becoming more prolific.
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt(
And the proliferation of drone technology is expected to continue as countries like China, which has emerged as a major exporter of unmanned systems, to include armed drones, and others export drones around the world. “Drone proliferation is inevitable,” Horowitz said, explaining that “current-generation drones are the tip of the spear for the emergence of robotics in militaries around the world.”
Newer systems are appearing at a rapid rate. “I think drones will be a ubiquitous presence on future battlefields,” Gettinger told Insider Sept. 26, 2019, explaining that drone technology is contributing to an evolution in warfare. “They represent an increase in combat capacity, an increase in the ability of a nation to wage war.”
“We are likely to see drones featuring more prominently in global events, particularly in areas that are considered to be zones of geopolitical tension,” he added, noting that “we see this playing out in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, the Ukraine, and other conflicts.”
Drones come in all shapes and sizes and levels of sophistication, and they have become important tools for both countries and non-state actors such as the Islamic State in several different countries, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In recent months, militarized drones have made headlines globally, highlighting the importance of unmanned systems.
Over the past few weeks, for instance, the American MQ-25 Stingray, an unmanned refueling asset expected to serve aboard US carriers, completed its first flight. Russia showed off its new Okhotnik (Hunter) drone flying alongside and working together with the fifth-generation Su-57, an important first step toward manned/unmanned teaming. And, China unveiled a suspected supersonic spy drone and a stealth attack drone during preparations for its National Day celebration.
But, the incident likely the freshest in everyone’s mind is the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil sites earlier this month, when Saudi oil production was temporarily crippled by systems most air defense systems are not designed to effectively counter.
Arthur Holland Michel, who co-directs the Center for the Study of the Drone with Gettinger, previously explained to Insider that the attacks confirmed “some of the worst fears among militaries and law enforcement as to just how much damage one can do” with this kind of technology.
He called the attack a “wake-up call,” one of many in recent years.
The strikes on Saudi Arabia, which the US believes were carried out by Iran, marked the second time in just a few months the US has had to figure out how to respond to a drone-related incident involving Iran, as Iranian forces shot down an expensive US surveillance drone, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone, in June 2019.
That incident nearly ignited an armed conflict between the US and Iran. President Donald Trump had plans to attack Iranian missile and radar sites in retaliation, but he called off the attack at the last minute due to concerns about possible Iranian casualties.
The US reaction, especially the president’s stated concerns that killing Iranians in response to the downing of an unmanned air asset was disproportionate, highlights the challenges of responding to attacks involving military drones.
“The US and other countries,” Gettinger explained, “will have to develop a framework for thinking about and understanding enemy unmanned systems and how to deal with them and what their responses should be. Drones are becoming a more important feature of militaries, and the US and other countries will have to have a framework for dealing with that.”
Addressing these challenges will likely become more important as the technology evolves with advancements in capability to create drones with the ability to fight like unmanned fighter aircraft, manned/unmanned teaming, and progress on swarming.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Page Johnson, 386th Civil Engineering Squadron force protection escort, radios dispatch at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Sept. 4, 2019. The force protection flight provides a security buffer between other country nationals such as contractors, their employees and the general base population. Airmen assist and escort OCNs during their duty day, help minimize potential data collection, and ensure departure of vehicles and personnel once their services are completed for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha).
Military technology is often adapted for the civilian market. From the internet and GPS, to Hummers and parachutes, there are a surprising amount of everyday tech and products with military origins. Companies also like to market products to civilians as “military grade” to highlight their toughness. Sometimes, though, products go in the other direction. Here are five products that started on the civilian market before they were adopted by the military.
1. Hunting Rifles
The most famous American sniper of the 21st century is the late Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle. From the previous century though, it’s Marine legend Carlos Hathcock. During the Vietnam War, Hathcock amassed an incredible 93 confirmed kills. Although the aforementioned Kyle holds a greater kill record of over 160, it must be noted that Hathcock’s first rifle wasn’t nearly as advanced as the SEAL’s. In fact, it was bought off the rack. In October 1966, Major (then-Captain) Edward Land was tasked with creating a Marine sniper program in Vietnam. However, he had no sniper rifles with which to arm his Marines. The best that the Corps’ armories had to offer were WWII-era M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield rifles. Like a good Marine, Land improvised, adapted and overcame this issue.
