The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

In 2028, another major hurricane has struck Puerto Rico, causing utter devastation across the island. Buildings have collapsed, roads are damaged, and there have been reports of small scale flooding near the coast.

The Marines have been deployed as first responders to the island along with a fleet of GUNG HO (Ground-based Unmanned Go-between for Humanitarian Operations) robots have been to provide additional resources.


The ask

In this Challenge we are asking for you to visually design a concept for an Unmanned Cargo System that we are calling the Ground-based Unmanned Go-between for Humanitarian Operations or GUNG HO.

It should be a relatively small, cargo transport bot, that can be deployed easily, and is used for a variety of tasks across the Corps from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) scenarios to assisting with on-base logistics and beyond.

For this challenge the GUNG HO will be utilized to….

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

The users

When developing your GUNG HO concept keep in mind that there are two very different users.

Operators: These are the users operating the device. They will almost exclusively be Marines who will load and secure cargo, and establish the destinations and mode of operations. In HADR situations, there is no single rank or job title that provides relief. The operators could be anyone who is available to help, and they may not have training on the system.

Receivers: These are the people who are receiving the cargo. Some of them will be Marines, but they will often be civilians.

In a disaster relief scenario the receivers may have just lost their home or family members, they might speak a different language and come from a different culture. The GUNG HO should make its intent absolutely clear, but should also come across as comforting and disarming for those in a traumatic situation.

Design principles

The following design principles have been created to help you as a designer get inspiration, provide some guidance and understand where the USMC is trying to go with this project.

  1. Understandable: Intuitive for users at every level of interaction from newly recruited marines, to civilian children and the elderly.
  2. Comforting: Those interacting with the GUNG HO might be in a traumatic situation, not speak english, or be unfamiliar with the technology. The cargo recipient should feel safe, comfortable, and compelled to interact with the GUNG HO.
  3. Unbreakable: The GUNG HO must be rugged and ready for anything just like a marine. It will be operated in a variety of terrain, air dropped into inaccessible locations, and fording water next to marines on foot.
  4. Simple: Easy to fix, easy to operate, and easy to upgrade.
  5. Original: With a broad variety of operators, recipients, and mostly importantly cargo, there is no standard form factor that the GUNG HO needs to take. Explore those boundaries!

Requirements

Dimensions and Capacity:

  • Footprint: 48″ x 40″ x 44″H (122 cm x 102 cm x 112 cm) – Shipped on a standard warehouse pallet
  • Cargo Capacity: 500lb (227 kg) or roughly half of a standard Palletized Container (PALCON).

Cargo

Cargo Examples & Specs

  • Water in Container: 8.01 ft^3 of (226.8 L) – 500 lbs equivalent.
  • Case of .5L Water Bottles: 10.2″ x 15.1″ x 8.3″ – 28.1 pounds
  • MRE Case: 15.5″ x 9″ x 11″ – 22.7lbs
  • Medical Supply Kit: Not Standardized

Additional Requirements

  • Operational speed: low speed, up to 25 miles per hour (40 KPH)
  • Range: 35 miles (56 KM)
  • Autonomous with manual control abilities. (Must be free-operating, no tethers)
  • Must be able to traverse the same area as Marines on foot, including– climbing a 60% vertical slope, operating on a minimum 40% side slope across varying terrain.
  • Must be able to cross a depth of water of 24 inches.
Slopes



Go check out the requirements for additional information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Nazis cracked codes like wishbones

The German Kriegsmarine was once one of the most feared military forces on Earth, particularly the U-boat fleet. While the German surface fleet was smaller and weaker than the navies of its opponents, the “wolf packs” patrolled beneath the waves, shattering Allied convoys and robbing Germany’s enemies of needed men and materiel.


The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

A German sailor works on U-boat communications.

(Marz Dietrich)

But the U-boats didn’t do this on their own. One of the most successful code-breaking efforts in the war was that of the Beobachtung Dienst, the Observation Service, of German naval intelligence.

The German service focused its efforts on decoding the signals used by the major Allied navies — Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union — as well as traffic analysis and radio direction finding. With these three efforts combined, they could often read Allied communications. When they couldn’t, the traffic analysis and radio direction finding made them great guessers at where convoys would be.

