The self-styled Islamic State is trying to lure people to fight for the terror group with a scene from “The Lord of the Rings.”
In a propaganda video published on May 22, 2018, bearing the terrorist group’s watermark, the group’s chapter in Kirkuk, Iraq, used four seconds of footage from the trilogy to encourage followers to “conquer the enemies.”
The clip was taken from the third LOTR movie, “The Return of the King.” It shows the riders of Rohan charging an orc army at the Battle of The Pelennor Fields, but seems to be in the video more as a generic medieval battle scene.
Here’s the scene. The part that ISIS repurposed comes around the 2 minute 30 second mark:
The ISIS video, which Business Insider has reviewed, then cuts to footage of soldiers on horseback fighting each other, with the voice of an Arabic-language narrator — which was also taken from a Hollywood movie.
That scene was from “Kingdom of Heaven,” a 2005 film starring Orlando Bloom as a French blacksmith joining the Crusades to fight against Muslims for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The medieval scenes are spliced inbetween images of ISIS fighters in the field, and news footage showing Donald Trump and various news anchors talking about ISIS.
The terror group is fond of crusader imagery, and often frames its battle with the west as a new-age crusade. Its official communications describe routinely describes people from western nations, especially victims of terror attacks, as “crusaders.”
The Iran nuclear deal was designed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, but now that President Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the pact, there’s a chance it could fall apart and the Iranian regime could move toward becoming a nuclear power.
There was no credible evidence Iran was violating the terms of the deal, but Trump, among others, felt it didn’t go far enough in terms of preventing Tehran from becoming a nuclear power.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hasn’t said exactly what his government plans to do in response to Trump’s decision, but warned Iran could resume enriching uranium within weeks if it wished to.
Prior to the 2015 deal, Tehran had enriched uranium to 20% purity — weapons-grade uranium is roughly 90% purity. As part of the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile by 98% and limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%. It also agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges — tube-shaped machines that help enrich uranium — by two-thirds.
The deal was essentially designed to ensure it would take Iran at least 12 months to gather enough bomb fuel necessary for a nuclear weapon, but there are concerns that if the deal fully crumbles, Tehran could ramp up nuclear activities and develop one much faster.
Jon Wolfsthal, who oversaw all aspects of arms control, nonproliferation and nuclear policy on the National Security Council in the Obama administration, expressed alarm in this regard on Twitter.
He tweeted, “As of yesterday, Iran is one year from being able to build a weapon. Now, all bets are off thanks to Trump. The pace is now set in Tehran, not Washington.”
As of yesterday, Iran is one year from being able to build a weapon. Now, all bets are off thanks to Trump. The pace is now set in Tehran, not Washington. — Jon B. “Globalist” Wolfsthal (@JBWolfsthal) May 9, 2018
Iran had roughly 20,000 centrifuges prior to the pact, but the agreement saw that number go down to approximately 6,000, and it was primarily only allowed to keep outdated models.
If Tehran reneges on the deal — which includes other global powers as well — now that Trump has pulled the US out if it, Iran could probably get the roughly 13,000 centrifuges it dismantled and put into storage up and running rather quickly, effectively jump-starting its nuclear program.
Still, Iran might not know how to actually build a nuclear weapon
Based on what was known about Iran’s nuclear capabilities before the deal this means it could theoretically develop bomb fuel within months — if it chooses to go this route. Some experts have suggested it would take Iran at least eight to 10 months to get to this point.
Hence, there are varying opinions on the length of time it would take for Iran to develop a nuke.
Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford professor and expert on nuclear weapons, told Business Insider it would take Iran “at least one year.”
“It would take Iran at least one year because they would have to re-constitute their full uranium centrifuge enrichment capabilities and then build the bomb,” Hecker said. “At this point, producing sufficient quantities of enriched uranium for the bomb fuel presents the greatest obstacle.”
Members of the Trump administration have also suggested Iran has no desire to race toward developing a nuclear weapon.