He scrounged 12 Winchester Model 70 sporting rifles that were procured by Special Services for deer hunting at Camp Pendleton, California. The mounts, rings and scopes for the rifles were purchased through the PX in Okinawa. A second batch of Model 70s was acquired from the Marine competition team after the National Match rules were changed to require service members to compete with service rifles. Although Land eventually replaced the Model 70s with the Remington M40, which was designed with input from Marines like Hathcock, it too was based on a civilian rifle: the Remington Model 700. Today, the Model 700-derived M40 and M24 sniper rifles are still in service with the Marine Corps and Army respectively.
2. Hydration Carriers
If you went through basic training within the past 10-15 years, you’ll be familiar with the Bladder, Hydration System. Of course, Drill Sergeants and DIs yelling at you to drink water just call them CamelBaks. Like Kleenex or Band-Aid, the brand name has become synonymous with the product that it’s known for. CamelBak Products, LLC was started by an EMT named Michael Eidson who came up with the CamelBak concept before competing in the “Hotter ‘n Hell” bike race in Wichita Falls, Texas. Seeking a more convenient hydration solution than plastic water bottles, Eidson filled an IV bag with water and stuck it in a tube sock. He pinned the sock to the back of his jersey, ran a drinking tube from the IV over his shoulder, and secured it with a clothes pin. With the addition of its iconic slogan, “Hydrate or Die,” CamelBak products found a foothold in the civilian market.
During the first Gulf War, troops brought personal CamelBaks with them to stay hydrated on the desert battlefield. The hydration carriers soon became a popular item amongst troops and military exchanges began stocking them. By the second Gulf War and the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, CamelBaks became the standard for portable hydration in the military. In 2012, 40% of CamelBak’s business came from U.S. and foreign government contracts. These days, troops are issued unbranded hydration systems. However, they’re still called by the brand name that started it all.
3. Low Power Variable Optics
Prior to the Global War on Terror, advanced weapon optics like red dot sights were restricted to special forces. Today though, you’d be hard-pressed to see a service rifle without some sort of red dot or magnified scope on it. So, when a new kind of optic swept the civilian competition shooting world, the military took notice. Magnified scopes have been used to improve the accuracy of rifles since the 1800s. The technology was limited to high, and generally fixed, magnification to aid in long-distance shots. However, in 1922, the world was introduced to the Low Power Variable Optic. The LPVO allowed a shooter to adjust its magnification from 1x up to 4x in the case of the first model. Civilian competition shooters later took to the LPVO as it allowed them to engage targets at close and long range in matches with varying target distanches. For much of the GWoT, the Army and Marine Corps utilized Aimpoint red dots and the Trijicon ACOG with a fixed 4x magnification. Now though, line Marines will be issued the Trijicon VCOG 1-8x LPVO as the Squad Common Optic. Similarly, the Army is replacing the ACOG (known in the Army as the RCO) with a Sig Sauer 1-6x LPVO designated as the Direct View Optic.
4. Two-Piece Competition Belts
The infantry needs to be able to carry everything they need in a fight. This means that troops squeeze supplies and equipment onto every possible location on their body. Belts have been used by troops to hold pistols, knives, canteens, medical kits and more. During much of the GWoT, troops that used so-called “battle belts” relied on large, padded belts. However, these belts could be bulky and are more prone to shifting from the waist to the hips as the user moves. An alternative belt was found, again, in the world of competition shooting. Needing a secure and consistent belt to draw, reholster, and reload from, competition shooters employ a two-piece system. An inner belt is secured on the waist through belt loops while a stiff outer belt velcroes over it. The result is a less comfortable, but very stable and secure platform. Today, many special units like the 75th Ranger Regiment and Army Special Forces are issued these types of belts. Other troops choose to buy them on their own for military use.
When the military needs a new vehicle, it can spend billions of dollars in development alone. Sometimes, though, a vehicle already exists on the civilian market that suits the military’s needs. Such is the case with many of the military’s small off-roaders. Polaris Inc. is well-known for its ATVs and four-wheelers. They’re used by civilians for recreation, land management, and even medical rescue. The rugged, mobile, and compact vehicles also made sense for military use. Polaris manufactures the MRZR, derived from its popular RZR four-wheeler line, and the Sportsman MV850 ATV for the military. Small off-roaders like these helped move scouts and special forces across the tough mountain passes during the War in Afghanistan. Now, the Army is bringing this type of mobility to the squad level with the Infantry Squad Vehicle. The light unarmored truck is based on the commercially-available Chevrolet ZR2 Bison. In fact, GM Defense says that the ISV features 70% off-the-shelf components including the frame, suspension, driveline, engine, transmission, axles and brakes.
On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.
Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.
Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.
Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.
This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.
Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:
While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.
The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.
The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.
Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon said on April 19, 2018, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wanted nothing in return for ridding itself of nuclear weapons.