B-Dienst peaked in World War II at 5,000 personnel focused on cracking the increasingly complex codes made possible by mechanical computers. The head of the English-language section, the one focused on the U.S. and U.K., was Wilhelm Tranow, a former radioman who earned a reputation in World War I for figuring out British codes and passing them up the chain.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

German U-boats could get actionable intel from their intelligence services just a few hours after the signals were intercepted.

(DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

A lean but effective infrastructure grew around Tranow and his team. At their best, the team was able to intercept communications between Allied elements and pass actionable intelligence to U-boat captains within a few hours. Their efforts allowed Germany to read up to 80 percent of British communications that were intercepted. For most of the war, they were reading at least a third of all intercepted communications.

Allied merchant marine and navy personnel were rightly afraid of U-boat attacks, but they seem to have underestimated how large a role the B-Dienst and other German intelligence services played. This led them to make errors that made the already-capable B-Dienst even more effective.

First, Allied communications contained more data than was strictly necessary. The chatter between ships as they headed out could often give German interceptors the number of ships in a convoy, its assembly point, its anticipated speed and heading, where it would meet up with stragglers, and how many escorts it had.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

A destroyer, the USS Fiske, sinks after being struck by a German U-boat torpedo.

(U.S. Navy)

This allowed B-Dienst to identify the most vulnerable convoys and guess where and when the convoy would move into wolf-pack territory.

Nearly as damaging, the British would sometimes send out the same communications using different codes. When the British were using some codes the Germans didn’t know, these repeated messages end up becoming a Rosetta Stone-like windfall for the intercepting Nazis. They could identify the patterns in the two codes and use breakthroughs in one to translate the other, then use the translations to break that code entirely.

When the Allies weren’t repeating entire messages, they were sending messages created with templates. These templates, which repeated the same header and closer on each transmission, gave the Germans a consistent starting point. From there, they could suss out how the code worked.

All of this was compounded by a tendency of the British in particular and the Allied forces in general to be slow in changing codes.

So, it took the British months after they learned that the Germans had broken the Naval Code and Naval Cypher to change their codes. The change was made in August 1940 and was applied to communications between the U.S. and Royal navies in June 1941.

But with the other missteps allowing the B-Dienst to get glimmers of how the code worked, the code was basically useless by the end of 1942.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

German U-boats in World War I had to hunt for their targets. Their World War II counterparts still hunted, but frequently benefited from their great intelligence services.

(Painting by William Stower, The Sinking of the Linda Blanche)

This had real and devastating effects for Allied naval forces who were attempting to pass through U-boat territory as secretly as possible. 875 Allied ships were lost in 1941 and 1,664 sank in 1942, nearly choking the British Isles below survivable levels.

But, despite the B-Dienst success, the Battle of the Atlantic started to shift in favor of the Allies in 1942, mostly thanks to increases in naval forces and advanced technology like radar and sonar becoming more prevalent. Destroyers were more widely deployed and could more quickly pinpoint and attack the U-boats.

New anti-submarine planes, weapons like the “Hedgehog,” and better tactics led to the “Black May” of 1943 when the Allies sank approximately one quarter of all U-boats. The German ships were largely withdrawn from the Atlantic, and convoys could finally move with some degree of security.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hezbollah is preparing for a war against Israel

Now that the fight against ISIS is subsiding, the anti-Israel terrorist group Hezbollah is back to preparing for war with its longtime enemy, Israel. The two haven’t been in a protracted fight since their war in 2006 which only ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Since then, tensions have always been high, but the attention on fighting ISIS took the bulk of Hezbollah’s power from the Lebanon-Israel border to the battlefields in Syria.

Now it seems like everything is getting back to “normal.”


The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Which pretty much means Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for Hezbollah rocket attacks.

When Hezbollah refocused its efforts to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt Hezbollah supply lines to its age-old battlefront in Lebanon. The Israeli Defence Forces have also taken the lull in fighting to train against the likelihood of renewed hostility once the threat to the Asad regime has passed and the Iran-linked militia returns to its power base in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. In 2016, Israeli troops were training on brigade levels for massive exercises designed against Hezbollah forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to hit Hezbollah where they live – Lebanon – but just ordered IDF fighters to strike Hezbollah targets in Syria in August of 2019. That target was allegedly preparing a killer drone attack for use on the Jewish State. The IDF airstrike killed two Hezbollah militiamen. Israel has also accused the militia of building factories of missiles, some 40- to 150-thousand, and missile sites in Lebanon, sites it has vowed to take out.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Israeli soldiers with captured Hezbollah and Lebanese flags during the 2006 war.