“Iran wasn’t racing to a weapon before the deal,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations committee in April 2018. “There is no indication that I’m aware of that if that deal no longer existed that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.”
In short, the length of time it would take Iran to develop a nuclear weapon depends on an array of technological and geopolitical factors. But Trump’s decision arguably gives Tehran far more wiggle room on this issue than it has had in years.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was grilled by lawmakers May 1, 2019, on the lengthy and costly effort to develop compatible electronic records systems between the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan at a House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the DoD’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget.
She said a hearing last month with DoD and VA health program managers on the progress of meshing the records “was terrible.”
“I can’t believe that these program managers think that it is acceptable to wait another four years for a program to be implemented when we’ve spent billions of dollars and worked on it for over a decade,” Granger said.
“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”
Veterans are suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he said.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan during a hearing on Capitol Hill, May 1, 2019.
In response to Granger, Shanahan said, “First of all, I apologize for any lack of performance or the inability of the people that testified before you to characterize the work of the department in this very vital area.”
He added that he personally spent “quite a bit of time on how do we merge together” with the VA on the records.
The “rollout and implementation” of the fix to the electronic health records has shown promise at those installations, Shanahan said, and the next step is to put the program in place at California installations this fall.
“I can give you the commitment that these corrective actions and the lessons learned will be carried forward,” he said.
“There’s a degree of inoperability” between the VA and DoD systems that has defied solution over the years, Shanahan said. “The real issue has been [the] passing on of the actual records. I can’t explain to you the technical complexity of that.
“We owe you a better answer,” he told the committee, “and four years is unacceptable” as a time frame for making the records compatible. He promised to help DoD “deliver” a fix.
Rogers recalled past promises from the VA and DoD and said he is skeptical that the latest attempt at solving the problem will be successful.
He cited the case of a service member from his district who was badly wounded in Iraq. He lost an eye, but military doctors in Germany saved his other eye, Rogers said.
The good eye later became infected. The service member went to the Lexington, Kentucky, VA Medical Center, but doctors there could not get access to his medical records in Germany.
“They could not operate because they didn’t know what had been done before,” Rogers said.
As a result, the service member lost sight in the good eye.
“Why can’t we have the computers marry? Can you help me out here? Don’t promise something you can’t deliver,” he told Shanahan. “I can’t believe that we have not already solved this problem.”
In the latest effort to mesh the records, then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in May 2018 awarded a billion, 10-year contract to Cerner Corp. of Kansas City to develop an integrated electronic health record (EHR) system, but related costs over the course of the contract are estimated to put the total price at about billion.
Previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and the expenditure of about id=”listicle-2636127747″ billion.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.
But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.
That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.
What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.
Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.
The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.
The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.
So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.
The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.
Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.
“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.
This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.
Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.
As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.
“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.
Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.
Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.
“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.
Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.
For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.
Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.
Air Force Navy Robotics
The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.
In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.
These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.
The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.
Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.
At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.
When a teenager became seriously ill on a cruise ship hundreds of miles off the California coast, the call arrived at the 129th Rescue Wing in Silicon Valley. Within hours, the California Air National Guard unit would tally its 1,105th rescue.
From their Moffett Federal Airfield home in Mountain View, Calif., the 129th’s rescue squadrons operate the MC-130P Combat Shadow airplane and the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter. When paired with airmen highly-skilled in medical trauma and airborne ops — pararescuemen (fondly referred to as PJs) and combat rescue officers — these squadrons form “Guardian Angel” teams for peacetime or combat rescue at sea or on land.
Peacetime rescues, such as in remote mountainous terrain or vessels in treacherous sea conditions, can be just as high-risk as those in combat zones. Guardian Angel teams can venture 1,000 miles or more into the Pacific, rescues that require multiple aerial refuelings for helicopters and over-the-water parachute jumps into the Pacific to reach victims or stricken vessels.