According to Moon, North Korea wants “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. While experts usually take that to include a removal of US forces from South Korea, Moon said that was not the case.
“I don’t think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea — the North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.
Moon went on to say North Korea wouldn’t be asking the US to do much in return for denuclearization.
“They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” Moon said. “All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”
Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.
Why that may be too good to be true
For North Korea, these statements represent an about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter a US invasion.
North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and it routinely complains about military exercises the US holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.
Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim’s game this time around too.
Consider the messenger
Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea’s stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.
With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice that technically still has not ended it, Moon also faces pressure to reunite the two Koreas.
(Republic of Korea photo)
Seoul, South Korea’s capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.
Though talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced the completion of its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts say it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.
Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president who spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. To an extent unlike that of his predecessors, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed himself as a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. has never sought the limelight in the more than 17 years that he’s been in the Navy, but today the eyes of the nation were on him as he received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.
Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six rescue team sent to rescue an Dilip Joseph, American doctor and aid worker who’d been taken hostage by the Taliban. During the mission, Byers showed extreme courage and warfighting prowess by continuing into a room and shielding the doctor while taking out two insurgents after the SEAL in front of him, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, was hit by fire in the doorway.
The justification for the Medal of Honor was based largely on the Joseph’s testimony as captured in his book Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope and Rescue by SEAL Team 6, which was published in 2014. In the book Joseph writes that he was sure his Taliban captors were going to kill him before the SEALs showed up.
The ceremony at the White House was attended by many members of the special operations community as well as other Medal of Honor recipients. Byers family was also present in force. During his remarks President Obama noted that in addition to the SEAL’s immediate family almost 50 members of his extended family were in attendance.
Obama also joked that Byers’ mother first question when she heard her son was receiving the Medal of Honor was, “Can I go to the ceremony?” Focusing on her in the audience the East Room, the president smiled and said, “Yes, mom, you can go.”
Byers has deployed 11 times since 9-11. His previous awards include the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He is the eleventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 9-11.
SEAL Team 6, officially known as DEVGRU, which is short for “Development Group,” is a very secretive part of the special operations community used for the Pentagon’s most sensitive missions. DEVGRU came to the public’s attention in 2011 during Operation Geronimo, the mission to take out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”
This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.
Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.
Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.
Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.
In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.
That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.
Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.
While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.
Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.
“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.
It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.
The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.
“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”
Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.
“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”
Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.
“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”
Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.
“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.
The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.
“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.
“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”
In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.
“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.
“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”
According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.
“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”
Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.
Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.
“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.
Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.
“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”
“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”
Dating a service member is different than dating a civilian. But just how much different is it? Here are eight things to consider before jumping into a relationship with someone in uniform.
1. Service members are independent and you should be too.
Troops have to deploy, which means not having him or her around for important events like anniversaries, birthdays and weddings. If you’re a person that constantly needs their physical presence, dating a service member is probably the wrong choice.
2. Don’t be jealous.
Most of the U.S. military is integrated. They deploy to remote locations and work long hours with members of the opposite sex. You’ll have a hard time trusting your significant other if you’re naturally jealous.
3. Don’t overly display supportive military gear like you’re rooting for your favorite sports team.
It’s okay to be proud of your boyfriend or girlfriend serving in the military, but you can take it a bit too far. Gear includes t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry and more. You may think it’s cute and supportive, but you’ve just painted a target on the back of your significant other as the butt of many jokes.
4. It’s not being mean, it’s tough love.
Service members are used to direct communication, so avoid that passive aggressive, vague, manipulative language that your mother-in-law likes to use. Direct communication is instilled from day one in the military. I can still remember my drill instructor yelling, “say what you mean, and mean what you say!”
5. There will be secrets.
Depending on their specialty, service members are trained to be more guarded than others. This is especially true with members that require a clearance to do their job. You can poke and prod all you want, but it’s not going to happen. You’ll have to be okay with not knowing that part of their life.
6. You have to be willing to move.
If you’re looking for a life partner in the military, you’ve got to be willing to give up ties to a specific location. This could mean giving up your career and being away from family. Some service members move every three years. Are you willing to live like a nomad?
7. You have to be flexible.
Plans might change or be canceled at the last minute. One moment they’re free to go on a date night, the next day they’re pulling an all-nighter. Same goes for weekends. Just because they spend one weekend with you doesn’t mean that next weekend will be the same.
8. Learn to tolerate his buddies.
The military is a brotherhood. Their lives depend on this special bond, so don’t think that they can just go out and get new friends. Learn to get along with friends, even the annoying immature one.