The problem with an Israeli first strike on missile factories is that much of Hezbollah’s missile force is already deployed in the Bekaa Valley – with hundreds of missiles pointed right at Israel. While the Israelis are targeting Hezbollah and other Iran-backed leaders in Iraq and Syria, anti-Israel militants who were once united to fight ISIS are turning their sights on the Jewish State. For its part, Hezbollah fired missiles at an Israeli military installation in Northern Israel, which it says killed many Israeli soldiers. Israel denies any casualties from those attacks. In Hezbollah, Iran has created one of the most effective non-state fighting forces ever assembled.

None of this means there have been no incidents since the last war. The Shiite Muslim militia hit a series of targets in Syria and now in Lebanon, killing two IDF soldiers. The ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, with Israel adopting a wait and see stance before its next move.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Haifa, Israel was hit by Russian-built Katyusha rockets fired from southern Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 Lebanon War.

Another war in Lebanon would not necessarily lead to a dramatic or decisive win for the Israeli Forces. Fierce fighting in the 2006 war prompted a gasp of responses from the outside world while Israel was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in the face of a barrage of Hezbollah missile attacks and fierce guerrilla tactics. It can only be assumed that Israel has adapted to the tactic but the only real way to determine its success would be a literal trial by fire.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These stout brownies will change your life forever

I am in a scotch and cigar club and occasionally I’ll bake something for the crew. Last week I decided to make stout brownies with a stout frosting. These were such a hit that I was politely told that they had replaced my usual chocolate chip cookies at the top of the favorites list.

For those who are not that familiar with stout beer, stout is a dark beer commonly associated with undertones of coffee or chocolate. The word stout itself was first used in 1677 in the “Egerton Manuscript” and implied a strong beer. You may have heard the term porter which—for much of history was used interchangeably with the word stout—and was used to describe a dark beer. The word porter was first used in 1720 to describe “the thick and strong beverage…consumed by the working class.” Nowadays, in an age of craft breweries, there is a distinction between the two: brewers have come to a consensus that porters are made with malted barley while stouts are brewed with unmalted barley. Historically, stouts were the strongest of beers, 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV) but don’t have to be! Guinness Draught, the world’s best-selling stout is 4.1-4.3% ABV.


This recipe calls for you to reduce the stout (Guinness or any other type of stout) to 2/3 of its original volume. I made these in the morning before work and I thought this wouldn’t take very long but I was late to work that day on account of slowly simmering beer for longer than expected at 7:00am.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Ingredients:

  • one 12 oz bottle stout beer (you could use Guinness, I found Founder’s Breakfast Stout at Grove Market)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

Stout Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons reduced stout (from step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower to medium heat and allow to simmer until reduced down to 2/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt using the microwave on high in 30 second increments, whisking after each, until completely smooth. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 cup of reduced stout until completely combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, and espresso powder. The batter will be thick and shiny. Pour and spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, then test the brownies with a toothpick. Insert it into the center of the pan. If it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and cutting into squares.

The frosting:

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the remaining reduced stout, the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.

Taste. If it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled brownies.

Cover and store leftover brownies at room temperature for up to 1 week but if your friends are anything like mine, you won’t have any leftovers.

This article originally appeared on The Booze League. Follow @BoozeLeague on Twitter.

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Articles

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Cybersecurity firms have found clues that last weekend’s global “ransomware” attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, could be linked to North Korea.


The security companies Sympantec and Kaspersky Lab said on May 15 that portions of the “WannaCry” ransomware used in the attacks have the same code as malware previously distributed by Lazarus, a group behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.

“This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry,” Kaspersky researchers said.

But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection, the companies said.

Symantec said the similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools “so far only represent weak connections. We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”

Israeli security firm Intezer Labs said it agreed that North Korea might be behind the attack.

Vital Systems Paralyzed

The WannaCry virus over the weekend paralyzed vital computer systems around the world that run factories, banks, government agencies, and transport systems in some 150 countries.

The virus mainly hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Windows software that had not been recently updated.

But by May 15, the fast-spreading extortion scheme was waning. The only new outbreaks reported were in China, where traffic police and schools said they had been targeted, but there were no major disruptions.

The link to North Korea found by the security firms will be closely followed by law-enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said on May 15 that both foreign nations and cybercriminals were possible culprits.

Symantec and Kaspersky said they need to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers reuse code from other operations at times, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.