That was the case in 2014, when Guardian Angels with the 129th were dispatched to rescue a 1-year-old toddler ill at sea; the child was on a 36-foot family sailboat that was sinking 900 miles west of the coast of Mexico due to damaged steering controls. PJs parachuted from an MC-130p turboprop with a raft they used to reach the sailboat.
The Navy joined in the mission, sending the USS Vandegrift to intercept the team, bring the toddler and her family to its medical department, and tow the sailboat to San Diego. The PJs got a ride back to shore, too.
The latest mission this week also was a rescue on the high seas. A 14-year-old passenger on the cruise ship Star Princess reportedly suffered seizures and required immediate but higher-level medical care. The ship was 450 miles off the coast.
The Coast Guard and the Air Force coordinated the rescue, sending two of the wing’s Pave Hawk helicopters — each with a two-person Guardian Angel team — to the cruise ship. But the long distance required those helicopters get refueled en route. A KC-130J Hercules refueler with the San Diego-based Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 352 launched from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
“What it takes to coordinate something like this is a massive undertaking, and it has to be done safely. Literally hundreds of people are involved,” Lt. Col. Kathryn Hodge, the mission medical director and flight surgeon, who flew on the mission, said in the news story.
When the Pave Hawks reached the cruise ship, the Guardian Angel PJs hoisted down to the deck, stabilized the teen, and hauled themselves back into the helicopter, along with the teen’s father. With refueling support from an MC-130P for the return flight, the rescue helicopter and team took the patient to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
“It’s always good and you feel really rewarded at the end of the day. But that’s not why we do it. We do it so that others may live and to save lives however we can,” Master Sgt. Sean Kirsch, a PJ, said in the statement. “When you bring a 14-year-old American boy home to receive better medical care and he makes it there and he’s in stable shape or better than we you pick him up, is pretty rewarding.”
The 129th Rescue Wing took on the rescue mission in 1975. In September 2008, the 129th Wing was credited with rescuing 34 people (and 11 dogs) after Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast. The following year, during a combat deployment to southern Afghanistan, the wing tallied more than 180 lives saved.
While its location, aircraft, and higher commands changed over the years, the 129th has maintained its role in rescue and personnel recovery for both state and federal missions.
North Korea on Sept. 15 conducted a new missile launch, less than two weeks after it tested what it called a hydrogen bomb, South Korean defense officials said, according to Yonhap News.
The missile was fired from an airfield near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. local time, and headed eastward over Japan, South Korean military officials said.
Military officials estimated that the missile reached an altitude of 479 miles and flew for nearly 2,300 miles, far surpassing the distance between Pyongyang and Guam, the closest US territory.
Emergency alerts in Japan were issued at about 7:06 a.m. local time. NHK, Japan’s public-broadcasting outlet, cited government information that said the missile fell into the Pacific Ocean about 1,240 miles east of Hokkaido, the country’s second-largest island.
Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile, NHK added.
An initial assessment from US Pacific Command indicated that the projectile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The North American Aerospace Defense Command added that the missile “did not pose a threat to North America.”
“Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” PACOM’s statement said. “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, had briefed President Donald Trump on the launch.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the country’s National Security Council were holding an emergency meeting in response to the launch.
It was the second time in two months in which North Korea fired a projectile over Japan. Late last month, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that also passed over Hokkaido and traveled about 1,700 miles, reaching a height of nearly 340 miles. If the initial estimates of the launch are accurate, they could be seen as an improvement in North Korea’s missile capabilities.
In response to the latest provocation, South Korea conducted a ballistic-missile drill, firing a Hyunmoo-II missile into the East Sea.
A day before the North Korean launch, a state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness,” Reuters reported. The threat was a response to the latest UN Security Council resolution stepping up sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb. The underground test, which experts estimated to be four to 16 times more powerful than any of Pyongyang’s previous bombs, sent shockwaves that were felt in South Korea and China, according to The New York Times.
Though the sanctions, which imposed a cap on crude-oil imports and banned exports of textiles, were unanimously approved by member nations, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed their efficacy on North Korea. Critics have said the sanctions were watered down to appease China and Russia, Pyongyang’s closest allies, and reports have emerged that North Korea may be undercutting the sanctions by smuggling goods.
“With respect to the UN Security Council resolution and the president’s view that it was a small step, I share that view,” Tillerson said during a press conference. “We had hoped for a much stronger resolution from the Security Council.”
After 10 years and 420,000 tons of steel, and at a devastating cost in lives and renminbi, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open — and the announcement came by a strangely curt Chinese President Xi Jinping in the port city of Zhuhai.
The opening ceremony was shrouded in some of the trademark confusion that has dogged the megaproject since its inception in 2009, with the big day having only just been announced in late October 2018.
In an unexpected and breathtaking display of brevity, Xi declared the world’s longest sea crossing — a 35-mile (55-kilometer) bridge and underwater tunnel connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland Chinese port city of Zhuhai — as open with an abrupt two-second speech that, it is fair to say, was not what everyone was expecting.
“I announce the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open,” Xi said.
With those accurate, though perhaps less-than-memorable words, China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong caught the 700-strong audience, which included media members and dignitaries, on the hop.
It was an exercise in concision from a president who, almost a year ago to the day, opened the Communist Party congress in Beijing with a granular 3-hour, 23-minute speech summarizing his thoughts on a new era in socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Instead, before an audience of top officials including Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, Xi said his piece at the strategically located port of Zhuhai and left the podium as electronic fireworks flailed about on a television in the background.
As president, general secretary of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has quickly and effectively concentrated influence into his sphere.
And Oct. 23, 2018’s event seemed tailor-made for a long-winded reflection on China’s increasingly successful exercise of soft power, its sheer engineering audacity, and the political genius of building a 55-kilometer crossing that continues to grow the mainland’s security apparatus and authority on both the semiautonomous gambling enclave of Macau and the city-state financial powerhouse of Hong Kong.
But in the end, the president perhaps decided to let the massive, looming achievement speak for itself.
It’s all part of the plan
The bridge is part of China’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area Master Plan” to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and the manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province’s nine biggest cities to create a combined id=”listicle-2614804819″.5 trillion tech and science hub intended to rival even Silicon Valley.
The 55-kilometer megastructure is a typically intimidating, awe-inspiring, and slightly pointless statement of state authority and universal purpose. It rises from the Sun and Moon Bay in the Zhuhai port like some giant, disoriented concrete serpent, snaking off mercurially into the distance.
The air is very thick too, with southern Chinese humidity and the ever-present eerie gray-brown pollution that wafts in blooms from heavy manufacturing out of the Pearl River Delta — the factory floor of the world — ensuring the megabridge in all its glory will be largely obscured from view year-round.
What it does provide, however, is direct access to both potentially wayward semiautonomous regions, binding the gambling enclave and the city-state tighter to the breast of the motherland. Indeed, it may be the angst of an ever-encroaching China that has tilted the president to such a rare and unexpected pithiness.
Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Site under construction in 2015.
Commentators have been quick to describe the project as a white elephant, noting that the lightly traveled crossing can hardly be a push for convenience but rather another covert expansion by Beijing as it extends its reach back into the supposedly autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is the second major infrastructure project binding Hong Kong to the mainland opened in just a few weeks, following a new high-speed rail connection that opened in September 2018 — the first time Chinese security were stationed on and bestowed authority in Hong Kong territory.
Certainly, there is anxiety in Hong Kong, with critics fearing the increasing inroads into the special administrative region’s territory by an ever-assertive mainland, while some local media has suggested that drivers on the bridge will be closely scrutinized by cameras that examine even their physical condition and how fatigued a driver is becoming.
The issues of territoriality may dominate the project for years to come; most of the bridge is considered mainland territory and Hong Kong vehicles and drivers, already hit by restricted access, will be traveling under the laws of the mainland, Hong Kong’s transportation department has warned.