U.S. and European security officials told the Reuters news agency that it was still too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.

The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than some other hackers, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank.

‘Highly Destabilizing’

Moreover, North Korea might have motives to launch such a large-scale, global attack as its economy is crumbling under some of the stiffest-ever UN economic sanctions imposed over its repeated testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

The United Nations Security Council on May 15 condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test the previous day, and vowed to take further measures, including possible new sanctions, in response to its “highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance” of existing prohibitions against such tests.

Whoever is responsible, the perpetrators of the massive weekend attacks have raised very little money thus far — less than $70,000 from users looking to regain access to their computers, according to Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.

Some private sector cybersecurity experts do not believe the motive of the attacks was primarily to make money, given the apparently meager revenues that were raised by the unprecedented large operation. They said that wreaking havoc likely was the primary goal.

The countries most affected by WannaCry were Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.

Bossert denied charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin and others that the attacks originated in the United States, and came from a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was later leaked online.

“This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing e-mails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking,” Bossert said.

British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security expert who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” — an Internet address which halted the virus when activated.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Articles

Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system
Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system
U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US military launched a half a billion needles into space

In the early 1960s, international communications were limited to transmissions through undersea cables or occasionally unreliable radio signals bounced off of the ionosphere. As you might imagine from this, many in the Western world weren’t too keen on the state of the situation given that were to someone, say, the Soviet Union, cut those cables before launching an attack, international communications with overseas forces and foreign allies would have to rely on the mood of said ionosphere.

For those unfamiliar, the ionosphere is a layer of the upper atmosphere about 50 to 600 miles above sea level. It gets its name because it is ionized consistently by solar and cosmic radiation. In very simple terms, X-ray, ultraviolet, and shorter wavelengths of radiation given off by the Sun (and from other cosmic sources) release electrons in this layer of the atmosphere when these particular photons are absorbed by molecules. Because the density of molecules and atoms is quite low in the ionosphere (particularly in the upper layers), it allows free electrons to exist in this way for a short period of time before ultimately recombining. Lower in the atmosphere, where the density of molecules is greater, this recombination happens much faster.


What does this have to do with communication and radio waves? Without interference, radio waves travel in a straight line from the broadcast source, ultimately hitting the ionosphere. What happens after is dependent on a variety of factors, notable among them being the frequency of the waves and the density of the free electrons. For certain types of radio waves, given the right conditions, they will essentially bounce back and forth between the ground and the ionosphere, propagating the signal farther and farther. So clearly the ionosphere can potentially play an important part in the terrestrial radio and communication process. But it is the constantly shifting nature of the ionosphere that makes things really interesting. And for that, we’ll have to get a little more technical, though we’ll at the least spare you the math, and we’ll leave out a little of the complexity in an effort to not go full textbook on you.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

To begin with, the ionosphere’s composition changes most drastically at night, primarily because, of course, the Sun goes missing for a bit. Without as abundant a source of ionizing rays, the D and E levels (pictured right) of the ionosphere cease to be very ionized, but the F region (particularly F2) still remains quite ionized. Further, because the atmosphere is significantly less dense here then the E and D regions, it results in more free electrons (the density of which is key here).

When these electrons encounter a strong radio wave of certain types, such as AM radio, they can potentially oscillate at the frequency of the wave, taking some of the energy from the radio wave in the process. With enough of them, as can happen in the F layer, (when the density of encountered electrons is sufficient relative to the specific signal frequency), and assuming they don’t just recombine with some ion (which is much more likely in the E and D layers in the daytime), this can very effectively refract the signal back down to Earth at sufficient strength to be picked up on a receiver.

Depending on conditions, this process can potentially repeat several times with the signal bouncing down to the ground and back up. Thus, using this skywave certain radio signals can be propagated even thousands of miles and, most pertinent to the topic at hand, across oceans.

Of course, given the unpredictability of this form of communication, and potentially even times when communication would be impossible, military brass during the Cold War wanted another option.

Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Labs, the project was initially called “Project Needles” by Professor Walter E. Morrow in 1958 when he first dreamed up the idea. It was later re-named “West Ford”, presumably after Westford, Massachusetts, a nearby town. The idea was to place potentially even billions of tiny (1.78 centimeters 0.7 inches long and microscopically thin) copper antennae or dipoles in a medium Earth orbit to be used for communication signals at 8 Ghz.