“The Hong Kong government is always out of the picture and is under the control of the Chinese government,” the Hongkonger lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP last week. Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was targeted for completion two years ago.
According to the South China Morning Post, 10 workers died and 600 were injured in the construction of the typhoon-proof, two-way, six-lane expressway bridge that the government expects to carry 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 single-day passenger trips by 2030.
But for now, the bridge is open to some traffic, including certain buses, freight, and selected permit-holding passenger vehicles.
It’s also a gorgeous trip by ferry.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.
“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”
Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.
Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:
Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.
The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.
It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.
Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.
A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.
The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.
The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.
The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.
DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.
Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.
“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.
“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”
Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.
That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.
Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.
Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.
Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.
“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.
With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.
Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.
“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The maintenance team from the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment has been working nonstop in Puerto Rico since they flew in from Fort Bliss, Texas, Oct. 9. The crew maintains six CH-47 Chinook helicopters that deliver humanitarian supplies daily to some of the hardest-hit and most remote areas of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Soldiers need to do 90 percent of the maintenance work at night to allow full usage of the helicopters during the day for essential humanitarian missions, said Army Lt. Col Chris Chung, the battalion commander.
“At first, night shift was running from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., sometimes 2 or 3 a.m.,” said Army Sgt. Jason Gonsalves, a CH-47 helicopter repairer. “We were working long days, only stopping to take a break for thirty minutes.”
When the unit arrived, the maintenance team had to reassemble the Chinooks, which they had only recently disassembled to fit on C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft for the trip from Texas, Gonsalves said.
In order for two Chinook helicopters to fit aboard a C-5, their rotor systems and housings must be detached and disassembled.
The maintainers had the helicopters back together and ready to fly within 48 hours, said Army Pfc. Zachariah Ingram, a CH-47 helicopter repairer.
In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, the crew has to be vigilant for other problems that come with the operating environment. For example, the salt air and humidity inherent with operating in tropical environments can lead to corrosion, Gonsalves said.
When not working on the helicopters, the maintainers volunteer to help with the humanitarian airlift.
“I’ve gone on a flight to help pass out supplies and talk to the populace,” said Army Spc. Juan Betancourt, a CH-47 maintainer.
Betancourt, a native Spanish speaker, uses his skills to help other soldiers communicate with the island’s residents.
“There was a younger girl, maybe 12 or 13, who came up and gave me a hug and said ‘Thank you,'” Betancourt said. “It was heartwarming.”
The work of the maintenance crews has not gone unnoticed.
“Our maintainers have done a phenomenal job keeping the Chinooks … up and running at the mission-capable status that we need to continue to achieve missions that are requested of us and to be on standby for those that are not,” Chung said. “It’s not a small task and it’s not a small feat.”
Co-founder Nick Fertig is a Navy veteran which means he’ll settle for nothing but excellence. Full Tilt has incorporated that philosophy into their craft brews. Check them out in Baltimore, Maryland.
Frog Level Brewing Company
By The Mighty
Frog Level has set the bar high for breweries in North Carolina. They specialize in English Ales including their signature brew: Catcher in the Rye. Gulp.
Warfighter Brewing Company
By The Mighty
Warfighter Brewing Co.’s ultimate goal is to combat veteran unemployment. They only employ veterans and are in the process of distributing their stockpile of beers!
By The Mighty
Cavalry Brewing is known for a wide selection of brews including, most notably, their Hatch Plug Ale. They offer a free tour and tasting as well so check them out if you’re ever in Oxford, Connecticut.
Veteran Beer Co.
By The Mighty
Veteran Beer Co. is 100 percent owned and operated by veterans. Their signature brew is called the Veteran, a medium body Amber lager. They currently operate in the Mid-West area but are due to expand.
It has been 75 years since upward of 150,000 Allied troops began storming the beaches of Normandy by air, land, and sea. As the June 6 anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in military history approaches, journalist Sarah Rose illuminated several less widely known combat heroes who fought for the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe in Operation Overlord: Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, and Odette Sansom. They are among the 39 female agents who served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secret World War II intelligence agency created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze.”