The first set of well over a hundred million needles was launched on Oct. 21, 1961, but unfortunately this test failed when the needles didn’t disperse as planned.

On a second attempt in May 9, 1963, a batch of 350 million needles was placed on the back of an Air Force satellite and sent into orbit. Once dispersed, properly this time, the needles spread to form a sparsely concentrated belt with approximately 50 dipoles per cubic mile.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Needles from “Project Needles” compared to a stamp.

While you might think surely this wouldn’t be dense enough to be effective for use in communication, in fact early results of the experiment were extremely promising, with communication established using the needle array from California to Massachusetts, some 3K or so miles or 4,800 km apart. As such, there were reports that the Air Force was considering launching two more belts to be placed more permanently in orbit.

There was a problem, however. Beyond the Soviets, allies and even Americans opposed the further deployment and continuance of this program.

Why? Astronomers, in particular, were afraid that the belt would interfere with their observations. The outrage of scientists and the reason for it was perhaps best expressed by Sir Bernard Lovell of the Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory who said: “The damage lies not with this experiment alone, but with the attitude of mind which makes it possible without international agreement and safeguards.” After all, the space above the Earth is not the United States’ alone to do with as it pleases without consulting other nations of Earth.

While you might consider this a bit of an overreaction, it’s important to understand the context here, with the U.S. up to and around this point having done a series of things in space without oversight that the international community was more than a little upset about. For example, consider that also smack dab in the middle of this time, the United States was busy accidentally nuking Britain’s first satellite, among many, many others.

The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.

Around nine months after the launch of the first batch of needles, on July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Ariel-1 satellite.

As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl.

The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time.

Most pertinent to the topic of communications, this famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic and managed around 400 such communications before the U.S. accidentally nuked it. Funny enough, the Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional ionizing radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit. They were eventually able to get it back online for a short period via some clever software workarounds, but it didn’t last thanks to the extra radiation further degrading its systems.

It’s also noteworthy here that The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened a couple weeks earlier on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.

It should also be noted that the effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit.

The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Today in our digital world, of course, a similar electromagnetic pulse would have much more catastrophic effects, especially if near more populated centers, potentially even revealing the Lizard people’s Matrix, which would be catastrophic to our Draconian overlords’ (may they reign forever) plans…

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

The flash created by The Starfish explosion as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu 1,445 km away.

Needless to say, this, the needles in space, and other such projects had many in the international community concerned with the lack of any oversight on the United States’ activities in space. (Presumably it would have been even worse had everyone realized the United States had, a few years before this, planned to nuke the moon, more or less just because they could…)

Going back to the needle issue, a compromise measure was reached thanks to incorporating a sort of planned obsolescence; that is, none of the needles would remain in orbit longer than five years. (Or so they thought, more on this in a bit.)

Thinking more long term, several groups of scientists, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) demanded access and consultation in this and other such projects in the future. Ultimately an agreement was reached which granted the scientists the ability to participate in the planning and evaluation of space projects.

Of course, this particular issue quickly became moot as shortly after the second group of needles was dispersed, the military deployed its own first communication satellite system in 1966, making the needle system, while effective, obsolete. With this deployment of one object instead of hundreds of millions, the furor died down and people, for the most part, forgot about West Ford.

That said, while the project is largely forgotten, its effects are not with the consultation provisions of the original West Ford agreement with the IAU included in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, an agreement entered into by ninety-nine countries, that was designed to protect against the militarization and degradation of outer space. Among other things, in a nutshell, it provides that no country can claim ownership of space nor any celestial bodies; all countries will avoid contaminating both and are liable for any damage they cause; no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be deployed or placed in orbit or on any celestial body; and no military bases may be placed on any celestial bodies, including the Moon, something that unfortunately saw a planned military installation by the U.S. fully scrapped, as we covered in our article: That Time the U.S. was Going to Build a Massive, Death Ray Equipped, Military Moon Base.

On the bright side, the treaty also includes a Good Samaritan law that provides that astronauts are “envoys of mankind in outer space and [all] shall render to them all possible assistance in the event of accident, distress, or emergency landing.”