“Women are the hidden figures of D-Day,” says Rose, who started researching the history of women in combat and was surprised to learn that their roles dated back to World War II. “People tend to think women were ‘just’ secretarial couriers and messengers. No, there were female special forces agents on the ground and working to keep the Allies from being blown back into the water. They did what men did. They led men.”
In her new book, D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, Rose chronicles three of these agents’ contributions to the Allied victory in Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe.
1. Andrée Borrel, the first female combat paratrooper, fought for the liberation of France until Nazis executed her a month after D-Day.
Born to a working-class family on the outskirts of Paris after World War I, Borrel left school at 14. She had a job at a Paris bakery counter when World War II broke out.
The German military defeated France in June 1940, but many French citizens took up arms in a resistance to Adolf Hitler and his troops.
(German Federal Archive)
Once the war began, Borrel left Paris and took a crash course in nursing with the Red Cross.
After a stint treating people wounded by the German Army, she joined a group of French Resistance operatives organizing and operating one of the country’s largest underground escape networks, the Pat O’Leary line. She aided at least 65 Allied evaders (mainly British Royal Air Force airmen shot down over enemy territory) on their journeys out of France to Spain through the Pyrenees.
When she herself got ratted out, she escaped to Lisbon, Portugal. She then moved to London, eager to continue fighting for the liberation of France. In the spring of 1942, the SOE recruited her. She was trained not only to jump behind enemy lines, but also to spy on, sabotage, and kill Axis troops occupying her home country.
Borrel parachuted into France in September of 1942, becoming the first female combat agent to do so. She worked as a courier for the SOE network Physician (nicknamed “Prosper”), which raised bands of Resistance members in the north to carry out guerilla attacks against Nazi troops. Moving between Paris and the countryside, she coordinated aerial supply drops and recruited, armed, and trained Resistance members.
She rose to second in command of the network’s Paris circuit, which was also funneling enemy intelligence back to the Allies in London. She was in the SOE’s first training class for female agents, where she learned skills from hand-to-hand combat to Morse code. When asked, “How might you kill a Nazi using what you have on you?” she is said to have responded: “I would jam a pencil through his brain. And he’d deserve it.”
Her commanding officer described her as “the best of us all.”
Borrel was sent to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944, a month after D-Day.
The Nazis arrested Borrel in 1943 and sent her to a concentration camp.
Nazis, allegedly leveraging intelligence from a double agent, arrested Borrel and fellow Physician leaders in June 1943. After being interrogated and imprisoned around Paris, she was transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944 with three other female SOE agents and executed a month after D-Day.
Even from prison, she is said to have continued fighting by inserting coded messages about her captors in several letters to her sister. She was 24.
Honors: Croix de Guerre, Medal of the Resistance, the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct
2. Lise de Baissac parachuted into France twice and became the No. 2 commander of a French Resistance group fighting Nazis during the Battle of Normandy.
Andrée Borrel was the first female SOE agent to parachute into France during World War II, but her jumping partner, 37-year-old Lise de Baissac, was right behind her. The daughter of a wealthy family in British-ruled Mauritius, de Baissac was in France when Hitler’s troops moved into Paris in 1940. She fled to the south and then to London. When the SOE started recruiting multilingual women as agents, she joined the fight.
After parachuting into Central France with Borrel, de Baissac set up an Allied safe house for agents in the town of Poitiers in western France, selecting an apartment near Gestapo headquarters — a hiding-in-plain-sight strategy she felt would arouse less suspicion.
She bicycled around occupied territory as a liaison among different underground networks, often riding 60-70 kilometers a day and carrying contraband. On one occasion, a Nazi stopped her and her clandestine radio operator, patting them down. The officer searched them for guns, which they didn’t have, so he let them go. She’d later report that a radio crystal fell out of her skirt as she was leaving but that she leaned over, grabbed the crystal off the ground, and pedaled on.