Going back to the needles, in case you’re wondering, despite the planned obsolescence, as of 2019, a few dozen clumps of them remain in orbit and are closely tracked to make sure they don’t cause any problems with all the other stuff floating around our little beautiful home space craft known as Earth.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

Bonus Facts:

  • Given AM radio signals can propagate for thousands of miles via the aforementioned skywaves, particularly at night, this can become a major problem as there are only a little over 100 allowed AM radio frequencies (restricted to keep signals interfering too much with one another), but around 5,000 AM radio stations in the United States alone. As a result, at night, AM stations in the United States typically reduce their power, go off the air completely until sunrise the next day, and/or possibly are required to use directional antennas so their specific signal doesn’t interfere with other stations on the same frequency. On the other hand, FM stations don’t have to do any of this as the ionosphere doesn’t greatly affect their signals, which has the side benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of severely limiting the range of the FM signals, which rely on groundwave propagation.
  • Speaking of Radio and space, while not a job ever mentioned by my school career counselor, it turns out “Space DJ” is a thing, if you work at NASA, going all the way back to 1965 during the Gemini 6 mission on December 16th, likely initially as a joke. During this mission, astronauts Walter Schirra and Tom Stafford were woken up by a recording of singer Jack Jones and Hello Dolly. This musical wake-up call quickly became a regular occurrence intended as a way of bolstering morale while allowing astronauts a few minutes to wake up slowly before having to respond to ground control. Over the years, wake-up calls became one of NASA’s most beloved traditions, with the role of picking the songs given to the mission’s Capsule Commander (CAPCOM)… Yes, just to be clear, not only do these people get to put CAPCOM for NASA on their resume, but they can also add in “Space DJ”. Thanks Career Councilor…
    If you’re wondering, the songs chosen over the years have been wildly eclectic, ranging from classical music by composers like Bach and Beethoven to Metallica and the Beastie Boys. Thanks to the extensive records NASA keeps, we not only know every song played for astronauts in orbit since 1965, we also have the astronaut’s responses to some of the more unusual choices played. For example, for a 2008 mission aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, officially designated as STS-123, CAPCOM played a brief snippet of the theme song from the presumably epic film Godzilla VS Space Godzilla as well as part of the Blue Oyster Cult song, Godzilla, for Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, signing off by saying:
    Good morning Endeavour. Doi san, ohayo gozaimasu, from mission control here in Houston, take on today like a monster.
    An amused Doi responded that he was “happy to hear Godzilla,” before himself signing off to get to work. According to Fries’ extensive archives, Godzilla’s iconic theme song is apparently a popular choice for Japanese astronauts, as are the themes from other well-known films like Star Wars, Star Trek and Rocky.Predictably, songs with a space theme are also popular choices, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Elton John’s Rocket Man being noted as some of the most commonly played.In addition to songs, NASA has, at various points, played private messages recorded by the astronauts’ loved ones (including the occasional singing of “Happy Birthday” where applicable) and even occasional messages from celebrities. Notable examples of the latter include personalised greetings from William Shatner, Paul McCartney and Elton John, a skit performed by Jim Henson involving Miss Piggy, and even a song sung by Darth Vader set to backing music from The Beatles.Perhaps best of all was the crew of Atlantis on November 25, 1991 being woken to none other than Patrick Stewart stating (with Star Trek: The Next Generation theme music playing in the background),
    Space: the final frontier. This is the voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Its ten-day mission: To explore new methods of remote sensing and observation of the planet Earth… To seek out new data on radiation in space, and a new understanding of the effects of microgravity on the human body… To boldly go where two hundred and fifty-five men and women have gone before!Hello Fred, Tom, Story, Jim, Tom, and especially Mario — this is Patrick Stewart, choosing not to outrank you as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, saying that we are confident of a productive and successful mission. Make it so.
    As for today, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, this wake-up call tradition has partially been left in the dustbin of history, though occasionally is still observed on the International Space Station, and presumably will be reinstituted as a regular activity once NASA begins sending people to space themselves again.

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

How a daredevil pilot escaped Germany and invented air warfare

World War I pilots began by simply waving at each other in flight, greeting their adversary as each pilot headed to his own reconnaissance mission. But as World War I quickly became brutal—and the pilots themselves saw friends die on the ground by the thousands and in the air by the dozens—they quickly sought out ways to kill each other.


And one of the pioneers who pulled it off was Roland Garros, a daredevil pilot who barely escaped Germany with a night flight into Switzerland at the war’s start.

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French Pilot Roland Garros in a plane with a canine.