In August of 1943, when her network in Poitiers was blown, the SOE airlifted her back to England by Lysander aircraft. She trained new female SOE recruits in Scotland. In April of 1944, after recovering from a broken leg, she jumped back into occupied France. She made her way to Normandy, joining her brother, fellow SOE agent Claude de Baissac, in leading a network of Resistance fighters in Normandy. They carried out attacks to weaken Nazi communication and transporation circuits, strategically cutting phone lines and blowing up roads, railways, and bridges to hinder the movement of German reinforcements Hitler was ordering to the beaches.
Sherman tanks of British 30th Corps passing through Bayeux, France.
(Imperial War Museum)
De Baissac raced out of Paris to assist the allies when she learned D-Day was imminent.
On June 5, 1944, de Baissac was in Paris recruiting when she learned D-Day was imminent. She biked for three days, speeding through Nazi formations, sleeping in ditches, and reaching her brother and their Resistance circuit headquarters in Normandy.
As the bloody Normandy campaign raged and the Allies struggled to penetrate the Axis front, the de Baissacs continued leading espionage and sabotage operations. They gathered intelligence on enemy positions and transmitted messages back to England, helping lay the groundwork for Operation Cobra, the Allied breakout in which U.S. Army forces came out of the peninsula and pierced Hitler’s front line seven weeks after D-Day.
After the war, she worked for the BBC.
Honors: MBE, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur Croix de Guerre avec Palme
Aliases: Lise 1912-1995
(Imperial War Museum)
3. Odette Sansom blew up Nazi train lines and, upon being arrested and tortured, told Gestapo officers: “I have nothing to say.”
Odette Sansom was a 28-year-old homemaker in Somerset, England when she answered the British War Office’s call for images of the French coastline, offering photographs she had from her childhood. Born in France as “Odette Brailly” in 1912, she had lost her father in the final months of the World War I. With World War II raging and her English husband already away fighting in the British Army, she didn’t take lightly the decision to leave her three young daughters. But with Hitler already occupying her old home and threatening her new one, she felt compelled to join the fight.
She was tough, determined, and persistent. When a concussion during parachute training left her unable to jump into France, she docked in Gibraltar on a gunrunner disguised as a sardine fishing boat, only to arrive in France’s “free” zone the same week in November 1942 that Hitler’s forces began occupying the region. So began several months working as a courier in SOE agent Capt. Peter Churchill’s network, Spindle. Churchill relied heavily on her to set up clandestine radio networks, coordinate parachute drops, and arm Resistance fighters in the Rhône Alps in preparation for D-Day.
She and Churchill fell in love and continued working together mobilizing Resistance members in southeast France until April 1943, when the Gestapo arrested them. Knowing that they were at risk of being executed as spies, she convinced their captors that her commanding officer was a relative of UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and that she was his wife and only in France at her urging. Peter Churchill was not, in fact, related to Britain’s prime minister, but Sansom figured that if she could trick the Germans into thinking they were VIPs, there would be incentive to keep them alive.
(Imperial War Museum)
Sansom emerged from the largest, most lethal women’s concentration camp in history with evidence used to convict its leaders of war crimes.
While Sansom was imprisoned around France and then at Ravensbrück concentration camp, enduring solitary confinement and somewhere between 10-14 torture sessions – she survived.
By the time Ravensbrück was evacuated in the spring of 1945, Sansom’s back was broken, and she had been starved and beaten, with her toenails pulled out and her body burned in attempts to get her to reveal information about her fellow agents. She is said to have revealed nothing.
In the years after the war, Sansom’s testimony was later to convict Ravensbrück camp commandant Fritz Suhren, as well as other SS officers, of war crimes. Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945 came less than a year after the sweeping invasions that began the Battle of Normandy, now memorialized as “D-Day.”
Honors: George Cross, Member of the Order of the British Empire, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.