(Public domain)

Garros was a French pilot who had already made a name for himself as a daredevil and aviation expert by flying across the Mediterranean in 1913. But when World War I broke out, he was in Germany and made his unscheduled night flight into Switzerland to get away, quickly joining the Storks Squadron, a group of aviators who would be the highest ranked French air-to-air combatants in the war.

And Garros led the way. Fighter combat in the air began with pilots carrying pistols to shoot at enemy aviators and darts to drop on hostile troops on the ground. But most pilots were looking for some way to mount machine guns on their planes.

But pilots usually looked through propeller blades while flying, and that was the most logical place to mount a gun for pilots to control. But, obviously, shooting through their own propeller would inevitably cause the pilot to shoot down himself. One of the early fixes was to mount the machine gun above the propeller blades, but that pointed the gun into a weird angle, and no one was able to shoot anyone down with that configuration.

Garros figured out another way. He mounted his gun right in front of his seat so he could look down the barrel to aim. To get around the problem of destroying his propeller, he simply armored the wooden blades with a metal sheath and trusted them to deflect those rounds that would’ve downed him while the rest of the rounds flew toward his target.

And it worked. On Aug. 25, 1914, Garros and Lt. de Bernis successfully engaged a German airplane and damaged it with gunfire, wounding one of the German pilots and forcing the plane to turn and run.

It is sometimes counted as the first known aerial victory, though it’s important to note that “aerial victory” today is often used to refer to shooting down an enemy plane, not forcing it to run. That feat was first accomplished Oct. 5 by another French pilot.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

An illustration of aerial combat in World War I.

(Public domain)

But Garros would go on to down five enemy planes in March 1915, causing the American press to dub him an “ace,” one of the first times that term was used. He also may have been the first pilot to achieve five kills.

Either way, his bravery, and ingenuity helped put France at the forefront of the changing face of aerial warfare. Unfortunately, air combat was a risky business, and Garros would not survive the war. In April 1915, he was shot down and crashed behind German lines.

He quickly attempted to burn his plane to hide how the forward-firing machine gun worked, but he was captured before he could complete the coup. He would spend the next three years in a prisoner of war camp before escaping, achieving new aerial victories in 1918, but then dying in combat on Oct. 5,1918.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy hospital ship arrives in Los Angeles to help with ‘hotbed’ surge of coronavirus cases

A US Navy hospital ship arrived in Los Angeles, California on Friday morning, days after President Donald Trump approved its deployment to bolster coronavirus response efforts.

During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.


“The men and women of the USNS Mercy and the United States Navy are honored to be here in Los Angeles supporting FEMA, the state of California, and the city in their ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts,” Navy Rear Adm. John E. Gumbleton said at a press conference on Friday.

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor on Sunday said that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Friday, Washington state has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York, New Jersey, and California.

California ranks third as of Friday, with over 4,000 cases and 82 deaths. Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Trump in a letter last week to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within a single day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.

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Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”

The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.

The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

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

Articles

US general again accuses Russia of supplying the Taliban

The United States must confront Russia for providing weapons to the Taliban for use against American-backed forces in Afghanistan, top U.S. military officials said Monday.


At a news conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his side, Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, wouldn’t provide specifics about Russia’s role in Afghanistan. But said he would “not refute” that Moscow’s involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban.

Earlier Monday, a senior U.S. military official told reporters in Kabul that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weapons. The Taliban are using the weapons in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, according to the official, who briefed journalists on intelligence information on condition of anonymity.

Russia denies that it provides any such support to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Russia says contacts are limited to safeguarding security and getting the hard-line religious fundamentalists to reconcile with the government — which Washington has failed for years to advance. Russia also has promoted easing global sanctions on Taliban leaders who prove cooperative.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system
Task Force Khost provide security during a raid on a suspected insurgent safe haven as part of Operation Cohort Aug. 11. Operation Cohort is a joint operation involving Task Force Khost and coalition forces that focus on specific militant targets and safe havens within Khost province in eastern Afghanistan.

Asked about Russia’s activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the increasing U.S. concerns.

“We’ll engage with Russia diplomatically,” Mattis said. “We’ll do so where we can, but we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries.”

“For example,” Mattis told reporters in the Afghan capital, “any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.”

Mattis met with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior government officials just hours after the nation’s defense minister and Army chief resigned over a massacre of more than 140 Afghan troops at a military base last Friday.

The insurgent assault was the biggest ever on a military base in Afghanistan, involving multiple gunmen and suicide bombers in army uniforms who penetrated the compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army in northern Balkh province on Friday, killing and wounding scores. The death toll was likely to rise further.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system
Members of the Afghan National Army prepare to conduct a routine patrol in the Oruzgan province of Afghanistan. US officials claim Russia is supplying arms to the Taliban in that region.

Referring to the Russians again, Nicholson said “anyone who arms belligerents who perpetuate attacks like the one we saw” isn’t focused on “the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.”

Given the sophisticated planning behind the attack, he also said “it’s quite possible” that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was responsible. The Taliban claimed it carried out the attack.

Nicholson recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own. The Trump administration is still reviewing possible troop decisions.

Mattis on Monday offered a grim assessment for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.

“2017 is going to be another tough year,” he said.

Kabul was the final stop on Mattis’ six-nation, weeklong tour. He is the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan. As part of the administration’s review of Afghan policy, Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and Afghan officials.

The war began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A day in the life of a Vietnam War chopper pilot

Hollywood tends to get military life wrong — and portrayals of helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War are no exception. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, daily operations didn’t always involve pulling troops from a hot landing zone or going in with guns and rockets blazing — and it wasn’t always done in a Huey, either.

In fact, while it’s best-known for playing a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the CH-47 Chinook saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War. This helicopter has served with the Army for over half a century and year and is still going strong — new variants, the CH-47F and MH-47G, are rolling off the production lines as we speak!


The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys load troops during Operation Crazy Horse. Over 30,000 troops were moved into difficult terrain in that 1966 operation.

(US Army photo)

For a lot of helicopter pilots, especially those who flew the CH-47A, CH-47B, and CH-47C models of the Chinook, the Vietnam War was mostly about moving cargo from one part of the operating theater to another, often hauling upwards of 7,000 pounds of cargo inside its cavernous cabin. The Chinook has a history of doing precisely that, whether in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm, or any number of peacetime operations.

In Vietnam, CH-47s were also used to recover planes and helicopters. These would often be taken back to repair depots, like USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T ARVH 1). Chinooks were also often used for moving artillery pieces — and their crews and ammo — to new locations. It was faster and safer than going by ground, even though the helicopters sometimes found themselves overloaded by troops. In 1966, the Chinook made a name for itself during Operation Crazy Horse, during which over 30,000 troops were transported by chopper into very difficult terrain.

The Marines want you to design their unmanned cargo system

A CH-47F in Afghanistan. The latest versions of the Chinook carry three times as much cargo as the ones that flew in Vietnam.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)

At least 200 CH-47s were lost during Vietnam, either to enemy action or operational losses. Those harsh experiences, however, led to improvements. Today’s CH-47s haul 24,000 pounds, more than three times the 7,000 pounds carried by early Chinooks in Vietnam.

See what a day in the life of a Vietnam War Chinook pilot was like in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvXcgz-2u9g

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia claims invisibility paint for troops and vehicles

The Russian defense contractor Rostec just showed off a stealth camouflaged helmet that they claim can change colors quickly and even display moving images to better conceal Russian troops.

“The specialized electrically-operated material covering the helmet prototype is able to change color depending on the camouflaged surface and environment,” Rostec said in a press statement of the helmet displayed Aug. 21, 2018, at the Army-2018 Forum in Moscow. “The material can display dynamic changes of color intensity and simulate complex images, for example, the motion of leaves in the wind.”


Rostec said that the stealth camouflage coating can be “applied to the base, like ordinary paint, and does not require great accuracy in terms of thickness and uniformity.”

In this case, it was applied to a helmet designed for Russia’s third-generation Ratnik-3 combat suit, which Russia Today previously dubbed the “Star Wars-like” suit, but Rostec says it can be applied to practically anything, even armored vehicles.

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The Ratnik-3 combat suit.

(Rostec)

The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet, previously reported.

In total, the suit comes with 59 items, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.

It should be noted, however, that there do not appear to be any video yet of the helmet changing color, but that doesn’t mean the stealth coating doesn’t work.

“I haven’t seen the system working myself of course, but I doubt they’d be displaying it if it didn’t at least do something resembling what they claim,” Sim Tack, chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider.

It’s “not something we expect to see on the battlefield too soon, but as armies move towards more advanced infantry systems including exoskeletons and that type of technology, [it] could be a part of that,” Tack added.

“Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces — spetsnaz — the likely recipients,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami wrote on Aug. 20, 2018.

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

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